ConfederateGen.Joseph E. Johnston sent Lt. Gen.William J. Hardee's corps to attack Slocum's left wing while it was separated from the rest of Sherman's forces. Slocum's troops crossed the Cape Fear River near Averasborough, where they encountered Hardee's corps. On the morning of the March 16, troops of the Union XX Corps under Maj. Gen. Alpheus S. Williams were driven back by a Confederate assault. When reinforcements arrived, the Union forces counterattacked and drove back two lines of Confederates, but were repulsed by a third line. By this time, units from Maj. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis's XIV Corps began to arrive on the field. Outnumbered and in danger of being flanked, Hardee's troops withdrew.
The Confederates had not held up the Union Army as long as they had hoped. Each side suffered just under 700 casualties; however, these were losses the Federals could afford while the Confederates could not.