Wednesday, December 3, 2014

American Soldiers Face Overwhelming Odds


Born in 1846, Major Walter Clark of the Thirty-fifth North Carolina was only nineteen at the battle of Bentonville in 1865, but was already a seasoned veteran. His unit was with Lee at Sharpsburg in 1862 while a young lieutenant of sixteen, helping Lee's 35,000 men oppose Hooker's 90,000. Wounded at Sharpsburg as he led his men, Clark "had experienced in sixty days of warfare more thrilling adventure and combat than most men experience in their entire lives."

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"Unsurpassed Valor, Courage and Devotion to Liberty"
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"

American Soldiers Face Overwhelming Odds:

"In this final carnage, [General Joseph E.] Johnston had at his entire command some fifteen-thousand available men, while Sherman opposed him with an army seventy-thousand strong, flushed with victory. On the morning of March 20 it was reported that the Federal right wing had crossed over to unite with the left wing which had been driven back and was coming up rapidly upon the left of [General Robert F.] Hoke's division.

From noon to sunset Sherman's army, now united, made repeated attacks upon Hoke's division of six thousand men and boys, but were uniformly driven back. The skirmish line of the brigade and the center were commanded  by Major Walter Clark. The battle raged through March 20 and 21. The night of the 21st the Confederate army re-crossed the creek by the bridge near Bentonville [North Carolina]. The Federals made repeated attempts to force the passage of the bridge, but failed.  The Confederate losses in the battle of Bentonville were 2343, while those of the Federals were nearly double that number.

No bolder movement was conceived during the war than this of General Johnston, when he threw his handful of men on the overwhelming force in front of him, and when he confronted and baffled his foes, holding a weak line for three days against nearly five times his number. For the last two days of this fight, he held his position only to secure the removal of the wounded. The Junior Reserves lost a number of officers and boys in this battle. General Hoke later wrote of the Junior Reserves:

"The question of the courage of the Junior Reserves was well established by themselves in the battle below Kinston and at the Battle of Bentonville. At Bentonville they held a very important part of the battlefield in opposition to Sherman's old and tried soldiers, and repulsed every charge that was made upon them with very meager and rapidly thrown up breastworks. It was equal to that of the old soldiers who had passed through four years of war. I returned through Raleigh, where many passed by their homes, and scarcely one of them left their ranks to bid farewell to their friends, though they knew not where they were going nor what dangers they would encounter."

(Walter Clark, Fighting Judge, Aubrey Lee Brooks, UNC Press, 1944, pp. 20-21)