Pocotaligo, South Carolina
I am waiting anxiously to hear from Major-General Slocum, in order that I can make orders for moving. Howard must hold his command in readiness, prepared to reach Hickory Hill Post-Office the next march; and have General Blair reconnoiter, with a view of learning if there be a practicable road for communication and marching from McPhersonville to Robertsville. There are a lot of recruits, &c., here that will report to Howard tonight or in the morning. If you have arms you may put them to duty, but if not and cannot make good use of them, you may return them to Beaufort if you wish. Do not move beyond your present position until all are ready and orders made.
General Foster Forwards my instructions to General Schofield in North Carolina:
Major-General of Volunteers, Commanding Department of the South. HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH, Savannah, Ga., January 30, 1865.
Major General JOHN M. SCHOFIELD, Commanding Twenty-third Army Corps:
GENERAL: I have the honor to inclose to you a copy of a letter of instruction from Major-General Sherman to me. By it you will see that you are to operate in North Carolina, in connection with the movements of General Sherman through South Carolina, and to be prepared to receive him at Goldsborough, N. C., having the railroad from Beaufort up in perfect order, so that his army may be quickly supplied while operating in North Carolina. You are to have command of all the troops in the State. These include General Palmer’s forces, originally in the District of North Carolina, and General Terry’s force, at the mouth of Cape Fear River. General Palmer has been ordered to prepare for the reception of your force, and to obtain all the necessary information respecting the enemy’s force, the condition of the roads toward Goldsborough and the best way to get possession of the railroad.
I was there in December, 1862, my force consisted of 12,000 men, and I succeeded in accomplishing the object against superior forces by deceiving the enemy as to the route. I marched about half the way to Kinston upon the direct road, then throwing forward a cavalry force directly toward Kinston to conceal the movement, I struck off to the left, and succeeded in reaching the passage of the Southwest Creek, at what is called the fourth crossing, before the enemy could concentrate to oppose it. Southwest Creek has four crossings, one between the main road and the mouth of the creek. The creek here has firm banks, and is favorable for throwing a bridge across and forcing a passage. The second crossing is where the main road to Kinston crosses, and is very unfavorable, as the enemy can hold the narrow causeway, which is a milldam, along which the road passes, with a comparatively small force. In forcing a passage in this vicinity the crossing should be made below the dam, between that and the mouth of the creek. The crossings, three and four, higher up the stream, are more unfavorable, unless secured by surprise, on account of the marshy nature of the banks on one side or the other.
We fought the battle of Kinston between the creek and the river, and pursued so rapidly after breaking the enemy as to secure the bridge crossing the river into the town of Kinston. I then made a feint to advance up the road to Goldsborough, on the north side of the river. This, however, is a difficult route to take if the enemy be in strong force, as the road crosses three or four creeks, behind which the enemy had, even at that time, provided strong defenses. After feinting, therefore, toward Goldsborough, on the north side, I recrossed the bridge and advanced rapidly up the south bank. The road here is higher, sandier, and altogether better than that on the north bank. There are no bridges on the river until between Kinston and Goldsborough, and only one ford at extreme low water a few miles below White Hall.
There are no defiles on the road that cannot readily be forced. The country is open and good. Upon arriving at Goldsborough the river can be crossed either on the railroad bridge, to be in possession of the town, or by the country bridge, which is about half a mile above the railroad bridtained since that time the enemy have erected stronger works at Kinston, and they may also have erected works to defend the bridges at Goldsborough. Both, however can be turned by taking a more circuitous march in attacking either place. The railroad bridge at Kinston was partially destroyed by the rebels, and about two miles and a half of the railroad between it and Core Creek was taken up. The bridge at Core Creek was destroyed by our troops, but General Palmer ought to be able to rebuild it by the time you get there.
General McCallum, with a corps of several hundred railroad constructionists, has been ordered to North Carolina to put the road from Beaufort to Goldsborough in perfect repair, to change the gauge to five feet, and to provide new locomotives and cars. While engaged in this work he must have the whole control of the management of the road and of the shops from which he will have to depend for the necessary repairs. If General McCallum be absent, Colonel Wright, his assistant, will exercise a like control, under your orders. The object is to have the road repaired and fitted in every respect, so as to convey rapidly sufficient supplies to Goldsborough for General Sherman’s army when it arrives there. The extension will eventually be made to Raleigh, also toward Wilmington and Weldon.
General Sherman expects you to get possession of the railroad to Goldsborough as soon as possible, and have its reconstruction commenced and completed. If you cannot occupy the whole road, by reason of the enemy’s strength, you must occupy as high up as possible-at any rate, to get possession of it as far Kinston. If the enemy’s force has moved down in South Carolina to meet General Sherman you will not follow, but take advantage of the opportunity afforded to seize both Raleigh and Wilmington.
General Sherman has moved today from Pocotaligo with the Right Wing of his Army. The left Wing also marches today from the vicinity of Sister’s Ferry, on the Savannah River. His army is as strong in every way and in as good spirits as when it left Savannah. He will move toward Columbia, turning Branchville, and cut all the railroad around about Columbia and Camden. He may or may not attack Branchville. After devastating the State as much as he intends he will strike for Goldsborough or Raleigh if you succeed in getting them. I hardly think he will come in at Wilmington, although circumstances may induce him to do so. He may also possibly touch sea coast at Georgetown before going into North Carolina. He will probably be at Goldsborough or in communication with you between the 5th and 15th of March. While he is moving in the interior I shall operate with all the movable force that I have along the coast in the form of demonstrations, and if the enemy are fools enough to leave any point unguarded we hope to be wise enough to profit by it. My force, however, is very small, only 15,000 effectives, nearly all of which is absorbed in garrisons. I can only move a small division of 3,000 men, under Brigadier-General Hatch, in his co operating movements along the coast. I send Major Anderson, of my staff, who will explain to you any details that I have omitted to write with respect to your movements, my own force, General Sherman’s intended movements, and my own.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. G. FOSTER,
Major-General of Volunteers, Commanding Department of the South.
My headquarters are out five miles from yours I find the road excellent, for the most part high and sandy, very much like the road you traveled from Millen to Station Numbers 2. The road was obstructed about a mile ahead. Just in my rear is the cross-roads to McPhersonville. We have picked up about forty head of cattle; scarcely any forage, however. General Blair’s corps is now going into camp.
A party of rebels, some twenty in number, have been seen on the road between this place and Pocotaligo or Salkehatchie. One man was fired upon and his horse shot, and I fear an ambulance captured. If you send me any dispatches please send them well escorted. I shall patrol and picket well to the rear.
General Logan has gone into camp, his head of column being in McPhersonville. General Blair’s escort in reconnoitering the country came upon some forty rebels at Tennant’s Branch, drove them off and crossed the creek. The rebels made an attempt to break a dam but failed. The rebels are reported in force at Broxton’s Bridge with some works beyond the Salkehatchie. Inclosed please find the Charleston Mercury for January 23, 1865.
Howard issued orders for foragers:
Corps commanders will issue stringent orders with reference to foraging during the campaign, a copy of which will be sent to these headquarters, limiting the number of foragers and reporting daily the name of the officer in charge of the foraging party of each brigade, who will be held strictly accountable for all abuses of his authority or improper conduct of the men under his command. All firing by foraging parties other than that against the enemy must be prohibited, as it would be impossible to determine whether it was occasioned by skirmishing with the enemy or the shooting of hogs, cattle, &c.
General Blair’s Cavalry Reports:
These are the results of the reconnaissance sent to McTier’s Mill, about three miles in advance of our present position. The advance cavalry first struck the enemy about half a mile this side of the mill, and drove them without any trouble beyond the stream and swamp. As near as I could determine from information given by citizens there were less then 100 rebels all told; we did not see more than twenty or thirty. There has been a force of about 100 encamped near that place for some time, consisting of three companies of South Carolina cavalry and one company of Wheeler’s scouts, under Captains Smart, Lowry, and Campbell; all under Colonel Colcock. They were under orders to cross the river at Broxton’s Bridge, about twenty miles above this point, and move down the river toward Salkehatchie bridge, whenever we attempted to cross at that point.
This citizen is now under the impression they will cross at this bridge and attempt to hold it. They had two pieces of Artillery with them, but it was sent away some days ago. He has not heard of any infantry on this side of the river; thinks Wheeler is over to our front and left. He says they all talked as though they expected us to cross the river and attack Charleston. A small bridge across the creek was burned, but will be repaired before morning. We have two regiments out there to hold the position. The general sent two regiments to make a demonstration at the river, but we have not received any report from them yet.
General Orders for the march are Distributed:
I. During the present campaign all orders regulating the march from Atlanta to Savannah, Ga., will remain in force. Foraging parties will be at once organized by brigade commanders, but greater precaution will be necessary for their safety. They will receive their instructions each morning from brigade commanders, to whom they must report on their return at night with their whole number of men. Rations will be issued in proportion to the amount brought in by the foragers.
II. The idea that the people of South Carolina are any different or any more hostile to our Government than those of any other State is, I have no doubt, by this time dispelled. We find here about the same class of people as in Georgia, and I am sure all good soldiers who have wives, sisters, and mothers at home will leave a fair share of provisions for their maintenance.
III. The firing of guns must at once be stopped. A general court-martial will be convened and will be called together nightly, or as often as necessary, and men found firing guns, straggling, entering houses, pillaging, or committing any other misdemeanors will be summarily punished. The importance of carefully husbanding our rations cannot be too strongly impressed upon the minds of all. Better to go a Little short all the time than be entirely without at the close. All orders issued on the march in which the troops are interested should be read, either at halts or, which is preferable, before starting on the morning after their reception.