The Battle of Averasboro was an important part of the last major campaign of the Civil War. General William T. Sherman left Atlanta and marched his army to the sea at Savannah. From Georgia Sherman's troops marched through South Carolina, burning Columbia in the process. Confederate resistance in Georgia and South Carolina had been weak and sporadic. The Confederates usually had only cavalry and militia to face Sherman's veterans. The Carolinas Campaign brought the war full circle. The Union soldiers who had won the war in the Western Theater were now in the east. Sherman was moving on the last major Confederate Army outside of Virginia. Finally, in North Carolina, the Confederate resistance stiffened.
Sherman entered North Carolina, and his cavalry was fiercely assaulted by Confederate cavalry at Monroe's Crossroads. This was the first serious fight the Union soldiers had faced since Georgia. The battle at Monroe's Crossroads only slowed Sherman's advance troops as the Union army pressed forward to the arsenal at Fayetteville. Confederates under General William J. Hardee evacuated Fayetteville as Sherman approached. Hardee withdrew on March 10 and relocated to the Smithville Plantation on the Fayetteville-Raleigh Stage Road just south of the town of Averasboro.
Sherman's soldiers destroyed the arsenal at Fayetteville and a few days later moved in two wings both north and northeast. On March 15 the left (western) wing of Union forces, harassed by Confederate cavalry, approached the William Smith house. Confederate soldiers were in a defensive line near the John Smith plantation house (Oak Grove) a mile north along the stage road. Confederate skirmishers attacked the Union line in the late afternoon. The Union line held and darkness ended the fighting.
On the morning of March 16 reinforced Union forces attacked the Confederate position. The Federals successfully flanked and assaulted the Rebel position from the west, and the Confederates withdrew to a second defensive line. This line is just north of the present day Thornton Road. The Confederates made a brief stand at the second line before falling back to their third and final line of defense.
The third line extended to the east and west of the present day site of the Chicora Civil War Cemetery. Here the Confederates had built stout earthworks. The Union army attacked several times and was repulsed each time. A flanking movement by a Union brigade was stalled by a deep ravine on the Confederate right and the timely arrival of Confederate General Joseph Wheeler's cavalry, who inflicted heavy casualties on the Federal soldiers. Nightfall again stopped the fighting. Under the cover of darkness the Confederate troops withdrew as planned to join General Joseph E. Johnston's army at Bentonville.
Three days later the combined Confederate forces under Joseph E. Johston engaged Sherman's army at Bentonville. The three-day battle proved to be the last Confederate offensive of the Civil War. In the end, the Union forces prevailed, the Confederates retreated to Smithfield, and Sherman's army proceeded to Goldsboro.
Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9 and Raleigh fell on April 13. General Johnston and General Sherman began negotiations for the surrender of Johnston's army. Abraham Lincoln's assassination on April 17 complicated the negotiations. Finally on April 26, 1865, Johnston surrendered his army and all of the troops in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida at the Bennett House near Durham.