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After Action Report, Bentonville
To Colonel Bradley Tyler Johnson
6th Regiment, 1st Division, Army of Northern Virginia, commanding
herewith submit my report on the actions of our combined company in the
vicinity of Bentonville, North Carolina, this past March 20-22, 1865.
company consisted of a strong showing by 12th Georgia, supplemented by
elements of Company G, 15th Alabama. Battalion staff members Lt. Mike
Flye and Sgt. Major Brian Patton were also present, serving in staff
on the site Friday afternoon, after an arduous journey by train and
carriage, lasting some 2 days, with a night's rest in an inn part way.
I found my way to the camp, despite the unfamiliar surroundings, and
finally got my bearings amid the cluster of arriving troops.
was taken care of, .it proved an easy task to find the ANV camp, and
subsequently our own, helped on the way by Colonel Bill McElwee,
of the 2nd Battalion, with whom we fell in for this
engagement. I found Tom Bassford from the 15th Alabama
already in camp, and he was most helpful in pointing me to the spot
which he had saved for me.
was set up (I brought with me only a dog tent, since Ms Liz was unable
to accompany me), I took myself to the nearby merchants. I had,
unfortunately, left my headgear behind, so ai find Clearwater Hats to
find a more then acceptable substitute, which went well with the great
coat I acquired on my trip.
way back, I ran into Sgt. Dan Spinner of the 12th Georgia, who had just
arrived, and was looking for our camp. I was able to guide him as I had
been guided earlier.
Our company was now in camp, perhaps small, but considering our long journey,
excellent showing. I not only found our friends from the Liberty Greys,
but many from other areas as well, most notably General Brian Gessuaro
from the Provisional Army of the Confederate States (PACS). As people
set up camp, I took out my banjo and played a few airs. It was very
nice, with the lovely setting of the woods in which we were camped.
After a time, Sgt. Spinner came over with his vest contraption, and we
whiled away a good bit of time in shared music making. Many other
soldiers stopped by and listened as we played, seeming to take great
solace from the melodies.
was taken in the fine company of the aforementioned Tom Bassford,
and Dan Spinner. We ate well, and enjoyed the fine company of good
friends, too long parted over the lengthy winter. I did, however, miss
the soothing presence of my lovely wife, who had to remain behind,
though in a very safe location from the horrors of war, I am glad to
say. The night took a decided chilly turn, and we retired for the
evening and our well deserved rest.
broke on Saturday, a somewhat warmer day. We arose and took stock of
our situation. Sgt. Major Brian Patton, detached to 2nd Battalion staff
for the weekend, came by and gave us news of our military situation. We
were to form a stand alone company in a combined battalion of PACS and
the 2nd Battalion, ANV, under the command of Colonel McElwee. PACS was
to form the right wing, and we were to be the right most company in the
left wing, composed of all ANV troops.
AM, Sgt. Dave Laiche of the 15th Alabama, called our company to
assemble, and we proceeded out to the drill field for our morning drill
exercise. I was most pleased at the precision of the company's
maneuvers, particularly in light of the recent doldrums of winter
quarters. Drill concluded before 9:00, leaving us a little over
an hour before battalion formation.
the battalion was formed, and we found our spot as laid out by Sgt.
Major Patton. The majority of the drill was conducted by Sgt. Major
Powell of the 2nd Battalion, under the supervision of Col. McElwee. We
must have performed to their satisfaction, as we were dismissed before
11:00, time to for a quick trip to the nearby merchants.
to the merchants complete, there was time for more airs upon the banjo,
my primary solace and relaxation with the eminent battle looming over
us. Soon enough, at 1:00 PM, we were called into battalion line.
Typical of these major engagements, we were on line well before any
hint of fighting for the seemingly endless rounds of inspections, and
the lengthy march to the field of battle. Finally, around 2:00, we were
underway to the field.
arrived, we could see the lines of Federal infantry, and their
breastworks. In the distance, we could see the preparing lines of the
Confederate infantry, and their artillery support. At 3:00, our
artillery opened on them. Our infantry gave its assault, rocking the
Federal line, gradually driving them from their fortified position.
odd to us, that as we stood there watching, the entire Federal flank
was presented to us, yet we did not advance. Only after about 30
minutes of hard fighting did we at last enter the fray. When we did
though, we rolled effectively. The Federals refused their flank and
held us for a time, but, in the long run, we able to prevail.
historic aside, in the battle, Johnston's Confederate Army had laid a
trap fro the advancing Federals, into which they advanced, only to be
sent reeling back towards the Morris Farm. This was the action we
reenacted this day.
fierce fighting having abated, we reformed our ranks and marched back
to our camps. Col. McElwee halted our march as we came near, and broke
the battalion in the vicinity of the merchants. Having already made my
trip for the day, I made off in the other direction, finding a roadside
merchant selling sandwiches and cooling beverages, example of which I
purchased, having missed my luncheon. As I made my way, I was
frequently stopped by townspeople who thanked of for our hard fighting
in their defense.
from my exertions, I made my way back to camp, and inevitably to the
call of music to refresh my soul. The notes seemed to fly from my
fingers as I played. Many of the nearby townspeople stopped as they
passed to listen with seeming enjoyment. After a time, Sgt. Spinner
joined me, and we played together into the early evening, at times with
quite a little gathering of listeners.
passed and the lure of dinner called. Pvt. Bassford tended the fire as
he does so well, and we were able to assemble a delicious repast. The
night began to fall. Pvt. Bassford took himself off to a nearby dance.
Sgt. Spinner and I once more took out our instruments and began to play
and sing and simply talk through the night. The chill of the evening
finally took its toll on our fingers, and put instruments away.
Rejoined, eventually, by Pvt. Bassford, we shared good fellowship, as
well as a libation or two, before the tiredness of the days exertions
betook us to our tents, and to a deserved rest, in the somewhat milder
in good time as it will. I forced myself to stay in my shelter, but at
7:00 found myself crawling out. Pvt. Bassford was kind
enough to share some excellent bacon with me for a part of my
breakfast. We passed the time, talking of home, and what we would do
when we finally were able to return at the war's close. We spent some
time at this, before I was called away to officers' call.
officers' call, with no battalion formation scheduled, I took another
trip to the merchants, in search of gifts f.or the loved ones who,
though far away, were foremost in my thoughts. I was able to find some
things, which, small tokens though they were, made me feel happier at
the thought of seeing them again.
return, Sgt. Jon Chan of the 12th Georgia had the thought of having a
photographic image taken of out company at a photographer he had found
in the nearby town. We gathered our forces and went over, but clearly
many other soldiers had the same idea, and we were forced to make an
appointment for later that day.
returned to our camp, and me to the comfort of my banjo, where I played
for a time, again to the enjoyment of a number of the
townspeople, who stopped to listen and ask many questions. It was
pleasant relaxation as we awaited the carnage to come.
enough, somewhat after 11:30 AM, we were called into battalion line. As
before, the long round of inspections begun, and finally we began the
longer march to this afternoon's place of engagement.
our way through the camps, and finally emerged at an open field, which,
though very sandy, bore the signs of last year's cotton crop, in the
from of balls of cotton still lying on the sandy soil. Many soldiers
from non cotton producing states picked up examples as souvenirs, and
to give to friends as mementos.
finally ended, and we could see the Federal lines forming in front of
us. Our industrious young lads took in on themselves to dig
entrenchments, using tin cups and plates as implements, constructing a
rather impressive earthwork.
modern aside, the breastworks constructed by the Federals across the
way were somewhat more impressive. However, they were in fact, a
part of the scenario, and the sappers were aided by the use of picks
and shovels. Our lads worked really in order to pass the time, and made
quite a good show. Of course, we then had to march right over it
and abandon it.
after quite a wait, the battle began. Confederate artillery, positioned
on our flanks, began its barrage on the Federal line. Weakened by this,
The Federals then had to withstand a fierce infantry assault. Our
battalion gave its full effort as we advanced, only to be driven back.
However, the Federal line was then taken in their rear, and a long fire
both historic and modern must be inserted here. The action we
were to depict was the last great charge by Confederate infantry in the
war, and came near, only to be held off by Gen. James Morgan's firm
stand behind the earthworks he had prudently ordered to be dug. Sadly,
a Confederate group (not ANV) would not leave the field when scheduled
by the scenario, causing the Federals to run out of ammunition. This
forced an early end to our engagement on the field.
action having ended, Col. McElwee broke the battalion in place, to
allow troops to bring in wagons prior to breaking camp. This we
did, and thanks to him for his courtesy. On our return to camp,
we reformed our small company, and made our way to the photographer's
for our appointment. It took some time, but a fine image was made.
another modern aside. We had a tintype made, using a period
camera. I am proud to say that the tintype is now in my
possession, and prints will go to all who participated. If anyone
wishes to see the image, go to www.libertygreys.org, it is now the
banner image on the page, Click on the thumbnail to view a full
size digital reproduction.
returned to our camp and went about the sad duty of breaking
down. Saying our goodbyes, we finally dispersed on made our way
on the long trek home, knowing not how our loved ones had fared in the
long years of our service.
most fortunate to find a carriage, and that trains were in fact still
running, though on irregular schedule, and was able to make my way
home, stopping in that same inn I had recently stopped at on my way.
After over four years of struggle, hardship, yet fond memories of the
wonderful friends I had made, the war was finally over.
Respectfully submitted this 25th day of April, 1865,
Captain Thomas Armstrong Jones (aka Leonidas Jones) commanding
Amalgamated Company, 6th Regiment, 1st Division, Army of Northern Virginia
The Liberty Greys
Any Fate But Submission