Col. J. H. Lovelace, Founder, Senior Field and Staff Officer and event organizer of the Battle of Asheville Commemorative Corps contributes the following notes on the battle.
The 101st Ohio was present on 06 April 1865, along with other Ohio troops, Indiana troops and Illinois troops. On the Confederate side, remnants of the 62nd NCT, 64th NCT, Macbeth (South Carolina) Light Artillery, "Silver Grays", (our Home Guard), Teague's Scouts and some of the convalescent soldiers from the Confederate Hospital in Asheville. A few civilians would have been present as well.
As for the significance of the battle, which is the correct designation due to the simple fact that battles are fought with two opposing forces in defensive and offensive positions. Battles are not of short duration and they were meant to take place. Skirmishes are of brief duration and always occur when two opposing forces don't plan on running into each other. It usually occurs by accident and is much more mobile.
Perhaps the text of my speech from the ceremony [April 3, 2010, Sycamore Meadow, the Botanical Gardens at Asheville] will establish stronger results as to the significance of defending Asheville.
"...Why was the battle important for the town of Asheville?"
"North Carolina gave a record number (125,000) of her sons to the Confederacy. This number represented more North Carolinians than the voting population for the entire state. By the end of the war, 19,673 North Carolinians were killed in battle and 20,602 died of disease; a total loss of 40,275, which surpassed any other state in the Confederate States of America."
"A few training camps and fortifications were placed around the town of Asheville, but at no time was the town prepared for a full-scale assault by the enemy."
"Asheville had escaped most of the horrors of the war, but the Union Army did not overlook Asheville. The Yankees hated this town and its people vigorously! Enfield rifles had been built here at the Asheville Armory which the Federals did not fail to bear in mind. Asheville was the heart of Confederate sentiment in the South, so her fate would be exceedingly harsh and unpleasant."
"...In terms of importance, what would have happened if Asheville had been left completely unprotected?"
"Most certainly the town would have been plundered, pillaged, and burned. Our old men and young boys would have been locked away in town. Our ladies would have been subjected to every sort of drunken Union soldier and criminal in the state, for the bushwhackers and thieves thrived on robbing and terrorizing the defenseless women. The women of Asheville would have had all their valuables taken from them, even the family heirlooms that had been hidden under their dresses. In most cases, the women would have been insulted, harassed, beaten and perhaps even raped. The meager amount of food that Asheville possessed could have been taken by just a few soldiers, which would leave the citizens of Asheville with no means to replace the food and supplies, which would leave the townspeople indefinitely famished. Our people grew and preserved everything they ate, so when the pantry was bare it meant families were going to go to bed hungry. Any livestock that was found by the Yankees would be confiscated immediately. Anything that could not be used by the invaders would have been destroyed."
"The residents of Asheville knew what would happen if Col. Kirk and his band of raiders captured the town; Asheville would have been reduced to ashes."
"If we prevent the Union troops from entering the town, then we would not be robbed and the citizens of Asheville and their homes and families would be safe. This would also provide safe haven for Gen. Martin and his few troops, whom we needed for our protection."
"Why was it important then?"
It allowed us to keep our town, our homes and our freedom longer.
It is part of the colorful history of Asheville and the surrounding area; this is our precious heritage.
Finally, it boosted the morale of the townspeople. There were no more than 400 Confederates present, against a Federal force of about 1,000 troops.
The comparison between the Monitor and the Merrimac (CSS Virginia) [at the Battle of Hampton Roads] is a good one to use. In four hours of combat, only one casualty occurred on the Federal side; the commander of the Monitor was temporarily blinded.
The low number of casualties [at the Battle of Asheville] can easily be explained by the distance between the forces; the dense trees and undergrowth; the Federals firing uphill into a well entrenched position held by the Confederates; headlogs, split rail fences and other obstacles only allowed firing at "targets of opportunity." It is apparent that Col. Kirby did not wish to engage in an all out assault without his artillery, so far away from his base. Another fact would be that he was not eager to fight a determined Confederate force so late in the war.