The Last Review
— 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.
This is the Stevens House at Mitchener Station, where in the final days of the war, the last reviews of the Confederate army under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's command took place on April 4, and April 7, 1865. The entire army—the remnants of the Army of Tennessee—paraded on April 4, but only Gen. William J. Hardee's Corps marched on April 7, watched by Johnston and numerous dignitaries. Among them were North Carolina Governor Zebulon B. Vance, Raleigh Daily Confederate
editor Duncan Kirkland McRae, and several women from Raleigh. Hardee gave a reception afterward, then the party headed to Gen. Robert F. Hoke's headquarters, where Governor Vance urged the North Carolina Junior Reserves to "fight till Hell freezes over!" After the speech, the governor and his entourage rode to the nearby Stevens farmhouse, where a cotillion was held in their honor before they returned to Raleigh. This proved to be the final review of the Confederate army, though few believed that the end was so near.
"I thought it rather too much of a good thing to be paraded twice in a week but the sight of the girls soon drove such unsoldierly thoughts away."
— Lt. Col. James W. Brown, 2nd South Carolina Artillery, on the review of Hardee's Corps
"I witnessed to-day the saddest spectacle of my life?the review of the skeleton Army of Tennessee, that but one year ago was replete with men, and now filed by with tattered garments, worn out shoes, bare-footed and ranks so depleted that each color was supported by only thirty or forty men?The march was so slow—colors tattered and torn with bullets—that it looked like a funeral procession."
— Maj. Bromfield L. Ridley, Aide to Gen. A.P. Stewart, April 4, 1865
(lower left) Gen. Johnston and Gen. Hardee Courtesy Johnston County Heritage Center
(right)North Carolina Gov. Zebulon B. Vance Courtesy North Carolina Office of Archives and History
(lower right) Agrippa Mitchener Johnston County Heritage Center
In 1856, the North Carolina Railroad linked Smithfield to Raleigh and Goldsboro. Mitchener Station, named after a prosperous local family, the Mitcheners, stood at the intersection of the North Carolina Railroad and the old Louisburg-Smithfield Stage Road in present-day Selma. Confederate soldiers from Kinston and Raleigh arrived at the station in March 1865 and took part in the Battle of Bentonville.