After-Action Report from Bentonville 2000 - NC
Bennett Place Northwest of Raleigh
29 March 1865
Reilly's Battery - Bentonville 2000
MG J.H. Stepp
It is my honor to provide you with this action report from our recent engagement at Bentonville 16-19 March 1865. Your Division Artillery Battalion was formed with 9 guns (4 - 10 pounder Parrott Rifles, 1 - 6 pounder gun, 2 - 12 pounders, and 2 - 3" Ordnance Rifles and was staff by 120 Officers, NCOs and soldiers. The availability of trained horses was an issue for the Battalion and only 4 guns were fully horse drawn - the remaining guns were positioned on the field and left to their own designs. We broke the Battalion into 4 companies. Major Travis and Capt. Hoover commanded the horseless guns and Major Tarbox and Capt. Stewart commanded the horsedrawn guns. I would like to commend all of these officers to you for a job well done, given the circumstances I am about to describe.
16 March 1865 - Major Wenger (Division Engineer) and I exchanged numerous telegraphs and letters that discussed your plans for the upcoming engagement with General Sherman's forces. By the 16th it was clear that the horse-drawn guns could not support your assault and the Federal line on the 18th, but could provide support to MG Taylor should he be convinced to conduct a flank attack simultaneously with your planned attack. After discussions with Major Travis we determined to place the Battalion's non-horsedrawn guns in the center of the line in support of the main assault along the unfinished pike. The Corps' artillery staff was congenial, but provided little help to our organization throughout the planning stages of this assault. We requested the use of the Corps' coehorn mortars, but that support never materialized. Given this possibility in future operations we have secured our own mortar and will be able to provide this support should the need arise again. Much of the 17th was devoted to site reconnaissance and staff coordination as the army began to concentrate in the Bentonville area. Major Travis and Capt. Pittman returned late on the evening of the 16th from supporting Corps operations in the Averasboro area. The balance of the evening was spent in pre-combat operations as we prepared for the operations planned on the 18th.
18 March 1865 - Morning Operations - Major Travis and I positioned the Battalion's 5 guns on the unfinished pike and I returned to join the Battalion's mobile force which Major Tarbox had on the road when I arrived. We moved into our staging area to await MG Taylor's arrival. We had requested Cavalry/Infantry support from the Corps but none was forthcoming and we were very alarmed to find a Federal Cavalry patrol to our front. They paid for their pre-mature exposure and were sent packing to their lines. Major Travis's guns opened the battle and soon MG Taylor's flanking force was on the field. We deployed in support of his attack with Major Tarbox's guns on his right flank and Capt. Stewart's guns on his left flank. - we fired a mixture of canister and percussion fuse (which allowed us to fire over our own troops) at the Federal Battalion that challenged MG Taylor's Brigade and ourselves. General Taylor provided a company to secure the left of his line, which was Major Tarbox's gun. After about 15 artillery rounds and two infantry volleys the Federals withdrew toward Last Stand Hill. Confederate Cavalry cleared the road for us and we emerged onto a field with Federal guns to our right and the men of both your Division and General Taylor's Division assaulting the Federal forces that were drawn up on the hill.
The cavalry, at great loss to themselves drew the enemy cannonfire as we prepared to go into the assault. We deployed one gun to draw the enemy fire and Sgt Prisk had several crewmembers wounded, but managed to silence the offending Federal gun. Capt Stewart's remaining gun and Major Tarbox's gun deployed and soon overpowered the Federal pieces, by firing fast and accurately. The Confederate infantry then carried the day. I was wounded in the action and Major Tarbox assumed command quickly in a very effective manner. MG Taylor came by to offer his praise for our support of his operations. After this action we moved into a park with your division and were rejoined by our 12 pounder that had been on detached service with the cavalry. Major Travis's guns were repositioned, but Sir, I fear poorly so as they could not even see their targets and were in danger of firing into the rear of your division. Their placement was done by the Corps, without prior coordination with either yourself or me. Lack of action in the morning operations and this poor placement and the concern for the safety of your men had an adverse effect on these men - which Major Travis diligently worked to overcome.
18 March 1865 - Afternoon Operations - We supported your operations very briefly during this action - Major Smith's Cavalry screening our rear warned us of advancing Federal Infantry and you ordered us to save the guns and ourselves. Our movements to break contact were successful and all the men should be commended for their river crossing operations on the march to safety. I feel I must again mention the lack of forethought in positioning our non-mobile guns and fear that they will not be able to join us in future operations if they are not better used. Major Travis's concerns feel on deaf ears at the Corps level and neither you or I were in the position to help him in his efforts.
19 March 1865 - Having been convinced by bountiful chests of gold coin we took 3 of our 4 horsedrawn guns over to the "dark side." After marching with your division to the field we were attached directly to the Federal Army Commander. As the power of the Confederate assault was felt on the center of the Federal Line Capt. Stewart's gun was placed in the gap in the line and the fire from this one piece alone blunted the Confederate attack. As the fighting shifted to the right of the Federal line our remaining two guns were positioned to support the Federal efforts to prevent the break-through. Cpl. Glaze's piece single-handedly, help beat back several Confederate attacks. Capt. Stewart seeing an eminent Confederate break-through moved his gun to our support. The three Parrott Rifles were more than the Confederates could bear and they shifted their attacks back to the Federal center - offering flank shots into their already deminishing lines. In the end we carried the day - and the Commanding General rode our gun line offering thanks to all the gunners and finally to my staff and I.
Commendations - Sir, the whole Battalion is to be commended for their support during these operations - The officers, NCOs and men all pulled together and did an outstanding job. We must continue this jointly staffed Divisional Artillery Battalion concept!
Believe me to always be,
D.L. Stanley, Maj. Cmdg., Stepp's Divisional Artillery Battalion
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