You are looking south of the Goldsboro Road at the area where Union Brig. Gen. James D. Morgan's division began a defensive position facing Gen. Robert F. Hoke's division after being deflected by the main Confederate line. These battle-hardened Union veterans had difficulty fortifying their position in the swampy, dense mass of trees and briars. Because of this harsh terrain, Morgan's division was without artillery support. One participant in the fighting referred to this hotly contested area as the "Bull Pen." The fighting here was so intense the surrounding woods caught fire.
Union skirmishers from Miles's brigade of Carlin's division deployed in front of Morgan's line and were thrown back by Hoke's Division during its initial assault. The Federal high command decided to use Morgan's division as a stopgap until the arrival of reinforcements from the XX Corps. Attacked on three sides by Hoke's soldiers and elements of the Army of Tennessee, Morgan's men held out in heavy hand-to-hand combat until Cogswell's brigade of the XX Corps relieved pressure from the rear of their position.
"We saw nothing in four years of army life to compare with that 19th of March at Bentonville."
- Lt. R.J. Heath, 34th Illinois.
"The men in Union Brig. Gen. John Mitchell's brigade piled up ?logs, stumps, limbs?and anything [else] that could be breast-work of timber' with shovelfuls of muddy soil."
-Members of Mitchell's brigade south of Goldsboro Road.
"I started at a lively clip, but had not gone far before I looked back and the Federals had risen up from behind that "bull pen" as thick as black birds on a horse-lot fence?The bullets were whistling, all around me so thick that only the protecting hand of the good Lord enabled me to escape."
- Pvt. Claude I. Hadaway, 54th Alabama.
(lower sidebar):Fight for the Flags
Fighting in and around the "Bull Pen" on March 19 was the most intense hand-to-hand combat at Bentonville. Soldiers fought to protect the regimental colors of the 54th Virginia, 40th North Carolina, 60th Illinois, 26th Tennessee, and 14th Michigan. Three of the flags were captured.
Two companies of the 60th Illinois became cut off from the rest of their brigade as members of Kirkland's North Carolina brigade attacked the color bearer with fixed bayonets. A 60th Illinois soldier with his own bayonet stepped forward to save his regimental colors.
Then action turned toward the 40th North Carolina. Cpl. George W. Clute of the 14th Michigan rushed for the Confederate flag, then dragged the color bearer and flag for one hundred feet before the Confederate lieutenant released the staff and fled.
At the same time, the 14th Michigan's flag was endangered when the entire color guard fell in a devastating volley. Pvt. Henry E. Plant saved his regiment's banner. Both Clute and Plant received the Medal of Honor thirty years later.
Members of the 14th Michigan captured troops and the colors of both the 26th Tennessee and the 54th Virginia.