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Battle of Bentonville, NC

My son Truman and I watch Confederates after the battle.

My son Truman and I watch Confederates after the battle.

In March 2010 my sons and I did our first overnight Civil War reenactment. The first big battle of this year had gorgeous weather and a good location, so it drew thousands of reenactors from as far away as Maine and Florida, and I got a good feel for some of the history I’ll be drawing soon for the 150th anniversary of the war.

Samuel and Truman and I have camped for years with the Boy Scouts. For the Civil War reenacting, it was fun to be in a campsite with no Coleman stoves — cooking over an open fire the way I did when I was a teenager in Boy Scouts back in the distant 1980s. There were so many campfires that by Saturday night the NC woods were thick with blue smoke — I had to go out onto an open field to clear my eyes. Now THAT’S getting a feel for history!

At Civil War events I portray a freelance cartoonist who draws battlefield scenes for the New York papers and magazines — not too big a stretch for me! The Battle of Bentonville was so big that it had a great diversity of reenactors. I mixed in with many women and children in period clothing, and near the sutlers row was a mobile blacksmith! I was fascinated to see him work out of this cart. That must have been a vital skill to bring along with an army, which would have needed frequent repairs to equipment.

The Battle of Bentonville lasted three days in March 1865, just a few weeks before Lee’s surrender to Grant in Virginia. Bentonville was the Confederate attempt to stop Gen. William T. Sherman from getting to Grant to help surround Lee — and the Confederates succeeded, but by the end of the three days Sherman still had about 90,000 men on the field and the Confederates had only about 20,000. Everyone knew the end of the war was near. Sherman was criticized for not attacking harder on the third day of fighting, to completely smash the army opposing him, but Sherman didn’t want further bloodshed.

The Civil War tactic of lining men up shoulder-to-shoulder and blasting away from just a few hundred feet was butchery. The reenactment gave me a good feel for that — and it’s hard for me to watch it even when the men are shooting just gunpowder without projectiles.

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This entry was posted on Friday, April 2nd, 2010 at 10:51 am and is filed under Author's Purpose, Civil War, Historical Travel. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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