Near Four Oaks in Johnston County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
Honoring the Dead of the Battle of Bentonville
“Time may teach us to forgive, but it can never make us forget.”
- Confederate Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton, memorial address at Bentonville, March 20, 1895.
By the evening of March 22, 1865 both the Union and Confederate armies had vacated the village of Bentonville. The Union army advanced towards Goldsboro, while the Confederates moved to nearby Smithfield. Not only did local citizens have to cope with hundreds of wounded Confederate soldiers left behind after the battle, residents found their property covered with the graves of over five hundred Union and Confederate soldiers killed during the battle.
Dead Union soldiers were buried in marked graves so that their remains could be located and interred elsewhere after the war. The Confederate dead were buried on the battlefield either by their comrades, Union soldiers, or local residents. Twenty of the twenty-three Confederates who died in the Harper House were buried by the Harper family adjacent to the family cemetery, which sits in front of you to your left.
In 1867, the U.S. government established several National Cemeteries in North Carolina
"The object of this communication is to bring to the notice of your Association a sacred spot of earth, where sleep in unmarked graves the silent dust of twenty of the brave men who sacrificed their lives on the altar of Southern Rights.”
Bentonville native M. H. Bizzell to the Confederate Monumental Association of North Carolina, June 2, 1893. Reprinted in the Goldsboro Daily Argus, June 3, 1894.
In 1893, Bentonville native M. Haywood Bizzell wrote the North Carolina Monumental Association requesting an enclosed monument for the graves of Confederate soldiers treated in the Harper House. Although not immediately successful, his actions led to the monument before you.
In 1894, the Goldsboro Daily Argus printed the letter, prompting the Goldsboro Rifles, a North Carolina militia company and social organization, to raise money for an obelisk-style monument. The donors included Union veteran T. E. Harvey, who lost four fingers during the battle. The Rifles desired to relocate all “of the Confederate heroes who died in that fight” but were buried elsewhere
On March 20, 1895, Confederate general and South Carolina governor Wade Hampton spoke at the dedication. The Harpers’ eldest son, John, a minister opened with prayer. A heavy rain curtailed most of the program which was to include a “sham battle,” the forerunner of today’s reenactments.
Modern ground penetrating radar indicates a mass grave here, although the exact number interred is unknown.
“As the last token of friendship and remembrance of my Brother Soldier and companion in arms, I plucked from our Earth a nice little wild plumb tree filled with white blossoms and planted it at his head praying as I done so.”
Excerpt of a letter from Clark L. Reed to the parents of Pvt. J. M. Knapp, 21st MI, who was mortally wounded on the battle’s first day, dated March 24, 1865.
Quote courtesy of Harold and Lynn Green, Cedar Springs, Michigan.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial Sites • War, US Civil.
Location. 35° 18.137′ N, 78° 19.216′ W. Marker is near Four Oaks, North Carolina, in Johnston County. Marker is on Harper House Road 0.2 miles east of Mill Creek Church Road, on the left when traveling east. Marker is Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Four Oaks NC 27524, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Confederate Dead Monument (a few steps from this marker); Bentonville Union Soldiers Memorial (a few steps from this marker); Texas (within shouting distance of this marker); Confederate Cemetery (within shouting distance of this marker); North Carolina Monument (within shouting distance of this marker); North Carolinians at the Battle of Bentonville (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Bentonville Battlefield Driving Tour (about 600 feet away); Union Headquarters (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Four Oaks.
More about this marker. The upper left of the marker features a picture of “Capt. R. G. Rankin of Company A, 1st Battalion N.C. Heavy Artillery. Rankin was killed by an artillery shell on the battle’s second day. Although his name is listed on the north side of the monument, his remains are actually buried in Wilmington. Image courtesy of New Hanover County Public Library.” At the marker’s upper right is a photo of “The grave of Pvt. J. M. Knapp of the 21st MI infantry. Knapp was originally buried at Bentonville, but like the other Union dead of Bentonville, was moved to Raleigh National Cemetery in 1867. Photo by Donny Taylor.” At the bottom right of the marker is a photograph of “The Goldsboro Rifles Monument in 1895. This image of the monument that stands to your right, was taken just before it was dedicated, March 20, 1895. Wooden head and footstones that can be seen are most likely 20 of the 23 Confederate soldiers that died in the Harper House. Image courtesy of the North Carolina State Archives.” Next to this is a photo of “Confederate Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton [who] delivered the keynote address at the dedication of the Bentonville Monument. Hampton was an appropriate selection for speaker, as he chose the ground for the Battle of Bentonville, and was active in post war politics. Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress.”
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Take a tour of the Roadside Exhibits erected on the Battle of Bentonville.
Also see . . . Bentonville Battlefield. North Carolina Historic Sites website. (Submitted on August 13, 2010, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
Credits. This page was last revised on April 4, 2017. It was originally submitted on August 13, 2010, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 1,863 times since then and 43 times this year. Last updated on August 14, 2010, by Paul Jordan of Burlington, N. C., U. S. A.. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on August 13, 2010, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.