The Harper House

The Harper House still stands at Bentonville Battlefield. The downstairs rooms are furnished to interpret a functioning Civil War field hospital, while the upstairs rooms have period domestic furnishings. A Confederate mass grave, the Harper family cemetery, and a tour trail leading to a section of Union XX Corps earthworks are also accessible to the public. Reminders of the battle are on exhibit in the visitor center along with an audiovisual program about the battle. Roads in the area are marked with highway historical markers highlighting events of the battle. Once a thriving marketplace for naval stores, the village of Bentonville survives today in name only.

Harper House

The farm home of John and Amy Harper, built in the late 1850s, played a key role in the Battle of Bentonville, March 19-21, 1865. Occupied by Union troops on the first day of fighting, the house served as a field hospital for Sherman's XIV Army Corps. Over 500 wounded soldiers, including 45 Confederates, were treated at this facility. John, Amy, and seven of their children remained at the home throughout the battle, helping to care for the wounded men. On March 22, 1865, Sherman's army left the Bentonville area, transporting all Federal wounded to nearby Goldsboro. Wounded Confederate soldiers were left behind at Harper's, many of whom convalesced here for weeks.

Monument erected by the Goldsboro Rifles in 1893

The monument at right was erected by the Goldsboro Rifles in 1893, and marks a mass grave containing the remains of some 360 Confederates who died at Bentonville. Several of the soldiers buried here died after receiving treatment in the Harper House. Most of the remains were disinterred from various parts of the battlefield in the late nineteenth century and reinterred at this location. The marker was dedicated on March 20, 1895 to mark the 30th anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville. On hand for the occasion were Rev. John Harper Jr.--who offered a prayer for the ceremony--and Wade Hampton, who had commanded Confederate cavalry during the battle. A monument to Texas soldiers who fought at Bentonville can be seen in the left background.

Exhibits

The refurbished visitor center at Bentonville is now open to the public. The hallmark of the new facility is a large fiber-optic map exhibit, which—for the first time!—provides instant spatial orientation for visitors to the battlefield.

The fiber-optic exhibit covers the first and bloodiest day of action at Bentonville—March 19, 1865. At the press of a button, visitors can see all of the major battlefield maneuvers of both armies unfold before their eyes!

The exhibit (a color topo base map, with red and blue lights for the opposing armies) is accompanied by spoken narration of the action, and dramatic sounds of battle!

Bentonville is slowly coming into its own as a nationally significant historic site. Important developments in the 1990s have propelled it into the national spotlight. Recent books have brought the history of the Carolinas Campaign and its culminating battle into the public eye as never before, and the battlefield's preservation needs have not gone unnoticed in Washington, D.C.

In 1993 the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, appointed by Congress to evaluate the preservation needs of the nation's Civil War sites, visited Bentonville and was favorably impressed with the battlefield and its miles of extant earthworks. The commission's Report on the Nation's Civil War Battlefields (1993) classified Bentonville in:

Priority 1: Battlefields With Critical Need for Coordinated Nationwide Action by the Year 2000. 1.1 Class A, good integrity, moderate threats, less than 20 percent of core area protected. (Class A is defined as "having a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war.")

Bentonville was ranked sixth on the list of Priority One, Class A battlefields.

Another major step forward was the battlefield's designation as a National Historic Landmark. The application for NHL status was submitted with the aid of the National Park Service, and approved in June 1996 by the United States Department of the Interior. This important new status will enable Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site to apply for federal grants available for purchasing property and easements to protect historically significant land.

The Bentonville Battlefield Historical Association (BBHA), in conjunction with state officials, has made significant strides in acquiring additional parcels of land critical to a proper interpretation of the battle. Other organizations which have helped in the effort to preserve the battlefield include: Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites (APCWS), the Conservation Fund's Civil War Battlefield Campaign, and the American Battlefield Protection Program.

The site is currently at work on a comprehensive preservation and resource protection plan for Bentonville. With the aid of the National Park Service, Bentonville historians, Archives and History staff members, local surveyors, and the Jaeger Company of Atlanta, Ga., the site has implemented a sophisticated GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) project to map resources within the study area. These include several miles of remaining earthworks (in various states of preservation), locations of principal wartime dwellings, monuments and highway markers, cemeteries, and certain late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century structures.

Bentonville Battlefield Historical Association
5466 Harper House Road
Four Oaks, NC 27524
Phone: (910) 594-0789

Further Reading

Last Stand in the Carolinas: The Battle of Bentonville
by Mark L. Bradley (Savas 1996); 9x6; 608 pp.; 36 maps by M. A. Moore

Moore's Historical Guide to the Battle of Bentonville
by Mark A. Moore (Da Capo Press, 1997); 8½x11; 104 pp.; 36 maps

Bentonville: The Final Battle of Sherman and Johnston
by Nat C. Hughes (UNC 1996); 336 pp.; 9 maps

"Johnston's Last Stand—Bentonville," by Jay Luvaas, North Carolina Historical Review. 33, No. 3 (July 1956) pp. 332-358

Battle of Bentonville
by W. T. Jordan (Broadfoot 1990); 39 pp.

Sherman's March through the Carolinas
by John G. Barrett (UNC 1957); 325 pp.

The Civil War in North Carolina
by John G. Barrett (UNC 1963); 484 pp.

The March to the Sea and Beyond: Sherman's Troops in the Savannah and Carolinas Campaigns
by Joseph Glatthaar (New York University Press 1985)

Sherman's March through North Carolina: A Chronology
by Wilson Angley, Jerry L. Cross, and Michael Hill (NCDAH 1996); 129 pp.

Sherman: A Soldier's Passion for Order by John F. Marszalek (Free Press 1993); 635 pp.

Joseph E. Johnston: A Civil War Biography
by Craig L. Symonds (W. W. Norton 1992); 450 pp.


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