Near Four Oaks in Johnston County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
“Uncle Billy” Comes to Bentonville
— Gen. William T. Sherman, Sept. 12, 1864
During the afternoon of March 20, 1865, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman erected his headquarters in the field in front of you, on Stevens family property. Sherman remained near the Right Wing headquarters as he had on the march to Bentonville.
Sherman's Civil War career had an ill-fated beginning, including an 1861 nervous breakdown while commanding Union forces in Kentucky. Accusations of insanity quickly followed from all quarters. A member of Lincoln's administration even pronounced him "off in the head."
A successful partnership with U.S. Grant rehabilitated Sherman's confidence and reputation. When Grant became commander of all Union forces in early 1864, he chose Sherman to command the "Military Division of the Mississippi," or essentially all Union forces in the western theatre. In this capacity, Sherman captured Atlanta and commenced his March to the Sea in late 1864.
Deal as moderately and fairly by the North Carolinians as possible, and fan the flame of discord already subsisting between them and their proud cousins of South
—Gen. William T. Sherman, March 7, 1865
Marching overland through the Carolinas in early 1865, Sherman faced only delaying actions until his isolated Left Wing was attacked at Bentonville. "Uncle Billy," as he was called by his men, was traveling with the Right Wing at the time, causing him to miss most of the battle's first day. On the evening of March 19, a courier desperately seeking help for the Left Wing arrived at Sherman's headquarters to find:
[Sherman] had been lying down in Gen'l [O.O.] Howard's tent and hearing the inquiry for him and being of course anxious to here [sic] the news of the fight rushed out to the camp fire without stopping to put on his clothes. He stood in a bed of ashes up to his ankles, chewing impatiently the stump of a cigar, with his hands clasped behind him and with nothing on but a red flannel undershirt and a pair of drawers.
After hearing the report, Sherman immediately set the Right Wing on the road to Bentonville, where he commanded in person late on March 20 and 21.
Sherman's goal was Goldsboro, not Johnston's entrenched army, and he was willing to allow the Confederates to escape. Thus, his primary action on March 21 was to forbid his army from entering into a full-scale engagement, something he recalled as a "mistake...[I]t could not have resulted but successfully
I committed an error in not overwhelming Johnston's Army on the 21st of March, 1865. But I was content then to let him go...
—Gen. William T. Sherman, 1875
Location. 35° 19.831′ N, 78° 16.322′ W. Marker is near Four Oaks, North Carolina, in Johnston County. Marker is on Bentonville Road 0.4 miles north of Harper House Road (Route 1008), on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is located at Auto Tour Stop 6, "Sherman's Headquarters.". Marker is in this post office area: Four Oaks NC 27524, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Battle Shifts East: Fighting on March 21 (a few steps from this marker); Union Line, March 20 (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Union Headquarters (approx. 0.3 miles away); Main Union Line (approx. ¾ mile away); Union Line, March 21 (approx. 0.8 miles away); Mower’s Attack (approx. 0.8 miles away); Main Confederate Line (approx. 0.8 miles away); Hardee’s Charge (approx. 0.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Four Oaks.
Also see . . . North Carolina Historic Sites - Bentonville Battlefield. North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Office of Archives & (Submitted on January 29, 2017.)
Categories. • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on January 29, 2017. This page originally submitted on January 26, 2017, by Karl Stelly of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 116 times since then and 11 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on January 26, 2017, by Karl Stelly of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.