Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/372

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366 Southern Historical Society Papers.

on the road from Averysboro, had not reached that stream, and was more than a day's march from the point in its route opposite to the hamlet of Bentonville, where the two roads, according to the map of North Carolina, were twelve miles apart.

Upon this, Johnston prepared to attack the left column of Sher- man's army, before the other could support it, by ordering the troops at Smithfield and at Elevation to march immediately to Bentonville (where the road from Smithfield intersected that from Fayetteville to Goldsboro), to be in time to attack the next morning. By the map, the distance from Elevation to Bentonville was about twelve miles. In two important respects, the premises of action proved incorrect. The distance between Sherman's forces was exaggerated, and between his own reduced from the truth. Thereby he was prevented from concentrating in time to fall on one wing while in column on the march. The sun was just rising on that beautiful Sabbath in March, when all except Hardee had reached the point of rendezvous. The gap made by his absence was for the time filled by the batteries of Earle and Halsey.

On the way to the attack, and just in time for battle, Johnston had met the shreds and patches of his old troops, under the stanch A. P. Stewart. The best interpreter of a general's strength is the sen- timent with which he animates his rank and file. The wild enthusi- asm of these Western troops whenever they caught sight of their old chief was in itself an inspiration of success. It was evident that they were as confident under him as if they had never seen the days which tore them into strips. They felt they had a genera] whose life or his fame was as dust in the balance where his duty weighed un- der whom death itself was not in vain. The force, which had been wedded to him by the campaign from Dalton to Atlanta, had not been put asunder by the Tophet of Tennessee. At last the way- worn troops under Hardee, which had marched day and night to join battle, appeared upon the scene. The use for them was quickly revealed. All told, the torn remnants made an army f of less than fifteen thousand men. At their head Johnston burst upon Sher- man's left wing with an electrical intensity which will live in mili- tary annals as an object lesson to show how a wasted force is en- dowed by a general's fire. The battle of Bentonville is that marvel that final battle of the Confederacy which shed the last radiance on its arms as its candle flickered in the socket.

The batteries which had held the gap were now told to follow the