The biggest battle during Sherman's march through the heart of the Confederacy (American Civil War). Having marched from Atlanta to the coast, and then through South Carolina without encountering serious opposition, in North Carolina the Confederates finally put up a fight.
On 23 February command of the Confederate forces in North Carolina had been given to General Joseph Johnston. He commanded a force of around 21,000 men, with which to face Sherman's 60,000. However, Sherman was advancing over a wide front, hoping to repeat his success in South Carolina. There, he had threatened both Augusta and Charleston, before eventually pushing between them to capture the state capitol at Columbia. This had split the Confederate forces in the state, and forced them to retreat without a fight.
Now Johnston was determined to attack. He hoped to take advantage of Sherman's wide front by attacking one wing of the Union army and smashing it before the rest of the army could reinforce it. On 16 March 1865 part of Johnston's army had encountered the Federal left wing at Averasborough. Although his army had been forced back by the Union advance, the battle did confirm that the Federal left wing was if not actually isolated, might at least be vulnerable to determined attack.