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[697] threatening an advance on Augusta--Gen. Sherman thus pursuing his favorite strategy of dividing the enemy's forces and. distracting his attention from his real objective, so as to prevent a concentration to resist him in the difficult, inhospitable region through which his course lay.

Incessant rains, which flooded most of the adjacent country, giving the Savannah at Sister's ferry a surface width of nearly three miles, submerging the causeway road, and breaking up Gen. Slocum's pontoon-bridge, compelled a delay of a fortnight; during which, Savannah was made over1 to Gen. Foster: Gen. Grover's division of the 19th corps having been sent by Gen. Grant to form its garrison. Some feints were made from Pocotaligo of an advance on Charleston; Foster's position between the Coosawhatchie and Tullifinny abandoned as no longer of use; and at length — the flood having somewhat abated — Sherman's whole army moved2 nearly northward; Slocum, with Kilpatrick, crossing the Savannah at Sister's ferry or Purysburg, and moving on Barnwell and Beaufort's bridge, threatening Augusta; while the right wing, keeping for some distance west of the Combahee and Salkehatchie, should cross at Rivers's and at Beaufort's bridges and push rapidly for the Edisto; thus flanking Charleston and compelling its precipitate evacuation by the enemy, after they should have been kept paralyzed so long as might be in apprehension of a siege.

Southern South Carolina is so inveterately and generally a swamp, and was now so sodden and covered with water, that the belief was common among her people that for an army, with its trains, to traverse her whole extent, from south-west to north-east, in mid-winter, was a physical impossibility. Yet, to provide against the chance of Sherman's proving able to overcome the resistance of the elements, Gov. Magrath had, by proclamation, summoned3 to the field as militia every White male in the State between the ages of 16 and 60, not already in the service; proclaiming that those who did not voluntarily come out should be forced out, and that all former exemptions would be disregarded.

Ample time had been afforded for filling her abundant trees across her narrow roads — that being about the last conspicuous service which her slaves were constrained to render to their masters. Wheeler's troopers hovered around our advance, watching for chances; while a brigade of infantry lay behind the Salkehatchie at; Rivers's bridge, prepared to dispute its passage. This, however, was brushed4 aside by a turning movement from below — to make which, Mower's and G. A. Smith's divisions of Blair's corps waded through a swamp three miles wide, covered with water, one to four feet deep — the weather having become bitterly cold — the two Generals wading at the head of their men. Once over, the Rebels were quickly driven off in disorder, retreating behind the Edisto at Branchville: our loss here being 18 killed and 70 wounded. Our infantry pressed rapidly after them; the enemy burning the bridges over the Edisto while our men broke up the South Carolina railroad for many miles; and Kilpatrick, skirmishing heavily with Wheeler,

1 Jan. 18, 1865.

2 Feb. 1.

3 Dec. 29, 1864.

4 Feb. 3, 1865.

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