Fighting continuously through the rest of the morning and on into the afternoon. At 1:00 p.m., the 1st Brigade relieved the 3rd Brigade which had been engaged all morning. Captain Samuel Kittinger was in command of the 23rd New York Independent Battery, who were assigned to the 1st Brigade. His little brother Joseph was lieutenant in the unit and recorded the events of the fighting that had taken place earlier in the day, “[Q]uite a number of our cavalry have been killed and a good many wounded”. The Kittingers and their battery were deployed and opened fire when the cavalry again pressed the retreating Confederates so closely that they again were forced to make another counter charge. The engagement lasted a short time and the chase was resumed. The Federals finally pressed to the small village of Morrisville. Wheeler decided to again make another final attempt to stop the advancing enemy by building earthworks. From the rail station here an engine was trying to grapple several cars filled with grain and corn and pull them off when the blue soldiers appeared. Lt. Kittinger describes the scene, “When we reached the brow of the hill overlooking this place, we saw a long heavy rebel column of cavalry passing through the town and up the opposite heights. My pieces were brought forward on a run and we sent the shell in quick sucession right in the midst of the retreating Johnnies, scattering them in every direction”. From the opposite hill the Confederates made hasty breastworks and fired on the as well as from houses which made up the town. “The Yankees arrived and formed their lines and attacked. The 9th Pennsylvania and the 8th Indiana cavalry charged fiercely, supported by the 3rd Kentucky which was held in reserve. A few rounds from the cannons toward the slowly moving engine convinced the conductor to stop his movement leaving two cars loaded with supplies and rations.
Cornelius Baker of the 9th Pa Cavalry relates the effect of the attack. “In less time than it takes to write the enemy was routed in the wildest confusion.” Along with the 23rd New York battery, the fire from the 10th Wisconsin Battery, manned with members of the 9th Pa Cavalry, poured a devastating fire on the Confederate lines and within half and hour the Confederate retreat was complete, leaving the town to the Federal army. To attest to the fierceness of the fighting for the day, Kittinger recorded in his diary that his two gun section of the battery had expended at least 88 rounds of fuse shell, percussion, and case shot. Richard Moring, a slave on a near by plantation west of the town, recalled the sounds of he assault, “we could hyar de guns go boomin’” Residents of Morrisville had concealed themselves in cellars to avoid harm of the battle. They had by this time hidden all of the valuables in trees or in the ground. By 3 p.m. Kilpatrick sent another dispatch off the Sherman. From Morrisville he writes that he had “fought over nearly every foot of ground from Raleigh to this point” through “barriacades of the strongest character.” Continuing, Kilpatrick’s inflated ego causes him to boast that the Confederates were “totally demoralized” and he had been “scattering Wheelers Cavalry all day, driving them off side roads”.
Assessing the situation Kilpatrick, advises Sherman that Confederate commander Gen. Jospeh Johnston has split his infantry columns in Morrisville sending one column north along the railroad on the road to Hillsboro while the other half has gone west carrying them through the town of Chapel Hill. He estimated that at least three hundred wagons had passed along the roads that day. Still the aggressive Kilpatrick pushed out after Wheeler stating that “Col. Jordan [of the 1st brigade] is engaged some two miles out.” That night the Federals retired back to Morrisville, closely shadowed by Rebel scouts. The Federals set up camp and out scouting parties to discover where the Confederates are located. William Collin Stevens of the 92nd Ill remembered crossing over to direct Hillsboro Road and finding “not more than twenty[rebels] and capturing two of those”. But he recorded that the Confederates had attacked one of the picket posts during the night but were disengaged before his return. Constant firing kept weary Union soldiers awake throughout the night.
That night on the western flank of the Confederate lines, came the beginning of the end. From Johnston comes a dispatch to Wade Hampton who is on the Hillsboro Road. Hampton calls on Captain Rawlins Lowndes and gives him the note and orders him to take a white flag and deliver it across the lines to Kilpatrick’s headquarters in Morrisville. He arrives there at midnight running first into pickets of the 9th Pennsylvania. He carries Johnston’s letter to Sherman which suggested for a truce to negotiate terms. Kilpatrick asked Lowndes to stay the evening and return to his command tomorrow which the Confederate officer accepted. The course of conversation is pleasant and continues throughout the evening until it turns to past battles. Lowndes rubbed in the disgrace which Kilpatrick faced in early March, at Monroe’s Crossroads, where the Union commander was surprised in bed (not alone) while his command was surprised on the battlefield. The Blue troopers in turn reminded the arrogant Confederate of the running of the Rebels at the engagement at Aiken, South Carolina. The exchange went on until Lowndes had enough and issued a challenge to the blasted Yankees,”Well, General, I will make you the following proposition, and I will pledge myself that General Hampton will carry it out in every respect. You, with your staff, take fifteen hundred men, and General Hampton, with his staff, will meet you with a thousand men, all to be armed with the saber alone. The two parties will be drawn up mounted in regimental formations, opposite to each other, and at a signal to be agreed upon will charge. That will settle the question which are the best men.” Kilpatrick thanked the captain for his offer but declined Once the response came from Sherman, Lowndes returned to Confederate lines and delivered the agreement for an armistice to Hampton, who in turn sent it to Johnston’s headquarters.
On the morning of the of 14th of April, the Federal cavalry split in Morrisville to follow the divided Confederate columns. General Kilpatrick with the 1st Division headed north following Hampton and General Smith D. Atkins took his 2nd Division west via Chapel Hill following General Wheeler. The troops under Hampton had quite an easy day with plenty of forage available. But Wheeler would have a totally different morning. About a mile past the Federal pickets the Confederate force was found stubbornly defending the road. Atkins ordered the 10th Ohio to charge and drove the Rebel cavalry back nearly four miles, “kiled Several rebls lose 1 man.” Stories that have been handed down from generation to generation of family who lived in this area tell of the carnage of the engagement and being able to walk distances on the corpses of dead horses without touching the ground.
After this Atkins received the command of “halt” from Kilpatrick. The second division pulls
back a mile, sets up barricades, and goes into camp after moving only several miles from Morrisville.
Wheeler had placed his “pickets extending to cover all roads south for thirty miles.” in order to prevent
Sherman from moving undetected toward Charlotte and Johnston’s line of retreat.
The next day April 15th, Atkins would move on to fight his last skirmish with the Confederate cavalry
over New Hope Creek and eleven days later the war would be over for them with Johnston’s surrender
to Sherman at the Bennett house outside of Durham.
The area which is still in good condition is a section of the Confederate works on the first day. It consists of several rifle pits on the side facing the Federals on April 13. This same area contains rifle pits dug by occupying Union forces which are facing the opposite direction.
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Maps of Morrisville