Sunday, January 29, 1865

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Pocotaligo, January 29, 1865

Major General J. G. FOSTER, Commanding Department of the South:
I have just received dispatches from General Grant stating that Schofield’s corps, the Twenty-third, 21,000 strong, is ordered east from Tennessee, and will be sent to Beaufort, N. C. That is well. I want that force to secure a point on the railroad about Goldsborough and then to build the road out to that point. If Goldsborough be too strong to carry by a rapid movement, then a point near the Neuse, south of Goldsborough, but holding the bridge and position about Kinston and fortify strong. The movement should be masked by the troops already at New Berne. Please notify General Palmer that these troops are coming and for him to prepare to receive them. Major-General Schofield will command them in person, and is admirably adapted for the work. If it is possible, I want him to secure Goldsborough with the railroad back to Morehead City and Wilmington.

As soon as General Schofield reaches Fort Macon, have him to meet some one of your staff to explain in full detail the situation of affairs with me, and you can give him Chief command of all troops at Cape Fear and in North Carolina. If he finds the enemy has all turned south against me he need not follow, but turn his attention against Raleigh. But if he can secure Goldsborough and Wilmington it will be as much as I expect before I have passed the Santee. Send him all detachments of men that have come to join my Army. They can be so organized and officered as to be more efficient, for they nearly all old soldiers who have been detached or on furlough. Until I pass the Santee you can better use these detachments at Bull’s Bay, Georgetown, &c.

I will instruct General McCallum, of the railroad department, to take his men up to Beaufort, N. C., and use them on the road out. I do not know that he can employ them on any road here. I did instruct him, whilst waiting information from North Carolina, to employ them in building a good trestle bride across Port Royal Ferry, but I now suppose the pontoon bridge will do. If you move the pontoons be sure to make a good road out to Garden’s Corners and mark it with sign board, obstructing the old road so that should I send back any detachments they will not be misled.

I prefer that Hatch’s forces hereabout should not be materially weakened until I am near Columbia, when you may be government by the situation of affairs about Charleston. If you can break the railroad between this and Charleston then this force could be reduced.
I am, with respect,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Pocotaligo, January 29, 1865.

General HATCH, Commanding Division:
I wish you tomorrow to send a detachment to the forks of the road this side of the Salkehatchie, and then make demonstrations as though preparatory to cross over to the east side. Try and make a pathway of fallen timber through the swamp, so as to enable skirmishers to appear near the river-bank at the railroad and wagon road bridges. Also, if possible, let one or more horsemen try to pass through the water along the wagon road. I think the water must have subsided enough for this. Also let a party take tools and prepare on the railroad causeway a place (countersunk) for two guns in embrasure. Report to me what it seen by night. I will remain here till I hear from General Slocum about Robertsville, when the whole army will move north, leaving you to cover this point. I deem it important to hold the position on the railroad for some time, say ten days, after I leave, and during that time to feel across the Salkehatchie in the direction of Charleston, so as to destroy the railroad as far toward the Edisto as possible. As long as the railroad is intact up to Salkehatchie you will see an enemy may rapidly interpose between here and Port Royal, which might incommode us. At the same time General Foster will try and cut the road between this and Charleston, the effect of which will be to make the enemy guard the road in its whole length. After I have reached the Augusta road I do not think this road will be of much use to the enemy.
I am, with respect,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

Admiral Dahgren Writes:

FLAG-SHIP HARVEST MOON, Port Royal, January 25, 1865
General SHERMAN, Commanding, &c.:
I was very glad to hear by your note of the 24th, just received, that everything was going so much to your satisfaction. I wish I could say so for myself, but first the Patapsco would be blown up by a torpedo, and now the Dai Ching gets foul of a battery, gets aground, can’t get off, and is destroyed. One thing was right, she was defended for seven hours and abandoned to the flames only when her pivot gun was disabled by a shot. All the officers and men brought off but four captured in a boat by pickets, so the rebels did not gain much. A contraband from Charleston says they have drawn off nearly all the troops from about the city toward Branchville, where they look for “Mr. Sherman.” I had no gun-boat to replace the Dai Ching in the Combahee, and sent the Pawnee from the Ashepoo to North Edisto, because I understood from General Foster that he was sending a detachment there for a diversion. The Sonoma was there already. Very sorry, general, that I cannot do any more for you, but the consolation is that you do not need it. The cipher is all right, and its Chief merit seems to me that when once written it may be inscrutable to everybody.

With my heartiest wishes, dear general, I am, most truly, yours,
J. A. DAHLGREN.

P.S. -When you get to Richmond I wish to be there, for I have yet to bury my boy.

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Pocotaligo, January 29, 1865.

Major General J. G. FOSTER, Commanding Department of the South:
I have your letter of yesterday. Tell Admiral Dahglren I regret the loss of the Dai Ching, but can quote Admiral Porter, who told me once that ships were made to be “lost. ” Your movement by Edisto is good, but understand me as of opinion that if the enemy mans his works facing the sea you cannot gain them save at a disadvantage. But by demonstrating at points of land from which troops can move against the railroad by a rapid, quick march, you compel him to keep the entire railroad guarded from Charleston to Salkehatchie. I don’t care about the road being actually broken until the latter part of next week. If you know that the enemy falls behind the Edisto you should break the railroad anywhere this side of him and then you could reduce Hatch’s command here to the number you calculated, viz, 1,000 men, but so long as McLaws has the railroad by which he can handle 4,000 or 5,000 men rapidly it will be imprudent to leave Hatch too weak.

There is no use in a force here at all, unless it is on the railroad. This point, Pocotaligo, is most salient, and therefore best, but if deemed unsafe at any time the fort at Coosawhatchie would fulfill the same conditions, and its river is deeper and better. I have no doubt a steam-boat could work up to the Coosawhatchie fort at high tide. Flats drawn by barges could certainly. I merely want a point of security here till I am surely beyond the Santee, and by a force here you better cover your island and the Savannah River than by any other disposition of your troops.

I expect from Tennessee a force of some 5,000 to 8,000 men belonging to the four corps with me here. Stop them at Hilton Head and use them unless they get there in time to reach me, which is very improbable. Out of them you can make up a good command to demonstrate on Charleston, Georgetown, and from Smithville, Cape Fear River as I progress, aiming to join their respective commands when we touch the sea-board. If I break the railroad to Augusta and Columbia, it will be well to strike that to Wilmington unless Wilmington in the meantime be taken by Terry. The easiest point to reach that railroad will be from Cape Fear River to the south and west of Wilmington.

You may make as much display on Edisto, and about Stono, next Wednesday and Thursday, as possible, and cause the troops at Morris Island to make a lodgment on James Island if possible. That is the vital part of Charleston.
I am, &c.,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

Howard gave the following orders for the 17th Corp Tomorrow:
1. Brigadier General G. A. Smith, commanding Fourth Division, will move forward at 8 a.m. on the road designated in Special Field Orders, Numbers 25, extract II, from department headquarters.

2. Major General J. A. Mower, commanding First Division, will move his command at 7 a.m. out on the road taken by him in his demonstrations against the Salkehatchie River, taking care to keep to the right so as not to interfere with the Fifteenth Corps.

3. Brigadier General M. F. Force, commanding Third Division, will follow the First Division.

4. The pontoon train now encamped near the Fourth Division will follow the fourth Division.

5. The train of the Ninth Illinois Mounted Infantry will follow the train of the First Division.

6. The train of department headquarters and of these headquarters will move after the advance brigade of the First Division.

Howard Writes:

General John E. Smith made a reconnaissance to McPhersonville today; reports a good road from his camp to that place. McPhersonville is deserted. Heard of two or three scouting parties, but no force. I have received your message by Colonel Strong, and will arrest the movement tomorrow night, as you desire, and not push forward farther till ordered. Tomorrow’s move, if we should not push farther, might convey the idea of turning on Charleston, particularly if I seek a good point for crossing the Salkehatchie, and act as if intending to throw a bridge.

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