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[375] my own mind, and had so advised General Grant, that I would undertake at one stride to to make Goldsboro, and open communication with the sea by the Newbern railroad, and had ordered Colonel W. W. Wright, Superintendent of Military Railroads, to proceed in advance to Newbern, and to be prepared to extend the railroad out from Newbern to Goldsboro by the fifteenth of March.

On the nineteenth of January all preparations were complete and the orders of march given. My Chief Quartermaster and Commissary, Generals Easton and Beckwith, were ordered to complete the supplies at Sisters' Ferry and Pocotaligo, and then to follow our movement coastwise, looking for my arrival at Goldsboro, North Carolina, about the fifteenth March, and opening communication with me from Morehead City.

On the twenty-second of January I embarked at Savannah for Hilton Head, where I held a conference with Admiral Dahlgren, United States Navy, and Major-General Foster, commanding the Department of the South, and next day proceeded to Beaufort, riding out thence on the twenty-fourth to Pocotaligo, where the Seven-teenth corps, Major-General Blair,was encamped. The Ffteenth corps was somewhat scattered — Wood's and Hazen's divisions at Beaufort, John E. Smith marching from Savannah by the coast road, and Corse still at Savannah, cut off by the storms and freshet in the river. On the twenty-fifth a demonstration was made against the Combahee ferry and railroad bridge across the Salkehatchie, merely to amuse the enemy, who had evidently adopted that river as his defensive line against our supposed objective, the city of Charleston. I reconnoitered the line in person, and saw that the heavy rains had swollen the river so that water stood in the swamps, for a breadth of more than a mile, at a depth of from one to twenty feet. Not having the remotest intention of approaching Charleston, a comparatively small force was able, by seeming preparation to cross over, to keep in their front a considerable force of the enemy disposed to contest our advance on Charleston. On the twenty-seventh I rode to the camp of General Hatch's division of Foster's command, on the Tullafuiney and Coosawhatchie rivers, and directed those places to be evacuated, as no longer of any use to us. That division was then moved to Pocotaligo to keep up the feints already begun, until we should with the right wing move higher up and cross the Salkehatchie about Rivers' or Broxton's bridge.

On the twenty-ninth I learned that the roads back of Savannah had at last become sufficiently free of the flood to admit of General Slocum putting his wing in motion, and that he was already approaching Sisters' ferry, whither a gunboat, the Pontiac, Captain Luce, kindly furnished by Admiral Dahlgren, had preceded him to cover the crossing. In the meantime three divisions of the Fifteenth corps had closed up at Pocotaligo, and the right wing had loaded its wagons and was ready to start. I therefore directed General Howard to move one corps, the Seventeenth, along the Salkehatchie, as high up as Rivers' bridge, and the other, the Fifteenth, by Hickory hill, Loper's cross-roads, Anglesey post-office, and Beaufort's bridge. Hatch's division was ordered to remain at Pocotaligo, feigning at the Salkehatchie railroad bridge and ferry, until our movement turned the enemy's position, and forced him to fall behind the Edisto.

The Seventeenth and Fifteenth corps drew out of camp on the thirty-first of January, but the real march began on the first of February. All the roads northward had, for weeks, been held by Wheeler's cavalry, who had by details of negro laborers, felled trees, burned bridges, and made obstructions to impede our march. But so well organized were our pioneer battalions, and so strong and intelligent our men, that obstructions seemed only to quicken their progress. Felled trees were removed, and bridges rebuilt by the heads of columns before the rear could close up. On the second of February the Fifteenth corps reached Loper's cross-roads, and the Seventeenth was at Rivers' bridge. From Loper's cross-roads I communicated with General Slocum, still struggling with the floods of the Savannah river at Sisters' ferry. He had two divisions of the Twentieth corps, General Williams, on the east bank, and was enabled to cross over on his pontoons the cavalry of Kilpatrick. General Williams was ordered to Beaufort's bridge, by way of Lawtonville and Allandale, Kilpatrick to Blackville via Barnwell, and General Slocum to hurry the crossing at Sisters' ferry as much as possible, and overtake the right wing on the South Carolina railroad. General Howard, with the right wing, was directed to cross the Salkehatchie and push rapidly for the South Carolina railroad, at or near Midway. The enemy held the line of the Salkehatchie in force, having infantry and artillery intrenched at Rivers' and Beaufort's bridges. The Seventeenth corps was ordered to carry Rivers' bridge, and the Fifteenth corps Beaufort's bridge. The former position was carried promptly and skilfully by Mower's and Giles A. Smith's divisions of the Seventeenth corps, on the third of February, by crossing the swamp, nearly three miles wide, with water varying from knee to shoulder-deep. The weather was bitter cold, and Generals Mower and Smith led their divisions in person, on foot, waded the swamp, made a lodgement below the bridge, and turned on the rebel brigade which guarded it, driving it in confusion and disorder toward Branchville. Our casualties were one officer and seventeen men killed, and seventy men wounded, who were sent to Pocotaligo. The line of the Salkehatchie being thus broken, the enemy retreated at once behind the Edisto at Branchville, and the whole army was pushed rapidly to the South Carolina railroad at Midway, Bamberg (or Lowry's station), and Graham's station. The Seventeenth corps, by

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