I am preparing to march my army north as soon as supply is complete. Bad weather is delaying the ships. The Fifteenth Corp will start to move to Pocotaligo on the 19th and take up a defensive position there. It will threaten Charleston and protect the right flank when we begin. I am receiving reports of the positions of the enemy:
HDQRS. DEPARTMENT AND ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, Beaufort, S. C., January 17, 1865.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:
I inclose you reports of reconnaissances made from Pocotaligo. If Slocum is at Robertsville, as proposed, will he not feel forward toward my troops or Foster’s? You will notice Blair’s requests regarding supplies. I have directed him to build a wharf, as he desired, but cannot well throw up supplies there till we get through transporting the Fifteenth Corps.
From some information I have received, I am inclined to the belief that the enemy will draw off from Charleston. One road is pretty good from here to Pocotaligo, but likely to rut badly in places and break through the crust if it rains. I have sent you Vandever and Harrow. I do not wish to displace our young officers who have “borne the burden and heat of the day. ” I think they had better retire from the service, in order that these young men may have their places. Harrow is a brave man, but he left us. Sweeney has been cleared, but I don’t want him or Veatch. They, too, might be mustered out, with a view to the interest of the service, and in order to promote efficient, true, and hard-working men.
O. O. HOWARD, Major-General.
General Blair Reports from Pocotaligo:
Lieutenant McQueen has returned, and reports that he met Colonel Gage, with the Twenty-ninth Missouri and Seventh Illinois Mounted Infantry, at New River bridge, about ten miles from Savannah, and that the bridge was destroyed so that he could not cross. Colonel Gage reports that a portion of the Twentieth Corps were in camp about five miles side of Savannah, and that they had orders to move at 8 o’clock this a.m., but had not moved when he left them. Two divisions of the Fifteenth Army Corps were ordered to move by the same route, but had not yet started. They had heard of the taking of Pocotaligo through General Howard’s dispatch. The bridges on the road from Grahamville to New River bridge are all destroyed. Lieutenant McQueen reports that General Hatch’s command are destroying the railroad.
General Davis Reports:
My command has been preparing for the coming campaign, with the following success: All the divisions are wanting in ammunition, which they will be able to procure probably by tomorrow evening. All the divisions are still deficient in clothing, but expecting it daily. My quartermaster reports but two day’s forage in the corps, and is informed that the forage intended to fill up our trains cannot be gotten tonight; that it is on transports on the river and may be expected at any time. The corps cannot move tomorrow as expected, without great inconvenience arising from leaving these things behind. Please lay this report without delay before the general commanding the wing for his information and instructions.
General Foster sends news from HILTON HEAD:
Fort Fisher was taken at 10 p.m. on the 15th by assault; 1,780 well prisoners and 72 guns. Have dispatches for you. I will start with them at once.
Report of rebel defensive works on the Charleston and Savannah Railroad from the Edisto to the marches on the Savannah River.
Edisto. -At the crossing of the Edisto, no works known; bridge, 350 feet in length; no troops near the river above the bridge, and no manned batteries believed to be below it. November, 1864.
Ashepoo. -Bridge, 300 feet long; country open; earth-work at railroad station north of the river. On the right bank of the river, a short distance above the bridge, is a slight epaulement without guns. Between Ashepoo and Pocotaligo lives a man named Buther, who, in November, 1864, had captured more than seventy escaped Union officers by dogs.
Salkehatchie. -Bridge, 200 feet long; no works there or between there and Pocotaligo.
Combahee. -Battery at Combahee Ferry, behind a creek and between the creek and road, made to run earth-works into. The ferry is three miles from the railroad, and in September an infantry company was stationed there. Small battery with one iron gun on Tar Bluff; another battery, not large, on Field’s Point, at the mouth of the Combahee; small work with one large iron gun at the near side of the ferry on William’s (Williams’?) Island. Bull River navigable. The creek running by Kean’s Neck (sometimes called Summer House Island) is not for steam-boats. Four miles from Combahee Ferry, on a creek running into Combahee River, are salt-works at which fifty men are employed.
Pocotaligo. -No troops at Pocotaligo, except at the station; two cavalry companies at New Station; five men at Pocotaligo Station in September, 1864; militia regiment under Major Sorwin at Pocotaligo Station; three companies South Carolina cavalry at Pocotaligo in September, 1864. The depot for troops is at Pocotaligo and all stores were issued thence in July, 1864. The station is a mile and a half from Pocotaligo. The railroad bridge is only ten yards long. An inclosed work at the old bridge with three large guns, the ditch about five feet deep; no force stationed at the battery; very heavy works. At Pocotaligo, to the right of the main-road bridge, are works with seven guns. The works extend from the bridge all the way down to the Union road. At Pocotaligo and Port Royal Ferry in July, 1864, were part of Fourth Georgia Cavalry (500), the companies Third South Carolina Cavalry (150), Bachman’s and Stuart’s batteries (250).
McPhersonville. -Not fortified; two batteries of light Artillery there, but no infantry, in September, 1864.
From Pocotaligo to Port Royal Ferry. -The country is open with back water for rice plantations; it is easy to go through; but few troops on the road. When you pass Garden’s Corners to the left (going from the ferry to Pocotaligo) on the Union road there are obstructions and a field-work commanding the main road; and still farther to the left near Bridge Church is another work. On the Union road above Sheldon Church are more obstructions (abatis), but no works. Above where Stony Creek crosses the Pocotaligo road there is an earth-woks. Stony Creek is not fordable below the road, but is above, where there are rice fields with water standing about knee deep. Seven miles from the ferry is a mud fort with two guns (apparently same captured by Captain Gouraud December 5, 1864); cannon broken and lying by road about a mile and a quarter from ferry. From the cannon on a line toward the creek in open woods, a negro says, there were torpedoes, kind unknown, in August, 1864.
Port Royal Ferry. -Picket of lieutenant and five men in September, 1864; picket relieved from Pocotaligo; slight earth-works, fallen to decay; about 100 yards from causeway, west of road, in the brush on heavy, hard ground, about thirty yards from marsh, nearly opposite where the ambulance wagon stops is a heavy mine, got at by a trapdoor; it is close to the Major’s quarters. An extra guard is stationed ten or fifteen yards beyond it, evidently intended to watch it. Nothing of the kind was seen by the reconnaissance of December 5, 1864.
Coupon’s Bluff. -Below Page ‘s Point; a good landing, and no works on the road till you reach Stony Creek Church.
From Pocotaligo to Mackay’s Bluff. -Breast-works at Causton’s place with places for light guns; also at the bridge at Causton’s and at the bridge near Frampton’s. Both these creeks can be forded above the bridge, but not below.
From Pocotaligo to Tullifinny River. -No works either on the railroad or the dirt road, except woks facing Mackay’s Point. (See above.)
Tullifinny River. -Railroad bridge, 150 yards long; dirt-road to bridge, 75 to 100 yards long; no works at railroad bridge. On dirt road at Mason’s Bridge, on Pocotaligo side of the creek, is a battery for field pieces. The existence of such battery is denied.
Peninsula between Tullifinny and Coosawhatchie Rivers. -Intrenchments along line of road alleged to exist to not exist. From lower landing to cross-roads, four miles, and from upper landing to cross-roads, three miles and three-quarters; from coss-road to railroad, one-quarter of a mile (this is wrong; it is at least half a mile, probably more); from cross-roads to either bridge on the dirt road, three-quarters of a mile. No works on road leading up the peninsula; country mostly open, with some belts of woods till reaching cross-roads, thence thick wood with some openings, but no beaten road to railroad; rivers fringed by woods; sixteen men from Kanapaux’s company on picket at Gregory’s.
Coosawhatchie River. -Railroad bridge on trestles fifty feet (?) long; fifty yards long, no trestle work; in three sections, 200, 150, and 100 yards long, respectfully. Dirt road runs along railroad; bridge is the same (wrong); two planks run along middle of railroad bridge; dirt road bridge, 75 or 100 yards long. On December 6 regiment of Georgia Reserves (300 or 400) near bridge; Artillery said to be there. Country between railroad and dirt road open, with woods in a bend of river on north side, houses on south side. On south side of Coosawhatchie are heavy works for six guns, with rifle-pits; works not closed up. The railroad runs through the batteries; one large and one small battery on either side of the railroad; they look south and down the river.
Dawson’s Landing. -Good landing; open, hard ground; no woods or marsh; two bridges of about fifteen feet each not far from landing. You can go round the bridges. The bottom is hand. Battery with two guns, one a 32-pounder, near the house.
From Coosawhatchie to Grahamville. -No batteries on railroad.
From Boyd’s Neck to Coosawhatchie and Grahamville. -From landing to cross-roads, two and a quarter miles; on Coosawhatchie road, from cross-road to Newhall Church, about one mile and a half; two small earth-works across the road, one on either side of the Newhall Church; from Newhall Church to the swamp, Bee Creek, a mile and a half. Two hundred yards from swamp, Bee Creek, toward the cross-roads, is a battery covering also the Grahamville and Coosawhatchie road. On the 5th of December there were in this battery two 6-pounders and one 12-pounder. There is a cross road from the Boyd’s Neck to the Grahamville road before reaching this battery. The road leading from the cross-roads to Grahamville is disused and partly overgrown. From battery at fork of the roads to Grahamville is five miles from Grahamville, is a stout Little battery. From cross-roads to the church where the road turns to Grahamville is one mile (rather more). From church to Honey Hill is three miles. At Honey Hill is battery with no guns permanently in it; infantry intrenchments in woods on either side of battery; battery 500 yards from sharp turn of the road in densely wooded country (Captain Gourand, aide-de-camp); 200 yards (Colonel Gurney, One hundred and twenty-seventh New York); battery on thirty feet rise of ground (Brigadier General E. E. Potter, U. S. Volunteers, Colonel Gurney); from battery at Honey Hill to Grahamville two miles; no battery between Honey Hill and Grahamville.
Grahamville. -In September no work at Grahamville; in July eight companies of cavalry and battery of Artillery; in September Captains Peeples’ and Howard’s companies of cavalry and Lieutenant Johnson’s section of rifled brass guns, the same which were used at Chimney Point.
From Grahamville to Savannah River. -No batteries between Grahamville and Ferebeeville. On the road leading from Ferebeeville to the Coosawhatchie and Bluffton road are two works, one on each side of the road, about three miles from Ferebeeville. At New River is a good railroad bridge 150 yards long. At Hardeeville in August, 1864, was a battery of Artillery. At Bluffton in September, 1864, was Captain Kirkland’s cavalry company and some Artillery.
Palmer sends reports from New Berne:
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA, New Berne, N. C., January 17, 1865.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Savannah, Ga.:
I have just received a letter from Brigadier General E. D. Townsend, assistant adjutant-general, written on the 16th instant, from on board the steamer S. R. Spaulding, and inclosing to me the order annexing the District of North Carolina to the Department of the South, and directing me to furnish you certain information concerning the command in North Carolina.
In a communication to Rear-Admiral Porter, and in a private letter written to you on the 13th instant, both of which you have doubtless ere this received, I gave you in general terms the information called for in the letter of General Townsend. I shall, however, inclose herewith reports from my own headquarters, together with those in detail from the sub-districts and stations under my command up to the 10th instant. I believe they explain themselves. Since that date no material changes have taken place. I shall also inclose a report of the ordnance and ordnance stores on hand in the arsenal here, together with a statement of the armament of the various works in this command, since the date of which no particular changes have taken place. I will also state that we keep constantly on hand at least ninety day’s rations for all the troops in the district.
For fear that you may not have received the communication already referred to as having been sent you by Admiral Porter, I will state:
1. The railroad. -This is in tolerable running order from Morehead City to Batchelder’s Creek, which is our extreme outpost on the railroad toward Kinston, and with Little trouble I can place it in order as far as Core Creek, ten miles farther. From Core Creek to Kinston, a distance of about eighteen miles, the road had been in a great measure destroyed, but, as the grade is still preserved, it could be easily relaid. I have, however, no iron here to do this. There are now on the road four engines, two passenger cars, about ten each of box-cars and crates, and twenty platform-cars in order, and twenty which can be repaired.
2. Water transportation. -This consists of eight small steamers, fit only for the rivers and sounds, and two tugs. None of these are in very good order, and barely sufficient to transact business about the sounds.
3. Outposts. -These extend in a line toward Kinston, from the Trent to the Neuse River, a distance of about twelve miles; all the points of this line being about eight miles from New Berne.
The number of troops at the different stations, as shown by the returns inclosed, are barely sufficient to hold them. All the troops that could possible be spared from this district were sent to Virginia early in the spring of 1864. I have, however, been able from time to time to send off various expeditions into the interior, which I flatter myself had the effect to hold no inconsiderable force of the enemy in this State, and away from other scenes of active operations.
4. Fortifications. -The different fortifications and field-works are in good condition, well armed and supplied, but weakly garrisoned.
In General Townsend’s letter he informs me that you direct that the crossing of the Neuse at Kinston be at once secured. With regard to this, I would state that the Neuse River can be forded at one or more points a few miles above and below Kinston at the ordinary stage of the river. To secure the railroad crossing of the Neuse River at Kinston it will be necessary to capture and hold securely that place. Two of my scouts have this morning returned from near Kinston, and I am satisfied from the information I have obtained from them that there is only a small force, not to exceed two or three regiments, with from twelve to sixteen pieces of light Artillery, in and about Kinston. But the bridge on the south and east side of the Neuse is defended by field works with some heavy guns. Now, while I think it possible, with the force which I can collect, to capture Kinston, it is very doubtful whether it could be held, and I was just on the point of making a visit to Lieutenant-General Grant for the purpose of obtaining a small additional force, say four regiments of infantry, for the purpose of capturing and holding that town until I could put the railroad in order from that place to this, as I have calculated that you would certainly very soon send a force through North Carolina, when it will be all important for you to have your communication with the coast complete.
Now, general, I take it for granted that you will approve of my sending direct to General Grant to ask for this additional force, and to beg of him to send here as soon as possible the necessary material and men to finish the road from here to Kinston; consequently I shall do so.
In the meantime, however, I shall organize as quietly as possible as strong a force as I can, for the purpose of capturing Kinston, and if you think the attempt had better be made whether we can hold it or not, it shall be done.
I do not know whether the rebels can spare any troops to re-enforce Kinston at this time, but in all former expeditions to that place we have found that they could quickly pour down from Goldsborough a force far superior in numbers to any we could bring against them.
I have no means of ascertaining what is now in Goldsborough, but it is my impression that all the force they could possibly spare has been sent toward Wilmington. As our army and fleet will in all probability capture Wilmington in a few days, if they have not already done so, it will have the effect to liberate a large number of their troops that can readily move up the railroad toward Kinston, and not only drive out any small force I might have there, but also menace New Berne itself. I only mention this matter as something to consider in my calculations. I hope that some regular means of communication with you will be established without delay. Will you please recollect that I have no boats that I can send, and I am entirely dependent upon the Navy for means of communication.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
I. N. PALMER, Brigadier-General