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[349] Witherspoon, A. C. S., orders were given, on the 15th, to remove all quartermaster and subsistence stores, with the exception of fifty thousand rations, to some point on the Charlotte Railroad, in the direction of Chesterville.

During the evening of the same day (15th) General Beauregard received a telegram from General Hardee, enclosing one from Mr. Davis, showing that, even at that late hour, he was still hesitating concerning the evacuation of Charleston. As will be seen, the President encouraged, and, in a great measure, was the direct cause of this blameworthy procrastination.

General Hardee's telegram read thus:

Charleston, Feb. 15th, 1865.
To General Beauregard:
‘The following dispatch was received last night from President Davis: “Your despatch of 12th received to-day. The enemy may, and probably does, intend an attack on Charleston, but it is by no means manifested by present operations. It is proper, under the view presented, to remove whatever is not needful for defence of the place, and then to postpone evacuation as long as prudent. If General Beauregard can hold the enemy in the field, the course herein indicated may preserve the city and harbor for further uses, and save us the pain of seeing it pass into the hands of the enemy. General Beauregard and yourself are so well informed of the condition of the armies and the practicability of routes, that I must leave you to the free exercise of your judgment. It, however, seems to me that the bridge over the Santee can be defended against a boat expedition up that river without materially injuring other operations; and a movement by the enemy, overland, from Bull's Bay is hardly to be anticipated.” ’

General Beauregard's answer followed without delay. It was in the following words:

Despatch of to-day received containing President's. I have far from sufficient force to hold the enemy in check in the field. He is, at this moment, investing Columbia with his four corps (as reported), on the south side of Congaree. Hence I see no good reason for deviating from the plan already decided upon; on the contrary, I urge its immediate execution.

The movement was accordingly ordered to begin, on the 16th, without further delay.1 Unfortunately, however, General Hardee, who had been unwell for several days, was obliged, at this critical hour, to leave his post; and the command of his forces

1 See General Hardee's telegram, in Appendix.

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