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[530]

Chapter 51:


After the evacuation of Savannah by General Hardee, it soon became known that General Sherman was making preparations to march northward through the Carolinas with the supposed purpose of uniting his forces with those of General Grant before Richmond. General Hardee, having left detachments at proper points to defend the approaches to Charleston and Augusta, Georgia, withdrew the rest of his command to the first-named city. General Wheeler's cavalry held all the roads northward, and, by felling trees and burning bridges, obstructed considerably the enemy's advance, which in the early part of January was still further impeded by the heavy rains which had swollen the rivers and creeks far beyond their usual width and depth.

The seriously impaired conditions of our railroad communications in Georgia and Alabama, the effect of the winter rains on the already poor and ill-constructed country roads, the difficulty in collecting and transporting supplies, so impeded the concentration of our available forces that Generals Beauregard and Hardee—the former at Columbia, South Carolina, and the latter at Charleston—could only retard, not prevent, the onward march of the enemy. At the outset of his movement the Salkehatchie River presented a very strong line of defense. Its swollen condition at that time, and the wide, deeply inundated swamps on both sides, rendered it almost impossible to force or outflank the position if

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