Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site, between Fayetteville and Goldsboro, preserves part of the ground where federal and Confederate soldiers met in bloody combat nearly 150 years ago. The three-day action at Bentonville in March 1865 was among the last major conflicts of the war and was the largest land battle fought in North Carolina.
Bentonville Battlefield is in Johnston County, about 175 miles from Charlotte, a 3 1/2-hour drive, one-way.
To see and do
The Battle of Bentonville, fought very near the end of the four-year Civil War, proved costly to both sides. Veterans of such battles as Shiloh, Stones River and Chickamauga recalled that the fighting at Bentonville was as fierce as any they had previously experienced. Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnstons patchwork command of 20,000 men faced the daunting task of attempting to halt the advance of two federal armies. One, commanded by Brig. Gen. John Schofield, was moving northwest from Kinston towards Goldsboro. A larger force, commanded by Gen. William T. Sherman, was advancing northeast from Fayetteville, also toward Goldsboro. Shermans troops were divided into two wings of equal strength. This division gave the Confederates a brief opportunity to attack Shermans left wing and attempt to slow the federal advance through North Carolina.
On the morning of March 19, 1865, Confederates entrenched along the Goldsboro Road successfully delayed the approaching federals. The rebels then began a flanking movement that initially succeeded in turning the Union armys left. The Confederates had the better of the fight for much of the day, but by late afternoon, the superior numbers and stubborn resistance of federal troops prevailed.
While the majority of the fighting took place March 19, skirmishing continued on the 20th, and a sharp battle on the 21st lasted until federal reinforcements forced a Confederate withdrawal. Over the three days, rebel casualties numbered more than 2,600; Union killed and wounded totaled more than 1,500.
A visitor center features a collection of weapons and artifacts pertaining to the battle, a fiber-optic map explaining the logistics of the battle, and a 10-minute video placing the battle into its historic perspective.
Near the visitor center is the Harper House, a two-story farmhouse that was used by the federals as a field hospital during the battle. Tours of the house include an interpretive program on Civil War medicine. The site also includes a reconstructed kitchen and slave quarters, Confederate cemetery, a life-size bronze statue of Gen. Johnston, monuments and original earthworks.
A driving map is available for those interested in a more extensive tour of the battlefield.