Part 15 out of 19
of bondage and placing us where we can reap the fruit of our own
labor, and take care of ourselves and assist the Government in
maintaining our freedom.
Fourth Question. State in what manner you would rather live--
whether scattered among the whites, or in colonies by yourselves?
Answer. I would prefer to live by ourselves, for there is a
prejudice against us in the South that will take years to get over;
but I do not know that I can answer for my brethren.
(All but Mr. Lynch, a missionary from the North, agreed with
Frazier, but he thought they ought to live together, along with the
Eighth Question. If the rebel leaders were to arm the slaves, what
would be its effect?
Answer. I think they would fight as long as they were before the
"bayonet," and just as soon as they could get away they would
desert, in my opinion.
Tenth Question. Do you understand the mode of enlistment of
colored persons in the rebel States by State agents, under the act
of Congress; if yea, what is your understanding?
Answer. My understanding is, that colored persons enlisted by
State agents are enlisted as substitutes, and give credit to the
State and do not swell the army, because every black man enlisted
by a State agent leaves a white man at home; and also that larger
bounties are given, or promised, by the State agents than are given
by the United States. The great object should be to push through
this rebellion the shortest way; and there seems to be something
wanting in the enlistment by State agents, for it don't strengthen
the army, but takes one away for every colored man enlisted.
Eleventh Question. State what, in your opinion, is the best way to
enlist colored men as soldiers?
Answer. I think, sir, that all compulsory operations should be put
a stop to. The ministers would talk to them, and the young men
would enlist. It is my opinion that it would be far better for the
State agents to stay at home and the enlistments be made for the
United States under the direction of General Sherman.
Up to this time I was present, and, on Mr. Stanton's intimating
that he wanted to ask some questions affecting me, I withdrew, and
then he put the twelfth and last question
Twelfth Question. State what is the feeling of the colored people
toward General Sherman, and how far do they regard his sentiments
and actions as friendly to their rights and interests, or
Answer. We looked upon General Sherman, prior to his arrival, as a
man, in the providence of God, specially set apart to accomplish
this work, and we unanimously felt inexpressible gratitude to him,
looking upon him as a man who should be honored for the faithful
performance of his duty. Some of us called upon him immediately
upon his arrival, and it is probable he did not meet the secretary
with more courtesy than he did us. His conduct and deportment
toward us characterized him as a friend and gentleman. We have
confidence in General Sherman, and think what concerns us could not
be in better hands. This is our opinion now, from the short
acquaintance and intercourse we have had.
It certainly was a strange fact that the great War Secretary should
have catechized negroes concerning the character of a general who
had commanded a hundred thousand men in battle, had captured cities
conducted sixty-five thousand men successfully across four hundred
miles of hostile territory, and had just brought tens of thousands
of freedmen to a place of security; but because I had not loaded
down my army by other hundreds of thousands of poor negroes, I was
construed by others as hostile to the black race. I had received
from General Halleck, at Washington, a letter warning me that there
were certain influential parties near the President who were
torturing him with suspicions of my fidelity to him and his negro
policy; but I shall always believe that Mr. Lincoln, though a
civilian, knew better, and appreciated my motives and character.
Though this letter of General Halleck has always been treated by me
as confidential, I now insert it here at length:
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY
WASHINGTON, D.C., December 30, 1864.
Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, Savannah.
MY DEAR GENERAL: I take the liberty of calling your attention, in
this private and friendly way, to a matter which may possibly
hereafter be of more importance to you than either of us may now
While almost every one is praising your great march through
Georgia, and the capture of Savannah, there is a certain class
having now great influence with the President, and very probably
anticipating still more on a change of cabinet, who are decidedly
disposed to make a point against you. I mean in regard to
"inevitable Sambo." They say that you have manifested an almost
criminal dislike to the negro, and that you are not willing to
carry out the wishes of the Government in regard to him, but
repulse him with contempt! They say you might have brought with you
to Savannah more than fifty thousand, thus stripping Georgia of
that number of laborers, and opening a road by which as many more
could have escaped from their masters; but that, instead of this,
you drove them from your ranks, prevented their following you by
cutting the bridges in your rear, and thus caused the massacre of
large numbers by Wheeler's cavalry.
To those who know you as I do, such accusation will pass as the
idle winds, for we presume that you discouraged the negroes from
following you because you had not the means of supporting them, and
feared they might seriously embarrass your march. But there are
others, and among them some in high authority, who think or pretend
to think otherwise, and they are decidedly disposed to make a point
I do not write this to induce you to conciliate this class of men
by doing any thing which you do not deem right and proper, and for
the interest of the Government and the country; but simply to call
your attention to certain things which are viewed here somewhat
differently than from your stand-point. I will explain as briefly
Some here think that, in view of the scarcity of labor in the
South, and the probability that a part, at least, of the able-
bodied slaves will be called into the military service of the
rebels, it is of the greatest importance to open outlets by which
these slaves can escape into our lines, and they say that the route
you have passed over should be made the route of escape, and
Savannah the great place of refuge. These, I know, are the views
of some of the leading men in the Administration, and they now
express dissatisfaction that you did not carry them out in your
Now that you are in possession of Savannah, and there can be no
further fears about supplies, would it not be possible for you to
reopen these avenues of escape for the negroes, without interfering
with your military operations? Could not such escaped slaves find
at least a partial supply of food in the rice-fields about
Savannah, and cotton plantations on the coast?
I merely throw out these suggestions. I know that such a course
would be approved by the Government, and I believe that a
manifestation on your part of a desire to bring the slaves within
our lines will do much to silence your opponents. You will
appreciate my motives in writing this private letter.
H. W. HALLECK.
There is no doubt that Mr. Stanton, when he reached Savannah,
shared these thoughts, but luckily the negroes themselves convinced
him that he was in error, and that they understood their own
interests far better than did the men in Washington, who tried to
make political capital out of this negro question. The idea that
such men should have been permitted to hang around Mr. Lincoln, to
torture his life by suspicions of the officers who were toiling
with the single purpose to bring the war to a successful end, and
thereby to liberate all slaves, is a fair illustration of the
influences that poison a political capital.
My aim then was, to whip the rebels, to humble their pride, to
follow them to their inmost recesses, and make them fear and dread
us. "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." I did not want
them to cast in our teeth what General Hood had once done in
Atlanta, that we had to call on their slaves to help us to subdue
them. But, as regards kindness to the race, encouraging them to
patience and forbearance, procuring them food and clothing, and
providing them with land whereon to labor, I assert that no army
ever did more for that race than the one I commanded in Savannah.
When we reached Savannah, we were beset by ravenous State agents
from Hilton Head, who enticed and carried away our servants, and
the corps of pioneers which we had organized, and which had done
such excellent service. On one occasion, my own aide-de-camp,
Colonel Audenried, found at least a hundred poor negroes shut up in
a house and pen, waiting for the night, to be conveyed stealthily
to Hilton Head. They appealed to him for protection, alleging that
they had been told that they must be soldiers, that "Massa Lincoln"
wanted them, etc. I never denied the slaves a full opportunity for
voluntary enlistment, but I did prohibit force to be used, for I
knew that the State agents were more influenced by the profit they
derived from the large bounties then being paid than by any love of
country or of the colored race. In the language of Mr. Frazier,
the enlistment of every black man "did not strengthen the army, but
took away one white man from the ranks."
During Mr. Stanton's stay in Savannah we discussed this negro
question very fully; he asked me to draft an order on the subject,
in accordance with my own views, that would meet the pressing
necessities of the case, and I did so. We went over this order,
No. 15, of January 16, 1865, very carefully. The secretary made
some verbal modifications, when it was approved by him in all its
details, I published it, and it went into operation at once. It
provided fully for the enlistment of colored troops, and gave the
freedmen certain possessory rights to land, which afterward became
matters of judicial inquiry and decision. Of course, the military
authorities at that day, when war prevailed, had a perfect right to
grant the possession of any vacant land to which they could extend
military protection, but we did not undertake to give a fee-simple
title; and all that was designed by these special field orders was
to make temporary provisions for the freedmen and their families
during the rest of the war, or until Congress should take action in
the premises. All that I now propose to assert is, that Mr.
Stanton, Secretary of War, saw these orders in the rough, and
approved every paragraph thereof, before they were made public:
[Special Field Orders, No. 15.]
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
IN THE FIELD, NEAR SAVANNAH, GEORGIA, January 16, 1865.
1. The islands from Charleston south, the abandoned rice-fields
along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the
country bordering the St. John's River, Florida, are reserved and
set apart for the settlement of the negroes now made free by the
acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United
2. At Beaufort, Hilton Head, Savannah, Fernandina, St. Augustine,
and Jacksonville, the blacks may remain in their chosen or
accustomed vocations; but on the islands, and in the settlements
hereafter to be established, no white person whatever, unless
military officers and soldiers detailed for duty, will be permitted
to reside; and the sole and exclusive management of affairs will be
left to the freed people themselves, subject only to the United
States military authority, and the acts of Congress. By the laws
of war, and orders of the President of the United States, the negro
is free, and must be dealt with as such. He cannot be subjected to
conscription, or forced military service, save by the written
orders of the highest military authority of the department, under
such regulations as the President or Congress may prescribe.
Domestic servants, blacksmiths, carpenters, and other mechanics,
will be free to select their own work and residence, but the young
and able-bodied negroes must be encouraged to enlist as soldiery in
the service of the United States, to contribute their share toward
maintaining their own freedom, and securing their rights as
citizens of the United States.
Negroes so enlisted will be organized into companies, battalions,
and regiments, under the orders of the United States military
authorities, and will be paid, fed, and clothed; according to law.
The bounties paid on enlistment may, with the consent of the
recruit, go to assist his family and settlement in procuring
agricultural implements, seed, tools, boots, clothing, and other
articles necessary for their livelihood.
8. Whenever three respectable negroes, heads of families, shall
desire to settle on land, and shall have selected for that purpose
an island or a locality clearly defined within the limits above
designated, the Inspector of Settlements and Plantations will
himself, or, by such subordinate officer as he may appoint, give
them a license to settle such island or district, and afford them
such assistance as he can to enable them to establish a peaceable
agricultural settlement. The three parties named will subdivide
the land, under the supervision of the inspector, among themselves,
and such others as may choose to settle near them, so that each
family shall have a plot of not more than forty acres of tillable
ground, and, when it borders on some water-channel, with not more
than eight hundred feet water-front, in the possession of which
land the military authorities will afford them protection until
such time as they can protect themselves, or until Congress shall
regulate their title. The quartermaster may, on the requisition of
the Inspector of Settlements and Plantations, place at the disposal
of the inspector one or more of the captured steamers to ply
between the settlements and one or more of the commercial points
heretofore named, in order to afford the settlers the opportunity
to supply their necessary wants, and to sell the products of their
land and labor.
4. Whenever a negro has enlisted in the military service of the
United States, be may locate his family in any one of the
settlements at pleasure, and acquire a homestead, and all other
rights and privileges of a settler, as though present in person.
In like manner, negroes may settle their families and engage on
board the gunboats, or in fishing, or in the navigation of the
inland waters, without losing any claim to land or other advantages
derived from this system. But no one, unless an actual settler as
above defined, or unless absent on Government service, will be
entitled to claim any right to land or property in any settlement
by virtue of these orders.
5. In order to carry out this system of settlement, a general
officer will be detailed as Inspector of Settlements and
Plantations, whose duty it shall be to visit the settlements, to
regulate their police and general arrangement, and who will furnish
personally to each head of a family, subject to the approval of the
President of the United States, a possessory title in writing,
giving as near as possible the description of boundaries; and who
shall adjust all claims or conflicts that may arise under the same,
subject to the like approval, treating such titles altogether as
possessory. The same general offcer will also be charged with the
enlistment and organization of the negro recruits, and protecting
their interests while absent from their settlements; and will be
governed by the rules and regulations prescribed by the War
Department for such purposes.
6. Brigadier-General R. Saxton is hereby appointed Inspector of
Settlements and Plantations, and will at once enter on the
performance of his duties. No change is intended or desired in the
settlement now on Beaufort Island, nor will any rights to property
heretofore acquired be affected thereby.
By order of Major-General W. T. Sherman,
L. M. DAYTON, Assistant Adjutant-General.
I saw a good deal of the secretary socially, during the time of his
visit to Savannah. He kept his quarters on the revenue-cutter with
Simeon Draper, Esq., which cutter lay at a wharf in the river, but
he came very often to my quarters at Mr. Green's house. Though
appearing robust and strong, he complained a good deal of internal
pains, which he said threatened his life, and would compel him soon
to quit public office. He professed to have come from Washington
purposely for rest and recreation, and he spoke unreservedly of the
bickerings and jealousies at the national capital; of the
interminable quarrels of the State Governors about their quotas,
and more particularly of the financial troubles that threatened the
very existence of the Government itself. He said that the price of
every thing had so risen in comparison with the depreciated money,
that there was danger of national bankruptcy, and he appealed to
me, as a soldier and patriot, to hurry up matters so as to bring
the war to a close.
He left for Port Royal about the 15th of January, and promised to
go North without delay, so as to hurry back to me the supplies I
had called for, as indispensable for the prosecution of the next
stage of the campaign. I was quite impatient to get off myself,
for a city-life had become dull and tame, and we were all anxious
to get into the pine-woods again, free from the importunities of
rebel women asking for protection, and of the civilians from the
North who were coming to Savannah for cotton and all sorts of
On the 18th of January General Slocum was ordered to turn over the
city of Savannah to General J. G. Foster, commanding the Department
of the South, who proposed to retain his own headquarters at Hilton
Head, and to occupy Savannah by General Grovers division of the
Nineteenth Corps, just arrived from James River; and on the next
day, viz., January 19th, I made the first general orders for the
These were substantially to group the right wing of the army at
Pocotaligo, already held by the Seventeenth Corps, and the left
wing and cavalry at or near Robertsville, in South Carolina. The
army remained substantially the same as during the march from
Atlanta, with the exception of a few changes in the commanders of
brigades and divisions, the addition of some men who had joined
from furlough, and the loss of others from the expiration of their
term of service. My own personal staff remained the same, with the
exception that General W. F. Barry had rejoined us at Savannah,
perfectly recovered from his attack of erysipelas, and continued
with us to the end of the war. Generals Easton and Beckwith
remained at Savannah, in charge of their respective depots, with
orders to follow and meet us by sea with supplies when we should
reach the coast at Wilmington or Newbern, North Carolina.
Of course, I gave out with some ostentation, especially among the
rebels, that we were going to Charleston or Augusta; but I had long
before made up my mind to waste no time on either, further than to
play off on their fears, thus to retain for their protection a
force of the enemy which would otherwise concentrate in our front,
and make the passage of some of the great rivers that crossed our
route more difficult and bloody.
Having accomplished all that seemed necessary, on the 21st of
January, with my entire headquarters, officers, clerks, orderlies,
etc., with wagons and horses, I embarked in a steamer for Beaufort,
South Carolina, touching at Hilton Head, to see General Foster.
The weather was rainy and bad, but we reached Beaufort safely on
the 23d, and found some of General Blair's troops there. The pink
of his corps (Seventeenth) was, however, up on the railroad about
Pocotaligo, near the head of Broad River, to which their supplies
were carried from Hilton Head by steamboats. General Hatch's
division (of General Foster's command) was still at Coosawhatchie
or Tullafinny, where the Charleston & Savannah Railroad crosses the
river of that name. All the country between Beaufort and
Pocotaligo was low alluvial land, cut up by an infinite number of
salt-water sloughs and freshwater creeks, easily susceptible of
defense by a small force; and why the enemy had allowed us to make
a lodgment at Pocotaligo so easily I did not understand, unless it
resulted from fear or ignorance. It seemed to me then that the
terrible energy they had displayed in the earlier stages of the war
was beginning to yield to the slower but more certain industry and
discipline of our Northern men. It was to me manifest that the
soldiers and people of the South entertained an undue fear of our
Western men, and, like children, they had invented such ghostlike
stories of our prowess in Georgia, that they were scared by their
own inventions. Still, this was a power, and I intended to utilize
it. Somehow, our men had got the idea that South Carolina was the
cause of all our troubles; her people were the first to fire on
Fort Sumter, had been in a great hurry to precipitate the country
into civil war; and therefore on them should fall the scourge of
war in its worst form. Taunting messages had also come to us, when
in Georgia, to the effect that, when we should reach South
Carolina, we would find a people less passive, who would fight us
to the bitter end, daring us to come over, etc.; so that I saw and
felt that we would not be able longer to restrain our men as we had
done in Georgia.
Personally I had many friends in Charleston, to whom I would gladly
have extended protection and mercy, but they were beyond my
personal reach, and I would not restrain the army lest its vigor
and energy should be impaired; and I had every reason to expect
bold and strong resistance at the many broad and deep rivers that
lay across our path.
General Foster's Department of the South had been enlarged to
embrace the coast of North Carolina, so that the few troops serving
there, under the command of General Innis N. Palmer, at Newbern,
became subject to my command. General A. H. Terry held Fort
Fisher, and a rumor came that he had taken the city of Wilmington;
but this was premature. He had about eight thousand men. General
Schofield was also known to be en route from Nashville for North
Carolina, with the entire Twenty-third Corps, so that I had every
reason to be satisfied that I would receive additional strength as
we progressed northward, and before I should need it.
General W. J. Hardee commanded the Confederate forces in
Charleston, with the Salkiehatchie River as his line of defense.
It was also known that General Beauregard had come from the
direction of Tennessee, and had assumed the general command of all
the troops designed to resist our progress.
The heavy winter rains had begun early in January, rendered the
roads execrable, and the Savannah River became so swollen that it
filled its many channels, overflowing the vast extent of
rice-fields that lay on the east bank. This flood delayed our
departure two weeks; for it swept away our pontoon-bridge at
Savannah, and came near drowning John E. Smith's division of the
Fifteenth Corps, with several heavy trains of wagons that were en
route from Savannah to Pocotaligo by the old causeway.
General Slocum had already ferried two of his divisions across the
river, when Sister's Ferry, about forty miles above Savannah, was
selected for the passage of the rest of his wing and of
Kilpatrick's cavalry. The troops were in motion for that point
before I quitted Savannah, and Captain S. B. Luce, United States
Navy, had reported to me with a gunboat (the Pontiac) and a couple
of transports, which I requested him to use in protecting Sister's
Ferry during the passage of Slocum's wing, and to facilitate the
passage of the troops all he could. The utmost activity prevailed
at all points, but it was manifest we could not get off much before
the 1st day of February; so I determined to go in person to
Pocotaligo, and there act as though we were bound for Charleston.
On the 24th of January I started from Beaufort with a part of my
staff, leaving the rest to follow at leisure, rode across the
island to a pontoon-bridge that spanned the channel between it and
the main-land, and thence rode by Garden's Corners to a plantation
not far from Pocotaligo, occupied by General Blair. There we found
a house, with a majestic avenue of live-oaks, whose limbs had been
cut away by the troops for firewood, and desolation marked one of
those splendid South Carolina estates where the proprietors
formerly had dispensed a hospitality that distinguished the old
regime of that proud State. I slept on the floor of the house, but
the night was so bitter cold that I got up by the fire several
times, and when it burned low I rekindled it with an old
mantel-clock and the wreck of a bedstead which stood in a corner of
the room--the only act of vandalism that I recall done by myself
personally during the war.
The next morning I rode to Pocotaligo, and thence reconnoitred our
entire line down to Coosawhatchie. Pocotaligo Fort was on low,
alluvial ground, and near it began the sandy pine-land which
connected with the firm ground extending inland, constituting the
chief reason for its capture at the very first stage of the
campaign. Hatch's division was ordered to that point from
Coosawhatchie, and the whole of Howard's right wing was brought
near by, ready to start by the 1st of February. I also
reconnoitred the point of the Salkiehatchie River, where the
Charleston Railroad crossed it, found the bridge protected by a
rebel battery on the farther side, and could see a few men about
it; but the stream itself was absolutely impassable, for the whole
bottom was overflowed by its swollen waters to the breadth of a
full mile. Nevertheless, Force's and Mower's divisions of the
Seventeenth Corps were kept active, seemingly with the intention to
cross over in the direction of Charleston, and thus to keep up the
delusion that that city was our immediate "objective." Meantime, I
had reports from General Slocum of the terrible difficulties he had
encountered about Sister's Ferry, where the Savannah River was
reported nearly three miles wide, and it seemed for a time almost
impossible for him to span it at all with his frail pontoons.
About this time (January 25th), the weather cleared away bright and
cold, and I inferred that the river would soon run down, and enable
Slocum to pass the river before February 1st. One of the divisions
of the Fifteenth Corps (Corse's) had also been cut off by the loss
of the pontoon-bridge at Savannah, so that General Slocum had with
him, not only his own two corps, but Corse's division and
Kilpatrick's cavalry, without which it was not prudent for me to
inaugurate the campaign. We therefore rested quietly about
Pocotaligo, collecting stores and making final preparations, until
the 1st of February, when I learned that the cavalry and two
divisions of the Twentieth Corps were fairly across the river, and
then gave the necessary orders for the march northward.
Before closing this chapter, I will add a few original letters that
bear directly on the subject, and tend to illustrate it
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES
WASHINGTON, D. C. January 21, 1866.
Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding Military Division of the
GENERAL: Your letters brought by General Barnard were received at
City Point, and read with interest. Not having them with me,
however, I cannot say that in this I will be able to satisfy you on
all points of recommendation. As I arrived here at 1 p.m., and
must leave at 6 p.m., having in the mean time spent over three
hours with the secretary and General Halleck, I must be brief.
Before your last request to have Thomas make a campaign into the
heart of Alabama, I had ordered Schofield to Annapolis, Maryland,
with his corps. The advance (six thousand) will reach the seaboard
by the 23d, the remainder following as rapidly as railroad
transportation can be procured from Cincinnati. The corps numbers
over twenty-one thousand men.
Thomas is still left with a sufficient force, surplus to go to
Selma under an energetic leader. He has been telegraphed to, to
know whether he could go, and, if so, by which of several routes he
would select. No reply is yet received. Canby has been ordered to
set offensively from the seacoast to the interior, toward
Montgomery and Selma. Thomas's forces will move from the north at
an early day, or some of his troops will be sent to Canby. Without
further reenforcement Canby will have a moving column of twenty
Fort Fisher, you are aware, has been captured. We have a force
there of eight thousand effective. At Newbern about half the
number. It is rumored, through deserters, that Wilmington also has
fallen. I am inclined to believe the rumor, because on the 17th we
knew the enemy were blowing up their works about Fort Caswell, and
that on the 18th Terry moved on Wilmington.
If Wilmington is captured, Schofield will go there. If not, he
will be sent to Newbern. In either event, all the surplus forces
at the two points will move to the interior, toward Goldsboro', in
cooperation with your movements. From either point, railroad
communications can be run out, there being here abundance of
rolling-stock suited to the gauge of those roads.
There have been about sixteen thousand men sent from Lee's army
south. Of these, you will have fourteen thousand against you, if
Wilmington is not held by the enemy, casualties at Fort Fisher
having overtaken about two thousand.
All other troops are subject to your orders as you come in
communication with them. They will be so instructed. From about
Richmond I will watch Lee closely, and if he detaches many men, or
attempts to evacuate, will pitch in. In the meantime, should you
be brought to a halt anywhere, I can send two corps of thirty
thousand effective men to your support, from the troops about
To resume: Canby is ordered to operate to the interior from the
Gulf. A. J. Smith may go from the north, but I think it doubtful.
A force of twenty-eight or thirty thousand will cooperate with you
from Newbern or Wilmington, or both. You can call for
This will be handed you by Captain Hudson, of my ataff, who will
return with any message you may have for me. If there is any thing
I can do for you in the way of having supplies on shipboard, at any
point on the seacoast, ready for you, let me know it.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
IN THE FIELD, POCOTALIGO, SOUTH CAROLINA, January 29, 1885.
Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, City Point, Virginia.
DEAR GENERAL: Captain Hudson has this moment arrived with your
letter of January 21st, which I have read with interest.
The capture of Fort Fisher has a most important bearing on my
campaign, and I rejoice in it for many reasons, because of its
intrinsic importance, and because it gives me another point of
security on the seaboard. I hope General Terry will follow it up
by the capture of Wilmington, although I do not look for it, from
Admiral Porter's dispatch to me. I rejoice that Terry was not a
West-Pointer, that he belonged to your army, and that he had the
same troops with which Butler feared to make the attempt.
Admiral Dahlgren, whose fleet is reenforced by some more ironclads,
wants to make an assault a la Fisher on Fort Moultrie, but I
withhold my consent, for the reason that the capture of all
Sullivan's Island is not conclusive as to Charleston; the capture
of James Island would be, but all pronounce that impossible at this
time. Therefore, I am moving (as hitherto designed) for the
railroad west of Branchville, then will swing across to Orangeburg,
which will interpose my army between Charleston and the interior.
Contemporaneous with this, Foster will demonstrate up the Edisto,
and afterward make a lodgment at Bull's Bay, and occupy the common
road which leads from Mount Pleasant toward Georgetown. When I get
to Columbia, I think I shall move straight for Goldsboro', via
Fayetteville. By this circuit I cut all roads, and devastate the
land; and the forces along the coast, commanded by Foster, will
follow my movement, taking any thing the enemy lets go, or so
occupy his attention that he cannot detach all his forces against
me. I feel sure of getting Wilmington, and may be Charleston, and
being at Goldsboro', with its railroads finished back to Morehead
City and Wilmington, I can easily take Raleigh, when it seems that
Lee must come out. If Schofield comes to Beaufort, he should be
pushed out to Kinston, on the Neuse, and may be Goldsboro' (or,
rather, a point on the Wilmington road, south of Goldsboro'). It
is not necessary to storm Goldsboro', because it is in a distant
region, of no importance in itself, and, if its garrison is forced
to draw supplies from its north, it, will be eating up the same
stores on which Lee depends for his command.
I have no doubt Hood will bring his army to Augusta. Canby and
Thomas should penetrate Alabama as far as possible, to keep
employed at least a part of Hood's army; or, what would accomplish
the same thing, Thomas might reoccupy the railroad from Chattanooga
forward to the Etowah, viz., Rome, Kingston, and Allatoona, thereby
threatening Georgia. I know that the Georgia troops are
disaffected. At Savannah I met delegates from several counties of
the southwest, who manifested a decidedly hostile spirit to the
Confederate cause. I nursed the feeling as far as possible, and
instructed Grower to keep it up.
My left wing must now be at Sister's Ferry, crossing the Savannah
River to the east bank. Slocum has orders to be at Robertsville
to-morrow, prepared to move on Barnwell. Howard is here, all ready
to start for the Augusta Railroad at Midway.
We find the enemy on the east aide of the Salkiehatchie, and
cavalry in our front; but all give ground on our approach, and seem
to be merely watching us. If we start on Tuesday, in one week we
shall be near Orangeburg, having broken up the Augusta road from
the Edisto westward twenty or twenty-five miles. I will be sure
that every rail is twisted. Should we encounter too much
opposition near Orangeburg, then I will for a time neglect that
branch, and rapidly move on Columbia, and fill up the triangle
formed by the Congaree and Wateree (tributaries of the Santee),
breaking up that great centre of the Carolina roads. Up to that
point I feel full confidence, but from there may have to manoeuvre
some, and will be guided by the questions of weather and supplies.
You remember we had fine weather last February for our Meridian
trip, and my memory of the weather at Charleston is, that February
is usually a fine month. Before the March storms come we should be
within striking distance of the coast. The months of April and May
will be the best for operations from Goldsboro' to Raleigh and the
Roanoke. You may rest assured that I will keep my troops well in
hand, and, if I get worsted, will aim to make the enemy pay so
dearly that you will have less to do. I know that this trip is
necessary; it must be made sooner or later; I am on time, and in
the right position for it. My army is large enough for the
purpose, and I ask no reinforcement, but simply wish the utmost
activity to be kept up at all other points, so that concentration
against me may not be universal.
I suspect that Jeff. Davis will move heaven and earth to catch me,
for success to this column is fatal to his dream of empire.
Richmond is not more vital to his cause than Columbia and the heart
of South Carolina.
If Thomas will not move on Selma, order him to occupy Rome,
Kingston, and Allatoona, and again threaten Georgia in the
direction of Athena.
I think the "poor white trash" of the South are falling out of
their ranks by sickness, desertion, and every available means; but
there is a large class of vindictive Southerners who will fight to
the last. The squabbles in Richmond, the howls in Charleston, and
the disintegration elsewhere, are all good omens for us; we must
not relax one iota, but, on the contrary, pile up our efforts: I
would, ere this, have been off, but we had terrific rains, which
caught us in motion, and nearly drowned some of the troops in the
rice-fields of the Savannah, swept away our causeway (which had
been carefully corduroyed), and made the swamps hereabout mere
lakes of slimy mud. The weather is now good, and I have the army
on terra firma. Supplies, too, came for a long time by daily
driblets instead of in bulk; this is now all remedied, and I hope
to start on Tuesday.
I will issue instructions to General Foster, based on the
reenforcements of North Carolina; but if Schofield comes, you had
better relieve Foster, who cannot take the field, and needs an
operation on his leg. Let Schofield take command, with his
headquarters at Beaufort, North Carolina, and with orders to secure
Goldsboro' (with its railroad communication back to Beaufort and
Wilmington). If Lee lets us get that position, he is gone up.
I will start with my Atlanta army (sixty thousand), supplied as
before, depending on the country for all food in excess of thirty
days. I will have less cattle on the hoof, but I hear of hogs,
cows, and calves, in Barnwell and the Colombia districts. Even
here we have found some forage. Of course, the enemy will carry
off and destroy some forage, but I will burn the houses where the
people burn their forage, and they will get tired of it.
I must risk Hood, and trust to you to hold Lee or be on his heels
if he comes south. I observe that the enemy has some respect for
my name, for they gave up Pocotaligo without a fight when they
heard that the attacking force belonged to my army. I will try and
keep up that feeling, which is a real power. With respect, your
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-general commanding.
P. S.--I leave my chief-quartermaster and commissary behind to
W. T. S.
[Dispatch No. 6.]
SAVANNAH RIVER, January 4, 1865.
HON. GIDEON WELLS, Secretary of the Navy.
SIR: I have already apprised the Department that the army of
General Sherman occupied the city of Savannah on the 21st of
The rebel army, hardly respectable in numbers or condition, escaped
by crossing the river and taking the Union Causeway toward the
I have walked about the city several times, and can affirm that its
tranquillity is undisturbed. The Union soldiers who are stationed
within its limits are as orderly as if they were in New York or
Boston.... One effect of the march of General Sherman through
Georgia has been to satisfy the people that their credulity has
been imposed upon by the lying assertions of the rebel Government,
affirming the inability of the United States Government to
withstand the armies of rebeldom. They have seen the old flag of
the United States carried by its victorious legions through their
State, almost unopposed, and placed in their principal city without
Since the occupation of the city General Sherman has been occupied
in making arrangements for its security after he leaves it for the
march that he meditates. My attention has been directed to such
measures of cooperation as the number and quality of my force
On the 2d I arrived here from Charleston, whither, as I stated in
my dispatch of the 29th of December, I had gone in consequence of
information from the senior officer there that the rebels
contemplated issuing from the harbor, and his request for my
presence. Having placed a force there of seven monitors,
sufficient to meet each an emergency, and not perceiving any sign
of the expected raid, I returned to Savannah, to keep in
communication with General Sherman and be ready to render any
assistance that might be desired. General Sherman has fully
informed me of his plans, and, so far as my means permit, they
shall not lack assistance by water.
On the 3d the transfer of the right wing to Beaufort was began, and
the only suitable vessel I had at hand (the Harvest Moon) was sent
to Thunderbolt to receive the first embarkation. This took place
about 3 p.m., and was witnessed by General Sherman and General
Bernard (United States Engineers) and myself. The Pontiac is
ordered around to assist, and the army transports also followed the
first move by the Harvest Moon.
I could not help remarking the unbroken silence that prevailed in
the large array of troops; not a voice was to be heard, as they
gathered in masses on the bluff to look at the vessels. The notes
of a solitary bugle alone came from their midst.
General Barnard made a brief visit to one of the rebel works
(Cansten's Bluff) that dominated this water-course--the best
approach of the kind to Savannah.
I am collecting data that will fully exhibit to the Department the
powerful character of the defenses of the city and its approaches.
General Sherman will not retain the extended limits they embrace.
but will contract the line very much.
General Foster still holds the position near the Tullifinny. With
his concurrence I have detached the fleet brigade, and the men
belonging to it have returned to their vessels. The excellent
service performed by this detachment has fully realized my wishes,
and exemplified the efficiency of the organization--infantry and
light artillery handled as skirmishers. The howitzers were always
landed as quickly as the men, and were brought into action before
the light pieces of the land-service could be got ashore.
I regret very much that the reduced complements of the vessels
prevent me from maintaining the force in constant organization.
With three hundred more marines and five hundred seamen I could
frequently operate to great advantage, at the present time, when
the attention of the rebels is so engrossed by General Sherman.
It is said that they have a force at Hardeeville, the pickets of
which were retained on the Union Causeway until a few days since,
when some of our troops crossed the river and pushed them back.
Concurrently with this, I caused the Sonoma to anchor so as to
sweep the ground in the direction of the causeway.
The transfer of the right-wing (thirty thousand men) to Beaufort
will so imperil the rebel force at Hardeeville that it will be cut
off or dispersed, if not moved in season.
Meanwhile I will send the Dai-Ching to St. Helena, to meet any want
that may arise in that quarter, while the Mingo and Pontiac will be
ready to act from Broad River.
The general route of the army will be northward; but the exact
direction must be decided more or less by circumstances which it
may not be possible to foresee....
My cooperation will be confined to assistance in attacking
Charleston, or in establishing communication at Georgetown, in case
the army pushes on without attacking Charleston, and time alone
will show which of these will eventuate.
The weather of the winter first, and the condition of the ground in
spring, would permit little advantage to be derived from the
presence of the army at Richmond until the middle of May. So that
General Sherman has no reason to move in haste, but can choose such
objects as he prefers, and take as much time as their attainment
may demand. The Department will learn the objects in view of
General Sherman more precisely from a letter addressed by him to
General Halleck, which he read to me a few days since.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. A. DAHLGREN,
Rear-Admiral, commanding South-Atlantic Blockading,Squadron.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
IN THE FIELD, POCOTALIGO, SOUTH CAROLINA, January 29, 1885.
Major-General J. G. FOSTER, commanding Department of the South.
GENERAL: I have just received dispatches from General Grant,
stating that Schofield's corps (the Twenty-third), twenty-one
thousand strong, is ordered east from Tennessee, and will be sent
to Beaufort, North Carolina. That is well; I want that force to
secure a point on the railroad about Goldsboro', and then to build
the railroad out to that point. If Goldsboro' be too strong to
carry by a rapid movement, then a point near the Neuse, south of
Goldsboro', will answer, but the bridge and position about Kinston,
should be held and fortified strong. The movement should be masked
by the troops already at Newbern. Please notify General Palmer
that these troops are coming, and to be prepared to receive them.
Major-General Schofield will command in person, and is admirably
adapted for the work. If it is possible, I want him to secure
Goldsboro', with the railroad back to Morehead City and Wilmington.
As soon as General Schofield reaches Fort Macon, have him to meet
some one of your staff, to explain in full the details of the
situation of affairs with me; and you can give him the chief
command of all troops at Cape Fear and in North Carolina. If he
finds the enemy has all turned south against me, he need not
follow, but turn his attention against Raleigh; if he can secure
Goldsboro' and Wilmington, it will be as much as I expect before I
have passed the Santee. Send him all detachments of men that have
come to join my army. They can be so organized and officered as to
be efficient, for they are nearly all old soldiers who have been
detached or on furlough. Until I pass the Santee, you can better
use these detachments at Bull's Bay, Georgetown, etc.
I will instruct General McCallum, of the Railroad Department, to
take his men up to Beaufort, North Carolina, and employ them on the
road out. I do not know that he can use them on any road here. I
did instruct him, while awaiting information from North Carolina,
to have them build a good trestle-bridge across Port Royal ferry;
but I now suppose the pontoon-bridge will do. If you move the
pontoons, be sure to make a good road out to Garden's Corners, and
mark it with sign-boards--obstructing the old road, so that, should
I send back any detachments, they would not be misled.
I prefer that Hatch's force should not be materially weakened until
I am near Columbia, when you may be governed by the situation of
affairs about Charleston. If you can break the railroad between
this and Charleston, then this force could be reduced.
I am, with respect, etc.,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
IN THE FIELD, POCOTALIGO, SOUTH CAROLINA, January 18, 1865.
Hon. EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.
SIR: When you left Savannah a few days ago, you forgot the map
which General Geary had prepared for you, showing the route by
which his division entered the city of Savannah, being the first
troops to occupy that city. I now send it to you.
I avail myself of the opportunity also to inclose you copies of all
my official orders touching trade and intercourse with the people
of Georgia, as well as for the establishment of the negro
Delegations of the people of Georgia continue to come in, and I am
satisfied that, by judicious handling and by a little respect shown
to their prejudices, we can create a schism in Jeff. Davis's
dominions. All that I have conversed with realize the truth that
slavery as an institution is defunct, and the only questions that
remain are what disposition shall be made of the negroes
themselves. I confess myself unable to offer a complete solution
for these questions, and prefer to leave it to the slower
operations of time. We have given the initiative, and can afford
to await the working of the experiment.
As to trade-matters, I also think it is to our interest to keep the
Southern people somewhat dependent on the articles of commerce to
which they have hitherto been accustomed. General Grover is now
here, and will, I think, be able to handle this matter judiciously,
and may gradually relax, and invite cotton to come in in large
quantities. But at first we should manifest no undue anxiety on
that score; for the rebels would at once make use of it as a power
against us. We should assume, a tone of perfect contempt for
cotton and every thing else in comparison with the great object of
the war--the restoration of the Union, with all its rights and
power. It the rebels burn cotton as a war measure, they simply
play into our hands by taking away the only product of value they
have to exchange in foreign ports for war-ships and munitions. By
such a course, also, they alienate the feelings of a large class of
small farmers who look to their little parcels of cotton to
exchange for food and clothing for their families. I hope the
Government will not manifest too much anxiety to obtain cotton in
large quantities, and especially that the President will not
indorse the contracts for the purchase of large quantities of
cotton. Several contracts, involving from six to ten thousand
bales, indorsed by Mr. Lincoln, have been shown me, but were not in
such a form as to amount to an order to compel me to facilitate
As to Treasury agents, and agents to take charge of confiscated and
abandoned property, whose salaries depend on their fees, I can only
say that, as a general rule, they are mischievous and disturbing
elements to a military government, and it is almost impossible for
us to study the law and regulations so as to understand fully their
powers and duties. I rather think the Quartermaster's Department
of the army could better fulfill all their duties and accomplish
all that is aimed at by the law. Yet on this subject I will leave
Generals Foster and Grover to do the best they can.
I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
IN THE FIELD, POCOTALIGO, SOUTH CAROLINA, January 2, 1865.
Hon. EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.
SIR: I have just received from Lieutenant-General Grant a copy of
that part of your telegram to him of December 26th relating to
cotton, a copy of which has been immediately furnished to General
Easton, chief-quartermaster, who will be strictly governed by it.
I had already been approached by all the consuls and half the
people of Savannah on this cotton question, and my invariable
answer was that all the cotton in Savannah was prize of war,
belonged to the United States, and nobody should recover a bale of
it with my consent; that, as cotton had been one of the chief
causes of this war, it should help to pay its expenses; that all
cotton became tainted with treason from the hour the first act of
hostility was committed against the United States some time in
December, 1860; and that no bill of sale subsequent to that date
could convey title.
My orders were that an officer of the Quartermaster's Department,
United States Army, might furnish the holder, agent, or attorney, a
mere certificate of the fact of seizure, with description of the
bales' marks, etc., the cotton then to be turned over to the agent
of the Treasury Department, to be shipped to New York for sale.
But, since the receipt of your dispatch, I have ordered General
Easton to make the shipment himself to the quartermaster at New
York, where you can dispose of it at pleasure. I do not think the
Treasury Department ought to bother itself with the prizes or
captures of war.
Mr. Barclay, former consul at New York, representing Mr. Molyneux,
former consul here, but absent a long time, called on me with
reference to cotton claimed by English subjects. He seemed amazed
when I told him I should pay no respect to consular certificates,
that in no event would I treat an English subject with more favor
than one of our own deluded citizens, and that for my part I was
unwilling to fight for cotton for the benefit of Englishmen openly
engaged in smuggling arms and instruments of war to kill us; that,
on the contrary, it would afford me great satisfaction to conduct
my army to Nassau, and wipe out that nest of pirates. I explained
to him, however, that I was not a diplomatic agent of the General
Government of the United States, but that my opinion, so frankly
expressed, was that of a soldier, which it would be well for him to
heed. It appeared, also, that he owned a plantation on the line of
investment of Savannah, which, of course, was pillaged, and for
which he expected me to give some certificate entitling him to
indemnification, which I declined emphatically.
I have adopted in Savannah rules concerning property--severe but
just--founded upon the laws of nations and the practice of
civilized governments, and am clearly of opinion that we should
claim all the belligerent rights over conquered countries, that the
people may realize the truth that war is no child's play.
I embrace in this a copy of a letter, dated December 31, 1864, in
answer to one from Solomon Cohen (a rich lawyer) to General Blair,
his personal friend, as follows:
Major-General F. P. BLAIR, commanding Seventeenth Army Corps.
GENERAL: Your note, inclosing Mr. Cohen's of this date, is
received, and I answer frankly through you his inquiries.
1. No one can practise law as an attorney in the United States
without acknowledging the supremacy of our Government. If I am not
in error, an attorney is as much an officer of the court as the
clerk, and it would be a novel thing in a government to have a
court to administer law which denied the supremacy of the
2. No one will be allowed the privileges of a merchant, or,
rather, to trade is a privilege which no one should seek of the
Government without in like manner acknowledging its supremacy.
3. If Mr. Cohen remains in Savannah as a denizen, his property,
real and personal, will not be disturbed unless its temporary use
be necessary for the military authorities of the city. The title
to property will not be disturbed in any event, until adjudicated
by the courts of the United States.
4. If Mr. Cohen leaves Savannah under my Special Order No. 148, it
is a public acknowledgment that he "adheres to the enemies of the
United States," and all his property becomes forfeited to the
United States. But, as a matter of favor, he will be allowed to
carry with him clothing and furniture for the use of himself, his
family, and servants, and will be trans ported within the enemy's
lines, but not by way of Port Royal.
These rules will apply to all parties, and from them no exception
will be made.
I have the honor to be, general, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
This letter was in answer to specific inquiries; it is clear, and
covers all the points, and, should I leave before my orders are
executed, I will endeavor to impress upon my successor, General
Foster, their wisdom and propriety.
I hope the course I have taken in these matters will meet your
approbation, and that the President will not refund to parties
claiming cotton or other property, without the strongest evidence
of loyalty and friendship on the part of the claimant, or unless
some other positive end is to be gained.
I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.
CAMPAIGN OF THE CAROLINAS.
FEBRUARY AND MARCH, 1865.
On the 1st day of February, as before explained, the army designed
for the active campaign from Savannah northward was composed of two
wings, commanded respectively by Major-Generals Howard and Slocum,
and was substantially the same that had marched from Atlanta to
Savannah. The same general orders were in force, and this campaign
may properly be classed as a continuance of the former.
The right wing, less Corse's division, Fifteenth Corps, was grouped
at or near Pocotaligo, South Carolina, with its wagons filled with
food, ammunition, and forage, all ready to start, and only waiting
for the left wing, which was detained by the flood in the Savannah
River. It was composed as follows:
Fifteenth Corps, Major-General JOHN A. LOGAN.
First Division, Brigadier-General Charles R. Woods;
Second Division, Major-General W. B. Hazen;
Third Division, Brigadier-General John E. Smith;
Fourth Division, Brigadier-General John M. Corse.
Artillery brigade, eighteen guns, Lieutenant-Colonel W. H. Ross,
First Michigan Artillery.
Seventeenth. Corps, Major-General FRANK P. BLAIR, JR.
First Division, Major-General Joseph A. Mower;
Second Division, Brigadier-General M. F. Force;
Fourth Division, Brigadier-General Giles A. Smith.
Artillery brigade, fourteen guns, Major A. C. Waterhouse, First
The left wing, with Corse's division and Kilpatrick's cavalry,
was at and near Sister's Ferry, forty miles above the city of
Savannah, engaged in crossing the river, then much swollen.
It was composed as follows:
Fourteenth Corps, Major-General JEFF. C. DAVIS.
First Division, Brigadier-General W. P. Carlin;
Second Division, Brigadier-General John D. Morgan;
Third Division, Brigadier-General A. Baird.
Artillery brigade, sixteen guns, Major Charles Houghtaling, First
Twentieth Corps, Brigadier-General A. S. WILLIAMS.
First Division, Brigadier-General N. I. Jackson;
Second Division, Brigadier-General J. W. Geary;
Third Division, Brigadier-General W. T. Ward.
Artillery brigade, Sixteen gnus, Major J. A. Reynolds, First New
Cavalry Division, Brigadier-General JUDSON KILPATRICK.
First Brigade, Colonel T. J. Jordan, Ninth Pennsylvania Cavalry;
Second Brigade, Colonel S. D. Atkins, Ninety-second Illinois Vol.;
Third Brigade, Colonel George E. Spencer, First Alabama Cavalry.
One battery of four guns.
The actual strength of the army, as given in the following official
tabular statements, was at the time sixty thousand and seventy-nine
men, and sixty-eight guns. The trains were made up of about
twenty-five hundred wagons, with six mules to each wagon, and about
six hundred ambulances, with two horses each. The contents of the
wagons embraced an ample supply of ammunition for a great battle;
forage for about seven days, and provisions for twenty days, mostly
of bread, sugar, coffee, and salt, depending largely for fresh meat
on beeves driven on the hoof and such cattle, hogs, and poultry, as
we expected to gather along our line of march.
RECAPITULATION-CAMPAIGN OF THE CAROLINAS.
February 1. March 1. April 1. April 10
Pers: 60,079 57,676 81,150 88,948
The enemy occupied the cities of Charleston and Augusta, with
garrisons capable of making a respectable if not successful
defense, but utterly unable to meet our veteran columns in the open
field. To resist or delay our progress north, General Wheeler had
his division of cavalry (reduced to the size of a brigade by his
hard and persistent fighting ever since the beginning of the
Atlanta campaign), and General Wade Hampton had been dispatched
from the Army of Virginia to his native State of South Carolina,
with a great flourish of trumpets, and extraordinary powers to
raise men, money, and horses, with which "to stay the progress of
the invader," and "to punish us for our insolent attempt to invade
the glorious State of South Carolina!" He was supposed at the time
to have, at and near Columbia, two small divisions of cavalry
commanded by himself and General Butler.
Of course, I had a species of contempt for these scattered and
inconsiderable forces, knew that they could hardly delay us an
hour; and the only serious question that occurred to me was, would
General Lee sit down in Richmond (besieged by General Grant), and
permit us, almost unopposed, to pass through the States of South
and North Carolina, cutting off and consuming the very supplies on
which he depended to feed his army in Virginia, or would he make an
effort to escape from General Grant, and endeavor to catch us
inland somewhere between Columbia and Raleigh? I knew full well at
the time that the broken fragments of Hood's army (which had
escaped from Tennessee) were being hurried rapidly across Georgia,
by Augusta, to make junction in my front; estimating them at the
maximum twenty-five thousand men, and Hardee's, Wheeler's, and
Hampton's forces at fifteen thousand, made forty thousand; which,
if handled with spirit and energy, would constitute a formidable
force, and might make the passage of such rivers as the Santee and
Cape Fear a difficult undertaking. Therefore, I took all possible
precautions, and arranged with Admiral Dahlgren and General Foster
to watch our progress inland by all the means possible, and to
provide for us points of security along the coast; as, at Bull's
Bay, Georgetown, and the mouth of Cape Fear River. Still, it was
extremely desirable in one march to reach Goldsboro' in the State
of North Carolina (distant four hundred and twenty-five miles), a
point of great convenience for ulterior operations, by reason of
the two railroads which meet there, coming from the seacoast at
Wilmington and Newbern. Before leaving Savannah I had sent to
Newbern Colonel W. W. Wright, of the Engineers, with orders to look
to these railroads, to collect rolling-stock, and to have the roads
repaired out as far as possible in six weeks--the time estimated as
necessary for us to march that distance.
The question of supplies remained still the one of vital
importance, and I reasoned that we might safely rely on the country
for a considerable quantity of forage and provisions, and that, if
the worst came to the worst, we could live several months on the
mules and horses of our trains. Nevertheless, time was equally
material, and the moment I heard that General Slocum had finished
his pontoon-bridge at Sister's Ferry, and that Kilpatrick's cavalry
was over the river, I gave the general orders to march, and
instructed all the columns to aim for the South Carolina Railroad
to the west of Branchville, about Blackville and Midway.
The right wing moved up the Salkiehatchie, the Seventeenth Corps on
the right, with orders on reaching Rivers's Bridge to cross over,
and the Fifteenth Corps by Hickory Hill to Beaufort's Bridge.
Kilpatrick was instructed to march by way of Barnwell; Corse's
division and the Twentieth Corps to take such roads as would bring
them into communication with the Fifteenth Corps about Beaufort's
Bridge. All these columns started promptly on the 1st of February.
We encountered Wheeler's cavalry, which had obstructed the road by
felling trees, but our men picked these up and threw them aside, so
that this obstruction hardly delayed us an hour. In person I
accompanied the Fifteenth Corps (General Logan) by McPhersonville
and Hickory Hill, and kept couriers going to and fro to General
Slocum with instructions to hurry as much as possible, so as to
make a junction of the whole army on the South Carolina Railroad
I spent the night of February 1st at Hickory Hill Post-Office, and
that of the 2d at Duck Branch Post-Office, thirty-one miles out
from Pocotaligo. On the 3d the Seventeenth Corps was opposite
Rivers's Bridge, and the Fifteenth approached Beaufort's Bridge.
The Salkiehatchie was still over its banks, and presented a most
formidable obstacle. The enemy appeared in some force on the
opposite bank, had cut away all the bridges which spanned the many
deep channels of the swollen river, and the only available passage
seemed to be along the narrow causeways which constituted the
common roads. At Rivers's Bridge Generals Mower and Giles A.
Smith led, their heads of column through this swamp, the water up
to their shoulders, crossed over to the pine-land, turned upon the
rebel brigade which defended the passage, and routed it in utter
disorder. It was in this attack that General Wager Swayne lost his
leg, and he had to be conveyed back to Pocotaligo. Still, the loss
of life was very small, in proportion to the advantages gained, for
the enemy at once abandoned the whole line of the Salkiehatchie,
and the Fifteenth Corps passed over at Beaufort's Bridge, without
On the 5th of February I was at Beaufort's Bridge, by which time
General A. S. Williams had got up with five brigades' of the
Twentieth Corps; I also heard of General Kilpatrick's being abreast
of us, at Barnwell, and then gave orders for the march straight for
the railroad at Midway. I still remained with the Fifteenth Corps,
which, on the 6th of February, was five miles from Bamberg. As a
matter of course, I expected severe resistance at this railroad,
for its loss would sever all the communications of the enemy in
Charleston with those in Augusta.
Early on the 7th, in the midst of a rain-storm, we reached the
railroad; almost unopposed, striking it at several points. General
Howard told me a good story concerning this, which will bear
repeating: He was with the Seventeenth Corps, marching straight for
Midway, and when about five miles distant he began to deploy the
leading division, so as to be ready for battle. Sitting on his
horse by the road-side, while the deployment was making, he saw a
man coming down the road, riding as hard as he could, and as he
approached he recognized him as one of his own "foragers," mounted
on a white horse, with a rope bridle and a blanket for saddle. As
he came near he called out, "Hurry up, general; we have got the
railroad!" So, while we, the generals, were proceeding
deliberately to prepare for a serious battle, a parcel of our
foragers, in search of plunder, had got ahead and actually captured
the South Carolina Railroad, a line of vital importance to the
As soon as we struck the railroad, details of men were set to work
to tear up the rails, to burn the ties and twist the bars. This
was a most important railroad, and I proposed to destroy it
completely for fifty miles, partly to prevent a possibility of its
restoration and partly to utilize the time necessary for General
Slocum to get up.
The country thereabouts was very poor, but the inhabitants mostly
remained at home. Indeed, they knew not where to go. The enemy's
cavalry had retreated before us, but his infantry was reported in
some strength at Branchville, on the farther side of the Edisto;
yet on the appearance of a mere squad of our men they burned their
own bridges the very thing I wanted, for we had no use for them,
and they had.
We all remained strung along this railroad till the 9th of
February--the Seventeenth Corps on the right, then the Fifteenth,
Twentieth, and cavalry, at Blackville. General Slocum reached
Blackville that day, with Geary's division of the Twentieth Corps,
and reported the Fourteenth Corps (General Jeff. C. Davis's) to be
following by way of Barnwell. On the 10th I rode up to Blackville,
where I conferred with Generals Slocum and Kilpatrick, became
satisfied that the whole army would be ready within a day, and
accordingly made orders for the next movement north to Columbia,
the right wing to strike Orangeburg en route. Kilpatrick was
ordered to demonstrate strongly toward Aiken, to keep up the
delusion that we might turn to Augusta; but he was notified that
Columbia was the next objective, and that he should cover the left
flank against Wheeler, who hung around it. I wanted to reach
Columbia before any part of Hood's army could possibly get there.
Some of them were reported as having reached Augusta, under the
command of General Dick Taylor.
Having sufficiently damaged the railroad, and effected the junction
of the entire army, the general march was resumed on the 11th, each
corps crossing the South Edisto by separate bridges, with orders to
pause on the road leading from Orangeberg to Augusta, till it was
certain that the Seventeenth Corps had got possession of
Orangeburg. This place was simply important as its occupation
would sever the communications between Charleston and Columbia.
All the heads of column reached this road, known as the Edgefield
road, during the 12th, and the Seventeenth Corps turned to the
right, against Orangeburg. When I reached the head of column
opposite Orangeburg, I found Giles A. Smith's division halted, with
a battery unlimbered, exchanging shots with a party on the opposite
side of the Edisto. He reported that the bridge was gone, and that
the river was deep and impassable. I then directed General Blair
to send a strong division below the town, some four or five miles,
to effect a crossing there. He laid his pontoon-bridge, but the
bottom on the other side was overflowed, and the men had to wade
through it, in places as deep as their waists. I was with this
division at the time, on foot, trying to pick my way across the
overflowed bottom; but, as soon as the head of column reached the
sand-hills, I knew that the enemy would not long remain in
Orangeburg, and accordingly returned to my horse, on the west bank,
and rode rapidly up to where I had left Giles A. Smith. I found
him in possession of the broken bridge, abreast of the town, which
he was repairing, and I was among the first to cross over and enter
the town. By and before the time either Force's or Giles A.
Smith's skirmishers entered the place, several stores were on fire,
and I am sure that some of the towns-people told me that a Jew
merchant had set fire to his own cotton and store, and from this
the fire had spread. This, however, was soon put out, and the
Seventeenth Corps (General Blair) occupied the place during that
night. I remember to have visited a large hospital, on the hill
near the railroad depot, which was occupied by the orphan children
who had been removed from the asylum in Charleston. We gave them
protection, and, I think, some provisions. The railroad and depot
were destroyed by order, and no doubt a good deal of cotton was
burned, for we all regarded cotton as hostile property, a thing to
be destroyed. General Blair was ordered to break up this railroad,
forward to the point where it crossed the Santee, and then to turn
for Columbia. On the morning of the 13th I again joined the
Fifteenth Corps, which crossed the North Edisto by Snilling's
Bridge, and moved straight for Columbia, around the head of Caw-Caw
Swamp. Orders were sent to all the columns to turn for Columbia,
where it was supposed the enemy had concentrated all the men they
could from Charleston, Augusta, and even from Virginia. That night
I was with the Fifteenth Corps, twenty-one miles from Columbia,
where my aide, Colonel Audenried, picked up a rebel officer on the
road, who, supposing him to be of the same service with himself,
answered all his questions frankly, and revealed the truth that
there was nothing in Columbia except Hampton's cavalry. The fact
was, that General Hardee, in Charleston, took it for granted that
we were after Charleston; the rebel troops in Augusta supposed they
were "our objective;" so they abandoned poor Columbia to the care
of Hampton's cavalry, which was confused by the rumors that poured
in on it, so that both Beauregard and Wade Hampton, who were in
Columbia, seem to have lost their heads.
On the 14th the head of the Fifteenth Corps, Charles R. Woods's
division, approached the Little Congaree, a broad, deep stream,
tributary to the Main Congaree; six or eight miles below Columbia.
On the opposite side of this stream was a newly-constructed fort,
and on our side--a wide extent of old cottonfields, which, had been
overflowed, and was covered with a deep slime. General Woods had
deployed his leading brigade, which was skirmishing forward, but he
reported that the bridge was gone, and that a considerable force of
the enemy was on the other side. I directed General Howard or
Logan to send a brigade by a circuit to the left, to see if this
stream could not be crossed higher up, but at the same time knew
that General Slocum's route would bring him to Colombia behind this
stream, and that his approach would uncover it. Therefore, there
was no need of exposing much life. The brigade, however, found
means to cross the Little Congaree, and thus uncovered the passage
by the main road, so that General Woods's skirmishers at once
passed over, and a party was set to work to repair the bridge,
which occupied less than an hour, when I passed over with my whole
staff. I found the new fort unfinished and unoccupied, but from
its parapet could see over some old fields bounded to the north and
west by hills skirted with timber. There was a plantation to our
left, about half a mile, and on the edge of the timber was drawn up
a force of rebel cavalry of about a regiment, which advanced, and
charged upon some, of our foragers, who were plundering the
plantation; my aide, Colonel Audenried, who had ridden forward,
came back somewhat hurt and bruised, for, observing this charge of
cavalry, he had turned for us, and his horse fell with him in
attempting to leap a ditch. General Woods's skirmish-line met this
charge of cavalry, and drove it back into the woods and beyond. We
remained on that ground during the night of the 15th, and I camped
on the nearest dry ground behind the Little Congaree, where on the
next morning were made the written' orders for the government of
the troops while occupying Columbia. These are dated February 16,
1865, in these words:
General Howard will cross the Saluda and Broad Rivers as near their
mouths as possible, occupy Columbia, destroy the public buildings,
railroad property, manufacturing and machine shops; but will spare
libraries, asylums, and private dwellings. He will then move to
Winnsboro', destroying en route utterly that section of the
railroad. He will also cause all bridges, trestles, water-tanks,
and depots on the railroad back to the Wateree to be burned,
switches broken, and such other destruction as he can find time to
accomplish consistent with proper celerity.
These instructions were embraced in General Order No. 26, which
prescribed the routes of march for the several columns as far as
Fayetteville, North Carolina, and is conclusive that I then
regarded Columbia as simply one point on our general route of
march, and not as an important conquest.
During the 16th of February the Fifteenth Corps reached the point
opposite Columbia, and pushed on for the Saluda Factory three miles
above, crossed that stream, and the head of column reached Broad
River just in time to find its bridge in flames, Butler's cavalry
having just passed over into Columbia. The head of Slocum's column
also reached the point opposite Columbia the same morning, but the
bulk of his army was back at Lexington. I reached this place early
in the morning of the 16th, met General Slocum there; and explained
to him the purport of General Order No. 26, which contemplated the
passage of his army across Broad River at Alston, fifteen miles
above Columbia. Riding down to the river-bank, I saw the wreck of
the large bridge which had been burned by the enemy, with its many
stone piers still standing, but the superstructure gone. Across
the Congaree River lay the city of Columbia, in plain, easy view.
I could see the unfinished State-House, a handsome granite
structure, and the ruins of the railroad depot, which were still
smouldering. Occasionally a few citizens or cavalry could be seen
running across the streets, and quite a number of negroes were
seemingly busy in carrying off bags of grain or meal, which were
piled up near the burned depot.
Captain De Gres had a section of his twenty-pound Parrott guns
unlimbered, firing into the town. I asked him what he was firing
for; he said he could see some rebel cavalry occasionally at the
intersections of the streets, and he had an idea that there was a
large force of infantry concealed on the opposite bank, lying low,
in case we should attempt to cross over directly into the town. I
instructed him not to fire any more into the town, but consented to
his bursting a few shells near the depot, to scare away the negroes
who were appropriating the bags of corn and meal which we wanted,
also to fire three shots at the unoccupied State-House. I stood by
and saw these fired, and then all firing ceased. Although this
matter of firing into Columbia has been the subject of much abuse
and investigation, I have yet to hear of any single person having
been killed in Columbia by our cannon. On the other hand, the
night before, when Woods's division was in camp in the open fields
at Little Congaree, it was shelled all night by a rebel battery
from the other aide of the river. This provoked me much at the
time, for it was wanton mischief, as Generals Beauregard and
Hampton must have been convinced that they could not prevent our
entrance into Columbia. I have always contended that I would have
been justified in retaliating for this unnecessary act of war, but
did not, though I always characterized it as it deserved.
The night of the 16th I camped near an old prison bivouac opposite
Columbia, known to our prisoners of war as "Camp Sorghum," where
remained the mud-hovels and holes in the ground which our prisoners
had made to shelter themselves from the winter's cold and the
summer's heat. The Fifteenth Corps was then ahead, reaching to
Broad River, about four miles above Columbia; the Seventeenth Corps
was behind, on the river-bank opposite Columbia; and the left wing
and cavalry had turned north toward Alston.
The next morning, viz., February 17th, I rode to the head of
General Howard's column, and found that during the night he had
ferried Stone's brigade of Woods's division of the Fifteenth
Corps across by rafts made of the pontoons, and that brigade was
then deployed on the opposite bank to cover the construction of a
pontoon-bridge nearly finished.
I sat with General Howard on a log, watching the men lay this
bridge; and about 9 or 10 A.M. a messenger came from Colonel Stone
on the other aide, saying that the Mayor of Columbia had come out
of the city to surrender the place, and asking for orders. I
simply remarked to General Howard that he had his orders, to let
Colonel Stone go on into the city, and that we would follow as soon
as the bridge was ready. By this same messenger I received a note
in pencil from the Lady Superioress of a convent or school in
Columbia, in which she claimed to have been a teacher in a convent
in Brown County, Ohio, at the time my daughter Minnie was a pupil
there, and therefore asking special protection. My recollection
is, that I gave the note to my brother-in-law, Colonel Ewing, then
inspector-general on my staff, with instructions to see this lady,
and assure her that we contemplated no destruction of any private
property in Columbia at all.
As soon as the bridge was done, I led my horse over it, followed by
my whole staff. General Howard accompanied me with his, and
General Logan was next in order, followed by General C. R. Woods,
and the whole of the Fifteenth Corps. Ascending the hill, we soon
emerged into a broad road leading into Columbia, between old fields
of corn and cotton, and, entering the city, we found seemingly all
its population, white and black, in the streets. A high and
boisterous wind was prevailing from the north, and flakes of cotton
were flying about in the air and lodging in the limbs of the trees,
reminding us of a Northern snow-storm. Near the market-square we
found Stone's brigade halted, with arms stacked, and a large detail
of his men, along with some citizens, engaged with an old fire-
engine, trying to put out the fire in a long pile of burning
cotton-bales, which I was told had been fired by the rebel cavalry
on withdrawing from the city that morning. I know that, to avoid
this row of burning cotton-bales, I had to ride my horse on the
sidewalk. In the market-square had collected a large crowd of
whites and blacks, among whom was the mayor of the city, Dr.
Goodwin, quite a respectable old gentleman, who was extremely
anxious to protect the interests of the citizens. He was on foot,
and I on horseback, and it is probable I told him then not to be
uneasy, that we did not intend to stay long, and had no purpose to
injure the private citizens or private property. About this time I
noticed several men trying to get through the crowd to speak with
me, and called to some black people to make room for them; when
they reached me, they explained that they were officers of our
army, who had been prisoners, had escaped from the rebel prison and
guard, and were of course overjoyed to find themselves safe with
us. I told them that, as soon as things settled down, they should
report to General Howard, who would provide for their safety, and
enable them to travel with us. One of them handed me a paper,
asking me to read it at my leisure; I put it in my breast-pocket
and rode on. General Howard was still with me, and, riding down
the street which led by the right to the Charleston depot, we found
it and a large storehouse burned to the ground, but there were, on
the platform and ground near by, piles of cotton bags filled with
corn and corn-meal, partially burned.
A detachment of Stone's brigade was guarding this, and separating
the good from the bad. We rode along the railroad-track, some
three or four hundred yards, to a large foundery, when some man
rode up and said the rebel cavalry were close by, and he warned us
that we might get shot. We accordingly turned back to the market-
square, and en route noticed that, several of the men were
evidently in liquor, when I called General Howard's attention to
it. He left me and rode toward General Woods's head of column,
which was defiling through the town. On reaching the
market-square, I again met Dr. Goodwin, and inquired where he
proposed to quarter me, and he said that he had selected the house
of Blanton Duncan, Esq., a citizen of Louisville, Kentucky, then a
resident there, who had the contract for manufacturing the
Confederate money, and had fled with Hampton's cavalry. We all
rode some six or eight squares back from the new State-House, and
found a very good modern house, completely furnished, with stabling
and a large yard, took it as our headquarters, and occupied it
during our stay. I considered General Howard as in command of the
place, and referred the many applicants for guards and protection
to him. Before our headquarters-wagons had got up, I strolled
through the streets of Columbia, found sentinels posted at the
principal intersections, and generally good order prevailing, but
did not again return to the main street, because it was filled with
a crowd of citizens watching the soldiers marching by.
During the afternoon of that day, February 17th, the whole of the
Fifteenth Corps passed through the town and out on the Camden and
Winnsboro' roads. The Seventeenth Corps did not enter the city at
all, but crossed directly over to the Winnsboro' road from the
pontoon bridge at Broad River, which was about four miles above the
After we had got, as it were, settled in Blanton Duncan's house,
say about 2 p.m., I overhauled my pocket according to custom, to
read more carefully the various notes and memoranda received during
the day, and found the paper which had been given me, as described,
by one of our escaped prisoners. It proved to be the song of
"Sherman's March to the Sea," which had been composed by Adjutant
S. H. M. Byers, of the Fifth Iowa Infantry, when a prisoner in the
asylum at Columbia, which had been beautifully written off by a
fellow-prisoner, and handed to me in person. This appeared to me
so good that I at once sent for Byers, attached him to my staff,
provided him with horse and equipment, and took him as far as
Fayetteville, North Carolina, whence he was sent to Washington as
bearer of dispatches. He is now United States consul at Zurich,
Switzerland, where I have since been his guest. I insert the song
here for convenient reference and preservation. Byers said that
there was an excellent glee-club among the prisoners in Columbia,
who used to sing it well, with an audience often of rebel ladies:
SHERMAN'S MARCH TO THE SEA.
Composed by Adjutant Byers, Fifth Iowa Infantry. Arranged and sung
by the Prisoners in Columbia Prison.
Our camp-fires shone bright on the mountain
That frowned on the river below,
As we stood by our guns in the morning,
And eagerly watched for the foe;
When a rider came out of the darkness
That hung over mountain and tree,
And shouted, "Boys, up and be ready!
For Sherman will march to the sea!"
Then sang we a song of our chieftain,
That echoed over river and lea;
And the stars of our banner shone brighter
When Sherman marched down to the sea!
Then cheer upon cheer for bold Sherman
Went up from each valley and glen,
And the bugles reechoed the music
That came from the lips of the men;
For we knew that the stars in our banner
More bright in their splendor would be,
And that blessings from Northland would greet us,
When Sherman marched down to the sea!
Then sang we a song, etc.
Then forward, boys! forward to battle!
We marched on our wearisome way,
We stormed the wild hills of Resacar
God bless those who fell on that day!
Then Kenesaw frowned in its glory,
Frowned down on the flag of the free;
But the East and the West bore our standard,
And Sherman marched on to the sea!
Then sang we a song, etc.
Still onward we pressed, till our banners
Swept out from Atlanta's grim walls,
And the blood of the patriot dampened
The soil where the traitor-flag falls;
But we paused not to weep for the fallen,
Who slept by each river and tree,
Yet we twined them a wreath of the laurel,
As Sherman marched down to the sea!
Then sang we a song, etc.
Oh, proud was our army that morning,
That stood where the pine darkly towers,
When Sherman said, "Boys, you are weary,
But to-day fair Savannah is ours!"
Then sang we the song of our chieftain,
That echoed over river and lea,
And the stars in our banner shone brighter
When Sherman camped down by the sea!
Toward evening of February 17th, the mayor, Dr. Goodwin, came to my
quarters at Duncan's house, and remarked that there was a lady in
Columbia who professed to be a special friend of mine. On his
giving her name, I could not recall it, but inquired as to her
maiden or family name. He answered Poyas. It so happened that,
when I was a lieutenant at Fort Moultrie, in 1842-'46, I used very
often to visit a family of that name on the east branch of Cooper
River, about forty miles from Fort Moultrie, and to hunt with the
son, Mr. James Poyas, an elegant young fellow and a fine sportsman.
His father, mother, and several sisters, composed the family, and
were extremely hospitable. One of the ladies was very fond of
painting in water-colors, which was one of my weaknesses, and on
one occasion I had presented her with a volume treating of water-
colors. Of course, I was glad to renew the acquaintance, and
proposed to Dr. Goodwin that we should walk to her house and visit
this lady, which we did. The house stood beyond the Charlotte
depot, in a large lot, was of frame, with a high porch, which was
reached by a set of steps outside. Entering this yard, I noticed
ducks and chickens, and a general air of peace and comfort that was
really pleasant to behold at that time of universal desolation; the
lady in question met us at the head of the steps and invited us
into a parlor which was perfectly neat and well furnished. After
inquiring about her father, mother, sisters, and especially her
brother James, my special friend, I could not help saying that I
was pleased to notice that our men had not handled her house and
premises as roughly as was their wont. "I owe it to you, general,"
she answered. "Not at all. I did not know you were here till a
few minutes ago." She reiterated that she was indebted to me for
the perfect safety of her house and property, and added, "You
remember, when you were at our house on Cooper River in 1845, you
gave me a book;" and she handed me the book in question, on the fly
leaf of which was written: "To Miss Poyas, with the compliments of
W. T. Sherman, First-lieutenant Third Artillery." She then
explained that, as our army approached Columbia, there was a doubt
in her mind whether the terrible Sherman who was devastating the
land were W. T. Sherman or T. W. Sherman, both known to be generals
in the Northern army; but, on the supposition that he was her old
acquaintance, when Wade Hampton's cavalry drew out of the city,
calling out that the Yankees were coming, she armed herself with
this book, and awaited the crisis. Soon the shouts about the
markethouse announced that the Yankees had come; very soon men were
seen running up and down the streets; a parcel of them poured over
the fence, began to chase the chickens and ducks, and to enter her
house. She observed one large man, with full beard, who exercised
some authority, and to him she appealed in the name of "his
general." "What do you know of Uncle Billy?" "Why," she said,
"when he was a young man he used to be our friend in Charleston,
and here is a book he gave me." The officer or soldier took the
book, looked at the inscription, and, turning to his fellows, said:
"Boys, that's so; that's Uncle Billy's writing, for I have seen it
often before." He at once commanded the party to stop pillaging,
and left a man in charge of the house, to protect her until the
regular provost-guard should be established. I then asked her if
the regular guard or sentinel had been as good to her. She assured
me that he was a very nice young man; that he had been telling her
all about his family in Iowa; and that at that very instant of time
he was in another room minding her baby. Now, this lady had good
sense and tact, and had thus turned aside a party who, in five
minutes more, would have rifled her premises of all that was good
to eat or wear. I made her a long social visit, and, before
leaving Columbia, gave her a half-tierce of rice and about one
hundred pounds of ham from our own mess-stores.
In like manner, that same evening I found in Mrs. Simons another
acquaintance--the wife of the brother of Hon. James Simons, of
Charleston, who had been Miss Wragg. When Columbia was on fire
that night, and her house in danger, I had her family and effects
carried to my own headquarters, gave them my own room and bed, and,
on leaving Columbia the next day, supplied her with a half-barrel
of hams and a half-tierce of rice. I mention these specific facts
to show that, personally, I had no malice or desire to destroy that
city or its inhabitants, as is generally believed at the South.
Having walked over much of the suburbs of Columbia in the
afternoon, and being tired, I lay down on a bed in Blanton Duncan's
house to rest. Soon after dark I became conscious that a bright
light was shining on the walls; and, calling some one of my staff
(Major Nichols, I think) to inquire the cause, he said there seemed
to be a house on fire down about the market-house. The same high
wind still prevailed, and, fearing the consequences, I bade him go
in person to see if the provost-guard were doing its duty. He soon
returned, and reported that the block of buildings directly
opposite the burning cotton of that morning was on fire, and that
it was spreading; but he had found General Woods on the ground,
with plenty of men trying to put the fire out, or, at least, to
prevent its extension. The fire continued to increase, and the
whole heavens became lurid. I dispatched messenger after messenger
to Generals Howard, Logan, and Woods, and received from them
repeated assurances that all was being done that could be done, but
that the high wind was spreading the flames beyond all control.
These general officers were on the ground all night, and Hazen's
division had been brought into the city to assist Woods's division,
already there. About eleven o'clock at night I went down-town
myself, Colonel Dayton with me; we walked to Mr. Simons's house,
from which I could see the flames rising high in the air, and could
hear the roaring of the fire. I advised the ladies to move to my
headquarters, had our own headquarter-wagons hitched up, and their
effects carried there, as a place of greater safety. The whole air
was full of sparks and of flying masses of cotton, shingles, etc.,
some of which were carried four or five blocks, and started new
fires. The men seemed generally under good control, and certainly
labored hard to girdle the fire, to prevent its spreading; but, so
long as the high wind prevailed, it was simply beyond human
possibility. Fortunately, about 3 or 4 a.m., the wind moderated,
and gradually the fire was got under control; but it had burned out
the very heart of the city, embracing several churches, the old
State-House, and the school or asylum of that very Sister of
Charity who had appealed for my personal protection. Nickerson's
Hotel, in which several of my staff were quartered, was burned
down, but the houses occupied by myself, Generals Howard and Logan,
were not burned at all. Many of the people thought that this fire
was deliberately planned and executed. This is not true. It was
accidental, and in my judgment began with the cotton which General
Hampton's men had set fire to on leaving the city (whether by his
orders or not is not material), which fire was partially subdued
early in the day by our men; but, when night came, the high wind
fanned it again into full blaze, carried it against the
framehouses, which caught like tinder, and soon spread beyond our
This whole subject has since been thoroughly and judicially
investigated, in some cotton cases, by the mixed commission on
American and British claims, under the Treaty of Washington, which
commission failed to award a verdict in favor of the English
claimants, and thereby settled the fact that the destruction of
property in Columbia, during that night, did not result from the
acts of the General Government of the United States--that is to
say, from my army. In my official report of this conflagration, I
distinctly charged it to General Wade Hampton, and confess I did so
pointedly, to shake the faith of his people in him, for he was in
my opinion boastful, and professed to be the special champion of
The morning sun of February 18th rose bright and clear over a
ruined city. About half of it was in ashes and in smouldering
heaps. Many of the people were houseless, and gathered in groups
in the suburbs, or in the open parks and spaces, around their
scanty piles of furniture. General Howard, in concert with the
mayor, did all that was possible to provide other houses for them;
and by my authority he turned over to the Sisters of Charity the
Methodist College, and to the mayor five hundred beef-cattle; to
help feed the people; I also gave the mayor (Dr. Goodwin) one
hundred muskets, with which to arm a guard to maintain order after
we should leave the neighborhood. During the 18th and 19th we
remained in Columbia, General Howard's troops engaged in tearing up
and destroying the railroad, back toward the Wateree, while a
strong detail, under the immediate supervision of Colonel O. M.
Poe, United States Engineers, destroyed the State Arsenal, which
was found to be well supplied with shot, shell, and ammunition.
These were hauled in wagons to the Saluda River, under the
supervision of Colonel Baylor, chief of ordnance, and emptied into
deep water, causing a very serious accident by the bursting of a
percussion-shell, as it struck another on the margin of the water.
The flame followed back a train of powder which had sifted out,
reached the wagons, still partially loaded, and exploded them,
killing sixteen men. and destroying several wagons and teams of
mules. We also destroyed several valuable founderies and the
factory of Confederate money. The dies had been carried away, but
about sixty handpresses remained. There was also found an immense
quantity of money, in various stages of manufacture, which our men
spent and gambled with in the most lavish manner.
Having utterly ruined Columbia, the right wing began its march
northward, toward Winnsboro', on the 20th, which we reached on the
21st, and found General Slocum, with the left wing, who had come by
the way of Alston. Thence the right wing was turned eastward,
toward Cheraw, and Fayetteville, North Carolina, to cross the
Catawba River at Peay's Ferry. The cavalry was ordered to follow
the railroad north as far as Chester, and then to turn east to
Rocky Mount, the point indicated for the passage of the left wing.
In person I reached Rocky Mount on the 22d, with the Twentieth
Corps, which laid its pontoon-bridge and crossed over during the
23d. Kilpatrick arrived the next day, in the midst of heavy rain,
and was instructed to cross the Catawba at once, by night, and to
move up to Lancaster, to make believe we were bound for Charlotte,
to which point I heard that Beauregard had directed all his
detachments, including a corps of Hood's old army, which had been
marching parallel with us, but had failed to make junction with,
the forces immediately opposing us. Of course, I had no purpose of
going to Charlotte, for the right wing was already moving rapidly
toward Fayetteville, North Carolina. The rain was so heavy and
persistent that the Catawba, River rose fast, and soon after I had
crossed the pontoon bridge at Rocky Mount it was carried away,
leaving General Davis, with the Fourteenth Corps, on the west bank.
The roads were infamous, so I halted the Twentieth Corps at Hanging
Rock for some days, to allow time for the Fourteenth to get over.
General Davis had infinite difficulty in reconstructing his bridge,
and was compelled to use the fifth chains of his wagons for anchor-
chains, so that we were delayed nearly a week in that neighborhood.
While in camp at Hanging Rock two prisoners were brought to me--one
a chaplain, the other a boy, son of Richard Bacot, of Charleston,
whom I had known as a cadet at West Point. They were just from
Charleston, and had been sent away by General Hardee in advance,
because he was, they said, evacuating Charleston. Rumors to the
same effect had reached me through the negroes, and it was,
moreover, reported that Wilmington, North Carolina, was in
possession of the Yankee troops; so that I had every reason to be
satisfied that our march was fully reaping all the fruits we could
possibly ask for. Charleston was, in fact, evacuated by General
Hardee on the 18th of February, and was taken possession of by a
brigade of General Fosters troops, commanded by General
Schimmelpfennig, the same day. Hardee had availed himself of his
only remaining railroad, by Florence to Cheraw; had sent there much
of his ammunition and stores, and reached it with the effective
part of the garrison in time to escape across the Pedee River
before our arrival. Wilmington was captured by General Terry on
the 22d of February; but of this important event we only knew by
the vague rumors which reached us through rebel sources.
General Jeff. C. Davis got across the Catawba during the 27th, and
the general march was resumed on Cheraw. Kilpatrick remained near
Lancaster, skirmishing with Wheeler's and Hampton's cavalry,
keeping up the delusion that we proposed to move on Charlotte and
Salisbury, but with orders to watch the progress of the Fourteenth
Corps, and to act in concert with it, on its left rear. On the 1st
of March I was at Finlay's Bridge across Lynch's Creek, the roads
so bad that we had to corduroy nearly every foot of the way; but I
was in communication with all parts of the army, which had met no
serious opposition from the enemy. On the 2d of March we entered
the village of Chesterfield, skirmishing with Butler's cavalry,
which gave ground rapidly. There I received a message from General
Howard, who, reported that he was already in Cheraw with the
Seventeenth Corps, and that the Fifteenth was near at hand.
General Hardee had retreated eastward across the Pedee, burning the
bridge. I therefore directed the left wing to march for
Sneedsboro', about ten miles above Cheraw, to cross the Pedee
there, while I in person proposed to cross over and join the right
wing in Cheraw. Early in the morning of the 3d of March I rode out
of Chesterfield along with the Twentieth Corps, which filled the
road, forded Thompson's Creek, and, at the top of the hill beyond,
found a road branching off to the right, which corresponded with
the one, on my map leading to Cheraw. Seeing a negro standing by
the roadside, looking at the troops passing, I inquired of him what
road that was. "Him lead to Cheraw, master!" "Is it a good road,
and how far?" "A very good road, and eight or ten miles." "Any
"Oh! no, master, dey is gone two days ago; you could have played
cards on der coat-tails, dey was in sich a hurry!" I was on my
Lexington horse, who was very handsome and restive, so I made
signal to my staff to follow, as I proposed to go without escort.
I turned my horse down the road, and the rest of the staff
followed. General Barry took up the questions about the road, and
asked the same negro what he was doing there. He answered, "Dey
say Massa Sherman will be along soon!" "Why," said General Barry,
"that was General Sherman you were talking to." The poor negro,
almost in the attitude of prayer, exclaimed: "De great God! just
look at his horse!" He ran up and trotted by my side for a mile or
so, and gave me all the information he possessed, but he seemed to
admire the horse more than the rider.
We reached Cheraw in a couple of hours in a drizzling rain, and,
while waiting for our wagons to come up, I staid with General Blair
in a large house, the property of a blockade-runner, whose family
remained. General Howard occupied another house farther down-town.
He had already ordered his pontoon-bridge to be laid across the
Pedee, there a large, deep, navigable stream, and Mower's division
was already across, skirmishing with the enemy about two miles out.
Cheraw was found to be full of stores which had been sent up from
Charleston prior to its evacuation, and which could not be removed.
I was satisfied, from inquiries, that General Hardee had with him
only the Charleston garrison, that the enemy had not divined our
movements, and that consequently they were still scattered from
Charlotte around to Florence, then behind us. Having thus secured
the passage of the Pedee, I felt no uneasiness about the future,
because there remained no further great impediment between us and
Cape Fear River, which I felt assured was by that time in
possession of our friends. The day was so wet that we all kept
in-doors; and about noon General Blair invited us to take lunch
with him. We passed down into the basement dining-room, where the
regular family table was spread with an excellent meal; and during
its progress I was asked to take some wine, which stood upon the
table in venerable bottles. It was so very good that I inquired
where it came from. General Blair simply asked, "Do you like it?"
but I insisted upon knowing where he had got it; he only replied by
asking if I liked it, and wanted some. He afterward sent to my
bivouac a case containing a dozen bottles of the finest madeira I
ever tasted; and I learned that he had captured, in Cheraw, the
wine of some of the old aristocratic families of Charleston, who
had sent it up to Cheraw for safety, and heard afterward that Blair
had found about eight wagon-loads of this wine, which he
distributed to the army generally, in very fair proportions.
After finishing our lunch, as we passed out of the dining room,
General Blair asked me, if I did not want some saddle-blankets, or
a rug for my tent, and, leading me into the hall to a space under
the stairway, he pointed out a pile of carpets which had also been
sent up from Charleston for safety. After our headquarter-wagons
got up, and our bivouac was established in a field near by, I sent
my orderly (Walter) over to General Blair, and he came back
staggering under a load of carpets, out of which the officers and
escort made excellent tent-rugs, saddle-cloths, and blankets.
There was an immense amount of stores in Cheraw, which were used or
destroyed; among them twenty-four guns, two thousand muskets, and
thirty-six hundred barrels of gunpowder. By the carelessness of a
soldier, an immense pile of this powder was exploded, which shook
the town badly; and killed and maimed several of our men.
We remained in or near Cheraw till the 6th of March, by which time
the army was mostly across the Pedee River, and was prepared to
resume the march on Fayetteville. In a house where General Hardee
had been, I found a late New York Tribune, of fully a month later
date than any I had seen. It contained a mass of news of great
interest to us, and one short paragraph which I thought extremely
mischievous. I think it was an editorial, to the effect that at
last the editor had the satisfaction to inform his readers that
General Sherman would next be heard from about Goldsboro', because
his supply-vessels from Savannah were known to be rendezvousing at
Morehead City:--Now, I knew that General Hardee had read that same
paper, and that he would be perfectly able to draw his own
inferences. Up to, that moment I had endeavored so to feign to our
left that we had completely, misled our antagonists; but this was
no longer possible, and I concluded that we must be ready, for the
concentration in our front of all the force subject to General Jos.
Johnston's orders, for I was there also informed that he had been
restored to the full command of the Confederate forces in South and
On the 6th of March I crossed the Pedee, and all the army marched
for Fayetteville: the Seventeenth Corps kept well to the right, to
make room; the Fifteenth Corps marched by a direct road; the
Fourteenth Corps also followed a direct road from Sneedsboro',
where it had crossed the Pedee; and the Twentieth Corps, which had
come into. Cheraw for the convenience of the pontoon-bridge,
diverged to the left, so as to enter Fayetteville next after the
Fourteenth Corps, which was appointed to lead into Fayetteville.
Kilpatrick held his cavalry still farther to the left rear on the
roads from Lancaster, by way of Wadesboro' and New Gilead, so as to
cover our trains from Hampton's and Wheeler's cavalry, who had
first retreated toward the north. I traveled with the Fifteenth
Corps, and on the 8th of March reached Laurel Hill, North Carolina.
Satisfied that our troops must be at Wilmington, I determined to