Creek. I have not done more than that, as you intimated that I should not move over to Slocum, unless there was farther need than now appears. I had information that Bragg had left Goldsborough and was retreating on Raleigh, through Smithfield, prior to Duncan's arrival.
O. O. HOWARD,
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
In the Field, Camp between North River and Mingo Creek,
March 17, 1865.
Commanding Right Wing:
GENERAL: North River had to be bridged and has delayed us to-day. Davis is on Mingo and Williams on North River. Kilpatrick is up the road in the direction of Elevation. We still threaten Smithville [Smithfield], but to-morrow will move rapidly toward Cox's Bridge and Goldsborough. If the enemy fail to fight for Goldsborough, of course we go right in, Slocum by Cox's Bridge, and you by the south, as Schofield comes from the east (Kinston). But if the enemy opposes, I propose to throw our empty wagons down to Kinston for forage and supplies whilst we proceed to reduce Goldsborough. To this end Slocum will break the railroad west of Cox's Bridge, and you will cross Neuse in front as Schofield comes from the east and swings against the railroad north of the town. I doubt if there be any fortifications at Goldsborough capable of holding anything more than a railroad guard. I have examined your order and it will do, only get on a right-hand road as soon as possible, that you may not delay Slocum's troops, who will necessarily all be forced on the one road. Try and keep around the head of Falling Water Creek, viz, to its south. I will push Slocum to-morrow and next day and think by day after to-morrow we will all be in position, viz, you directly in front of Goldsborough and Slocum at Cox's Bridge. At the time I sent Colonel Ewing to you yesterday the enemy had brought Slocum up all standing, and it was on the theory that he would hold Slocum there that I wanted you at Mingo bridge; but the enemy retreated in the night on Smithfield and we are again on the march feigning to the left, but moving trains and troops as rapidly as the roads admit, on Goldsborough. You may do the same. The enemy yesterday had a strong intrenched line in front of the cross-roads, and had posted the Charleston brigade about one-third mile in front, also intrenched. The Twentieth Corps struck the first line, turned it handsomely and used the Charleston brigade up completely, killing about 40 and gathering about 35 wounded and 100 well prisoners, capturing 3 guns, but on advancing farther encountered the larger line, which they did not carry, but was abandoned at night. This morning a division of Williams' followed as far as Averasborough whilst the rest turned to the right, as I have heretofore stated. Slocum lost in killed and wounded about 300. He is somewhat heavily burdened by his wounded, which must be hauled. We left the Confederate wounded in a house by the roadside. The route of retreat of the enemy showed signs of considerable panic, and I have no doubt he got decidedly the worst of it.
W. T. SHERMAN,