Saturday, November 16, 2013

Shattered Southern Lines at Averasboro

"[In noting] the comparative losses on both sides during the War Between the States, [author Capt. B.H. King] asks, "What say the survivors of Five Forks, Sailor's Creek, and Bentonville?" intimating the severity of the hard-fought struggle on those fields.
Captain King does not mention Averysboro; but as Bentonville followed Averysboro so closely that it may almost be considered the second stand of a continued engagement, I give the percentage of loss in one company in that  fight.
Lucas's Battalion of Artillery occupied the extreme left in that engagement, and a company of regulars --- Capt J.J. Richardson, I think, was on the extreme left of the battalion. A lieutenant in that [South Carolina] company was Thomas J. Heyward, then only about twenty-two years old. Captain Richardson's company went into the fight that morning ninety strong.  Stubbornly they held the extreme left all day; but that afternoon they were flanked by overwhelming numbers, and while fighting as "regulars" do, with the regularity of a drill, they were being shot in the backs with death-dealing [volleys]. 
Rather than surrender, they valiantly cut their way out. At roll call the next morning only nineteen answered, including the orderly sergeant and Lieutenant Heyward, in command.
Lieutenant Heyward saw Capt. Richardson shot down, cut through both legs, while leading his men out of the flanked trenches, and remarked to the writer the next day that as he sprang forward to take command he felt as though he was simply taking his place to be shot down.
I recall that at the reorganization and review of his decimated army by General [William J.] Hardee at Smithfield, NC, I saw Lieutenant Heyward standing proudly and with all the soldierly bearing of a Citadel Cadet Academy graduate in front of a little squad of heroes, their company having lost seventy-nine per cent!
Lieutenant Heyward was at the firing upon the Star of the West in the beginning of hostilities, and fought in the battle of Bentonville, the last real hard struggle of the cause; so he might be termed the Alpha and Omega of that  fearful four years of struggle and hardship.
I heard a North Carolinian, Sergeant Devant, say to two other couriers from the same State – and all three had been at Gettysburg – at duck that evening while in front of an enfilading battery of artillery: "If there was a place in  the battle of Gettysburg as hot as that spot, I never saw it."
If living, Capt. W. Perrin Kemp, of Maryland, a member of Gen. [William B] Taliaferro's staff, as well as Sergeant Devant, may recall the spot at dusk in the evening of March 18, 1865, when a bunch of horsemen, composed of General Taliaferro, his staff, couriers, and signal corps, at a point near a battery of artillery, could easily see through the underbrush in the pine forest the flash of every gun as the artillery enfiladed our shattered lines.
He may recall the men of the reserve line lying down and lowering their colors, and even the officers kneeling in compliance with the personal orders of General Taliaferro.
He may recall too how, after all had dismounted except for General Taliaferro, Captain Mathews, and another South Carolinian, he thoughtfully admonished a lad of sixteen to get off his horse, saying, "It is foolish to sit there," and how as the lad thanked him he threw his leg over the saddle and seated himself behind a tree, when a grapeshot dashed across the seat of his saddle and buried itself in the ground at his feet, and also how that raging leaden hailstorm of grape and canister literally barked the trees, cutting off the limbs as if cut by hand."
("Ask the Survivors of Bentonville," Samuel W. Ravenel, Confederate Veteran, March 1910, pg. 124)

The battle at Averasboro [also spelled "Averysboro"] preceded the battle at Bentonville and saw twenty-eight hundred Confederate troops in the first two defensive lines face an enemy of twelve thousand in mid-March 1865.
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