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Chapter 15: Potter's Raid.

While at Columbia, S. C., General Sherman sent and destroyed the railroad to Kingsville and the Wateree Bridge. From Cheraw he broke the railroad trestles toward Florence as far as Darlington, and the enemy burned the railroad bridge over the Pedee. Between Florence and Sumterville was a vast amount of rollingstock thus hemmed in. Sherman, considering that this should be destroyed before the roads could be repaired, and that the food supplies in that section should be exhausted, wrote General Gillmore from Fayetteville, N. C., directing him to execute this work. He suggested that Gillmore's force be twenty-five hundred men, lightly equipped, to move from Georgetown or the Santee Bridge, that the troops be taken from Charleston or Savannah, and added,—
‘I don't feel disposed to be over-generous, and should not hesitate to burn Charleston, Savannah, and Wilmington, or either of them, if the garrisons were needed. . . . Those cars and locomotives should be destroyed if to do it costs you five hundred men.’

These instructions caused the concentration of a selected force at Georgetown, of which the Fifty-fourth formed a part. The resultant movement, called ‘Potter's Raid,’ during which almost the last encounters of the Rebellion occurred, is little known, as it took place when momentous military events were taking place elsewhere. [290]

Georgetown was the port of one of the richest regions in the South, and until our vessels were stationed off its entrance, a resort of blockade-runners. There were decayed wharves, regular streets, some fine residences, public buildings, and the hall of the Winyaw Indigo Society in the place. Up the Waccamaw some fifteen miles was ‘The Oaks,’ the plantation of Governor Alston, whose wife, the beautiful and accomplished Theodosia, only daughter of Aaron Burr, was lost at sea on the pilot-boat Patriot, with all on board.

Major Pope and the left wing of the Fifty-fourth on the ‘Canonicus’ entered Winyaw Bay, ran up the river some eleven miles past Battery White and other works, and disembarked on March 31, the first troops to arrive. The wing marched to the outskirts and camped in a field where the right wing soon joined. Most of the troops for the expedition having arrived, on April 2, General Gillmore reviewed them in a large ploughed field. The ‘Provisional Division,’ under Gen. Edward E. Potter, was organized, composed of the First Brigade, commanded by Col. P. P. Brown, One Hundred and Fifty-seventh New York, of the One Hundred and Fifty-seventh New York, a detachment of the Fifty-sixth New York, and the Twenty-fifth and One Hundred and Seventh Ohio; and the Second Brigade under Colonel Hallowell, composed of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, eight companies of the Thirtysec-ond United States Colored Troops, and five companies of the One Hundred and Second United States Colored Troops. There were also detachments of the First New York Engineers and Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry, and two guns of Battery B, Third New York Artillery. It was a total force of about twenty-five hundred men. [291]

Our regiment marched with six hundred and seventy-five enlisted men and the following officers: Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper, Major Pope, Surgeon Briggs, Acting Adjutant Whitney, and Acting Quartermaster Bridgham; Company F, Captain Bridge; Company C, Lieutenant Spear; Company B, Lieutenant Hallett; Company H, Captain Tucker and Lieutenant Stevens; Company A, Lieutenant Rogers; Company D, Captain Chipman and Lieutenant Swails; Company G, Captain Appleton; Company E, Lieutenant Emerson, commanding, and Lieutenant Cousens; Company I, Captain Howard; Company K, Lieutenant Reed. Lieutenants Newell and Joy took part on Colonel Hallowell's staff. Lieutenant Leonard was directed to remain in charge of the camp. A pioneer corps of twenty men was placed under Sergeant Wilkins of Company D for this field service.

April 5, at 8 A. M., Potter's force moved from Georgetown, the First Brigade in advance, over the centre or Sampit road for three miles, when the column took another to the right leading to Kingstree. Marching through a heavily timbered country and encountering no hostiles, the division compassed nineteen miles, camping at nightfall near Johnson's Swamp. Hallowell's brigade had the advance on the 6th, preceded by the cavalry, the close, warm day causing some exhaustion and straggling. The column entered a better region with rolling ground, where foraging parties found good supplies and draught animals. Major Webster of the cavalry encountered a few of the enemy's mounted men, who skirmished lightly, and toward evening exchanged shots with them at Seven-Mile Bridge on the right, which the foe burned. Camp was made at Thorntree Swamp after a nineteen-mile march, with Kingstree across the Black River, seven miles to our right. [292]

An early start was made on the 7th toward the northwest, through a more open and settled country, containing still more abundant supplies, which our foragers secured, but, by orders, burned all cotton and mills. Light troops of the enemy, easily dislodged, kept in front of the column. Potter reached the Northeastern Railroad that day and broke the track for several miles, and the One Hundred and Second United States Colored Troops, sent to the right, destroyed the Kingstree Bridge across the Black River, exchanging shots with a small force.

Captain Tucker, with Companies A and H of the Fifty-fourth, was sent to Eppes's Bridge on the Black River at about 3 P. M. That officer furnishes the following account of what befell him:—

‘Leaving the main column, we filed to the right, marching by that flank nearly or quite a mile. I had previously mounted old Cyclops [a horse of Lieutenant Ritchie's, who was not on the raid], and put on as many “general” airs as my general health and anatomy would endure. Great clouds of smoke were now coming up over the woods directly in our front. Stevens deployed one platoon on the left of the road, holding the other for support. Rogers disposed of his company on the right in the same way. Advancing, we soon found the ground low and overflowed with water. The men were wading kneedeep. We had not gone far before we received the fire from the enemy. The fire was returned. We advanced in sight of the bridge and easy musket-range, when the enemy abandoned the temporary works they had improvised from the flooring of the bridge on the opposite side of the river, making quick their retreat and leaving behind the heavy timbering of the work in flames. During the interchange of shots Rogers and two men of his company were wounded. We did not or could not cross the river. I remember well of being sufficiently near to give them a bit of my Yankee eloquence and calling attention to their [293] nervousness in not being able to shoot even old “Cyclops.” Our object being accomplished, we started for and joined the regiment at Mill Branch about two o'clock next morning. My impression is that the force opposed to me was a company, or part of a company, of dismounted cavalry.’

Privates J. C. Johnson and J. H. White, of Company H, were the men wounded. When Lieutenant Rogers was disabled, Lieutenant Stevens took command of Company A, which he retained until his death. After a march of fifteen miles the Fifty-fourth camped at Mill Branch.

April 8, the column moved over fair roads through a wooded country, with a bright sky overhead, our advance sighting the enemy now and then on the flanks and front. For four miles the course was westerly; then, in consequence of a false report that a bridge in front near Ox Swamp was burned, to the left five miles, on a road running toward the Santee. Then turning again to the right northwesterly until the road of the morning was again entered, it was pursued toward Manning. On the edge of that town our cavalry had a slight skirmish, driving out a small force. Manning, a town of a few hundred inhabitants, was occupied at dark, after an eighteen-mile march that day. General Potter established himself at Dr. Hagen's house. Major Culp, Twenty-fifth Ohio, Colonel Cooper, One Hundred and Seventh Ohio, and some soldierprinters took possession of ‘The Clarendon Banner’ newspaper office, and changing the title to read ‘The Clarendon Banner of Freedom,’ issued an edition which was distributed. In the evening Colonel Hallowell, receiving orders to build a bridge across Pocotaligo Swamp, moved his force to the river of that name, and prosecuted the work to completion by midnight. [294]

At 1.30 A. M. on the 9th the Second Brigade broke camp, marched to and crossed the Pocotaligo Bridge, and advanced two miles, where it bivouacked in readiness for attack. At daybreak on a rainy morning the troops moved toward Sumterville, through a fine region with numerous plantations, from which the negroes flocked to the force by hundreds. The train had grown to a formidable array of vehicles, augmented every hour. During the morning the enemy's light troops fell back readily after exchanging shots. Information was received that the enemy was to dispute our progress at Dingle's mill on Turkey Creek four miles from Sumterville, with five hundred men, chiefly militia, and three guns. A mile from Dingle's the division halted, and a reconnaissance was made. Hallowell's brigade was then sent to the left and rear of the enemy's position; but the guide furnished proving incompetent, the brigade returned to the main force, arriving after the action was over. At 2 P. M. the skirmishers of the First Brigade pushed toward the swamp, the enemy holding earthworks beyond a burned bridge, and opening with artillery as we came in range. The Twenty-fifth and One Hundred and Seventh Ohio, on either side of the road, moved forward to a dike on the border of the swamp, from which a musketry fire was maintained. At the same time Potter sent the One Hundred and Fifty-seventh and Fifty-sixth New York to turn the enemy's left, which was done, the Rebels retiring, leaving their dead, wounded, and some prisoners, besides the three guns, in our hands.

Our force then crossed the creek, the Twenty-fifth Ohio forcing the enemy into the woods, where they made another stand along a fence skirting the timber. Upon the arrival of the One Hundred and Seventh Ohio, the force advanced [295] and the enemy fled, closing the action, in which our loss was small. The division then moved to Sumterville, arriving at dark, after a march of eighteen miles that day.

Sumterville, on the Manchester and Wilmington Railroad, boasted some good dwellings, two female seminaries, and the usual public buildings. Here the soldier-printers issued a loyal edition of the ‘Sumter Watchman.’ Every one was in fine spirits at having gained the railroad without serious opposition, for the rolling-stock was known to be below on the Camden Branch. Another cause of exultation was the news that Richmond, Mobile, and Selma were in our hands, in honor of which a salute of thirteen shots was fired from the captured guns. During the 10th, the Thirty-Second United States Colored Troops moved along the railroad to Maysville, where some seven cars and a bridge were destroyed. The One Hundred and Second United States Colored Troops went at the same time toward Manchester about three miles, burning a long covered railroad-bridge, four cars, two hundred bales of cotton, a gin-house, and a mill filled with corn. Our regiment, from its bivouac in the town, sent details which destroyed three locomotives, fifteen cars, and the large and thoroughly equipped railroad machine-shop in the place.

Gen. A. S. Hartwell with the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, Fifty-fourth New York, and two guns of the Third New York Artillery, from Charleston, reached Eutaw Springs on April 10, by way of Monk's Corner and Pineville, to co-operate with General Potter. An effort was made to open communication from there by Maj. William Nutt, Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, with two companies of his regiment, which was unsuccessful, for Potter was thirty miles distant. Hartwell's force returned to Charleston on the [296] 12th, with over one thousand negroes and many wagons and draught animals.

Potter resumed the march April 11, leaving the Twentyfifth Ohio as a covering force for the division, the large number of contrabands, and the immense train. The Fifty-fourth passed through Sumterville singing John Brown's hymn in chorus, and with the brigade, reached Manchester after a march of twelve miles. A mile and a half beyond that town the other regiments of the brigade bivouacked toward evening on the Statesburg road; the First Brigade moved on a mile or so farther, camping in a fine grove on the Singleton plantation.

At Manchester the Fifty-fourth was detached, moving along the railroad about six miles and to a point near Wateree Junction. A reconnoissance made by Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper resulted in the discovery at the junction of cars, water-tanks, and several locomotives,—one of which had steam up. It was not known whether there was any armed force there or not; and it was important to seize the locomotive before it could be reversed and the rolling-stock run back. Night had set in. Some sharpshooters were posted to cover an advance and disable any train-men. Then our column, led by Lieutenant Swails, First Sergeant Welch, of Company F, and eighteen picked men, rushed over an intervening trestle for the junction. Swails was the first man of all, and jumped into the engine-cab where, while waving his hat in triumph, he received a shot in his right arm from our sharpshooters, who in the darkness probably mistook him for the engineer. The train-hands, some fifteen in number, fled down the railroad embankment into the swamp.

There were five engines and thirteen cars, besides tanks, [297] a turn-table, and a large quantity of finished timber found at Wateree Junction. Learning from a contraband that there was more rolling-stock to the westward, after first burning the trestle-bridge on the Camden Branch, so that the enemy could not interfere suddenly, Captain Tucker with two companies was sent in search of it. Shortly after, Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper started on the return, leaving Major Pope with a detachment at the junction. Later the One Hundred and Seventh Ohio came there from the direction of Camden along the railroad.

Captain Tucker proceeded some three miles, and secured three locomotives and thirty-five cars without opposition. Steam being up in one engine, to return more rapidly he embarked his men, and himself acting as engineer, ran back until he came in sight of the trestle, which we had fired, supposing he would march back. Captain Tucker thus narrates the sequel:—

‘Knowing that any delay would be dangerous, and that life and death hung in the balance, I crowded on all steam, and we crossed the bridge through flame and smoke in safety, but with not a moment to spare, for scarcely had we accomplished the passage when it tottered and fell, a heap of blazing ruins.’

While coupling cars, Sergeant-Major Wilson and Private George Jarvis of Company K were injured. Lieutenant Swails, with his wounded arm in a sling, assisted by Lieutenant Whitney, took charge of the leading engine and train and proceeded slowly away. The Fifty-fourth men and One Hundred and Seventh Ohio embarked on the cars brought in, Major Pope helping Captain Tucker with his engine. The destruction of all property at the junction was effected, and then the trestle leading toward Manchester [298] was burned after crossing it. As progress was slow with the heavy second train, to lighten it cars were dropped from time to time and destroyed, until at last the engine alone proceeded with the injured men, while the troops marched. Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper's force was joined on the roadside. It was the hope to run the engines and remaining cars to Manchester; but a flue had blown out of Lieutenant Swails's locomotive, so they like the others were burned with the army supplies in them, estimated at a total value of $300,000.

When this was completed, and rest taken, the Fifty-fourth moved on, re-joining the Second Brigade at 7 A. M. on the 12th, after marching twenty-five miles and working all night. Sergeant Wilkins of Company D, relieved from charge of the pioneers by Sergeant Dorsey, of Company I, was appointed acting sergeant-major on the 12th. At 11 A. M. the regiment with the brigade moved forward and joined the First Brigade at Singleton's plantation. From there, on that day, Capt. Frank Goodwin of Potter's staff, accompanied by Lieutenant Newell of Hallowell's, with the Thirty-second United States Colored Troops as escort, took the wounded, several thousand contrabands, and the long train to Wright's Bluff on the Santee, twenty-five miles distant. They found some of our light draught vessels in the river, on which the wounded and the women and children were placed. Captain Goodwin distributed some two hundred captured muskets to the men and sent them overland to Georgetown.

From Singleton's on the 13th the One Hundred and Fifty-seventh New York went to Statesburg, thirteen miles distant, where it destroyed some stores.

The next day the Twenty-fifth Ohio was sent to gain the [299] rear of the enemy on the Statesburg road. Throughout the 13th and 14th the remainder of the division was stationary. Toward evening of the 14th some twenty of the enemy made demonstrations against our Fifty-fourth pickets, and later, Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper, with the right wing of the regiment, reconnoitred for two miles toward Statesburg, but found no enemy, and returned.

Everything was ready for an early advance on the 15th, but it was not made until 3 P. M., when the Thirty-second United States Colored Troops having returned from Wright's Bluff, the division moved from Singleton's. It rained in the afternoon and evening. That morning the Twenty-fifth Ohio, ordered to Statesburg to await the division, encountered the enemy and drove them to Round Hill, where they made a stand, causing the Twenty-fifth some loss in repulsing them from there. Potter coming up with the main force, the One Hundred and Seventh Ohio was sent with six companies of the Twenty-fifth to engage the enemy as a demonstration, while the rest of the division, taking a road five miles from Singleton's, leading to the right, moved to flank the enemy collected on the main road. Potter marched until midnight, making twelve miles, and bivouacked near Jenning's Swamp and Providence Post-Office. The force on the main road after dark withdrew, joining the main column.

April 16, the march was resumed, the colored brigade leading, and Providence Post-Office was left on the right hand. With good weather the route was through a hilly and rolling country sparsely settled with poor whites. A halt was made for dinner at Bradford Springs; and when the column again proceeded, the enemy's skirmishers were encountered, who gave way readily, but kept up a running [300] fight all the afternoon. Private Lewis Clark, of Company C, was killed, and Private Levi Jackson, of the same company, wounded that day while foraging. The skirmishers of the Thirty-second United States Colored Troops killed one Rebel and captured another. By sunset the colored brigade had advanced sixteen miles and camped at Spring Hill.

On the 17th the last forward march of the division was made. It moved at 6.30 A. M. toward Camden, the First Brigade leading, the foe yielding until we came to swampy ground, where works were discovered. There the First Brigade fronted the enemy; and a part of the Twenty-fifth Ohio flanked the position, when the Rebels retired. The Second Brigade was also sent to the left for the same purpose, but its aid was not required. No further opposition was made; and Potter's force entered Camden, the Second Brigade following the First, coming in at dark. Camden was historic ground, for there Gates was defeated by Cornwallis in 1780, and Greene by Lord Rawdon at Hobkirk's Hill near by in 1781. Sherman's Fifteenth Corps entered the town Feb. 24, 1865, after some resistance, when the railroad bridge, depot, and much cotton and tobacco were destroyed. It was ascertained that the rolling-stock had been sent below during our advance from Singleton's, making success assured, though fighting was expected.

Potter turned back from Camden toward Statesburg at 7 A. M. on the 18th. Our main body moved along the pike; the One Hundred and Seventh Ohio on the railroad with only slight resistance until we came to Swift Creek, after marching some seven miles. There the enemy held earthworks running through a swamp and over the higher ground beyond the creek. Gen. P. M. B. Young commanded the Confederates, his force consisting of four hundred men of [301] Lewis's Tennessee, and three hundred and fifty of Hannon's Alabama brigades of mounted men, and Hamilton's field battery.

General Potter, demonstrating with his main body along Swift Creek in front, sent the Fifty-fourth, One Hundred and Second United States Colored Troops, and One Hundred and Seventh Ohio to attempt crossings down the stream to the right, under the guidance of a native. In this flanking movement Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper led the Fifty-fourth along the creek over ploughed fields bordering the wood of the swamp, with Company F, under Captain Bridge, skirmishing. From contrabands it was learned that the swamp was impassable nearer than Boykin's Mills, some two miles from the road. When in the vicinity of the mills, the enemy's scouts were seen falling back.

Leading from a small clearing, a road was found apparently running in the proper direction, and our skirmishers were again ordered forward. Just then Warren Morehouse, of Company E, who had been scouting in the woods to the left, came to Major Pope, saying, ‘Major, there's a lot of Rebs through there in a barn.’ The regiment was moving on; and deeming quick action essential, Major Pope faced the left company about and led it toward the point indicated through the woods; and as we approached, the enemy retired across the stream. This company was left at that point temporarily, and the major hastened to rejoin the regiment.

Captain Bridge pushed forward his skirmishers through the wood bordering the road until the mills were in view. It was found that the stream was there dammed by a dike, the water above it forming a pond. At each end of the dike were sluice-gates, controlling the water, which served [302] to run a grist-mill at one extremity and a saw-mill at the other. The divided waters passed away in two streams, forming a sort of island; but the two branches united farther on. The road discovered ran to the first stream, where the water, seven feet deep, was crossed by a bridge, which had been burned, only a stringer remaining, thence over the island to the second stream, where was a ford through water waist-deep. Some fifteen yards beyond the ford up a slight ascent, the enemy held breastworks of cotton-bales. It was found that the dike and the road were one hundred and fifty yards apart on our side of the creek; but as the stream made a bend there, they met on the enemy's bank.

Captain Bridge's skirmishers, moving rapidly over the road, came to the ruined bridge. The leaders at once attempted to cross over the stringer, but received a volley which killed Corp. James P. Johnson, mortally wounded Corp. Andrew Miller, and wounded Sergeant Bennett and Privates Harding, Postley, and Sylvia, all of Company F. Thus checked, Captain Bridge retired to cover of the ground, keeping up a return fire. Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper, seeing that the position was strong and well defended against an attack in front, determined to make a diversion a quarter of a mile farther down the stream, where a ford was reported to be. He therefore sent Acting Adjutant Whitney to Major Pope with instructions to take the left wing and essay the task under the guidance of an old white-headed negro.

As the left company was already detached, Major Pope took only Companies A, D, G, and I, proceeding by a detour through the woods and swamps, with Company A under Lieutenant Stevens skirmishing; after pursuing a road [303] fringed with heavy timber and underbrush, this force arrived near the point indicated. The enemy was there, for Major Pope and Lieutenant Stevens in crossing the wood-road drew several shots. To feel the strength of the opposing force opposite, Company A, which was in the brush along the bank of the creek, was directed to fire a volley. As if acting under the same impulse, at the very moment this order was executed, the enemy also fired a volley, one shot striking Lieutenant Stevens in the head, killing him instantly. He fell partially into the stream. It was a dangerous duty to remove him; but two men were selected from volunteers, who, crawling forward, brought back his body. As the orders were to entail no unnecessary risk of life, word was sent to Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper of the situation. Captain Chipman with Company D relieved Company A on the skirmish line.

While awaiting the result of Major Pope's flanking movement, Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper caused a musketry fire to be kept up from about the mill and the bridge, which enfiladed the enemy's breastworks. He also caused the sluice-gates of the dam at the first stream to be broken to allow the water in the pond to flow off, that a crossing there might be facilitated should Major Pope's project not succeed. When word came of Major Pope's encounter, Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper sent a message to General Potter informing him that the stream could only be crossed with a considerable sacrifice; but that if a fieldgun was sent him, the enemy might be driven out, or a charge covered. At the same time Major Pope was ordered to hold his position.

A gun having been brought, dispositions were made to charge over the log dike at the mill. Lieutenant Hallett [304] with a force was directed to cross the dam to the island between the streams, and open a covering fire from there when all was ready. Then the gun having fired some half a dozen shells, the Fifty-fourth, led most gallantly by Lieutenant Reed, charged across the dike in single file, receiving the enemy's fire, but causing their precipitate retirement. In this charge Corp. Wm. H. Brown, of Company K, always conspicuous for bravery, was the first enlisted man to gain the farther bank. We sustained the loss of Privates Scott, Freeman, and Green, of Company H; Johnson and Jay, of Company B; and McCullar, of Company K,—all wounded.

This last fight of the Fifty-fourth, and also one of the very last of the war, was well managed by Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper, when less discretion would have resulted in a repulse and heavy loss. The charge was a plucky affair under exceptionally adverse conditions. Our total regimental loss that day was one officer killed, one enlisted man killed, one mortally wounded, and twelve wounded: a total of fifteen, the greatest number of casualties sustained by one regiment in any action during Potter's Raid.

It was about 4 P. M. when the position was carried. Simultaneously with our victorious cheers, the One Hundred and Second United States Colored Troops and One Hundred and Seventh Ohio on the creek above, as well as the troops on the main road, advanced, the enemy flying before them. Major Webster with the cavalry pursued for some distance. At the mills the Fifty-fourth destroyed fifty-four bales of cotton and three of corn fodder used in the breastworks, besides the grist and saw mill. Lieutenant Stevens's body was buried at Boykin's, as was that of Corporal Johnson. Their bodies and resting-places were marked. In [305] July, 1885, through the information furnished by Lieutenant Whitney, secretary of the ‘Association of Officers Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers,’ their bodies were removed to the National Cemetery at Florence, S. C. Lieutenant Stevens was a genial comrade and brave officer. He must have been the last officer, or one of the very last officers, killed in action during the Rebellion.

Leaving Boykin's by a cross-road, the Fifty-fourth marched to the pike and re-joined the division, which proceeded several miles and camped for the night, after making twelve miles that day. A thunder-storm prevailed, the rain continuing all night. At this camp Colonel Chipman, with the right wing of the One Hundred and Second United States Colored Troops, joined Potter's force, having left Charleston April 11, crossed the Santee at Wright's Bluff, and made a bold march, meeting the enemy and losing some men.

April 19, a start was made at 6 A. M., the First Brigade in the lead, the Second Brigade following with the Fifty-fourth as rear-guard. Hardly had the column left camp and passed from the woods into open country, when the enemy was found posted behind breastworks of rails, supported by a piece of artillery. The Twenty-fifth Ohio and One Hundred and Fifty-seventh New York on the road and flank soon drove him thence, and later, from another stand on higher ground, until he retired across Big Rafting Creek. Some forty or fifty of the enemy followed the Fifty fourth in rear during the march, occasionally firing upon us. Reaching the creek, the main body engaged the attention of the foe, while the One Hundred and Second and a wing of the Thirty-second went to flank him on the right; the other wing of the Thirty-second, and the One Hundred and [306] Seventh Ohio, were ordered down the Camden Branch of the railroad. After a slight resistance the enemy fell back.

At noon the Fifty-fourth was relieved as rear-guard, and for the rest of the day was with the advance. It was showery in the afternoon. Our road was through an open hilly country. Near Statesburg at a swamp and creek the enemy again fronted the division; but our skirmishers pressed him over the creek and in spirited style up the rising ground beyond, in full view of the troops. Lieutenant Chickering, of the cavalry, was wounded. Beyond Statesburg the resistance was slight, the column proceeding until 10 P. M., when the Fifty-fourth reached its former camp at Singleton's, having marched eighteen miles.

Fighting was now over. The rolling-stock was ours, massed on the Camden Branch, whence it could not be taken, as the Fifty-fourth had destroyed the trestle at Wateree Junction, on the 11th. General Potter devoted the 20th to its destruction. That day the Fifty-fourth marched to Middleton Depot and with other regiments assisted in the work. About this place for a distance of some two miles were sixteen locomotives and 245 cars containing railway supplies, ordnance, commissary and quartermaster's stores. They were burned, those holding powder and shells during several hours blowing up with deafening explosions and scattering discharges, until property of immense value and quantity disappeared in smoke and flame. Locomotives were rendered useless before the torch was applied. The Fifty-fourth alone destroyed fifteen locomotives, one passenger, two box and two platform cars with the railway supplies they held. After completing this work, the regiment returned to Singleton's. [307]

Every purpose of the movement having been accomplished, on April 21 the return to Georgetown was ordered. It was about one hundred miles distant by the proposed route through Manchester and Fulton Post-Office. Early that morning three companies of the One Hundred and Second United States Colored Troops on picket were attacked by two hundred of the enemy, whom they repulsed. The column started at 6 A. M., the Second Brigade in advance, moving over the Santee River road southwesterly. Our rear-guard was the Twenty-fifth Ohio, the enemy following and attacking near Manning's plantation, but they were driven back.

John L. Manning, a former governor of South Carolina, was at home. He was a distinguished man and one of the leaders of the Union party in nullification times. After the war he was elected United States Senator, but was not allowed to take his seat. He died only recently. While we were at his plantation, a Confederate officer came to the outposts with a flag of truce, to notify General Potter that an armistice had been concluded between Generals Sherman and Johnston. Hostilities were not to be renewed without forty-eight hours notice. This great news created the most intense joy and excitement, for it seemed to end the war, as the Rebels themselves acknowledged. Cheers without number were given, and congratulations exchanged. Then the Fifty-fourth was brought to a field, where the last shots loaded with hostile intent were fired as a salute. Soon after, the march was resumed in sultry weather with frequent showers. Ten miles from the Santee the division bivouacked after completing a journey of twenty miles.

On the 22d the troops continued on over the Santee road. When opposite Wright's Bluff, the wounded, sick, and about [308] five hundred contrabands were sent to the river for transportation by water. News was received of Lee's surrender which, though not unexpected, caused great rejoicing. General Potter turned over the command to Col. P. P. Brown, One Hundred and Fifty-seventh New York, and departed for Charleston to convey news of the armistice. After marching twenty-three miles, the troops halted for the night. At 5.30 A. M., on the 23d, the Second Brigade led out for the day's march. Now that hostilities had ceased, the force was dependent upon such supplies as could be purchased. A very large number of contrabands were with the column, straggling, and obstructing the rapid progress it was desirable to make. The day was cool and pleasant; the route through a fine country mainly, but wooded and low in places. Intelligence of President Lincoln's assassination was received,—sad tidings which could hardly be credited. There was much bitter feeling indulged in by the soldiery for a time. The division accomplished twenty-three miles that day, bivouacking at Stagget's Mill.

April 24, the troops proceeded through a wooded region where no supplies could be obtained. As a substitute for rations two ears of corn were issued to each man. A journey of twenty-three miles was made. Our last bivouac in the field was broken on the morning of April 25th, when in good weather through a timbered country we completed the march. Major Pope and Acting Quartermaster Bridgham preceded the regiment into Georgetown to prepare camp and rations. The troops reached town at 5 P. M. after making twenty-two miles.

Potter's Raid occupied twenty-one days, during which the troops marched some three hundred miles. About three thousand negroes came into Georgetown with the [309] division, while the whole number released was estimated at six thousand. Our train was very large, for besides innumerable vehicles, five hundred horses and mules were secured, of which number the Fifty-fourth turned in one hundred and sixty.

Having taken possession of the old camp, the regiment rested. By the 28th troops began to depart for other posts. A tragedy occurred in the Fifty-fourth, on the 30th, when Private Samuel J. Benton shot and killed Corp. Wm. Wilson, of Company A, in a private quarrel. Benton was tried and sentenced to imprisonment, serving time until December, 1865, when he was pardoned.

Orders came for the Fifty-fourth to report at Charleston, when transportation could be furnished. Captain Bridge, with Companies A, F, and H, embarked on the steamer Island City, May 4, and sailed, accompanied by Colonel Hallowell, in the morning. Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper, with Companies D, E, G, and K, sailed on the same steamer, May 6th; and the next day Major Pope, with Companies B, C, and I, followed on the ‘Loyalist.’

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Camden, S. C. (South Carolina, United States) (5)
Hallowell (Maine, United States) (3)
Florence, S. C. (South Carolina, United States) (3)
Williamsburgh (South Carolina, United States) (2)
Savannah (Georgia, United States) (2)
Raleigh (North Carolina, United States) (2)
Providence, R. I. (Rhode Island, United States) (2)
Kingville (South Carolina, United States) (2)
Winyaw Bay (South Carolina, United States) (1)
United States (United States) (1)
Turkey Creek (Virginia, United States) (1)
Thorntree Swamp (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Tennessee (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Spring Hill (Tennessee, United States) (1)
South Carolina (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Selma (Alabama, United States) (1)
Round Hill, Ark. (Arkansas, United States) (1)
Rafting Creek (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Pineville (Missouri, United States) (1)
Ox Swamp (South Carolina, United States) (1)
New Market (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Maysville (Alabama, United States) (1)
Manning, S. C. (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Johnson's Swamp (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Jenning's Swamp (New York, United States) (1)
Fayetteville (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Eutaw Springs (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Darlington, Darlington County, South Carolina (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Columbia (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Cheraw (South Carolina, United States) (1)

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Singleton (7)
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Watson W. Bridge (6)
Stephen A. Swails (5)
William L. Whitney (4)
William T. Sherman (4)
William B. Rogers (4)
James P. Johnson (3)
Edward N. Hallowell (3)
Quincy A. Gillmore (3)
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1781 AD (1)
1780 AD (1)
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