For the Federals, the main battle of March 19, 1865 was Slocum's fight. As he began to realize he faced serious opposition at Bentonville, Lt. Col. Henry G. Litchfield rode in from the front and confirmed that fact: "Well, general, I have found something more than Dibrell's [Confederate] cavalry--I find infantry intrenched along our whole front, and enough of them to give us all the amusement we shall want for the rest of the day." As a result, Slocum adopted a defensive plan which ensured the Federals a tactical draw for the first day's battle. At sundown, a strong Federal defense of the Morris Farm staved off the Confederate "high tide" attacks of Taliaferro and Bate.
Carlin, whose fine division was driven from the field in a perfect rout at Bentonville, endured an uneasy relationship with XIV Corps commander Jeff C. Davis. Following the rout of his command, Carlin feared repercussions from the fiery Davis, and soon took leave from the army. The fate suffered by his command at Bentonville haunted Carlin for the rest of his life, and in the 1880s he published a series of articles on the battle seeking to absolve himself of blame, while shifting it to others.
The pious O. O. Howard brought the Federal Right Wing to Slocum's assistance on March 20, 1865, and was eager to put an end, once and for all, to the threat posed by Johnston's Confederates. "Old Prayer Book," like Joe Mower, was bitterly disappointed by Sherman's decision to let Johnston escape to Smithfield instead of crushing him at Bentonville. In later years Howard became reconciled to Sherman's decision, but confessed that "None of his reasons satisfied me at the time [of the battle]."