Bentonville’s “A Fighting Chance for Life” Shows The True Cost Of War

“…I was conscious that I was in a critical condition, and thought of my dear ones at home, thankful that I still had a fighting chance for life.” Lieutenant Marcus Bates of the 21st Michigan penned these words after waking up in a hospital tent near the home of John and Amy Harper. Lieutenant Bates was wounded during the battle of Bentonville in March 1865 and despite receiving treatment, was not expected to survive his wounds.

The Harper’s house had been converted into a field hospital by the Union Army’s XIV Corps.  Visitors to Bentonville Battlefield’s “A Fighting Chance for Life” Civil War medical program will have the rare chance to tour the hospital after dark on March 16, 7 -10 p.m. Tickets for the tours are extremely limited. They will go on sale at 9am on March 1st for $15 each and can be purchased online at or by calling the Bentonville Battlefield visitor center at 910-594-0789. All proceeds benefit the Friends of Bentonville Battlefield, Inc. This program will simulate combat trauma and may not be suitable for all audiences.

During the reimagined and rewritten nighttime living history program, the Harper House will be transformed to look as it did during the Battle of Bentonville on March 19, 1865.  Attendees will follow their guide through the field hospital, seeing the realities of Civil War medicine as never before.  Visitors will witness re-enactors as surgeons and medical personnel performing amputations and providing other medical care.

The nighttime tours are part of Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site’s “A Fighting Chance for Life” Civil War medical program, March 16-17, that will compare Civil War medical care to 21st century care.  US Army Special Operations Medics will provide a look inside field surgery today to demonstrate the advancements in military field medicine. Musket and artillery demonstrations will take place throughout both days.  The daytime program activities on March 16-17, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., are free.  Concessions will be available from the Bentonville Volunteer Fire Department.

Historian Col. (Ret.) Wade Sokolosky, author of “To Prepare for Sherman’s Coming,” The Battle of Wises’s Forks, March 1865 and “No Such Army Since the Days of Julius Caesar” Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign from Fayetteville to Averasboro will present on North Carolina’s Confederate hospitals in the Civil War on Saturday at 1:00 and Sunday at 11:00. Historian Chris Grimes will present on Dr. Jonathan Letterman in Saturday at 3:00 and Sunday at 2:00.

The Battle of Bentonville, fought March 19-21, 1865, involved 80,000 troops and was the last Confederate offensive against Union Gen. William T. Sherman. Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site interprets the battle and the hospital, where many Confederates were left in the aftermath.

The site is located at 5466 Harper House Road, Four Oaks, NC 27524, 3 miles north of Newton Grove on S.R. 1008, about one hour from Raleigh and about 45 minutes from Fayetteville.

For more information, visit or call 910-594-0789.

Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site is part of the Division of State Historic Sites in the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.