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Chapter 40:

  • Gen. Sherman's new base at Savannah.
  • -- he prepares to march through the Carolinas. -- Gen. Grant's first idea to bring Sherman's army to Virginia by water. -- opening of the Carolina campaign. -- Howard's movement towards Charleston. -- the line of the Salkahatchie taken. -- Slocum threatens Augusta. -- junction of the two columns in the vicinity of the Augusta and Charleston Railroad. -- scenes of license and plunder on Sherman's march. -- savage atrocities. -- the track of fire. -- Sherman's “bummers.” -- what was thought of them in Washington. -- Sherman turns his columns on Columbia. -- disposition of the Confederate forces between Augusta and Charleston. -- why Columbia was not defended. -- gallantry of Gen. Wade Hampton. -- sack and destruction of Columbia. -- Sherman's solemn promise to the Mayor. -- robbery and outrage in the streets. -- the Catholic convent. -- some of the Federal soldiers tell of the proposed destruction of the town. -- it is fired in twenty places. -- horrors of the conflagration. -- scenes of misery and ruin. -- proofs that Sherman was responsible for the fire. -- array of evidence on this subject. -- fall of Charleston. -- the city evacuated by Hardee. -- occasion of delay by President Davis. -- an explosion and conflagration. -- appearance of the city after four years of conflict. -- capture of Fort Fisher. -- fall of Wilmington. -- the enemy's views of the importance of Wilmington. -- how it was to be used as another base of operations towards Richmond. -- its capture auxiliary to Sherman's movement. -- the first expedition against it. -- Butler's powder-ship. -- failure of the expedition. -- the Butler -- Grant controversy. -- second expedition against Wilmington. -- Gen. Bragg again on the military stage. -- how the enemy effected a landing above Fort Fisher. -- want of vigilance on the part of the Confederates. -- Gen. Hoke flanked and retreats. -- the Fort taken by assault. -- co-operation of, the enemy's fleet. -- its terrible fire. -- Gen. Bragg evacuates Wilmington. -- Grant's instructions to Schofield to co-operate with Sherman. -- the campaign in North Carolina. -- Sherman moves apparently towards Charlotte, and deflects to Fayetteville. -- movement of the co-operating columns from Wilmington and Newbern. -- Gen. Bragg engages the enemy near Kinston. -- success of the Confederates. -- arrival of Schofield and Terry at Goldsboroa. -- Sherman pushes on there. -- Gen. Johnston's command, and distribution of the Confederate forces. -- Hardee loses two-thirds of his army by desertions. -- he engages the enemy near Averysboroa, and is compelled to fall back. -- the engagement at Bentonville. -- Johnston fights two corps of the enemy and Kilpatrick's cavalry with fourteen thousand men. -- success on the Confederate right. -- Johnston holds his ground against the whole of Sherman's army, and retreats deliberately to Smithfield. -- Sherman's arrival at Goldsboroa. -- conference at city point of Sherman, Grant and President Lincoln

[662] In capturing Savannah, Sherman not only obtained a great prize in ordnance and cotton, which, after a fashion somewhat Oriental, he designated as a “Christmas gift” to his master in Washington. He also obtained a position of great military value. From the banks of the Savannah River, he beheld opened before him all the avenues into and through South Carolina, and discovered a new route, reaching to what had now become the last and contracted theatre of war in the Confederacy. The Northern newspapers declared that when Sherman's legions looked across the Savannah to the shores of Carolina, they sent up a “howl of delight.” There was a terrible gladness in the realization of so many hopes and wishes — in seeing the most hated State of the South almost prostrate, and offering the prospect of outrage with impunity.

It had been the first idea of Gen. Grant, anticipating the arrival of Sherman at Savannah, that, after establishing a base on the sea-coast, with necessary garrison to include all his artillery and cavalry, he should come by water to City Point with the remainder of his command, to ensure the capture of Lee's army or to smother it with numbers. But this plan of operations was changed. “On the 18th of December,” writes Gen. Grant, “having received information of the defeat and utter rout of Hood's army by Gen. Thomas, and that, owing to the great difficulty of procuring ocean transportation, it would take over two months to transport Sherman's army, and doubting whether he might not contribute as much towards the desired result by operating from where he was, I wrote to him to that effect, and asked him for his views as to what would be best to do. A few days after this I received a communication from Gen. Sherman, of date of 16th of December, acknowledging the receipt of my order of the 6th, and informing me of his preparations to carry it into effect as soon as he could get transportation. Also, that he had expected upon reducing Savannah, instantly to march to Columbia, South Carolina, thence to Raleigh, and thence to report to me; but that this would consume about six weeks time after the fall of Savannah, whereas by sea he could probably reach me by the middle of January. The confidence he manifested in this letter of being able to march up and join me, pleased me; and, without waiting for a reply to my letter of the 18th, I directed him, on the 28th of December, to make preparations to start, as he proposed, without delay, to break up the railroads in North and South Carolina, and join the armies operating against Richmond, as soon as he could.”

The middle of January saw Sherman's troops actually in motion for the Carolina campaign. His right wing, under Howard, was taken by [663] water to Beaufort, where it began to move up the Charleston Railroad; while the left wing, under Slocum, with Kilpatrick's cavalry, was to cross the Savannah at Sister's Ferry, and move up towards Augusta. The design of this disposition of forces was to confuse the Confederates as to Sherman's real objective point, and divide their forces at Augusta from those at Charleston and its vicinity, under the impression that each place was threatened; thus preventing their concentration, which might readily make the rivers successive lines of defence, and eluding any opposition until he had passed Columbia, which was really his first objective point.

Howard's movement on the right threatened Charleston and Branchville; and while one division remained at Pocotaligo to keep up the appearance of marching on Charleston by the railroad bridge near that point, the remainder of the command moved up the Salkahatchie River, crossed, almost without opposition, what might have been made a line of strong defence, and pushed on for the Augusta and Charleston Railroad. On the 6th February, Howard occupied two points on this railroad, at Ramburg and at Midway, and commenced destroying the track. Sherman's left wing had struck the road further up, towards Augusta, and had also commenced the work of destruction.

In reaching this important line of communication, Sherman's march had been tracked by fire. The well-known sight of columns of black smoke attested its progress. In Georgia not many dwelling-houses were burned; in South Carolina the rule was the other way, and positively everything was given to destruction and pillage. The country was converted into one vast bonfire. The pine forests were fired, the resin factories were fired, the public buildings and private dwellings were fired. The middle of the finest day looked black and gloomy, for a dense smoke arose on all sides, clouding the very heavens. At night the tall pine trees seemed so many pillars of fire.

The scenes of license and plunder which attended these conflagrations were even more terrible. Long trains of fugitives lined the roads, with women and children, and horses and stock and cattle, seeking refuge from the pursuers. Long lines of wagon covered the highways. Half-naked people cowered from the winter under bush-tents in the thickets, under the eaves of houses, under the railroad sheds, and in old cars left them along the route. Habitation after habitation, village after village, sent up its signal flames to the others, and lighted the sky with crimson horrours. Granaries were emptied, and where the grain was not carried off it was strewn to waste under the feet of the cavalry, or consigned to the fire which consumed the dwelling. The roads were covered with butchered cattle, hogs, mules, and the costliest furniture. Valuable cabinets, rich pianos, were not only hewn to pieces, but bottles of ink, turpentine, oil, whatever could efface or destroy, was employed to defile and ruin. Horses were [664] ridden into the houses. Beautiful homesteads of the parish gentry, with their wonderful tropical gardens, were ruined. Ancient dwellings of black cypress, one hundred years old, were given to the torch as recklessly as were the rude hovels. Choice pictures and works of art, from Europe, select and numerous libraries, objects of peace wholly, were all destroyed. The inhabitants were left to starve, compelled to feed only upon the garbage to be found in the abandoned camps of the soldiers. The corn scraped up from the spots where the horses fed, was the only means of life left to thousands lately in affluence.

Sherman had in his army a service which he seems proud to have exhibited as a novel and unique feature — that of so-called “bummers.” The wretches thus curiously designated, were allowed as irregular foragers to eat up and plunder the country, often going twenty miles from the main columns to burn, to steal, to commit nameless crimes, always assured of welcome to the main body if they returned with horses embellished with strings of poultry or stolen vehicles laden with supplies. How far this worse than brigandish service was recognized by Gen. Sherman may be judged from the fact that, when at the close of the war, his army had a triumphal procession in Washington, the department of “bummers” was represented in the line; and the crowd of admirers that pressed upon it was excessively entertained by men on scraggy mules, laden with broken furniture and household goods, representing the prowess of cut-throats and thieves.1

Sack and destruction of Columbia.

Columbia was surrendered to the enemy in the morning of the 17th [666] February, by the mayor, Mr. Goodwyn, who asked for the citizens “the treatment accorded by the usages of civilized warfare.” Sherman promised this. As night approached, perceiving that the mayor was exhausted by his labours of the day, he counselled him to retire to rest, saying: “Not a finger's breadth, Mr. Mayor, of your city shall be harmed. You may lie down to sleep, satisfied that your town shall be as safe in my hands as if wholly in your own.” Such was very nearly the language in which he spoke; such was the substance of it. He added: “It will become my duty to destroy some of the public or Government buildings; but I will reserve this performance to another day. It shall be done tomorrow, provided the day be calm.” With this assurance the mayor retired.

But the work of pillage had begun when the Federal troops had first reached the head of Main street. Stores were broken open, and the contents strewn on the side-walk; citizens were robbed in the street; no one felt safe in his own dwelling. 2 Robbery was going on at every cornerin [667] nearly every house. It was useless to complain. Crowds of escaped prisoners, soldiers, and negroes, intoxicated with their new-born liberty, [668] which they looked upon as a license to do as they pleased, were parading the streets in groups. The reign of terrour did not fairly begin till night. In some instances, where parties complained of the misrule and robbery, Federal soldiers said to them, with a chuckle: “This is nothing. Wait till to-night, and you'll see h-11.”

In the town of Columbia was a Catholic convent, the Lady Superiour of which had educated Gen. Sherman's daughter, and now laid claim to his protection for the young women in her charge. A guard of eight or ten men were detailed for the institution. But a Catholic officer in Sherman's army visited the convent, warned the Lady Superiour of danger, and whispered to her, “I must tell you, my sister, Columbia is a doomed city.”

A few moments later, while Mayor Goodwyn was conversing with a Federal soldier, three rockets were shot up by the enemy from the capitol square. As the soldier beheld these rockets, he cried out: “Alas! alas! for your poor city! It is doomed. Those rockets are the signal. The town is to be fired.” In less than twenty minutes after, the flames broke out in twenty distinct quarters.

Engines and hose were brought out by the firemen, but these were soon driven from their labours — which were indeed idle against such a storm of fire-by the pertinacious hostility of the soldiers; the hose was hewn to pieces, and the firemen, dreading worse usage to themselves, left the field in despair. Meanwhile, the flames spread from side to side, from front to rear, from street to street. All the thoroughfares were quickly crowded with helpless women and children, some in their night-clothes. Agonized mothers, seeking their children, all affrighted and terrified, were rushing on all sides from the raging flames and falling houses. Invalids had to be dragged from their beds, and lay exposed to the flames and smoke that swept the streets, or to the cold of the open air in back yards.

The scene at the convent was a sad one. The flames were fast encompassing the convent, and the sisters, and about sixty terrified young ladies, huddled together on the streets. Some Christian people formed a guard around this agonized group of ladies, and conducted them to Sidney Park. Here they fancied to find security, as but few houses occupied the neighbourhood, and these not sufficiently high to lead to apprehension from the flames. But fire-balls were thrown from the heights into the deepest hollows of the park, and the wretched fugitives were forced to scatter, finding their way to other places of retreat, and finding none of them secure. Group after group, stream after stream of fugitives thus pursued their way through the paths of flaming and howling horrour, only too glad to fling themselves on the open ground, whither, in some cases, they had succeeded in conveying a feather-bed or mattress. The malls, or open squares, the centres of the wide streets, were thus strewn with piles of bed. [669] ding, on which lay exhausted figures, or crouched women and children wild with terrour. Every hour of the night was fraught with scenes of horrour such as we have described. By midnight, every large block in the business portion of the town was consumed. A lady said to an officer at her house, somewhere about four o'clock in the morning: “In the name of God, sir, when is this work of hell to be ended?” He replied: “You will hear the bugles at sunrise, when a guard will enter the town and withdraw these troops. It will then cease, and not before.”

The sun rose with a wan countenance, peering dimly through the dense vapours which seemed wholly to overspread the firmament. The best and most beautiful portion of Columbia lay in ruins. Eighty-four squares of buildings had been destroyed, with scarcely the exception of a single house. The capitol building, six churches, eleven banking establishments, the schools of learning, the shops of art and trade, of invention and manufacture, shrines equally of religion, benevolence, and industry were all buried together in one congregated ruin. Nothing remained but the tall, spectre-looking chimneys. The noble-looking trees that shaded the streets, the flower-gardens that graced them, were blasted and withered by fire. On every side there were ruins and smoking masses of blackened walls, and between, in desolate groups, reclining on mattress, or bed, or earth, were wretched women and children gazing vacantly on the site of what had been their homes. Roving detachments of the soldiers passed around and among them. There were those who looked and lingered nigh, with taunt and sarcasm. Others there were, in whom humanity did not seem wholly extinguished; and others again, to their credit be it said, who were truly sorrowful and sympathizing, who had labored for the safety of family and property, and who openly deplored the dreadful crime.

An attempt has been made to relieve Gen. Sherman of the terrible censure of having deliberately fired and destroyed Columbia, and to ascribe the calamity to accident or to carelessness resulting from an alleged order of Gen. Hampton to burn the cotton in the city. This explanation is a tardy one, and has come only after Gen. Sherman has observed the horrour which this crime has excited in the world, and realized some of its terrible consequences. To the imputation against Gen. Hampton, that chivalrous officer, whose word friend nor foe ever had reason to dispute, has replied in a public letter: “I deny emphatically that any cotton was fired in Columbia by my order. I deny that the citizens ‘set fire to thousands of bales rolled out into the streets.’ I deny that any cotton was on fire when the Federal troops entered the city. ... I pledge myself to prove that I gave a positive order, by direction of Gen. Beauregard, that no cotton should be fired; that not one bale was on fire when Gen. Sherman's troops took possession of the city; that he promised protection to the city, and that, in spite of his [670] solemn promise, he burned the city to the ground, deliberately, systematically and atrociously.”

The facts are, as we have seen, that Columbia was fired in twenty different places at one time; that several hours before the commencement of the fire, a Federal officer had given warning at the Ursuline Convent that Columbia was doomed; and that just before the conflagration a Federal soldier, pointing to a signal of rockets, declared to the Mayor that the city was to be fired. There are living witnesses to attest these facts. But it has also been pertinently asked: Why did Sherman's soldiers prevent the firemen from extinguishing the fire as they strove to do? Why did they cut the hose as soon as it was brought into the streets? Why did they not assist in extinguishing the flames? Why, with twenty thousand men encamped in the streets, did they suffer mere stragglers, as the incendiaries were represented, to succeed in a work of such extent Every circumstance shows that the conflagration was deliberately planned; that it was fed and protected by the soldiers; while the universal plundering simultaneous with it went unchecked, and was plainly part of the object attained through the means of fire.

The burning of Columbia was but of a piece with Sherman's record, and the attempt to exculpate him in this particular is but little consistent and plausible in view of his general conduct from the moment when he entered South Carolina. He had burned six out of every seven farmhouses on the route of his march. Before he reached Columbia, he had burned Blackville, Graham, Ramberg, Buford's Bridge, Lexington, and had not spared the humblest hamlet. After he left Columbia, he gave to the flames the villages of Allston, Pomaria, Winnsboroa, Blackstock, Society Hill, and the towns of Camden and Cheraw. Surely when such was the fate of these places, the effort is ill-made to show that an exception was to be made in favour of the State capital of South Carolina, the especial and notorious object of the enemy's hate and revenge, and which, for days before the catastrophe, had been designated as “the promised boon of Sherman's army.”

Fall of Charleston.

The march of Sherman, which traversed South Carolina, was decisive of the fate of Charleston. At Savannah, the Federal commander had been asked if he intended taking Charleston. He answered, “Yes; but I shall not sacrifice life in its capture. If I am able to reach certain vital points, Charleston will fall of itself. If the people remain there, they must starve, that's all.”

The loss of Charleston was a severe trial to President Davis, who had [671] a peculiar affection for the city. Even when Gen. Beauregard directed the evacuation of the city, so as to provide a force with which to fall upon Sherman, the President wrote such a despatch to Gen. Hardee, commanding in Charleston, as led him to suspend the evacuation, and obliged Beauregard to assume command, and to direct imperatively the measure to be completed.

Gen. Hardee completed the evacuation of the city on the 17th February. He destroyed the cotton warehouses, arsenals, two iron-clads, and some vessels in the ship-yard; but he was compelled to leave to the enemy all the heavy ordnance that could not be brought off, including two hundred pieces of artillery, which could only be spiked and temporarily disabled. A terrible incident of the evacuation, was an accidental explosion of powder in the large building at the depot of the Northwestern railroad, destroying several hundred lives. The building was blown into the air a whirling mass of ruins. From the depot the fire spread rapidly, and, communicating with the adjoining buildings, threatened destruction to that part of the city. Four squares, embracing the area bounded by Chapel, Alexander, Charlotte and Washington streets, were consumed before the conflagration was subdued.

Charleston came into the enemy's possession a scarred and mutilated city. It had made a heroic defence for nearly four years; for blocks not a building could be found that was exempt from the marks of shot and shell; what were once fine houses, presented great gaping holes in the sides and roof, or were blackened by fire; at almost every step were to be found evidences of destruction and ruin wrought by the enemy. After a display of heroism and sacrifice unexcelled in the war, this most famous city of the South fell, not by assault, or dramatic catastrophe, but in consequence of the stratagem of a march many miles away from it.

The evacuation of Charleston having been successfully accomplished, Hardee and Beauregard retired to Charlotte, whither Cheatham was making his way from Augusta to join them.

Capture of Fort Fisher-fall of Wilmington.

An important branch of Sherman's expedition through the Carolinas led from Wilmington. It was proposed by Gen. Grant to open still another base of operations towards Richmond, and with the capture of Wilmington, to effect an early communication with Sherman, and to sustain his march north by a co-operating column. Besides, it was important to get possession of Wilmington, as the most important sea-coast port left to the Confederates, through which to get supplies from abroad, and send cotton and other products out by blockade-runners. The Federal navy [672] had been unable to seal the harbour, and Secretary Welles had been forced to confess, that fifty fast Federal steamers had been quite unable to maintain the blockade here. The theory of the enemy was that the nature of the outlet of Cape Fear River was such that it required watching for so great a distance, that without possession of the land north of New Inlet, or Fort Fisher, it was impossible for the navy to entirely close the harbor against the entrance of blockade runners.

An expedition directed by Gen. Grant, in the close of December, 1864, to capture Fort Fisher, had failed of success. For this expedition there had been assembled in Hampton Roads, under command of Admiral Porter, what Gen. Grant designated as “the most formidable armada ever collected for concentration upon one given point.” The co-operating land force consisted of sixty-five hundred men, detached from Gen. Butler's command before Richmond. The expedition got off on the 13th December. Accompanying it was a vessel loaded with a large quantity of powder, to be exploded as near the fort as possible; Gen. Butler having obtained the singular idea of levelling the fort, or demoralizing the garrison by the shock of the explosion. The boat was blown up in the night of the 24th December, and attracted such little attention that the Confederates supposed it to be nothing more than the bursting of one of the enemy's guns, and were never enlightened as to the object of the explosion until informed of it by Northern newspapers.

Porter's fleet had already commenced a bombardment of the fort; and on the 25th December, under cover of this fire, a landing was effected by the enemy without opposition, and a reconnoissance pushed up towards the fort. The result of the reconnoissance was that Gen. Butler declined to attack, and very suddenly ordered the re-embarkation of the troops and the return of the expedition. This conduct of Butler was the occasion of his removal from command, and of a sharp recrimination which ran through official documents, newspapers, and even the lowest forms of personal controversy between himself and Gen. Grant. In a letter published in a Northern journal, Gen. Butler congratulated himself that he had retired from command, without having on his skirts the blood of his soldiers needlessly sacrificed-referring to Grant's list of butcheries and utter disregard of life in the Virginia campaign; and it could be said, if his powder ship had proved a ridiculous toy, it was at least not so expensive as Grant's experiment with the mine at Petersburg.

The fleet did not follow Butler's transports, and the persistence of Porter encouraged Grant to make another attempt to take Fort Fisher and secure Wilmington. He selected Gen. Terry to command the second expedition. The troops composing it consisted of the same that composed the former, with the addition of a small brigade numbering about fifteen hundred men, and a small siege train. The expedition sailed from Fortress [673] Monroe on the 6th January, 1865, but, owing to the difficulties of the weather, did not reach its destination until the 12th.

Gen. Braxton S. Bragg appeared again on the military stage, thrust there by President Davis, in the second defence of Wilmington. A Virginia newspaper announced the event irreverently, as follows: “Gen. Bragg has been appointed to command at Wilmington: Goodbye Wilmington!” There was no confidence in this Confederate commander; and although Fort Fisher had held out against a naval bombardment, and its garrison was largely increased when Bragg took command, it was very much feared that the enemy would obtain with him some new advantage, would effect some surprise, or succeed by some untoward event.

These fears were to be exactly realized. Fort Fisher consisted of two fronts — the first, or land front, running across the peninsula, at this point seven hundred yards wide, was four hundred and eighty yards in length, while the second, or sea front, ran from the right of the first parallel to the beach, to the Mound Battery--a distance of thirteen hundred yards. The land front was intended to resist any attack from the north; the sea front to prevent any of the enemy's vessels from running through New Inlet, or landing troops on Federal Point.

It was evidently the important concern to prevent a landing of the enemy's troops, or to dislodge them as soon as they got ashore; and Bragg's forces were disposed with that view, Gen. Hoke holding a line north of Fort Fisher. On the 13th January, Terry succeeded, under a heavy fire from the fleet, in landing several thousand troops on the seabeach, some five or six miles above Fort Fisher. The place of landing was admirably selected; the troops being disembarked just above the neck of the sound, interposing a small surface of water between them and an attacking force, or compelling such force to work around the lower extreme of the sound-either of which movements would have to be executed under the fire of the whole fleet.

It was the purpose of Hoke to attack the enemy as soon as he advanced, and his cavalry was thrown out on his right flank, to observe the movements of the enemy, and report his first step towards establishing a line across the neck of land to the river. But it was found the next morning, that through the imperfect vigilance of the Confederates, the enemy had laid out a second line. During the night his troops, passing between Hoke's cavalry, and threading their way through the thick marshy undergrowth, made their way to the river, and next morning held an intrenched line on Hoke's right flank, extending nearly across the peninsula. Gen. Bragg at first gave the order to charge the enemy in his works, but after a close reconnoissance which discovered his force and position, determined to withdraw after reinforcing the fort, which was held by Gen. Whiting, [674] with a garrison increased to about twenty-five hundred men. In the afternoon the enemy pushed a reconnoissance within five hundred yards of the fort. It seemed probable that troops could be got within two hundred yards of the work without serious loss; and it was a matter of doubt with the enemy, whether the necessary ammunition could be supplied by the open beach, if regular approaches were determined on. It was decided to assault the next day.

While these movements on land were taking place, the enemy's fleet had held Fort Fisher enveloped in a terrific fire for three days. More than four hundred guns poured torrents of shells and missiles on every spot. There were three divisions of the fleet — the first, led by the “Brooklyn,” numbered one hundred and sixteen guns; the second, by the “Minnesota,” one hundred and seventy-six guns; and the third, composed of gunboats, with one hundred and twenty-three guns. During the afternoon of the 15th January--the day appointed for the assault-this immense armament poured in a concentric fire upon the fort; and while the tossing clouds of smoke incessantly rolled up from the water, Terry organized his force for the assault-three deployed brigades following one another, at intervals of about three hundred yards, and each making its final rush for the west end of the land face of the fort.

The rapid fire from the water prevented the Confederates from using either artillery or musketry, on the advancing lines of the enemy, until they had got within sixty yards of the fort, when the fire of the fleet lifted so as not to involve the assaulting column. The Confederates were brought to the charge after having been packed in the bomb-proofs for fifty-six hours, many of them benumbed and exhausted. Capt. Braddy's company guarding the sally-port gave way. From seven to about ten o'clock at night, the fighting went on from traverse to traverse; it was a hand-to-hand fight, a heroic defence, in which bravery, endurance and devotion failed to overcome numbers. The enemy had not lost a man until he entered the fort, and the loss that he confessed to in the entire affair of seven or eight hundred killed and wounded, must have taken place within its inclosures. The garrison at last driven from the fort, retreated down the peninsula to the cover of some works near the inlet. But further resistance was useless; and about midnight, Gen. Whiting surrendered himself and men as prisoners of war, numbering over eighteen hundred, the remainder of his force being killed or wounded.

The fall of Fort Fisher ultimately decided the fate of Wilmington. It was followed by the blowing up of Fort Caswell, and the abandonment of the works on Smith's Island, which gave the enemy entire control of the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Fort Anderson, the main defence on the rest bank of the river, was evacuated on the 19th February, on the appearance of Porter's fleet before it, in conjunction with a land force under [675] Schofield moving up both sides of the river. Wilmington was occupied without resistance; and the command of Gen. Bragg, which had remained idle there for more than a month (despite the earnest protest of Gen. Beauregard, who in vain had represented to President Davis that with the fall of Fort Fisher Wilmington became useless, and that the command there should be used at the earliest possible moment in the field against Sherman), was at last moved to what had now become the dominant theatre of hostilities in the Carolinas.

The new base which the enemy had now opened, was well defined by Gen. Grant as auxiliary to Sherman. The State of North Carolina, was constituted into a new military department, and Gen. Schofield, whose corps had been transferred here from the Tennessee lines, was assigned to command. The following instructions were given him by Gen. Grant:

City Point, Va., January 31, 1865.
General: Your movements are intended as co-operative with Sherman's through the States of South and North Carolina. The first point to be attained is to secure Wilmington. Goldsboro will then be your objective point, moving either from Wilmington or Newbern, or both, as you deem best. Should you not be able to reach Goldsboro, you will advance on the line or lines of railway connecting that place with the sea-coast-as near to it as you can, building the road behind you. The enterprise under you has two objects: the first is to give Gen. Sherman material aid, if needed, in his march north: the second, to open a base of supplies for him on his line of march. As soon, therefore, as you can determine which of the two points, Wilmington or Newbern, you can best use for throwing supplies to the interiour, you will commence the accumulation of twenty days rations and forage for sixty thousand men and twenty thousand animals. You will get of these as many as you can house and protect to such point in the interiour as you may be able to occupy. ...

The campaign in North Carolina.

When Sherman left behind him the smoking ruins of Columbia, it was thought by the Confederates that he would move towards Charlotte, where all the rolling stock of the railroads destroyed had been run, and from which it could not be removed, on account of the railroad beyond that being of a different gauge. On the 21st February, Sherman passed through Winnsboro on the road to Charlotte; but on the 23d, his army suddenly swung on a grand right wheel, and moved rapidly off towards Fayetteville. On the 12th March, it reached Fayetteville. Meanwhile preparations had been made by the enemy on the coast, for a movement on Goldsboro in two columns-one from Wilmington, and the other from Newbern-and to repair the railroad leading there from each place, as well as to supply Sherman by Cape Fear River toward Fayetteville, if it became necessary. The column from Newber was attacked on the 8th March, near Kinston, [676] by Gen. Bragg, with his own troops and Hill's division of the Army of Tennessee. The enemy was completely routed, and fifteen hundred prisoners taken. On the 9th March, Gen. Bragg found the enemy several miles in rear strongly entrenched, and, after a faint attack, drew off.

On the 14th, this body of the enemy, under Schofield, crossed the Neuse River, occupied Kinston, and entered Goldsboro on the 21st. The column from Wilmington reached Cox's Bridge on the Neuse River, ten miles above Goldsboro, on the 22d.

It remained now for Sherman to keep the rendezvous and complete the combination. But to do so and make the last stage of his march, it was clear that he would have to do some more important and severe fighting than he had experienced since he and Johnston parted at Atlanta — the latter General having been put in command of the Confederate forces in the Carolinas. It appeared indeed that a formidable army was at last collecting in his pathway. Beauregard at Charlotte, had been reinforced by Cheatham and the garrison at Augusta, and had had ample time to move in the direction of Raleigh. Hardee had evacuated Charleston, in time to keep ahead of Sherman, and was moving to the same point. It was easy for Bragg and Hoke in North Carolina also to effect a junction with these forces, swelling them, it would be supposed, to a formidable army. But this army, which appeared so imposing in the enumeration of its parts, was no match for Sherman. When the enemy's campaign in South Carolina commenced, Hardee had eighteen thousand men. He reached Cheraw with eleven thousand, and Averysboro with about six thousand. Eleven hundred State troops left him between those places by order of Gov. Magrath of South Carolina; but the balance of his great loss was due, almost entirely, to desertions. These figures are from an official source, and show without the aid of commentary how low had fallen the military organization and spirit of the Confederacy.

On the 15th March Sherman put his army in motion from Fayetteville. In the narrow ground between Cape Fear River and Black Creek, which becomes Black River, and empties into the Cape Fear below Fayetteville, Gen. Hardee was posted, his force consisting of two small divisions under Maj.-Gens. McLaws and Taliaferro. He held his ground, without difficulty, on the 16th. But at night, finding that the Federal right had crossed Black River and moved towards Goldsboro, and that the left was crossing the creek as if to turn his position, he abandoned it before daybreak, and reached Elevation, on the road to Smithfield, at noon of the 17th.

On the 17th Gen. Bragg was encamped near Smithfield with Hoke's North Carolina division, four thousand seven hundred and seventy men. Lieut.-Gen. Stewart was in the same neighbourhood with nearly four thousand of the Army of Tennessee, under Maj.-Gens. Loring, D. H. Hill, and Stevenson. [677]

At daybreak of the 18th a report was received from Gen. Hampton, to the effect that the Federal army was moving on Goldsboro in two columns: the 15th and 17th corps, on the direct road from Fayetteville to that place, and the 14th and 20th on that from Averysboro. By previous reports the former was nearly a day's march in advance of the latter, which would probably reach the point opposite Bentonsville early on the 19th. That place is about two miles north of the road, and sixteen miles from Smithfield. By the State map the roads followed by the Federal troops are twelve miles apart here, and Elevation twelve miles from Bentonsville. Orders were immediately given for concentration there that evening. Bragg's and Stewart's troops reached the ground easily. But Hardee's were unable to do so. Bentonsville is incorrectly placed on the map, and its distance from Elevation much greater than is indicated, and no direct road could be found. Consequently Hardee arrived not until the morning of the 19th. In the mean time the enemy came up, and attacked Hoke's division, which had been formed across the road, Stewart's corps on its right, its own much thrown forward. This attack was so vigorous that Gen. Bragg called for aid, and McLaw's division then arriving, was sent to him; the other, Taliaferro's, was placed on Stewart's right. Before these troops got into position, the attack on our left had been repulsed, as well as a subsequent one upon Loring's division. Hardee was then directed to charge with Stewart's troops and Taliaferro's division, the latter being thrown on the enemy's left flank. Bragg's troops were ordered to join in the movement successively, from right to left.

On the right, where the ground was open, the attack was perfectly successful, driving the 14th corps back at least a mile and a half into dense thickets; but the progress of the left was soon stopped in very thick woods by entrenchments. The fight began at three o'clock, and continued until dark. Wheeler's cavalry was to have fallen upon the rear of the Federal left; but a swollen creek which intervened kept it out of action. After burying the dead as far as practicable at; night, and removing his wounded and many of those of the enemy, Gen. Johnston resumed his first position.

The battle-known as that of Bentonsville-although it had failed to fulfil what was probably Johnston's purpose, to cripple Sherman before he could effect a junction with Schofield, had been a most creditable affair for the Confederates. With fourteen thousand men they had encountered the 14th and 20th corps of the enemy and Kilpatrick's cavalry, an aggregate probably of forty thousand men.

On the 20th the whole Federal army was in Johnston's front, which was changed parallel to the road. The Confederates were compelled to hold their ground that day and the next, to cover the operation of carrying off their wounded. Sherman's whole army was before them, and made many partial attacks, all of which were repulsed. On the afternoon of the [678] 21st, the 17th corps penetrated the thin line of cavalry which formed the Confederate left, and almost reached a bridge in rear of the centre, over which lay the only road left to Johnston. It was easily driven back by the reserve.

Before daybreak on the 22d Gen. Johnston moved towards Smithfield, leaving a few wounded who were too much injured to bear removal. His loss in the three days was two hundred and twenty-four killed, one thousand four hundred and ninety-nine wounded, and more than three hundred prisoners. That of the enemy must have been much greater, as the Confederates had the advantage in the fighting, and generally fought under cover. More than eight hundred prisoners were reported.

The junction of Sherman's and Schofield's forces was effected at Goldsboroa the next day. It made an army of more than one hundred thousand men within one hundred and fifty miles of the lines in Virginia. No sooner had Sherman disposed his army in camp about Goldsboroa than he hastened to City Point, where he had a conference with Gen. Grant, at which President Lincoln was present, and where was settled the final plan of combination against Richmond; it being intended that Sherman should move to the line of the Roanoke and thence on the Richmond and Danville road, or directly to the front of Petersburg. But this plan was never carried into operation; Grant saw reason to anticipate it; and the fate of Richmond was decided without any participation of Sherman in the catastrophe.

1 A correspondent of the New York Herald, who accompanied Sherman's march through the Carolinas, gives the following definition of “the bummer :”

Any man who has seen the object that the name applies to, will acknowledge that it was admirably selected. Fancy a ragged man, blackened by the smoke of many a pine-knot fire, mounted on a scraggy mule, without a saddle, with a gun, a knapsack, a butcher-knife, and a plug hat, stealing his way through the pine forests far out on the flanks of a column, keen on the scent of rebels, or bacon, or silver spoons, or corn, or anything valuable, and you have him in your mind. Think how you would admire him if you were a lone woman, with a family of small children, far from help, when he blandly inquired where you kept your valuables. Think how you would smile when he pried open your chests with his bayonet, or knocked to pieces your tables, pianos, and chairs, tore your bed-clothing in three-inch strips, and scattered them about the yard. The “bummers” say it takes too much time to use keys. Colour is no protection from these roughriders. They go through a negro cabin, in search of diamonds and gold watches, with just as much freedom and vivacity as they “loot” the dwelling of a wealthy planter. They appear to be possessed of a spirit of “pure cussedness.” One incident of many will illustrate: A bummer stepped into a house and inquired for sorghum. The lady of the house presented a jug, which he said was too heavy; so he merely filled his canteen. Then taking a huge wad of tobacco from his mouth, he thrust it into the jug. The lady inquired, in wonder, why he spoiled that which he did not want. “Oh, some feller'll come along and taste that sorghum, and think you've poisoned him; then he'll burn your d-d old house.” There are hundreds of these mounted men with the column, and they go everywhere. Some of them are loaded down with silver-ware, gold coin, and other valuables. I hazard nothing in saying three-fifths (in value) of the personal property of the counties we have passed through were taken by Sherman's army.


At our last account of the stages of Sherman's march he had gained the peninsula formed by the Salkahatchie and Edisto Rivers, and had now the choice of going to Augusta or Charleston. He declined both places. In his official report, he says: “Without wasting time or labour on Branchville or Charleston, which I knew the enemy could no longer hold, I turned all the columns straight on Columbia.” On the 16th February, his advance was drawn up on the banks of the Saluda in front of Columbia.

It had been hoped to the last by the people of Columbia that the town would be vigorously defended, and made a point of decisive contest in Sherman's pathway. But the old, wretched excuse of want of concentration of the Confederate forces was to apply here. Gen. Hardee was not the man to grasp the business of a large army, and he had never had his forces well in hand. The remnants of Hood's army, the corps of Cheatham and Stewart, had been brought to Augusta, to find that Sherman had given the cold shoulder to it, and moved down the railroad. On the lower part of the road, Hardee could not be persuaded that Charleston was not the chief object of Sherman's desires, and so lay behind his fortifications, at Branchville, to protect it. In this uncertainty of purpose there was no force afield sufficient to check Sherman's course. The only Confederate troops which contested his advance upon Columbia consisted of the mounted men of Hampton, Wheeler, Butler, etc., and, although they made stubborn head against the enemy, their opposition could not, of course, be more than that of severe skirmishing.

Yet, to the last moment, it was hoped Columbia might be saved. It was asserted that the corps of Cheatham and Stewart were making forced marches, with a view to a junction with the troops under Beauregard, and such was the spirit of the Confederate troops, and one of the Generals at least, that almost at the moment when Sherman's advance was entering the town, Hampton's cavalry was in order of battle, and only waiting the command to charge it. But the horrours of a street fight in a defenceless city, filled with women and children, were prudently avoided; and the Confederate troops were drawn off from the scene at the very hour when the Federals were entering it. The gallant and chivalrous Hampton was eager to do battle to the last; when it was proposed to display a white flag from the tower of the City Hall, he threatened to tear it down; he reluctantly left the city, and so slowly that a portion of his command passed on the road to Winnsboroa in sight; of the column of the enemy, giving it the idea of a flank movement of cavalry.


We are indebted for many incidents of the sack and destruction of Columbia to a publication in the Daily Phoenix. We group some of these incidents to make a partial picture of outrages innumerable and almost indescribable:

At an early hour in the day, almost every house was visited by groups, averaging in number from two to six persons. Some of these entered civilly enough, but pertinaciously entered, in some cases, begging for milk, eggs, bread and meat — in most cases, demanding them. In the house, parties less meek of temper than these pushed their way, and the first intimation of their presence, as they were confronted at the entrance, was a pistol clapped at the head or bosom of the owner, whether male or female.

“ Your watch! ” “Your money! ” was the demand. Frequently, no demand was made. Rarely, indeed, was a word spoken, where the watch or chain, or ring or bracelet, presented itself conspicuously to the eye. It was incontinently plucked away from the neck, breast or bosom. Hundreds of women, still greater numbers of old men, were thus despoiled. The slightest show of resistance provoked violence to the person.

The venerable Mr. Alfred Huger was thus robbed in the chamber and presence of his family, and in the eyes of an almost dying wife. He offered resistance, and was collared and dispossessed by violence.

In the open streets the pickpockets were mostly active. A frequent mode of operating was by first asking you the hour. If thoughtless enough to reply, producing the watch or indicating its possession, it was quietly taken from hand or pocket, and transferred to the pocket of the “ other gentleman,” with some such remark as this: “A pretty little watch that. I'll take it myself; it just suits me.” And the appropriation followed; and if you hinted any dislike to the proceeding, a grasp was taken of your collar, and the muzzle of a revolver put to your ear.


The venerable Mr. H-stood ready, with his couteau de case made bare in his bosom, covering around the persons of his innocent daughters. Mr. O--, on beholding some too familiar approach to one of his daughters, bade the man stand off at the peril of his life; saying that while he submitted to be robbed of property, he would sacrifice life without reserve-his own and that of the assailant-before his child's honour should be abused.

Mr. James G. Gibbes with difficulty, pistol in hand, and only with the assistance of a Yankee officer, rescued two young women from the clutches of as many ruffians.


A Mrs. J- was but recently confined. Her condition was very helpless. Her life hung upon a hair. The men were apprised of all the facts in the case. They burst into the chamber-took the rings from the lady's fingers-plucked the watch from beneath her pillow, and so overwhelmed her with terrour, that she sunk under the treatment, surviving their departure but a day or two.

In several instances parlours, articles of crockery, and even beds, were used by the soldiers as if they were water-closets. In one case, a party used vessels in this way, then put them on the bed, fired at and smashed them to pieces, emptying the filthy contents over the bedding.

In several cases, newly made graves were opened, the coffins taken out, broken open, in search of buried treasure, and the corpses left exposed. Every spot in grave-yard or garden, which seemed to have been recently disturbed, was sounded with sword, or bayonet, or ramrod, in the desperate search after spoil.


A lady spoke indignantly to General Atkins, of Sherman's army, and said of that General, “He wars upon women!”

“Yes,” said Atkins, “and justly. It is the women of the South who keep up this cursed rebellion. It gave us the greatest satisfaction to see those proud Georgia women begging crumbs from Yankee leavings; and this will soon be the fate of all you Carolina women.”

Escorting a sad procession of fugitives from the burning dwellings, one of the soldiers said:

“What a glorious sight! ”

“Terribly so,” said one of the ladies.

“Grand! ” said he.

“Very pitiful,” was the reply.

The lady added:

“ How, as men, you can behold the horrours of this scene, and behold the sufferings of these innocents, without terrible pangs of self-condemnation and self-loathing, it is difficult to conceive.”

“ We glory in it! ” was the answer. “ I tell you, madam, that when the people of the North hear of the vengeance we have meted out to your city, there will be one universal shout of rejoicing from man, woman and child, from Maine to Maryland.”

“ You are, then, sir, only a fitting representative of your people.”

Another, who had forced himself as an escort upon a party, on the morning of Saturday, said, pointing to the thousand stacks of chimneys, “You are a curious people here in house-building. You run up your chimneys before you build the house.”

One who had been similarly impudent, said to a mother, who was bearing a child in her arms:

“ Let me carry the baby, madam.”

“Do not touch him for your life,” was the reply. “I would sooner hurl him into the flames, and plunge in after him than that he should be polluted by your touch. Nor shall a child of mine ever have even the show of obligation to a Yankee!”

“ Well, that's going it strong, by--; but I like your pluck. We like it d-e ; and you'll see us coming back after the war-every man of us — to get a Carolina wife. We hate your men like h-l, but we love your women! ”

“ We much prefer your hate, even though it comes in fire. Will you leave us, sir?”

It was not always, however, that our women were able to preserve their coolness and firmness under the assaults. We have quite an amusing story of a luckless wife, who was confronted by a stalwart soldier, with a horrid oath and a cocked revolver at her head.

“ Your watch! your money! you d-d rebel b-h!”

The horrid oaths, the sudden demand, fierce look and rapid action, so terrified her that she tried out, “ Oh! my G — d! I have no watch, no money, except what's tied round my waist!”

We need not say how deftly the Bowie-knife was applied to loose the stays of the lady.

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