You are looking west, toward Sam Howell Branch, where on the morning of March 21, Maj. Gen. O.O. Howard's XV and XVII Corps opposed the Confederate divisions of Maj. Gen. Robert F. Hoke and Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws. The dawn began with a heavy drizzle as Maj. Gen. Francis P. Blair, Jr.'s XVII Corps strengthened its position on the eastern side of Sam Howell Branch. Separating Blair and the Confederate line were 300 yards of swampy land, a small ravine, and a series of manmade obstructions. Under orders from Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman to "avoid a general battle," Howard prevented Blair from launching an assault until 1:30 p.m., when he learned that Maj. Gen. Joseph Mower's division had singlehandedly attacked the Confederate left near Bentonville.
To take pressure off Mower, Howard ordered Blair and portions of Maj. Gen. John A. Logan's XV Corps to advance on the Confederate lines across Sam Howell Branch. A fierce fight between the two sides resulted in Confederate trenches changing hands multiple times throughout the day. The aggressive attacks and counterattacks resulted in heavy casualties on both sides. Despite being outnumbered, and fearing that Mower's advance may have cut off their only route of retreat, the Confederates maintained their positions along Sam Howell Branch until the battle's end.
rebels kept up a tremendous fire on us, and seemed determined to retake their line. They drove our men on both left and right of us, but we held our guard for quite a distance, and poured such a galling fire into the rebel flank that they fell back, and our boys rallied and held the ground until dark...
—Pvt. Levi Nelson Green, 9th Iowa
[O]ur men were confident to the last, although they knew their opponent outnumbered them very largely, and were in fact enthusiastic for the fight.
—Gen. L. McLaws, letter to his wife, March 25, 1865
Maj. Gen. Joseph A. Mower's first division of the XVII Corps broke camp around 10:00 a.m. The division was ordered to entrench on the right of Howard's line, overlooking Sam Howell Branch, to protect a ford along the battle line. Before marching into position, Mower asked permission from General Blair, to perform "a little reconnoisance [sic]" of Confederate positions near Bentonville. Making use of a nearly impassable route towards Mill Creek, Mower came upon the weakly-defended Confederate left flank by noon.