General Joe Johnston had the night before marched his whole army, Bragg, Cheatham, S. D. Lee, Hardee, and all the troops he had drawn from every quarter, determined, as he told his men, to crush one of our corps and then defeat us in detail. He attacked Slocum in position from 3 p. m. of the 19th till dark, but was everywhere repulsed and lost fearfully. At the time I was with the Fifteenth Corps, marching on a road more to the right, but on hearing of Slocum's danger directed that corps toward Cox's Bridge and that night brought Blair's corps over, and on the 20th marched on Johnston's flank and rear. We struck him about moon and forced him to assume the defensive and to fortify. Yesterday we pushed him hard, and came very near crushing him, the right division of the Seventeenth Corps, Mower's, having broken in to within 100 yards of where Johnston himself was, at the bridge across Mill Creek. Last night he retreated, leaving us in possession of the field, dead and wounded. We have over 2,000 prisoners from this affair and the one at Averasborough, and am satisfied that Johnston's army was so roughly handled yesterday that we could march right on to Raleigh, but we have now been outng precariously upon the collections of our foragers, our men "dirty, ragged, and saucy," and we must rest and fix up a little. Our entire losses thus far, killed, wounded, and prisoners, will be covered by 2,500, a great part of which are, as usual, slight wounds. The enemy has lost more than double as many, and we have in prisoners alone full 2,000. I limited the pursuit this morning to Mill Creek, and will fortwith march the army to Goldsborough to rest, reclothe, and get some rations. Our combinations were such that Schofield entered Goldsborough from New Berne, Terry got Cox's Bridge with pontoons laid and a brigade across intrenched, and we whipped Joe Johnston, all on the same day.
After riding over the field of battle to-day near Bentonville, and making the necessary orders, I have ridden down to this place, Cox's Bridge, to see General Terry, and to-morrow shall ride into Goldsborough. I propose to collect there my army proper; shall put General Terry about Faison's Depot and General Schofield about Kinston, partly to protect the road, but more to collect such food and forage as the country affords, until the railroads are repaired leading into Goldsborough. I fear these heve not been pushed with the vigor I expected, but I will soon have them both going. I shall proceed fortwith to reorganize the three armies into bodies of 25,000 men each, and will try and be all ready to march to Raleigh or Weldon, as we may determine, by or before April 10. I inclose you a copy of my orders of to-day. * I would like to be more specific but have not the data. We have lost no general officers or no organization. Slocum took three guns at Averasborough, and lost three at the first dash on him at Bentonville. We have all of our wagons and trains in good order.
W. T. SHERMAN,
GOLDSBOROUGH, N. C., March 22, 1865.
GENERAL: I continued down the river from Cox's Bridge on the south side, and find that there are two additional pontoon bridges over the Neuse, one at the Neck, and one at the "county bridge. " Another
See Special Field Orders, Numbers 35, Part I, p. 44.