Flatland Hiking-The Storyboard That Sucked Me In- Howell Woods and Bentonville, Four Oaks NC

Ah, the storyboards. They get me every time. This time I was at Howell Woods.

I went to Howell Woods to hike. Howell Woods is an Environmental Leaning Center associated with Johnston County Community College. But it has hiking and is a 2800 acre property so I figured I could get a pretty good day of hiking. and it is located on Devil’s Racetrack Road which is itself, interesting enough to go. Well not so fast. I didn’t know there was hunting there. Half the place was closed to hikers. The lady in the office drew on the trail map where I could go and told me it was the best parts to hike anyway.

trail sign Howell Woods

She directed me onto the Leopold Loop and a hike through the Outside Slough.

Howell Woods offers camping, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, bird watching, and of course hiking. Outside of the miles the hiking is quite easy. There are well over twelve miles of trails in the place. Today I had access to about three of those. The rest were in the closed hunting area.

Boardwalk through the outside slough
Outside Slough

As you see I was hiking on a boardwalk through a swamp. It was pretty but a bit disappointing after hoping for some miles on easy terrain. Then I found the storyboard. And it sucked me in.

Swamps near Hannah’s Creek

Of course now you wonder what could be on a storyboard in a swamp area that would be so interesting. Seems that this was the finishing point to one of the the last major battles of the Civil War, the Battle of Bentonville N.C. Apparently the Confederate Troops withdrew to these swamps to regroup as the battle was coming to a close. The Battlefield is huge encompassing thousands of acres much of it on private land but the state has put together a driving tour of the sites of major activity. So now, being a bit of a Civil war buff, I am totally sucked in.

The Texas Memorial Bentonville Battlefield

So how did Bentonville come about? Who was involved in this relatively obscure battle?

William Tecumseh Sherman had taken Savannah Georgia. General Grant ordered Sherman to load his troops on ships and bring them north to Virginia, but Sherman insisted that he could and would come by land. Grant revoked his orders and allowed Sherman to travel via land. So northward he headed, sacking and burning Columbia S.C. and Fayetteville N.C.

Jefferson Davis enlisted the long forgotten and disgraced Gen Joe Johnston to gather what troops he could and stop Sherman’s march of destruction as he headed north towards Goldsboro and Raleigh.

The Union Monument

They met at the Hamlet of Bentonville NC in late March of 1865. The Battle lasted for Three days. The tide of battle ebbed and flowed between the Armies. The battle ended up being a draw as Johnston retreated from the battlefield into the swamps of Mill and Hannah’s Creeks after the third day of battle. Sherman chased Johnston north through Goldsboro and Raleigh where a surrender took place near Durham in April of 1865, a couple weeks after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House Virginia.

monument to some known soldiers

I was doing to storyboards on the driving tour backwards. When I finally got to the main site of the battlefield there was a two mile hike along the earthworks from the battle to one of the main fields where the battle took place. And again, I am sucked in. So I strap on my day pack and head out past the cannon.

Cannon emplacement on the Union Lines
Morris Farm Field where much of the seesaw battle was fought
the hump is the 150 year old Earthworks built by engineering battalions from Michigan and Minnesota

Not my finest adventure since a bunch of it was in the car, but that’s how a storyboard can suck you in.

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