General sherman's army commenced its march from “Atlanta
to the sea” on the morning of November 15th, and arrived in front of the defenses of Savannah
on the 10th of December, 1864.
No news had been received from the North
during this interval except such as could be gleaned from Southern papers picked up by the soldiers on the line of our march.
Our fleet was in Ossabaw Sound
with supplies of food and clothing, and an immense mail, containing letters from home for nearly every one in the army, from the commanding general down to the private soldier.
All that blocked our communication with the fleet was Fort McAllister
on the Ogeechee River
This fort was captured by Hazen
's division of the Fifteenth Corps on December 13th, and the 15th brought us our mails and an abundant supply of food and ammunition, making this one of the happiest days experienced by the men of Sherman
Preparations were at once commenced for assaulting the Confederate
works, and were nearly completed when the Confederates
Our troops entered the city before daybreak on the 21st of December.
The fall of Fort McAllister
placed General Sherman
in communication with General Grant
and the authorities at Washington
, Prior to the capture of Savannah
, the plan contemplated by General Grant
involved the removal of the infantry of Sherman
's army to City Point
by sea. On December 6th General Grant
wrote to Sherman
My idea now is that you establish a base on the sea-coast, fortify, and leave all your artillery and cavalry and enough infantry to protect them, and at the same time so threaten the interior
that the militia of the South will have to be kept home.
With the balance of your command come here with all dispatch.
In reply, under date of December 13th, Sherman
I had expected, after reducing Savannah, instantly to march to Columbia, South Carolina, thence to Raleigh, and then to report to you.
The fall of Savannah
resulted in the adoption of the plan which Sherman
In a letter dated December 24th Sherman
Many and many a person in Georgia asked me why I did not go to South Carolina, and when I answered that we were en route for that State, the invariable reply was, “ Well, if you will make those people feel the utmost severities of war we will pardon you for your desolation of Georgia.”
About one month was spent in Savannah
in clothing the men and filling the trains with ammunition and rations.
Then commenced the movement which was to make south Carolina
feel the severities of war.1
The right wing, with the exception of Corse
's division of the Seventeenth Corps, moved via Hilton Head
The left wing with Corse
's division and the cavalry moved up the west bank of the Savannah River
to Sister's Ferry, distant about forty miles from Savannah
's plan was similar to that adopted on leaving Atlanta
the army had started from Atlanta
, the right wing had moved direct toward Macon
and the left toward Augusta
Both cities were occupied by Confederate troops.
The movements of our army had caused the Confederate
authorities at each of these important cities to demand not only the retention of the troops at each place, but had induced them to demand help
from every quarter.
had had no thought of attacking either place, and at the proper time the movements of both wings of the army were so directed as to unite them and leave both cities in our rear, with little or no force in our front.
On leaving Savannah
our right wing threatened Charleston
and the left again threatened Augusta
, the two wings being again united in the interior of South Carolina
, leaving the Confederate
troops at Augusta
with almost a certainty that Charleston
must fall without a blow from Sherman
On the arrival of the left wing at Sister's Ferry on the Savannah
, instead of finding, as was anticipated, a river a few yards in width which could be easily crossed, they found a broad expanse of water which was utterly impassable.
The continuous rain-fall had caused the river to over-flow, so that the lowland on the South Carolina
side was covered with water, extending nearly half a mile from the river.
We were delayed several days in vain efforts to effect a crossing, and were finally compelled to await the falling of the waters.
Our pontoon-bridge was finally constructed and the crossing commenced.
Each regiment as it entered South Carolina
gave three cheers.
The men seemed to realize that at last they had set foot on the State
which had done more than all others to bring upon the country the horrors of civil war. In the narrow road leading from the ferry on the South Carolina
side torpedoes had been planted, so that several of our men were killed or wounded by treading upon them.
This was unfortunate for that section of the State
Planting torpedoes for the defense of a position is legitimate warfare, but our soldiers regarded the act of placing them in a highway where no contest was anticipated as something akin to poisoning a stream of water; it is not recognized as fair or legitimate warfare.
Railway destruction as a Military Art. |
Skirmishers crossing the North Edisto S. C., on a floating foot-bridge, from a sketch made at the time. |
section of South Carolina
suffered more severely than any other, it was due in part to the blundering of people who were more zealous than wise.
About February 19th the two wings of the army were reunited in the vicinity of Branchville
, a small village on the South Carolina Railroad at the point where the railroad from.
branches off to Augusta
Here we resumed the work which had occupied so much of our time in Georgia
, viz., the destruction of railroads.2
The right wing under Howard crossing the Saluda River.
From a War-time sketch. |
Having effectually destroyed over sixty miles of railroads in this section, the army started for Columbia
, the capital of South Carolina
, each corps taking a separate road.
The left wing (Slocum
) arrived at a point about three miles from Columbia
on the 16th, and there received orders to cross the Saluda River
, at Mount Zion's Church.
The Fourteenth Corps moved to the crossing, built a bridge during the night, crossed the river next day, and was followed by the Twentieth Corps and Kilpatrick
The right wing (Howard
) moved direct to Columbia
, the Fifteenth Corps moving through the city and camping outside on the Camden
The Seventeenth Corps did not enter Columbia
During the night of February 17th the greater portion of the city of Columbia
The lurid flames could easily be seen from my camp, many miles distant.
Nearly all the public buildings, several churches, an orphan asylum, and many of the residences were destroyed.
The city was filled with helpless women and children and invalids, many of whom were rendered houseless and homeless in a single night.
No sadder scene was presented during the war. The suffering of so many helpless and innocent persons could not but move the hardest heart.
The question as to who was immediately responsible for this disaster has given rise to some controversy.
I do not believe that General Sherman
countenanced or was in any degree responsible for it. I believe the immediate cause of the disaster was a free use of whisky (which was supplied to the soldiers by citizens with great liberality). A drunken soldier with a musket in one hand and a match in the other is not a pleasant visitor to have about the house on a dark, windy night, particularly when for a series of years you have urged him to come, so that you might have an opportunity of performing a surgical operation on him.
the army moved toward Fayetteville
— the left wing crossing the Catawba River
at Rocky Mount
While the rear of the Twentieth Corps was crossing, our pontoon-bridge was swept away by flood-wood brought down the river, leaving the Fourteenth Corps on the south side.
This caused a delay of three days, and gave rise to some emphatic instructions from Sherman
to the commander of the left wing--which instructions resulted in our damming the flood-wood to some extent, but not in materially expediting the march.
On the 3d of March we arrived at Cheraw
, where we found a large supply of stores sent from Charleston
Among the stores was a large quantity of very old wine of the
Sherman's soldiers guarding the Palmetto monument, Columbia.
From a sketch made at the time. |
best quality, which had been kept in the cellars of Charleston
many years, with no thought on the part of the owners that in its old age it would be drunk from tin cups by Yankee soldiers.
Fortunately for the whole army the wine was discovered by the Seventeenth Corps and fell into the hands of the generous and chivalrous commander of that corps,--General Frank P. Blair
,--who distributed it with the spirit of liberality and fairness characteristic of him. On the 6th we moved toward Fayetteville
, where we arrived on the 10th.
The march through South Carolina
had been greatly delayed by the almost incessant rains and the swampy nature of the country.
More than half the way we were compelled to corduroy the roads before our trains could be moved.
To accomplish this work we had been supplied with axes, and the country was covered with saplings well suited to the purpose.
Raising the Union flag over the old State-House, Columbia.
From a sketch made at the time. |
Three or four days prior to our arrival at Fayetteville General Sherman
had received information that Wilmington
was in possession of General Terry
, and had sent two messengers with letters informing Terry
when he would probably be at Fayetteville
Contrabands in the wake of Sherman's Army. |
Both messengers arrived safely at Wilmington
, and on Sunday, the day after our arrival at Fayetteville
, the shrill whistle of a steamboat floating the Stars and Stripes announced that we were once more in communication with our own friends.
As she came up, the banks of the river were lined by our soldiers, who made the welkin ring with their cheers.
The opening of communication with Wilmington
not only brought us our mails and a supply of clothing, but enabled us to send to a place of safety thousands of refugees and contrabands who were following the army and seriously embarrassing it. We were dependent upon the country for our supplies of food and forage, and every one not connected with the army was a source of weakness to us. On several occasions on the march from Atlanta
we had been compelled to drive thousands of colored people back, not from lack of sympathy with them, but simply as a matter of safety to the army.
The refugee-train following in rear of the army was one of the most singular features of the march.
Long before the war, the slaves of the South
had a system of communication by which important information was transmitted from one section of the country to another.
The advance of Sherman
's army through a section never before visited by a Union soldier was known far and wide many miles in advance of us. It was natural that these poor creatures, seeking a place of safety, should flee to the army, and endeavor to keep in sight of it. Every day, as we marched on we could see, on each side of our line of march, crowds of these people coming to us through roads and across the fields, bringing with them all their earthly goods, and many goods which were not theirs.
Horses, mules, cows, dogs, old family carriages, carts, and whatever they thought might be of use to them were seized upon and brought to us.
They were allowed to follow in rear of our column, and at times they — were almost equal in numbers to the army they were following.
As singular, comical, and pitiable a spectacle was never before presented.
One day a large family of slaves came through the fields to join us. The head of the family, a venerable negro, was mounted on a mule, and safely stowed away behind him in pockets or bags attached to the blanket which covered
View from the unfinished Capitol: views of the ruins of Columbia.
From Photographs. |
the mule were two little pickaninnies, one on each side.
This gave rise to a most important invention, i. e.,
“the best way of transporting pickaninnies.”
On the next day a mule appeared in column, covered by a blanket with two pockets on each side, each containing a little negro.
Very soon old tent-flies or strong canvas was used instead of the blanket, and often ten or fifteen pockets were attached to each side, so that nothing of the mule was visible except the head, tail, and feet, all else being covered by the black woolly heads and bright shining eyes of the little darkies.
Occasionally a cow was made to
take the place of the mule; this was a decided improvement, as the cow furnished rations as well as transportation for the babies.
family carriages, carts and lumber wagons filled with bedding, cooking-utensils and “traps” of all kinds, with men, women, and children loaded with bundles, made up the balance of the refugee-train which followed in our rear.
As all the bridges were burned in front of us, our pontoon-trains were in constant use, and the bridges could be left but a short time for the use of the refugees.
A scramble for precedence in crossing the bridge always occurred.
The firing of a musket or pistol in rear would bring to the refugees visions of guerrillas, and then came a panic.
As our bridges were not supplied with guard-rails, occasionally a mule would be crowded off, and with its precious load would float down the river.
Having thoroughly destroyed the arsenal buildings, machine-shops, and foundries at Fayetteville
, we crossed the Cape Fear River
on the 13th and 14th and resumed our march.
We were now entering upon the last stage of the great march which was to unite the Army of the West with that of the East
in front of Richmond
If this march could be successfully accomplished the Confederacy
did not hope or expect to accomplish it without a struggle.
He anticipated an attack and made provision for it. He ordered me to send my baggage-trains under a strong escort by an interior road on my right, and to keep at least four divisions with their artillery on my left, ready for an attack.
During the 15th of March Hardee
was retreating before us, having for his rear-guard a brigade composed of the troops which had garrisoned Charleston
, commanded by Colonel Alfred Rhett
's cavalry was in advance of the left wing, and during the day some of the skirmishers had
come suddenly upon Colonel Rhett
, accompanied by a few of his men, and had captured him. Rhett
before the war had been one of the editors of the Charleston Mercury, one of the strongest secession papers of the South
He was sent by Kilpatrick
to General Sherman
while stationed in Charleston
before the war had been acquainted with Rhett
, and not wishing to have him under his immediate charge, he sent him to me. Rhett
spent that night in my tent, and as I had also been stationed at Fort Moultrie
in 1854 and 1855, and had often met him, we had a long chat over old times and about common acquaintances in Charleston
The following morning Rhett
was sent to the rear in charge of the cavalry.
He was handsomely dressed in the Confederate
uniform, with a pair of high boots beautifully stitched.
He was deeply mortified at having been “gobbled up” without a chance to fight.
One of my staff told me that he saw Rhett
a few days later, trudging along under guard, but the beautiful boots were missing,--a soldier had exchanged a very coarse pair of army shoes for them.
said that in all his troubles he had one consolation, that of knowing that no one of Sherman
's men could get on those boots.
On the following morning Kilpatrick
came upon the enemy behind a line of intrenchments.
He moved his cavalry to the right, and Jackson
's and Ward
's divisions of the Twentieth Corps were deployed in front of the enemy's line.
directed me to send a brigade to the left in order to get in rear of the intrenchments, which was done, and resulted in the retreat of the enemy and in the capture of Macbeth
's Charleston Battery and 217 of Rhett
's men. The Confederates were found behind another line of works a short distance in rear of the first, and we went into camp in their immediate front.
During the night Hardee
retreated, leaving 108 dead for us to bury, and 68 wounded. We lost 12 officers and 65 men killed and 477 men wounded.
This action was known as the battle of Averysboro
The Fourteenth Corps entering Fayetteville.
From a sketch made at the time. |
Our march to this point had been toward Raleigh
We now took the road leading to Goldsboro
rode with me on the 18th and left me at 6 A. M. on the 19th to join General Howard
, who was marching on roads several miles to our right.
On leaving me General Sherman
expressed the opinion that Hardee
had fallen back to Raleigh
, and that I could easily reach the Neuse River
on the following day. I felt confident I could accomplish the task.
We moved forward at 6 A. M., and soon met the skirmishers of the enemy.
The resistance to our advance became very stubborn.
's division was deployed and ordered to advance.
I believed that the force in my front consisted only of cavalry with a few pieces of artillery.
Fearing that the firing would be heard by General Sherman
and cause the other wing of the army to delay its march, I sent Major E. W. Guindon
of my staff to General Sherman
, to tell him that I had met a strong force of cavalry, but that I should not need assistance, and felt confident I should be at the Neuse
at the appointed time.
Soon after the bearer of the message to General Sherman
had left me, word came from Carlin
that he had developed a strong force of the enemy in an intrenched position.
About the same time one of my officers brought to me an emaciated, sickly appearing young man about twenty-two or twenty-three years of age, dressed in the Confederate
He had expressed great anxiety to see the commanding officer
I asked him what he had to say. He said he had been in the Union
army, had been taken prisoner, and while sick and in prison had been induced to enlist in the Confederate
He said he had enlisted with the intention of deserting when a good opportunity presented itself, believing he should die if he remained in prison.
In reply to my questions he informed me that he formerly resided at Syracuse, New York
, and had entered the service at the commencement of the war, in a company raised by Captain Butler
I had been a resident of Syracuse
, and knew the history of his company and regiment.
While I was talking with him one of my aides, Major William G. Tracy
, rode up and at once recognized the deserter as an old acquaintance whom he had known at Syracuse
before the war. I asked how he knew General Johnston
was in command and what he knew as to the strength of his force.
He said General Johnston
rode along the line early that morning, and that the officers had told all the men that “Old Joe” had caught one of Sherman
's wings beyond the reach of support, that he intended to smash
that wing and then go for the other.
The man stated that he had had no chance of escaping till that morning, and had come to me to warn me of my danger.
He said, “There is a very large force immediately in your front, all under command of General Joe Johnston
While he was making his statement General Carlin
's division with four pieces of artillery became engaged with the enemy.
A line for defense was at once selected, and as the troops came up they were placed in position and ordered to collect fence-rails and everything else available for barricades.
The men used their tin cups and hands as shovels, and needed no urging to induce them to work.
I regretted that I had sent the message to General Sherman
assuring him I needed no help, and saw the necessity of giving him information at once as to the situation.
information was carried to General Sherman
by a young man, not then twenty years of age, but who was full of energy and activity and was always reliable.
He was then the youngest member of my staff.
He is now  Governor
— Joseph B. Foraker
His work on this day secured his promotion to the rank of captain.
Some years after the close of the war Foraker
wrote to me calling my attention to some errors in a published account of this battle of Bentonville
, and saying:
Firing between the men on the skirmish-line commenced before Sherman had left us on the morning of the 19th, but it was supposed there was nothing but cavalry in our front.
It was kept up steadily, and constantly increased in volume.
Finally there was a halt in the column.
You expressed some anxiety, and Major W. G. Tracy and I rode to the front to see what was going on. At the edge of open fields next to the woods in which the barricades were we found our skirmish-line halted. . . . In a few minutes it moved forward again.
The enemy partly reserved their fire until it got half-way or more across the field.
This induced Tracy and me to think there was but little danger, and so we followed up closely, until suddenly they began again a very spirited firing, in the midst of which we were sorry to find ourselves.
I remember we hardly knew what to do — we could do no good by going on and none by remaining.
To be killed under such circumstances would look like a waste of raw material, we thought.
But the trouble was to get out. We didn't want to turn back, as we thought that would not look well.
While we were thus hesitating a spent ball struck Tracy on the leg, giving him a slight but painful wound.
Almost at the same moment our skirmishers charged and drove the rebels. . . I rode back with Tracy only a very short distance, when we met you hurrying to the front.
I found you had already been informed of what had been discovered, and that you had already sent orders to everybody to hurry to the front.
I remember, too, that a little later Major Mosely, I think, though it may have been some other member of your staff, suggested that you ought to have the advance division charge and drive them out of the way; that it could not be possible that there was much force ahead of us, and that if we waited for the others to come up we should lose a whole day, and if it should turn out that there was nothing to justify such caution it would look bad for the left wing; to which you replied in an earnest manner, “I can afford to be charged with being dilatory or over-cautious, but I cannot afford the responsibility of another Ball's Bluff affair.”
Do you remember it 1 I presume not; but I was then quite young, and such remarks made a lasting impression.
It excited my confidence and admiration, and was the first moment that I began to feel that there was really serious work before us. . . . You handed me a written message to take to General Sherman.
The last words you spoke to me as I started were, “Ride well to the right so as to keep clear of the enemy's left flank, and don't spare horse-flesh.” I reached General Sherman just about sundown.
He was on the left; side of the road on a sloping hillside, where, as I understood, he had halted only a few minutes before for the night.
His staff were about him. I think General Howard was there, but I do not now remember seeing him,--but on the hillside twenty yards farther up Logan was lying on a blanket.
Sherman saw me approaching and walked briskly toward me, took your message, tore it open, read it, and called out “ John Logan!
where is Logan?
” Just then Logan jumped up and started toward us. He too walked briskly, but before he had reached us Sherman had informed him of the situation and ordered him to turn Hazen back and have him report to you. It was not yet dark when I rode away carrying an answer to your message.
It was after midnight when I got back, the ride back being so much longer in point of time because the road was full of troops, it was dark, and my horse-flesh I was used up.
's division of the Fourteenth Corps had the advance, and as the enemy exhibited more than usual strength, he had deployed his division and advanced to develop the position of the enemy.
's division of the same corps had been deployed on Carlin
Colonel H. G. Litchfield
of the corps, had accompanied these troops.
I was consulting with General Jeff. C. Davis
, who commanded the Fourteenth Corps,
when Colonel Litchfield
rode up, and in reply to my inquiry as to what he had found in front he said, “Well, General, I have found something more than Dibrell
's cavalry — I find infantry intrenched along our whole front, and enough of them to give us all the amusement we shall want for the rest of the day.”
[See map of the battle of Bentonville
, p. 701.]
had not been gone half an hour when the enemy advanced in force, compelling Carlin
's division to fall back.
They were handled with skill and fell back without panic or demoralization, taking places in the line established.
The Twentieth Corps held the left of our line, with orders to connect with the Fourteenth.
A space between the two corps had been left uncovered, and Cogswell
's brigade of the Twentieth Corps, ordered to report to General Davis
, filled the gap just before the enemy reached our line.
The enemy fought bravely, but their line had become somewhat broken in advancing through the woods, and when they came up to our line, posted behind slight intrenchments, they received a fire which compelled them to fall back.
The assaults were repeated over and over again until a late hour, each assault finding us better prepared for resistance.
During the night Hazen
reported to me, and was placed on the right of the Fourteenth Corps.
Early on the next morning Generals Baird
, each with two brigades, arrived on the field.
was placed in front of our works and moved out beyond the advanced position held by us on the preceding day. The 20th was spent in strengthening our position and developing the line of the enemy.
On the morning of the 21st the right wing arrived.
This wing had marched twenty miles over bad roads, skirmishing most of the way with the enemy.
On the 21st General Johnston
's army united, and in position on three sides of him. On the other was Mill Creek
Our troops were pressed closely to the works of the enemy, and the entire day was spent in skirmishing.
During the night of the 21st the enemy crossed Mill Creek
and retreated toward Raleigh
The plans of the enemy to surprise us and destroy our army in detail were well formed and well executed, and would have been more successful had not the men of the Fourteenth and Twentieth corps been veterans, and the equals in courage and endurance of any soldiers of this or any other country.
Bentonville the morning after the battle-the smoke is from resin that was fired by the Confederates.
From a sketch made at the time. |