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SHERMAN PREPARES TO MARCH,
SII ERMAN'S MARCH THROUGH THE CAROLINAS.—THE CAPTURE OF FORT FISHER.
AVING made the necessary orders for the disposition of his troops at Savannah, General Sherman directed his chief engineer (Captain Poe) to examine the works around the city and its vicinity, with a view to their future use. He directed portions of them, including Forts McAllister, Thunderbolt, and Pulaski, to be put in perfect order. The
remainder were to be dismantled and destroyed, and their heavy armament sent to Hilton Head. Savannah was made a base of supplies. The formidable obstructions in the river were sufficiently removed to allow the passage of vessels, and the torpedoes which abounded were gathered up under the direction of Admiral Dahlgren. ments were completed by the first of January, when General Sherman was ready for a march northward through the Carolinas. Sherman appointed the 15th of January” as the day when he would com
mence his march. The Seventeenth Corps, of Howard's troops,
was sent by water, around by Hilton Head, to Pocotaligo, on thie Charleston and Savannah railway, where it had made a lodgment by the day above named, and from that point seriously menaced Charleston. The left wing, under Slocum, accompanied by Kilpatrick's cavalry, was to have crossed the Savannah River on a pontoon bridge laid at the city; but incessant rains, which flooded the country, swelled the streams and overflowed the swamps on their margins, had caused the submergence of a causeway which Slocum had constructed opposite Savannah, and broken up his pontoon bridge. He was compelled to look higher up the river for a passage, and marched his troops to Sister's Ferry, or Purysburg. The delay caused by the flood prevented Slocum getting his entire wing of the army across the Savannah River until the first week in February.
In the mean time, General Grant had sent to Savannah Grover's division of the Nineteenth Corps, to garrison that city, and had drawn the Twentythird Corps, under General Schofield, from General Thomas's command in Tennessee, and sent it to re-enforce Generals Terry and Palmer, operating on
the coast of North Carolina, to prepare the way for Sherman's January 18.
advance. Sherman transferred Savannah and its dependencies to General Foster, then commanding the Department of the South, with instructions to follow Sherman's inland movements by occupying, in succession, Charleston and other places. Hardee, with the troops with which he fied from Savannah, was then in Charleston, preparing to defend it to the best of his ability.
INVASION OF SOUTH CAROLINA.
Sherman had advised General Grant that it was his intention “to undertake, at one stride," after leaving Savannah, "to make Goldsboro', and open communications with the sea, by the New Berne railroad," and for that purpose, he sent Colonel W. W. Wright, superintendent of military roads, to New Berne to prepare for extending the railway from that place to Goldsboro?. Meanwhile, during the delay caused by the floods, some feints were made from Pocotaligo of an
HARDEE'S HEAD-QUARTERS IN CHARLESTONI advance on Charleston, and thereby Hardee was kept from interfering with Sherman's preparations for his proposed “stride.” Finally, when the waters had somewhat subsided, and every thing was in readiness for an advance, the posts at the Tullifinny and Coosawhatchie rivers were abandoned as useless, and the troops along the Charleston and Savannah railway were concentrated at Pocotaligo.
Sherman's whole army moved forward on the first of February, nearly in a due north course, toward Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. the roads in that direction had, for weeks, been held by Wheeler's cavalry, who had employed a large force of negroes in felling trees and burning bridges in the expected pathway of Sherman's march. In the face of these obstacles, and with a well-organized pioneer force to remove them, the Nationals moved forward. Slocum, with Kilpatrick's cavalry comprising the left wing, pressed through the wet swamps from Sister's Ferry toward Barnwell, threatening Augusta; while the right wing, keeping westward of the Salkhatchie River, made for the crossings of that stream at River's and Beaufort bridges, for the purpose of pushing on to the Edisto River, and thus flanking Charleston. These movements, at the outset, so distracted the foe with doubt whether Augusta or Charleston was Sherman's chief objective, that his forces were divided and weakened in the service of watching.
This formidable invasion, produced wide-spread alarm. When Sherman was lying at Savannah, the speculative opinion that he would attempt it, was met by the assurance and general belief that the march of a great army, with all its trains, across the swampy regions of South Carolina in midwinter, was a physical impossibility. Yet the fact that the National forces had so often overthrown all such speculations by actual achievements, had taught leaders wisdom; and, to prepare for any emerg
* Dec. 29,
1864. ency, Governor Magratho had, by proclamation, summoneda to
1 Hardee's head-quarters were at the house of Mr. Wickenberg, on Ashley Street, opposite the front of the United States Arsenal. General Saxton also had his head-quarters there, after the Confederates evacuated · Charleston,
3 See page 49, volume I.
SHERMAN'S SECOND GREAT MARCH.
. Feb., 1865.
the field, as militia, every white man in the State between the ages
of sixteen and sixty years, not already in the service. So urgent seemed the need, that he threatened conscription for all who should not volunteer. But very few of that militia force confronted the National troops anywhere in South Carolina.
The Confederates occupied the line of the Salkhatchie with infantry and artillery, at important points, while Wheeler's cavalry hovered around the advance of the National army; and when the Seventeenth Corps, with which Sherman was moving, approached River's Bridge, over that stream, and the Fifteenth moved on Beaufort Bridge, they found a force ready to dispute the passage of each. Those at River's Bridge were soon dispersed by the divisions of Generals Mower and G. A. Smith, of the Seventeenth Corps, who made a flank movement under extraordinary difficulties. They waded through a swamp three miles in width, with the water from one to four feet in depth, the generals wading at the head of the columns. The weather was bitter cold, and the water was almost icy in temperature. But the work was accomplished. The foe was quickly scattered in a disorderly retreat to Branchville, behind the Edisto, burning bridges behind them, and inflicting a loss on the Nationals of nearly one hundred men. The latter pressed rapidly on to the South Carolina railroad, at Midway, Bamberg, and Graham's stations, and destroyed the track for many miles. Kilpatrick, meanwhile, was skirmishing briskly, and sometimes heavily, with Wheeler, as the former moved, by Barnwell and Blackville, toward Aiken and threat
ened Augusta; and by noon, on the 11th," the Nationals had
possession of the railway from Midway to Johnson's Station, thereby dividing the Confederate forces which remained at Branchville and Charleston on one side, and Aiken and Augusta on the other.
Sherman now moved his right wing rapidly northward, on Orangeburg. The Seventeenth Corps crossed the south fork of the Edisto at Binnaker's Bridge, and the Fifteenth Corps passed over it at Holman's Bridge. These converged at Poplar Spring, where the Seventeenth, moving swiftly on Orangeburg, dashed upon the Confederates intrenched in front of the bridge near there, and drove them across the stream. The latter tried to burn the bridge, but failed. They had a battery in position behind the bridge, covered by a parapet of cotton and earth, with extended wings. This Blair confronted, with General G. A. Smith's division posted close to the Edisto, while two others were moved to a point two miles below. There Force's division, supported by Mower's, crossed on a pontoon bridge. When Force approached the Confederates, they retreated, and Smith crossed over and occupied their works. The bridge was soon repaired, and, by four o'clock
that afternoon, the whole of the Seventeenth Corps was in Orange
burg, and had begun the work of destruction on the railway connecting that place with Columbia.
Without wasting time or labor on Branchville or Charleston, which Sherman knew the Confederates would no longer hold, he now turned all his columns straight on Columbia. The Seventeenth Corps pushed the foe across
the Congaree, forcing him to burn the bridges, and then followed
the State road directly for the capital of South Carolina, while the Fifteenth crossed the South Edisto from Poplar Spring at Schilling's
► Feb. 12.
. Feb. 14.
SHERMAN MOVES ON COLUMBIA.
. Feb. 16,
Bridge, and reached the State road at Zeigler's. They found the Confederates in strong force at a bridge over the Congaree Creek, which was defended by a heavy battery on the north side, that swept it, and a weaker one at the head of the bridge, on the south side. This tete-du-pont was turned by the division of General C. R. Woods, by sending Stone's brigade through a cypress swamp on the left. The Confederates fled after trying in vain to burn the bridge. Over it the main column of the Fifteenth passed, and bivouacked that night near the great bridge that spans the Congaree, in front of Columbia, where the Confederates, in and around that city, shelled them. That bridge was burned the next morning a by the occupants of Columbia, when the National vanguard approached it.
In the mean time the left wing of the army, under Slocum, had pushed steadily forward some distance to the westward of the right, but with the same destination, Columbia. For awhile Augusta trembled with fear as his host passed by; and the troops for its defense were kept on the alert day and night. But Slocum was very little troubled excepting by Wheeler's cavalry; and those troopers were kept too busy by Kilpatrick to be very mischievous. Through the swamps and across the streams he trudged on, by Barnwell, Windom and Lexington, for the Saluda (which, with the Broad River, forms the Congaree at Columbia), hearing now and then of the approach of troops from the westward. Beauregard and Bragg had, in turn and in conjunction, tried in vain to thwart Sherman's plans, and the Conspirators, in their despair, had turned to General Johnston as their only hope for the maintenance of their cause below the Roanoke. That able officer was now again in command in that region, and at the time we are considering, Cheatham was moving from Northern Mississippi with the remnant of Hood's army, with orders to get in front of Sherman, and, in co-operation with Hardee at Charleston, arrest his progress through South Carolina.
But Sherman's movements were too rapid to allow Cheatham to execute his order, and the National army was at Columbia before any of Hood's men appeared. Slocum had not been molested by them, and he arrived upon the banks of the Saluda, a few miles from Columbia, at almost the same hour when Howard reached it, after the burning of the bridge over the Congaree. The Nationals had tried to save that fine structure, but failed. They could see the inhabitants hastening about the streets,' and occasional squads of cavalry. Upon the latter a single gun of De Grass's battery fired. But this Sherman checked, and limited him to a few shots at the unfinished State House.
1 * Terrible, ineanwhile, was the press, the shock, the rush, the hurry, the universal confusion-such as might naturally be looked for in the circumstances of a city from which thousands were preparing to fly without previous preparations for flight-burdened with pale and trembling women, their children, and portable chattels, trunks and jewels, family bibles, and the lares familières. The railroad depot for Charlotte was crowded with anxious waiters upon the train, with a wilderness of luggage-millions, perhaps, in value-much of which was finally lost. The citizens fared badly. The Governments of the State and of the Confederacy absorbed all the inordes of conveyance."-Sack and Destruction of the City of Columbia, page 10.
? The author of the little pamphlet above quoted, speaks of this firing as if a regular bombardment of the city had occurred. He says the shells “ fell thick and fast about the town;" and he complains that “no summons to surrender had been made; no warning of any kind was given." I have recorded in the text substantially what Sherman says on the subject, in his report. The anthor above quoted says: “ The damage was comparatively slight. The new capitol was struck five times, but suffered little or no injury.” That building was commenced sometime before the war, and was designed to be the finest structure of the kind in the Union, and the most costly. It is of light-colored granite, with the surface smooth from base to roof. Its order of architecture is pure Corinthian throughout. It was not more than half completed when the war broke out, and labor upon it ceased. The picture on the next page shows it as it will appear when finished.
SURRENDER OF COLUMBIA.
IIoward had marched up from the burning bridge to the Saluda, by Sherman's orders, with directions to cross that stream and the Broad River, and
march upon Columbia, from the north. Slocum was
lso ordered to cross both rivers, and to march directly upon Winnsboro', destroying the Greenville and Columbia rail
road around the village ALII
of Alston, where it crosses the Broad River. Both orders were
executed. Howard crossed the Sa
luda'on a pon• Feb. 16,
near Granby, and made a flying bridge that night over the Broad
River, three miles above Columbia. Over that the brigade of Colonel Stone (Twenty-fifth Iowa Infantry), of Woods's division of the Fifteenth (Logan's) Corps, passed, and under its cover a pontoon bridge was laid on the morning of the 17th. General Sherman was there, and at eleven o'clock information reached him that Mr. Goodwyn, mayor of the city, with a deputation of the common council, had come out in a carriage, and made a formal surrender of Columbia to Colonel Stone.
There seemed to have been no adequate military force for its protection. Wheeler's cavalry had done all in its power, in front of the National army, but the advance of the latter was irresistible. The shallow Beauregard was in command at Columbia. As usual, he had promised much, but did little. He made a slight show of resistance and withdrew, leaving Hampton's cavalry as a rear-guard for covering the flight of the Creole's army. Governor Magrath and suite, and a large train of officials had fled, and nothing could save the town from destruction but a peaceable surrender. This was done at the time when a small party of the Seventeenth Corps had crossed the Congaree in a skiff, and entered the city from the west, unopposed. Before noon, on the 17th of February, the National flag, so dishonored at the chief seaport of South Carolina four years before, was waving in triumph over the old and new Capitols of the State at the seat of Government.
In anticipation of the occupation of the city, Sherman had made written orders to General Howard, touching the conduct of the troops. They were to destroy absolutely all arsenals and public property not needed for the use of the army, as well as all railroads, depots and machinery, useful in war to an enemy, "but to spare all dwellings, colleges, schools, asylums, and harmless private property.” The commanding general was the first to cross the pontoon bridge, and, in company with General Howard, rode into the city. It was already in possession of General Stone, who had posted men about it
1 General Sherman's Report, dated April 4, 1865.