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[433] Five large navigable rivers had been crossed—the Edisto, Broad, Catawba, Pedee, and Cape Fear, at either of which a comparatively small force, well handled, might have made the passage difficult, if not impossible. The country generally was in a state of nature, with innumerable swamps, and the roads were masses of mud, nearly every mile of which had to be corduroyed. Columbia, Cheraw, and Fayetteville—all important depots of supplies, had been captured, the evacuation of Charleston rendered inevitable, all the railroads of South Carolina had been broken up, and a vast amount of food and forage essential to the enemy for the support of his armies had been consumed. The breadth of country traversed averaged forty miles. The journey had been accomplished in mid-winter, in fifty days, the men marching on an average ten miles a day, and resting ten days on the road. When Goldsboro was reached the army was in superb order, and the teams were almost as fresh as when they started from Atlanta.

Schofield, we have seen, was at Goldsboro when Sherman arrived. Immediately after the capture of Wilmington, he had begun his preparations to move to the interior, and repair the railroads, as well as to supply Sherman by the Cape Fear river, at Fayetteville, if this should become necessary. On account of the difficulty in collecting transportation, his advance was made in two columns—one starting from Newbern, and the other from Wilmington. He himself was with the larger force at Newbern, while Terry commanded that which moved from Wilmington. On the 6th of March, both were in motion for Goldsboro. Hoke's command, with a reinforcement from the army of Hood, was in front

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John Sherman (2)
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