A little loose in foraging, they “did some things they ought not to have done;” yet, on the whole, they have supplied the wants of the army with as little violence as could be expected, and as little loss as I calculated.Naturally, the “little violence” and “little loss” looked larger, and were regarded with less complaisance, from the other side; but there was not much complaint of wanton destruction or outrage. In South Carolina, new conditions were presented. The region traversed was, in the main, more sparsely settled than central Georgia--the mass of its people poorer, and its supplies more scanty. And South Carolina was regarded by our soldiers with more marked disfavor, as having been the cradle of Secession and Civil War. So, doubtless, the taste for plunder had grown keener by gratification, while the instinct that discerns the location of hidden food and valuables had by use become amazingly sharp and subtle. Though a good many watches and pieces of plate which were claimed to have been “found hidden in a swamp, a mile from any house,” were in fact drawn from less occult sources, it would have been difficult to hide a watch or goblet where it would not have been discovered and appropriated. And the business of foraging had been gradually assumed as a specialty by the least scrupulous of the soldiers, who, having mounted themselves somehow on beasts of burden, scoured the whole region in advance of our marching columns — often many miles in advance — gathering provisions for the army, and any thing inviting and portable for themselves — dismounting and fighting in line of battle when charged or impeded by cavalry or militia in moderate numbers;1 but fonder, on the whole, of rifling a house than of fighting its owner; and constantly intent on the mainchance. No other State or section has in modern times been so thoroughly devastated in a single campaign signalized by little fighting, as was South Carolina by that march through its utmost length, and over an average breadth of forty miles, by Sherman's army. Gen. Kilpatrick, with a total force of 5,068 men, including a 6-gun battery of horse artillery, and a small brigade of dismounted men, had demonstrated northward, on our extreme left, so far as Aiken; imbuing the enemy with the fullest belief that Augusta was Sherman's objective, and causing Wheeler's cavalry to confront him in this direction; leaving the passes of the Edisto unguarded. In effecting this, one of his brigades, led by Col. Spencer, had engaged,2 near Williston's station, Gen. Allen's division of Alabama cavalry (six thin regiments), and routed it with no serious loss to either side. Having destroyed the railroad hereabout to his heart's content, and deceived Wheeler as to his purpose, Kilpatrick merely sent3 Atkins's brigade into Aiken, where Wheeler was in force, and of course drove Atkins back; charging, at 11 A. M., Kilpatrick's entire command, and being repulsed with a loss of 31 killed, 160 wounded, and 60 prisoners.
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