Battle of Averasboro, NC

1. Walter Wells, PA
2. Richard Edling, Philadelphia, PA
3. Brian Duckworth, NC

Averasboro July 2009
Courtesy of Brian Duckworth, NC
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2. Averasboro, North Carolina |
3. This Day in History 1865: Battle of Averasboro, North Carolina
4. The John Smith Family
5. North Carolina History Project : The Battle of Averasboro-Day One
6. The Battle of Averasboro, A Visitors Guide
7. Battle of Averasboro Marker: The Historical Marker Datebase
Additional Averasboro Information

On March 15, at the community of Smithville (not to be confused with Smithfield) below Averasboro, NC, General Hardee--with approximately 6,455 effectives--deployed his command in three lines in a well-chosen defensive position. Here the Cape Fear and Black Rivers were only about two miles apart, and Hardee's command spanned the distance between them, blocking the Federal Left Wing's advance on the Raleigh Plank Road. The first two lines constituted Gen. William B. Taliaferro's division of untried garrison troops: A. M. Rhett's Brigade in front, followed by Stephen Elliott's. Some 600 yards in rear of Elliott's line lay Hardee's more experienced command: the four brigades of combat veterans and one brigade of reserves constituting Gen. Lafayette McLaws Division.
About 3:00 p.m. on March 15 the 9th Michigan Cavalry, followed by the rest of Smith D. Atkins' Federal horsemen, made contact with Taliaferro's skirmishers. Finding the road blocked, Atkins deployed astride the Raleigh Plank Road, and sharp skirmishing occurred throughout the afternoon. As night fell a heavy rain set in, and the aristocratic Col. Alfred M. Rhett, having been captured by a party of Federal scouts, was mortified to find himself a prisoner in the hands of Capt. Theo Northrop. By 12:30 a.m. on March 16, the first Union infantry reinforcements were arriving in the vicinity of Smithville. Colonel William Hawley's brigade of the XX Corps, departing Bluff Church, had marched a dismal five miles in a thunderstorm to relieve Atkins's troopers at the front.
By 9:00 a.m. the Federals were preparing to brush Hardee's Corps out of the way. The XX Corps divisions of William Ward and Nathaniel Jackson joined Hawley's brigade at the front, Ward moving to the left while the remainder of Jackson's division joined on the right of Hawley's line. The Union battle line soon advanced to within 500 yards of Rhett's Confederate brigade, which was deployed astride the road just north of the John Smith house ("Oak Grove").
At 10:30 a.m. the engagement began in earnest when Gen. H. W. Slocum ordered Col. Henry Case's brigade to flank the Confederate line and clear the road. Moving well to the left, Case's men crossed a large ravine and attacked squarely upon the right flank of Rhett's Brigade. At the same time, Col. Daniel Dustin's brigade advanced in front. Though Rhett's men had stood well thus far in their first taste of combat, the Union assault was too great to bear and the Confederate line was sent reeling backward toward Elliott's position to the north. Three field pieces on Rhett's line were captured, and two of them were turned and fired at their former owners as they scampered toward the rear.
Around 1:00 p.m. the Federals advanced on Elliott's line, while Judson Kilpatrick's troopers attempted to flank the Confederate left. Kilpatrick's maneuver was thwarted, however, by the 32nd Georgia and 1st Georgia Regulars, which had been sent forward from McLaws's line in an effort to stem the Federal advance. The 2nd South Carolina (Conner's Brigade) was also sent forward to anchor Elliott's right flank, but the Union infantry advance was too great to withstand. Taliaferro's second line crumbled, and retreated toward the relative safety of McLaws's position.
As the afternoon wore on Gen. James D. Morgan's Federal XIV Corps division moved in on the left of the XX Corps. Skirmishing remained sharp, with the opposing lines in close proximity, but the Federal advance stopped at Hardee's third line. The day's light rain had given way to a downpour in the afternoon, worsening the muddy terrain and hampering troop deployment. Having been delayed by muddy roads rendered nearly impassable by the recent rains, Carlin's XIV Corps division arrived around dusk and formed in reserve of the main Federal line. Sherman then postponed any further attack until the next morning.
Late in the afternoon General Hardee sent word to Joe Johnston that he had checked Sherman's advance, and that he would retire toward Smithfield after dark. At nightfall the Confederate artillery pulled out, followed around 8:00 p.m. by the infantry (which had built campfires to help disguise the retreat).

The engagement at Averasboro cost Hardee's Corps about 500 casualties. Slocum's Federal Left Wing lost 682, bringing the total to approximately 1,182.
Additional Averasboro Information


(2006) Sherman's March interpretive marker

Richard Edling photo


(2006)  Sherman's March interpretive marker
Richard Edling photo


(2006)  Entrance to Old Bluff Presbyterian Church
Interpretive Marker: Old Bluff Church
Walter Wells photo

  (2006) Old Bluff Presbyterian Church, C.1855
Walter Wells photo

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