Part 3 out of 7
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 cotton-fields, 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 world 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 world 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
frame-houses, 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
send a message there; I called for my man, Corporal Pike, whom I
had rescued as before described, at Columbia, who was then
traveling with our escort, and instructed him in disguise to work
his way to the Cape Fear River, secure a boat, and float down to
Wilmington to convey a letter, and to report our approach. I also
called on General Howard for another volunteer, and he brought me a
very clever young sergeant, who is now a commissioned officer in
the regular army. Each of these got off during the night by
separate routes, bearing the following message, reduced to the same
cipher we used in telegraphic messages:
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI
IN THE FIELD, LAUREL HILL, Wednesday, March 8, 1865.
Commanding Officer, Wilmington, North Carolina:
We are marching for Fayetteville, will be there Saturday, Sunday,
and Monday, and will then march for Goldsboro'.
If possible, send a boat up Cape Fear River, and have word conveyed
to General Schofield that I expect to meet him about Goldsboro'.
We are all well and have done finely. The rains make our roads
difficult, and may delay us about Fayetteville, in which case I
would like to have some bread, sugar, and coffee. We have
abundance of all else. I expect to reach Goldsboro' by the 20th
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
On the 9th I was with the Fifteenth Corps, and toward evening
reached a little church called Bethel, in the woods, in which we
took refuge in a terrible storm of rain, which poured all night,
making the roads awful. All the men were at work corduroying the
roads, using fence-rails and split saplings, and every foot of the
way had thus to be corduroyed to enable the artillery and wagons to
pass. On the 10th we made some little progress; on the 11th I
reached Fayetteville, and found that General Hardee, followed by
Wade Hampton's cavalry, had barely escaped across Cape Fear River,
burning the bridge which I had hoped to save. On reaching
Fayetteville I found General Slocum already in possession with the
Fourteenth Corps, and all the rest of the army was near at hand. A
day or two before, General Kilpatrick, to our left rear, had
divided his force into two parts, occupying roads behind the
Twentieth Corps, interposing between our infantry columns and Wade
Hampton's cavalry. The latter, doubtless to make junction with
General Hardee, in Fayetteville, broke across this line, captured
the house in which General Kilpatrick and the brigade-commander,
General Spencer, were, and for a time held possession of the camp
and artillery of the brigade. However, General Kilpatrick and most
of his men escaped into a swamp with their arms, reorganized and
returned, catching Hampton's men--in turn, scattered and drove them
away, recovering most of his camp and artillery; but Hampton got
off with Kilpatrick's private horses and a couple hundred
prisoners, of which he boasted much in passing through
It was also reported that, in the morning after Hardee's army was
all across the bridge at Cape Fear River, Hampton, with a small
bodyguard, had remained in town, ready to retreat and burn the
bridge as soon as our forces made their appearance. He was getting
breakfast at the hotel when the alarm was given, when he and his
escort took saddle, but soon realized that the alarm came from a
set of our foragers, who, as usual, were extremely bold and rash.
On these he turned, scattered them, killing some and making others
prisoners; among them General Howard's favorite scout, Captain
Duncan. Hampton then crossed the bridge and burned it.
I took up my quarters at the old United States Arsenal, which was
in fine order, and had been much enlarged by the Confederate
authorities, who never dreamed that an invading army would reach it
from the west; and I also found in Fayetteville the widow and
daughter of my first captain (General Childs), of the Third
Artillery, learned that her son Fred had been the ordnance-officer
in charge of the arsenal, and had of course fled with Hardee's
During the 11th. the whole army closed down upon Fayetteville, and
immediate preparations were made to lay two pontoon bridges, one
near the burned bridge, and another about four miles lower down.
Sunday, March 12th, was a day of Sabbath stillness in Fayetteville.
The people generally attended their churches, for they were a very
pious people, descended in a large measure from the old Scotch
Covenanters, and our men too were resting from the toils and labors
of six weeks of as hard marching as ever fell to the lot of
soldiers. Shortly after noon was heard in the distance the shrill
whistle of a steamboat, which came nearer and nearer, and soon a
shout, long and continuous, was raised down by the river, which
spread farther and farther, and we all felt that it meant a
messenger from home. The effect was electric, and no one can
realize the feeling unless, like us, he has been for months cut off
from all communication with friends, and compelled to listen to the
croakings and prognostications of open enemies. But in a very few
minutes came up through the town to the arsenal on the plateau
behind a group of officers, among whom was a large, florid
seafaring man, named Ainsworth, bearing a small mail-bag from
General Terry, at Wilmington, having left at 2 p.m. the day
before. Our couriers had got through safe from Laurel Hill, and
this was the prompt reply.
As in the case of our former march from Atlanta, intense anxiety
had been felt for our safety, and General Terry had been prompt to
open communication. After a few minutes' conference with Captain
Ainsworth about the capacity of his boat, and the state of facts
along the river, I instructed him to be ready to start back at 6
p.m., and ordered Captain Byers to get ready to carry dispatches to
Washington. I also authorized General Howard to send back by this
opportunity some of the fugitives who had traveled with his army
all the way from Columbia, among whom were Mrs. Feaster and her two
I immediately prepared letters for Secretary Stanton, Generals
Halleck and Grant, and Generals Schofield, Foster, Easton, and
Beckwith, all of which have been published, but I include here only
those to the Secretary of War, and Generals Grant and Terry, as
samples of the whole:
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, IN THE FIELD,
FAYETTVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA, Sunday, March. 12, 1885.
Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
DEAR SIR: I know you will be pleased to hear that my army has
reached this point, and has opened communication with Wilmington.
A tug-boat came up this morning, and will start back at 6 P. M.
I have written a letter to General Grant, the substance of which he
will doubtless communicate, and it must suffice for me to tell you
what I know will give you pleasure--that I have done all that I
proposed, and the fruits seem to me ample for the time employed.
Charleston, Georgetown, and Wilmington, are incidents, while the
utter demolition of the railroad system of South Carolina, and the
utter destruction of the enemy's arsenals of Columbia, Cheraw, and
Fayetteville, are the principals of the movement. These points
were regarded as inaccessible to us, and now no place in the
Confederacy is safe against the army of the West. Let Lee hold on
to Richmond, and we will destroy his country; and then of what use
is Richmond. He must come out and fight us on open ground, and for
that we must ever be ready. Let him stick behind his parapets, and
he will perish.
I remember well what you asked me, and think I am on the right
road, though a long one. My army is as united and cheerful as
ever, and as full of confidence in itself and its leaders. It is
utterly impossible for me to enumerate what we have done, but I
inclose a slip just handed me, which is but partial. At Columbia
and Cheraw we destroyed nearly all the gunpowder and cartridges
which the Confederacy had in this part of the country. This
arsenal is in fine order, and has been much enlarged. I cannot
leave a detachment to hold it, therefore shall burn it, blow it up
with gunpowder, and then with rams knock down its walls. I take it
for granted the United States will never again trust North Carolina
with an arsenal to appropriate at her pleasure.
Hoping that good fortune may still attend my army. I remain your
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, IN THE FIELD,
FAYETTVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA, Sunday, March. 12, 1885.
Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, commanding United States Army,
City Point, Virginia.
DEAR GENERAL: We reached this place yesterday at noon; Hardee, as
usual, retreating across the Cape Fear, burning his bridges; but
our pontoons will be up to-day, and, with as little delay as
possible, I will be after him toward Goldsboro'.
A tug has just come up from Wilmington, and before I get off from
here, I hope to get from Wilmington some shoes and stockings,
sugar, coffee, and flour. We are abundantly supplied with all
else, having in a measure lived off the country.
The army is in splendid health, condition, and spirits, though we
have had foul weather, and roads that would have stopped travel to
almost any other body of men I ever heard of.
Our march, was substantially what I designed--straight on Columbia,
feigning on Branchville and Augusta. We destroyed, in passing, the
railroad from the Edisto nearly up to Aiken; again, from Orangeburg
to the Congaree; again, from Colombia down to Kingsville on the
Wateree, and up toward Charlotte as far as the Chester line; thence
we turned east on Cheraw and Fayetteville. At Colombia we
destroyed immense arsenals and railroad establishments, among which
wore forty-three cannon. At Cheraw we found also machinery and
material of war sent from Charleston, among which were twenty-five
guns and thirty-six hundred barrels of powder; and here we find
about twenty guns and a magnificent United States' arsenal.
We cannot afford to leave detachments, and I shall therefore
destroy this valuable arsenal, so the enemy shall not have its use;
and the United States should never again confide such valuable
property to a people who have betrayed a trust.
I could leave here to-morrow, but want to clear my columns of the
vast crowd of refugees and negroes that encumber us. Some I will
send down the river in boats, and the rest to Wilmington by land,
under small escort, as soon as we are across Cape Fear River.
I hope you have not been uneasy about us, and that the fruits of
this march will be appreciated. It had to be made not only to
destroy the valuable depots by the way, but for its incidents in
the necessary fall of Charleston, Georgetown, and Wilmington. If I
can now add Goldsboro' without too much cost, I will be in a
position to aid you materially in the spring campaign.
Jos. Johnston may try to interpose between me here and Schofield
about Newbern; but I think he will not try that, but concentrate
his scattered armies at Raleigh, and I will go straight at him as
soon as I get our men reclothed and our wagons reloaded.
Keep everybody busy, and let Stoneman push toward Greensboro' or
Charlotte from Knoxville; even a feint in that quarter will be most
The railroad from Charlotte to Danville is all that is left to the
enemy, and it will not do for me to go there, on account of the
red-clay hills which are impassable to wheels in wet weather.
I expect to make a junction with General Schofield in ten days.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, IN THE FIELD,
FAYETTVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA, Sunday, March. 12, 1885.
Major-General TERRY, commanding United States Forces,
Wilmington, North Carolina.
GENERAL: I have just received your message by the tug which left
Wilmington at 2 p.m. yesterday, which arrived here without
trouble. The scout who brought me your cipher-message started back
last night with my answers, which are superseded by the fact of
your opening the river.
General Howard just reports that he has secured one of the enemy's
steamboats below the city, General Slocum will try to secure two
others known to be above, and we will load them with refugees
(white and black) who have clung to our skirts, impeded our
movements, and consumed our food.
We have swept the, country well from Savannah to here, and the men
and animals are in fine condition. Had it not been for the foul
weather, I would have caught Hardee at Cheraw or here; but at
Columbia, Cheraw, and here, we have captured immense stores, and
destroyed machinery, guns, ammunition, and property, of inestimable
value to our enemy. At all points he has fled from us, "standing
not on the order of his going."
The people of South Carolina, instead of feeding Lee's army, will
now call on Lee to feed them.
I want you to send me all the shoes, stockings, drawers, sugar,
coffee, and flour, you can spare; finish the loads with oats or
corn: Have the boats escorted, and let them run at night at any
risk. We must not give time for Jos. Johnston to concentrate at
Goldsboro'. We cannot prevent his concentrating at Raleigh, but he
shall have no rest. I want General Schofield to go on with his
railroad from Newbern as far as he can, and you should do the same
from Wilmington. If we can get the roads to and secure Goldsboro'
by April 10th, it will be soon enough; but every day now is worth a
million of dollars. I can whip Jos. Johnston provided he does not
catch one of my corps in flank, and I will see that the army
marches hence to Goldsboro' in compact form.
I must rid our army of from twenty to thirty thousand useless
mouths; as many to go down Cape Fear as possible, and the rest to
go in vehicles or on captured horses via Clinton to Wilmington.
I thank you for the energetic action that has marked your course,
and shall be most happy to meet you. I am, truly your friend,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
In quick succession I received other messages from General Terry,
of older date, and therefore superseded by that brought by the tug
Davidson, viz., by two naval officers, who had come up partly by
canoes and partly by land; General Terry had also sent the
Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry to search for us, under Colonel
Kerwin, who had dispatched Major Berks with fifty men, who reached
us at Fayetteville; so that, by March 12th, I was in full
communication with General Terry and the outside world. Still, I
was anxious to reach Goldsboro', there to make junction with
General Schofield, so as to be ready for the next and last stage of
the war. I then knew that my special antagonist, General Jos. E.
Johnston, was back, with part of his old army; that he would not be
misled by feints and false reports, and would somehow compel me to
exercise more caution than I had hitherto done. I then
over-estimated his force at thirty-seven thousand infantry,
supposed to be made up of S. D. Lee's corps, four thousand;
Cheatham's, five thousand; Hoke's, eight thousand; Hardee's, ten
thousand; and other detachments, ten thousand; with Hampton's,
Wheeler's, and Butler's cavalry, about eight thousand. Of these,
only Hardee and the cavalry were immediately in our front, while
the bulk of Johnston's army was supposed to be collecting at or
near Raleigh. I was determined, however, to give him as little
time for organization as possible, and accordingly crossed Cape
Fear River, with all the army, during the 13th and 14th, leaving
one division as a rearguard, until the arsenal could be completely
destroyed. This was deliberately and completely leveled on the
14th, when fire was applied to the wreck. Little other damage was
done at Fayetteville.
On the 14th the tug Davidson again arrived from Wilmington, with
General Dodge, quartermaster, on board, reporting that there was no
clothing to be had at Wilmington; but he brought up some sugar and
coffee, which were most welcome, and some oats. He was followed by
a couple of gunboats, under command of Captain Young, United States
Navy, who reached Fayetteville after I had left, and undertook to
patrol the river as long as the stage of water would permit; and
General Dodge also promised to use the captured steamboats for a
like purpose. Meantime, also, I had sent orders to General
Schofield, at Newbern, and to General Terry, at Wilmington, to move
with their effective forces straight for Goldsboro', where I
expected to meet them by the 20th of March.
On the 15th of March the whole army was across Cape Fear River, and
at once began its march for Goldsboro'; the Seventeenth Corps still
on the right, the Fifteenth next in order, then the Fourteenth and
Twentieth on the extreme left; the cavalry, acting in close concert
with the left flank. With almost a certainty of being attacked on
this flank, I had instructed General Slocum to send his
corps-trains under strong escort by an interior road, holding four
divisions ready for immediate battle. General Howard was in like
manner ordered to keep his trains well to his right, and to have
four divisions unencumbered, about six miles ahead of General
Slocum, within easy support.
In the mean time, I had dispatched by land to Wilmington a train of
refugees who had followed the army all the way from Columbia, South
Carolina, under an escort of two hundred men, commanded by Major
John A. Winson (One Hundred and Sixteenth Illinois Infantry), so
that we were disencumbered, and prepared for instant battle on our
left and exposed flank.
In person I accompanied General Slocum, and during the night of
March 15th was thirteen miles out on the Raleigh road. This flank
followed substantially a road along Cape Fear River north,
encountered pretty stubborn resistance by Hardee's infantry,
artillery, and cavalry, and the ground favored our enemy; for the
deep river, Cape Fear, was on his right, and North River on his
left, forcing us to attack him square in front. I proposed to
drive Hardee well beyond Averysboro', and then to turn to the right
by Bentonville for Goldsboro'. During the day it rained very
hard, and I had taken refuge in an old cooper-shop, where a
prisoner of war was brought to me (sent back from the skirmish-line
by General Kilpatrick), who proved to be Colonel Albert Rhett,
former commander of Fort Sumter. He was a tall, slender, and
handsome young man, dressed in the most approved rebel uniform,
with high jackboots beautifully stitched, and was dreadfully
mortified to find himself a prisoner in our hands. General Frank
Blair happened to be with me at the moment, and we were much amused
at Rhett's outspoken disgust at having been captured without a
fight. He said he was a brigade commander, and that his brigade
that day was Hardee's rear-guard; that his command was composed
mostly of the recent garrisons of the batteries of Charleston
Harbor, and had little experience in woodcraft; that he was giving
ground to us as fast as Hardee's army to his rear moved back, and
during this operation he was with a single aide in the woods, and
was captured by two men of Kilpatrick's skirmish-line that was
following up his retrograde movement. These men called on him to
surrender, and ordered him, in language more forcible than polite,
to turn and ride back. He first supposed these men to be of
Hampton's cavalry, and threatened to report them to General Hampton
for disrespectful language; but he was soon undeceived, and was
conducted to Kilpatrick, who sent him back to General Slocum's
The rain was falling heavily, and, our wagons coming up, we went
into camp there, and had Rhett and General Blair to take supper
with us, and our conversation was full and quite interesting. In
due time, however, Rhett was passed over by General Slocum to his
provost-guard, with orders to be treated with due respect,--and was
furnished with a horse to ride.
The next day (the 16th) the opposition continued stubborn, and near
Averysboro' Hardee had taken up a strong position, before which
General Slocum deployed Jackson's division (of the Twentieth
Corps), with part of Ward's. Kilpatrick was on his right front.
Coming up, I advised that a brigade should make a wide circuit by
the left, and, if possible, catch this line in flank. The movement
was completely successful, the first line of the enemy was swept
away, and we captured the larger part of Rhett's brigade, two
hundred and seventeen men, including Captain Macbeth's battery of
three guns, and buried one hundred and eight dead.
The deployed lines (Ward's and Jackson's) pressed on, and found
Hardee again intrenched; but the next morning he was gone, in full
retreat toward Smithfield. In this action, called the battle of
Averysboro', we lost twelve officers and sixty-five men killed, and
four hundred and seventy-seven men wounded; a serious loss, because
every wounded man had to be carried in an ambulance. The rebel
wounded (sixty-eight) were carried to a house near by, all surgical
operations necessary were performed by our surgeons, and then these
wounded men were left in care of an officer and four men of the
rebel prisoners, with a scanty supply of food, which was the best
we could do for them. In person I visited this house while the
surgeons were at work, with arms and legs lying around loose, in
the yard and on the porch; and in a room on a bed lay a pale,
handsome young fellow, whose left arm had just been cut off near
the shoulder. Some one used my name, when he asked, in a feeble
voice, if I were General Sherman. He then announced himself as
Captain Macbeth, whose battery had just been captured; and said
that he remembered me when I used to visit his father's house, in
Charleston. I inquired about his family, and enabled him to write
a note to his mother, which was sent her afterward from Goldsboro'.
I have seen that same young gentleman since in St. Louis, where he
was a clerk in an insurance-office.
While the battle of Averysboro' was in progress, and I was sitting
on my horse, I was approached by a man on foot, without shoes or
coat, and his head bandaged by a handkerchief. He announced
himself as the Captain Duncan who had been captured by Wade Hampton
in Fayetteville, but had escaped; and, on my inquiring how he
happened to be in that plight, he explained that when he was a
prisoner Wade Hampton's men had made him "get out of his coat, hat,
and shoes," which they appropriated to themselves. He said Wade
Hampton had seen them do it, and he had appealed to him personally
for protection, as an officer, but Hampton answered him with a
curse. I sent Duncan to General Kilpatrick, and heard afterward
that Kilpatrick had applied to General Slocum for his prisoner,
Colonel Rhett, whom he made march on foot the rest of the way to
Goldsboro', in retaliation. There was a story afloat that
Kilpatrick made him get out of those fine boots, but restored them
because none of his own officers had feet delicate enough to wear
them. Of course, I know nothing of this personally, and have never
seen Rhett since that night by the cooper-shop; and suppose that he
is the editor who recently fought a duel in New Orleans.
From Averysboro' the left wing turned east, toward Goldsboro', the
Fourteenth Corps leading. I remained with this wing until the
night of the 18th, when we were within twenty-seven miles of
Goldsboro' and five from Bentonsville; and, supposing that all
danger was over, I crossed over to join Howard's column, to the
right, so as to be nearer to Generals Schofield and Terry, known to
be approaching Goldsboro'. I overtook General Howard at
Falling-Creek Church, and found his column well drawn out, by reason
of the bad roads. I had heard some cannonading over about Slocum's
head of column, and supposed it to indicate about the same measure of
opposition by Hardee's troops and Hampton's cavalry before
experienced; but during the day a messenger overtook me, and notified
me that near Bentonsville General Slocum had run up against
Johnston's whole army. I sent back orders for him to fight
defensively to save time, and that I would come up with
reenforcements from the direction of Cog's Bridge, by the road which
we had reached near Falling-Creek Church. The country was very
obscure, and the maps extremely defective.
By this movement I hoped General Slocum would hold Johnston's army
facing west, while I would come on his rear from the east. The
Fifteenth Corps, less one division (Hazen's), still well to the
rear, was turned at once toward Bentonsville; Hazen's division was
ordered to Slocum's flank, and orders were also sent for General
Blair, with the Seventeenth Corps, to come to the same destination.
Meantime the sound of cannon came from the direction of
The night of the 19th caught us near Falling-Creek Church; but
early the next morning the Fifteenth Corps, General C. R. Woods's
division leading, closed down on Bentonsville, near which it was
brought up by encountering a line of fresh parapet, crossing the
road and extending north, toward Mill Creek.
After deploying, I ordered General Howard to proceed with due
caution, using skirmishers alone, till he had made junction with
General Slocum, on his left. These deployments occupied all day,
during which two divisions of the Seventeenth Corps also got up.
At that time General Johnston's army occupied the form of a V, the
angle reaching the road leading from Averysboro' to Goldsboro', and
the flanks resting on Mill Creek, his lines embracing the village
General Slocum's wing faced one of these lines and General Howard's
the other; and, in the uncertainty of General Johnston's strength,
I did not feel disposed to invite a general battle, for we had been
out from Savannah since the latter part of January, and our
wagon-trains contained but little food. I had also received messages
during the day from General Schofield, at Kinston, and General
Terry, at Faison's Depot, approaching Goldsboro', both expecting to
reach it by March 21st. During the 20th we simply held our ground
and started our trains back to Kinston for provisions, which would
be needed in the event of being forced to fight a general battle at
Bentonsville. The next day (21st) it began to rain again, and we
remained quiet till about noon, when General Mower, ever rash,
broke through the rebel line on his extreme left flank, and was
pushing straight for Bentonsville and the bridge across Mill Creek.
I ordered him back to connect with his own corps; and, lest the
enemy should concentrate on him, ordered the whole rebel line to be
engaged with a strong skirmish-fire.
I think I made a mistake there, and should rapidly have followed
Mower's lead with the whole of the right wing, which would have
brought on a general battle, and it could not have resulted
otherwise than successfully to us, by reason of our vastly superior
numbers; but at the moment, for the reasons given, I preferred to
make junction with Generals Terry and Schofield, before engaging
Johnston's army, the strength of which was utterly unknown. The
next day he was gone, and had retreated on Smithfield; and, the
roads all being clear, our army moved to Goldsboro'. The heaviest
fighting at Bentonsville was on the first day, viz., the 19th, when
Johnston's army struck the head of Slocum's columns, knocking back
Carlin's division; but, as soon as General Slocum had brought up
the rest of the Fourteenth Corps into line, and afterward the
Twentieth on its left, he received and repulsed all attacks, and
held his ground as ordered, to await the coming back of the right
wing. His loss, as reported, was nine officers and one hundred and
forty-five men killed, eight hundred and sixteen wounded, and two
hundred and twenty-six missing. He reported having buried of the
rebel dead one hundred and sixty-seven, and captured three hundred
and thirty-eight prisoners.
The loss of the right wing was two officers and thirty-five men
killed, twelve officers and two hundred and eighty-nine men
wounded, and seventy missing. General Howard reported that he had
buried one hundred of the rebel dead, and had captured twelve
hundred and eighty-seven prisoners.
Our total loss, therefore, at Bentonsville was: 1,604
General Johnston, in his "Narrative" (p. 392), asserts that his
entire force at Bentonsville, omitting Wheeler's and Butler's
cavalry, only amounted to fourteen thousand one hundred infantry
and artillery; and (p. 393) states his losses as: 2,343
Wide discrepancies exist in these figures: for instance, General
Slocum accounts for three hundred and thirty-eight prisoners
captured, and General Howard for twelve hundred and eighty-seven,
making sixteen hundred and twenty-five in all, to Johnston's six
hundred and fifty three--a difference of eight hundred and
seventy-two. I have always accorded to General Johnston due credit
for boldness in his attack on our exposed flank at Bentonville,
but I think he understates his strength, and doubt whether at the
time he had accurate returns from his miscellaneous army, collected
from Hoke, Bragg, Hardee, Lee, etc. After the first attack on
Carlin's division, I doubt if the fighting was as desperate as
described by him, p. 385, et seq. I was close up with the
Fifteenth Corps, on the 20th and 21st, considered the fighting as
mere skirmishing, and know that my orders were to avoid a general
battle, till we could be sure of Goldsboro', and of opening up a
new base of supply. With the knowledge now possessed of his small
force, of course I committed an error in not overwhelming
Johnston's army on the 21st of March, 1865. But I was content then
to let him go, and on the 22d of March rode to Cog's Bridge, where
I met General Terry, with his two divisions of the Tenth Corps; and
the next day we rode into Goldsboro', where I found General
Schofield with the Twenty-third Corps, thus effecting a perfect
junction of all the army at that point, as originally contemplated.
During the 23d and 24th the whole army was assembled at Goldsboro';
General Terry's two divisions encamped at Faison's Depot to the
south, and General Kilpatrick's cavalry at Mount Olive Station,
near him, and there we all rested, while I directed my special
attention to replenishing the army for the next and last stage of
the campaign. Colonel W. W. Wright had been so indefatigable, that
the Newbern Railroad was done, and a locomotive arrived in
Goldsboro' on the 25th of March.
Thus was concluded one of the longest and most important marches
ever made by an organized army in a civilized country. The
distance from Savannah to Goldsboro' is four hundred and
twenty-five miles, and the route traversed embraced five large
navigable rivers, viz., the Edisto, Broad, Catawba, Pedee, and Cape
Fear, at either of which a comparatively small force, well-handled,
should have made the passage most difficult, if not impossible.
The country generally was in a state of nature, with innumerable
swamps, with simply mud roads, nearly every mile of which had to be
corduroyed. In our route we had captured Columbia, Cheraw, and
Fayetteville, important cities and depots of supplies, had
compelled the evacuation of Charleston City and Harbor, had utterly
broken up all the railroads of South Carolina, and had consumed a
vast amount of food and forage, essential to the enemy for the
support of his own armies. We had in mid-winter accomplished the
whole journey of four hundred and twenty-five miles in fifty days,
averaging ten miles per day, allowing ten lay-days, and had reached
Goldsboro' with the army in superb order, and the trains almost as
fresh as when we had started from Atlanta.
It was manifest to me that we could resume our march, and come
within the theatre of General Grant's field of operations in all
April, and that there was no force in existence that could delay
our progress, unless General Lee should succeed in eluding General
Grant at Petersburg, make junction with General Johnston, and thus
united meet me alone; and now that we had effected a junction with
Generals Terry and Schofield, I had no fear even of that event. On
reaching Goldsboro, I learned from General Schofield all the
details of his operations about Wilmington and Newbern; also of the
fight of the Twenty-third Corps about Kinston, with General Bragg.
I also found Lieutenant Dunn, of General Grant's staff, awaiting
me, with the general's letter of February 7th, covering
instructions to Generals Schofield and Thomas; and his letter of
March 16th, in answer to mine of the 12th, from Fayetteville.
These are all given here to explain the full reasons for the events
of the war then in progress, with two or three letters from myself,
to fill out the picture.
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES
CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, February 7, 1865
Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding Military Division of the
GENERAL: Without much expectation of it reaching you in time to be
of any service, I have mailed to you copies of instructions to
Schofield and Thomas. I had informed Schofield by telegraph of the
departure of Mahone's division, south from the Petersburg front.
These troops marched down the Weldon road, and, as they apparently
went without baggage, it is doubtful whether they have not
returned. I was absent from here when they left. Just returned
yesterday morning from Cape Fear River. I went there to determine
where Schofield's corps had better go to operate against Wilmington
and Goldsboro'. The instructions with this will inform you of the
conclusion arrived at.
Schofield was with me, and the plan of the movement against
Wilmington fully determined before we started back; hence the
absence of more detailed instructions to him. He will land one
division at Smithville, and move rapidly up the south side of the
river, and secure the Wilmington & Charlotte Railroad, and with his
pontoon train cross over to the island south of the city, if he
can. With the aid of the gunboats, there is no doubt but this move
will drive the enemy from their position eight miles east of the
city, either back to their line or away altogether. There will be
a large force on the north bank of Cape Fear River, ready to follow
up and invest the garrison, if they should go inside.
The railroads of North Carolina are four feet eight and one-half
inches. gauge. I have sent large parties of railroad-men there to
build them up, and have ordered stock to run them. We have
abundance of it idle from the non-use of the Virginia roads. I
have taken every precaution to have supplies ready for you wherever
you may turn up. I did this before when you left Atlanta, and
regret that they did not reach you promptly when you reached
Alexander Stephens, R. M. T. Hunter, and Judge Campbell, are now at
my headquarters, very desirous of going to Washington to see Mr.
Lincoln, informally, on the subject of peace. The peace feeling
within the rebel lines is gaining ground rapidly. This, however,
should not relax our energies in the least, but should stimulate us
to greater activity.
I have received your very kind letters, in which you say you would
decline, or are opposed to, promotion. No one world be more
pleased at your advancement than I, and if you should be placed in
my position, and I put subordinate, it would not change our
personal relations in the least. I would make the same exertions to
support you that you have ever done to support me, and would do all
in my power to make our cause win.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES
CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, January 81, 1865.
Major-General G. H. THOMAS, commanding Army of the Cumberland.
GENERAL: With this I send you a letter from General Sherman. At
the time of writing it, General Sherman was not informed of the
depletion of your command by my orders. It will, be impossible at
present for you to move south as he contemplated, with the force of
infantry indicated. General Slocum is advised before this of the
changes made, and that for the winter you will be on the defensive.
I think, however, an expedition from East Tennessee, under General
Stoneman might penetrate South Carolina, well down toward Columbia,
destroying the railroad and military resources of the country, thus
visiting a portion of the State which will not be reached by
Sherman's forces. He might also be able to return to East
Tennessee by way of Salisbury, North Carolina, thus releasing home
our prisoners of war in rebel hands.
Of the practicability of doing this, General Stoneman will have to
be the judge, making up his mind from information obtained while
executing the first part of his instructions. Sherman's movements
will attract the attention of all the force the enemy can collect,
thus facilitating the execution of this.
Three thousand cavalry would be a sufficient force to take. This
probably can be raised in the old Department of the Ohio, without
taking any now under General Wilson. It would require, though, the
reorganization of the two regiments of Kentucky Cavalry, which
Stoneman had in his very successful raid into Southwestern
It will be necessary, probably, for you to send, in addition to the
force now in East Tennessee, a small division of infantry, to
enable General Gillem to hold the upper end of Holston Valley, and
the mountain-passes in rear of Stevenson.
You may order such an expedition. To save time, I will send a copy
of this to General Stoneman, so that he can begin his preparations
without loss of time, and can commence his correspondence with you
as to these preparations.
As this expedition goes to destroy and not to fight battles, but to
avoid them when practicable, particularly against any thing like
equal forces, or where a great object is to be gained, it should go
as light as possible. Stoneman's experience, in raiding will teach
him in this matter better than he can be directed.
Let there be no delay in the preparations for this expedition, and
keep me advised of its progress. Very respectfully, your obedient
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES
CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, January 81, 1865.
Major-General J. M. SCHOFIELD, commanding army of the Ohio.
GENERAL: I have requested by telegraph that, for present purposes,
North Carolina be erected into a department, and that you be placed
in command of it, subject to Major-General Sherman's orders. Of
course, you will receive orders from me direct until such time as
General Sherman gets within communicating distance of you. This
obviates the necessity of my publishing the order which I informed
you would meet you at Fortress Monroe. If the order referred to
should not be published from the Adjutant-General's office, you
will read these instructions as your authority to assume command of
all the troops in North Carolina, dating all official
communications, "Headquarters Army of the Ohio." Your headquarters
will be in the field, and with the portion of the army where you
feel yourself most needed. In the first move you will go to Cape
Your movements are intended as cooperative with Sherman's movement
through the States of South and North Carolina. The first point to
be obtained is to secure Wilmington. Goldsboro' will then be your
objective point, moving either from Wilmington or Newbern, or both,