off in utter disorder.
All the roads northward had been held for weeks by Wheeler
's cavalry, and details of negro laborers had been compelled to fell trees and burn bridges to impede the national march.
's pioneers, however, removed the trees, and the heads of columns rebuilt the bridges before the rear could close up, and the rebels retreated behind the Edisto river
now advanced on the left, and by the 11th of February, the whole command was on the South Carolina railroad, reaching from Midway as far west as Blackville
, with Kilpatrick
skirmishing heavily on the left and threatening Augusta
The rebels were now divided; a part of their force was at Branchville
, and part at Aiken
, while the national army lay between.
determined to waste no time on Branchville
, which the enemy could no longer hold, and turned his columns directly north upon Columbia
, where it was supposed the rebels would concentrate.
Attempts were made to delay him at the crossings of the rivers; there were numerous bridge-heads with earth or cotton parapets to carry, and cypress swamps to cross; but nothing stayed his course.
On the 13th, he learned that there was no enemy in Columbia
, at Charleston
, took it for granted that Sherman
was moving upon that place, and the rebels in Augusta
supposed that they were Sherman
's object; so Charleston
were protected, while Columbia
was abandoned to the care of the cavalry.
On the 16th, Sherman
had reached the Congaree
, opposite the city of Columbia
, where the bridge had been burned by the rebels, and he was obliged to wait