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Diary of George Nichols, March 17, 1865


Diary of George Nichols, March 17, 1865


Lieutenant Colonel George Nichols wrote his diary entry one day after his Union Army fought Confederate General William Hardee and his men at the Battle of Averasboro. The battle was one of the biggest to take place as Union General William Sherman and 60,000 of his men marched north from Savannah, Georgia. In his entry, Nichols discussed the battle and believed that Union losses were just as great, and probably greater than that of the Confederates. At times in his writing, Nichols admired the fighting of the Confederates. Nichols even went as far to say, “The Rebels have shown more pluck than we have seen in them since Atlanta.” Interestingly enough, as Nichols admired the pluck of the Confederate soldiers, the women of Averasboro also showed some pluck, and renewed their Confederate spirit as the battle raged. The photo is of a reenactment of the Battle of Averasboro that took place in 2008.


George W. Nichols


Diary of George Nichols, March 17, 1865, in The Story of the Great March: From the Diary of a Staff Officer, ed. Maurice Filler (Williamstown, Massachusetts: Corner House Publishers, 1984), 257-259.






Averasborough, North Carolina
Harnett County, North Carolina

Original Format



The early morning found the Rebel intrenchments evacuated, and their former occupants in full flight toward Aversyboro. They escaped in the night, leaving their picket posts to fall into our hands; for a neglect to remember those who are placed in front to cover their movements is quite common among these chivalric Southern gentlemen when they wish to save themselves by running away. It is evident that the enemy suffered severely yesterday; although it is fair to suppose that our losses in wounded are greater than theirs. Their killed, however, probably outnumbers our, on account of the short range of our artillery in the early part of the day, and their loss in prisoners, whom we captured whenever we pressed forward we know to be heavy. We have already buried forty Rebels, and have one hundred wounded in our hospitals. We find the wounded scattered all along the line of the enemy’s retreat to Averysboro’.

The regiment of Charleston heavy artillery, which is made of the best blood of South Carolina, was in our immediate front during this fight. It fought well, and suffered severely both in officers and men. Although veterans in the service, this was its first field experience, and a very unpleasant experience it must have seemed. A larger proportion of officers were wounded in this fight than in any I have known. In the latter part of the day there was very little artillery used upon our side. Our line was pushed up to within one hundred yards of the Rebel works. The swampy nature of the ground did not admit of the use of our batteries. Besides this, General Sherman did not wish to sacrifice unnecessarily any lives. He knew that General Howard, with the right wing, would, by noon of today, reach the road leading toward Goldsboro, which the Rebels were trying to hold. One division of the 20th Corps were on the roads to the right, with the supply trains. This reduced our numbers nearly equal to the Rebels, with the advantage of position upon their side. We ascertained during the day that the principal object of the Rebels in holding this position was not so much to prevent our march to Raleigh as to give time for the crossing of their trains at the ferry nearby one the Cape Fear River. These trains had been run up to this point from Fayetteville, and had not been ferried over.

The Rebels have shown more pluck than we have seen in them since Atlanta. To be sure, they were behind strong breast-works, but they supposed the whole army would come up, which was half the battle to us in its moral effect upon them.


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Averasboro Reenactment.jpg


George W. Nichols, Diary of George Nichols, March 17, 1865, Civil War Era NC, accessed May 26, 2024,