Diary of Orrin Brown—March 21, 1865

Battle of Bentonville Day 3Diary of Orrin Brown, outside Newton Grove, North Carolina

Tuesday–Mar. 21st

We were relieved from the front line just before dark last night and moved a little to the right and put up another line of works, then put up our tents and went to bed in the watter for our whole battle ground is in a pine swamp. The pickets kept up an occasional firing all night but when we got up this morning we found out that the rebs had got enough of it and all left satisfied that the yanks are a little too much for them. We broke up camp about 8 AM marched over to the rebbel works took the Goldsborough road and marched out about 10 miles and went into camp on the bank of a small river that I did not learn the name of. I took a bad cold yesterday and am quite unwell again today but had to march and cary my load for the Ambulances are all loaded with the wounded.

The Battle of Bentonville continued into a 3rd day, to General Sherman’s great irritation.  Pressured by the arrival of the XV and XVII Corps on the 20th, and learning that Union Gen. Schofield had taken Goldsboro, Johnston withdrew his Confederate troops further into defensive positions, hoping to lure the Federals into another attack.  Newly arrived, Union Maj. Gen. Joseph A. Mower requested permission to probe the right flank, but instead launched a full scale attack on the Mill Creek bridge before being ordered back by General Sherman.  Sherman didn’t want a big fight before joining with the rest of the Union troops at Goldsboro.  “I do not wish a general engagement because supplies are low and we would have a long distance to transport our wounded,” he wrote.  As well, I’m sure, the General would rather pick his own ground than fight on a field of the enemy’s choosing.  He did later admit, tho, he might just as well have ended the affair right then and there.

As for the XIV Corps, the Official Records are a bit confusing.  Morgan reported “Enemy in same position” on 21 March, and lines of the First and Second Brigades swung around to the left with skirmishing all day.  The sick and wounded were sent to “Dead Fields” (there’s a place called Troublefields to the south on the map).  Lt. Col. Grummond reported “The next day the enemy’s skirmishers kept up a brisk fire, doing but little damage.”  That seems to me that the 14th Michigan remained on the field of battle through the day.  Either way, this was the last action our hero would see.

Johnston ordered his army back across Mill Creek by way of Bentonville before daybreak of the 22nd, burning the bridge with Wheeler’s cavalry fighting rearguard as they went.  The Battle of Bentonville resulted in Confederate casualties of 2,600: 239 killed, 1,694 wounded and 673 missing; Union forces suffered 1,527 casualties: 194 killed, 1,112 wounded, and 221 missing.  Sherman didn’t pursue Johnston’s army, instead continuing on to Goldsboro to join Union generals Terry and Schofield.

Orrin Brown’s war was mostly over, and his convalescence and recovery soon to begin.



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