Maj. Gen. John Schofield planned to advance inland from Wilmington in February, at the same time assigning Maj. Gen. Jacob Cox to direct Union forces from New Berne toward Goldsboro. On March 7, Cox's advance was stopped by Gens. Hoke's and Hagood's divisions under Gen. Braxton Bragg's command at Southwest Creek below Kinston.
On the 8th, the Confederates attempted to seize the initiative by attacking the Union flanks. This was an attempt by Confederates to delay or halt a Union advance on Goldsboro. The Union move was ordered by Gen. William T. Sherman in order to consolidate Northern forces and open a supply line to the coast. After initial success, the Confederate attacks stalled because of faulty communications. On the first day of the battle, the Confederates did well and captured over 1,000 prisoners. This took place around Kelly's Millpond.
On the 9th, the Union forces were reinforced and beat back Bragg's renewed attacks on the 10th after heavy fighting. Bragg withdrew across the Neuse River and was unable to prevent the fall of Kinston on March 14.
Able to slow the advance a little, the Confederates withdrew and Union troops continued west. This was the second largest battle fought in North Carolina with nearly 25,000 troops involved. This battle was important because the Union Forces had to get past Kinston in order to reach the railroad that went north and south. This battle has the distinction of being the last mass capture of Union solders in North Carolina.