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1865 March 26: Edwin Levings Describes the Battle of Bentonville

March 26, 2015

The Battle of Bentonville took place March 19-21, 1865, in Bentonville, North Carolina.  It was the second to the last battle of the Carolinas Campaign.  William T. Sherman led the Union forces and Joseph E. Johnston led the Confederate troops.  As a result of the overwhelming Union strength and the heavy casualties his army suffered in the battle, Johnston surrendered to Sherman little more than a month later.

The original letter is in the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO), in the University Archives and Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Goldsboro   N.C.   March 26th, 1865

Ever Dear Parents;

                                   At last this campaign is ended, and there is a prospect of rest for us.  I can now write, read or do anything that pleasure dictates.  Now I must write to you, now you must write to us.  How welcome a letter from you now would be!  But we would rather get a letter to you just now than receive one, for you are doubtless longing to hear if it is still well with us.

A Kind Providence has been with us on our long march, and we are both safely through, and well and rugged as ever.

Long before this reaches you[,] you will have learned how the campaign resulted in a glorious victory of our arms over those of the rebels.  Soon after our departure from Fayetteville N. C. formidable bodies of the enemy were met & defeated by the 14th, 15th & 20th Corps; and on the 21st inst we whipped their concentrated forces under Johnson [sic] and drove them in disarray across Mill Creek near Smithfield and across the Neuse River, they burning the bridges in their retreat and leaving their dead & wounded on the field.  This battle was 20 miles west of Goldsboro.  The same day Schofield’s [John M. Schofield] army entered that place, and Gen. Terry [Alfred H. Terry] from Wilmington secured the crossings of the river & laid pontoons.  Of our loss I am not advised.  The rebels lost heavily as they played their old game of charging our breastworks before finished. Our Corps being on the flank was not generally engaged.  The 1st Div. did splendid fighting, but lost considerably.  Edward Pratt, who belongs to that Div. was just here & wishes me to state for his folks that he was unharmed & is well.  The rebels calculating that our ammunition was insufficient for a heavy battle, & that we had about wasted it, came on like a mighty billow to overwhelm and destroy us, but it did not give out, nor was it likely to do so, and they only got the more lead for their folly.  The 12th had 3 men wounded in Co. H.¹  I worked harder in on hour that day than I ever did, in throwing up works. But the rebels did not budge our skirmish line in front of the Div., so we were not engaged.

We are now encamped on the east side of this place, and are to have rest, and rations from the North, without limits I had almost said.  I suppose those magnificent granaries of which Gen. Sherman spoke in his congratulatory order the other day have got to “shell out.”

Well the mail, the first that has been made up here, goes out in an hour, & I have only time to write you but little.  We will write you often now, while opportunity is ours, & you must increase the flow of letters to us.  Since commencing a huge mail has come & we have a pile of it, 3 letters from you, one from Jack, one from J. Winchester, & papers not a few.  Yours are dated, 22nd, 29th Jan. and Feb. 2nd.  You shall have letters now often.  You must wait for another day for a detailed account of this march &c.

Has Grandmother returned?  Tell Jack he missed the fun of the service & give him my warmish regards.  We are both in our usual good health & spirits.  Let us hear from each of you, that is, from three or four of you, all of you, and two boys in blue will be made very happy.

Yours Affectionately,
.                      . Edwin

1.  Company H’s John Aspenwall, from Weyauwega (right arm amputated), and Mathias Feldhausen, from Wrightstown, are listed in the official roster as being wounded at Bentonville, N.C.

Edwin Levings letter of  March 26, 1865, from the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Edwin Levings letter of March 26, 1865, from the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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