Confederates Evacuate Fayetteville
— Carolinas Campaign —
The Carolinas Campaign began on February 1, 1865, when Union Gen. William T. Sherman led his army north from Savannah, Georgia, after the March to the Sea. Sherman's objective was to join Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia to crush Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Scattered Confederate forces consolidated in North Carolina, the Confederacy's logistical lifeline, where Sherman defeated Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's last-ditch attack at Bentonville. After Sherman was reinforced at Goldsboro late in March, Johnston saw the futility of further resistance and surrendered near Durham on April 26, essentially ending the Civil War.
On March 12, 1865, Confederate Gen. Wade Hampton's cavalry under Gens. Joseph Wheeler and Matthew C Butler formed the rear guard of Gen. William J. Hardee's Corps as it evacuated Fayetteville. Wheeler deployed artillery and dismounted cavalry on the eastern bank of the Cape Fear River to protect the Clarendon Bridge until the last Confederates crossed, then set it afire.
Union Gen. Henry W. Slocum, commanding Gen. William T. Sherman's Left Wing, had been ordered "to do all that is possible to secure the bridge" as he captured Fayetteville. When Confederate skirmishers delayed Slocum's lead division as it approached from the west, however, part of Sherman's Right Wing, with elements of the 15th Illinois Cavalry leading, entered the city first. Hampton and his men held them off in street fighting, then fired the bridge while withdrawing as Union Gen. Giles A. Smith's infantry division arrived in support. Confederate small arms and artillery fire from the eastern bank held off the Federals until flames engulfed the bridge. Union soldiers "struggled manfully with washtubs of water" to extinguish the fire but without success. Hampton's cavalrymen abandoned the east bank and marched toward Averasboro twenty-five miles north, while Butler covered routes to the east toward Clinton. Sherman's engineers placed pontoon bridges across the river, and his army left Fayetteville on March 14.
(lower left) Gen. Wade Hampton and Gen. Giles A. Smith Courtesy Library of Congress
(center) Burning of Second Clarendon Bridge, 1909 Courtesy North Carolina Office of Archives & History
(center) Second Clarendon Bridge, 1866-1909, photo of 1908 flood Fayetteville Area Transportation & Local History Museum
(upper right) Town Lattice Truss - Courtesy Library of Congress
Named for Clarendon County, from which Cumberland County was later formed. Clarendon Bridge was completed in 1819. This large, covered wooden toll bridge was constructed using the patented Town Lattice System, which used planks pinned together with pegs instead of the laborious mortise-and-tenon construction method. A new covered bridge was completed in 1866 and stood here until 1909. It remained a toll bridge until about 1885.