Tuesday, January 31, 1865

Pocotaligo, South Carolina

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, January 31, 1865.
General HOWARD:
General Slocum has not yet reported. I don’t see how any of the enemy can be to your rear. If so, they should be caught; for there is no escape for them except into swamps, where our men can follow on foot. The commanding officer at Coosawhatchie says negroes just from Barnwell report that our troops engaged the enemy over about Lawtonville and were driving them rapidly beyond. We will start tomorrow, anyhow.
Yours,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

General Foster Writes from Hilton Head:

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH, Hilton Head, S. C., January 31, 1865.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding, &c.:
I have the honor to inform you that I have just returned from Savannah, where I saw an officer just from Sister’s Ferry and obtained from him the following report:

The bridge across the Savannah River at Sister’s Ferry was completed on the night of the 30th and a few men crossed over it. A new approach had to be made, the old approach having been much washed by the water, and the causeway filled with torpedoes. On the north side of the river the marsh extended for a mile and three-quarters, which will have to be corduroyed. This General Slocum expected to accomplish today, and hoped to be able to cross General Kilpatrick’s cavalry to the north side February 1. He had communicated with General Williams on the 30th instant in the direction of Robertsville, and obtained the report that the enemy was in slight force in that direction, only small bodies of Wheeler’s cavalry being encountered.

General Slocum had encountered on the south side of the river only Iverson’s brigade of cavalry. General Slocum proposed to advance tomorrow, Kilpatrick’s cavalry leading, provided the causeway on the north side of the marsh could be completed in time. I learned that the supplies were reaching Sister’s Ferry, but, owing to bad management somewhere, rather slowly. General Easton complains that it is owing to his lack of boats. I immediately sent the Neushon, and also gave him the Golden Gate, although at serious inconvenience.

Brevet Major Gouraud has jut returned from North Carolina. He met Generals Grant, Schofield, and Rawlins at Morehead City. None of General Schofield’s corps had yet arrived. Several hundred of the construction corps had arrived. I shall also, in obedience to your orders, send forward the construction corps from here immediately. I will also carry out your directions with regard to demonstrations as completely as possible. I do not propose to withdraw any of General Hatch’s command at present, but to send the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Volunteers and a few hundred men from this place under General Potter to do all he can in demonstrations toward the railroad, and also, finally, to advance on James Island. I send also a paper of the 26th instant, one of the latest received. General Hatch will give any details I may have omitted to write.
Very respectfully, yours,
J. G. FOSTER, Major-General of Volunteers

QUARTERMASTER-GENERAL’S OFFICE, Washington City, January 31, 1865.

Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Savannah, Ga.:
The arrival of your army on the Atlantic coast increases very considerably the water transportation required of this department, and in view of this fact I beg to suggest that your Chief quartermaster be reminded of the importance of ordering to New York all sea steamers at the earliest moment they can be spared. I am satisfied that vessels are detained at different points, unloading and from other causes, longer than they should be. I would also respectfully call your attention to the great saving that could be made on freights if a reasonable notice could be given to the department of the stores required to be shipped. The commissary department should give thirty days’ notice of the amount of subsistence stores required for your Army, when they could be sent in sailing vessels at half the expense. At present nearly every requisition is accompanied by an urgent request that the stores or troops be sent forward with the utmost dispatch, when, of course, steamers have to be employed. Very large coastwise movements of troops during the past month and at the present time absorb nearly every sea-going steamer of the Northern ports. No sooner is a steamer built by private enterprise for a particular line than, under urgent demand, it is taken up by the Quartermaster’s Department.

As an instance of the great expenditures arising from these sudden movements I refer to the steamer Monterey, which was ordered to the Department of the South with cargo of commissary stores. She is of 1,030 tons burden, and was absent over fifty days at an expense of about $25,000, besides the cost of the coal she consumed. She lay may days idle in the harbors and rivers of the coast of South Carolina and Georgia, made one or two trips from Savannah to Beaufort with wagons and ambulances, and cost the United States for her service some $25,000. Every idle day cost $463.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
M. C. MEIGS,
Quartermaster and Brevet Major-General

Howard Writes:

General Force has been continuing a reconnaissance with two regiments to my right rear, along the Salkehatchie. By cutting trees and other demonstrations he has succeeded in drawing the fire of a rebel battery, which will account for the occasional firing. General Logan finds his road badly obstructed. He has cleared out about five miles of it to-day. He finds a road leading to the left from Brailsfordville, but it is swampy and bad. A road to the left of General Blair’s front has a bridge destroyed. I have concluded to keep the detachment of recruits, mostly for Kilpatrick, though but few of them have arms. I will use them for fatigue duty, clearing away obstructions, &c.

Howard gives the order of march for tomorrow:

The following will be the other of march tomorrow, commencing at 7 a.m.: The Fifteenth Army Corps, Major General J. A. Logan commanding, will march to Hickory Hill Post-Office, the head of his column reaching to the intersection of the road leading to Whippy Swamp Post-Office. The Seventeenth Army Corps, Major General F. P. Blair commanding, will move along the Salkehatchie road, crossing Whippy Swamp with at least one division. The wagon trains of these headquarters will follow the leading division of General Blair’s corps. The bridge train will follow the division second in column of General Blair’s corps. In case anything should interrupt communication with Major-General Logan’s command, he will endeavor to reach Angley’s Post-Office in the next day’s march, to which there are two routes open to him, one by the way of Whippy Swamp Post-Office and the Whippy swamp road, the other by the Coosawhatchie Swamp road and the road leading from Duck Branch Post-Office to Angley’s Post-Office.

General Force describes his demonstration against the enemy:

I have the honor to report that I took at noon two regiments to make a demonstration before the rebel works guarding the crossing at the burnt pontoons. The work appears to stand nearly 700 yards beyond the river. The space between it and the river, and for 100 yards on this side, had been cleared by felling timber. Going in advance with a staff officer and half dozen of the Twentieth Illinois into this open space we drew their fire, and found they had one gun and apparently less than 100 men. I then pushed forward two companies of sharpshooters (one each from Sixteenth and Seventeenth Wisconsin) to the bank of the river. The rebels promptly re-enforced the fort with another gun and a regiment with its colors. Silencing their fire, I set forty axmen to work felling large trees on the edge of the open space, but out of sight of the work. At the sound of the axes the rebels opened again with their two guns and extended their musketry farther down the river. Their aim, however, was made uncertain by our skirmish. fire. At 3:30 I recalled the skirmishers and sent them and the axmen back to camp, as they had to Wade up to their hips to get to the river. The regiments meanwhile, remaining on the bank in an open field, nearly a mile from the river, had made two piles of rails in lines to represent a division camp in two lines. I sent a company down to the river to prevent the rebels from crossing over and learning the deception. I then returned to camp at sunset, leaving instructions to light the fires at dark, to move back to camp at 6. 30, and as the troops move to sound tattoo with bugles and field music disposed along the lines so as to represent the position of such music in a division camp. I left Captain Adams of my staff with the two regiments. No one was hurt.

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Pocotaligo, January 31, 1865. 9 a.m.
Major-General SLOCUM, Sister’s Ferry:
Howard moves Wednesday morning via Hickory Hill and Rivers’ Bridge. Communicate with me at Hickory Hill and follow as rapidly as possible by the old Orangeburg road, by Lawtonville, Duck Branch Post-Office, and Buford’s Bridge. Let Kilpatrick’s cavalry keep on your left front. I have not heard of your crossing the Savannah yet, but negroes report you pushing the enemy through Lawtonville. Make the most possible of this fine weather.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

General Williams Reports from the left wing:

HEADQUARTERS TWENTIETH CORPS,
Robertsville, S. C., January 31, 1865.

My command, excepting Geary’s division with the Fourteenth Corps, arrived at this place day before yesterday. Your dispatch was received the same night, and by much effort I got it through to General Slocum, who happened to be at the bluff on the river five miles below. I found the road from this to the river under water from one to three feet deep for one mile and a half, with four bridges gone. The point where the road from the Georgia side reaches the river is about three miles below the point where the road from this side strikes the river, and from that down the road is through low ground, now overflowed the whole distance, and for three-eighths of a mile at least four to six feet deep. The pontoon bridge is laid below, and parties on both ends are at work on the road. It cannot be made passable, in the opinion of General Slocum, within four days. The river is under a second freshet, which has been very high, but is subsiding. I was at General Slocum’s headquarters yesterday. All the troops had reached the high ground on the south side of the river in good condition, and the transports were up with abundant supplies.

I found a portion of Wheeler’s cavalry here, but drove them out without difficulty. Prisoners and deserters report that he has three divisions near us, above, with his headquarters at Lawtonville. I attempted to communicate with you on Sunday, but my messenger could not get through.
This dispatch is sent at the instance of General Slocum.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. S. WILLIAMS, Brevet Major-General, Commanding

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, January 31, 1865.
COMMANDING OFFICER, Coosawhatchie:
SIR: I send you four cipher dispatches for General Slocum. Send one via Purysburg, another by some other route, and keep two, one of which to be sent back to him by the first courier who comes from him, and the last by another who may follow. Slocum should now be at Robertsville. His troops left Savannah on the 25th, and two divisions were then on this side, at Purysburg. I may move to-morrow for Hickory Hill Post-Office.
Yours,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

Foster complains about the recruiters:

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH, Hilton Head, S. C., January 31, 1865.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Military Division, &c.:

GENERAL: I have the honor to present for your consideration the orders and instructions received from the War Department with respect to the colored recruiting rendezvous in this department, and to ask respectfully that you may change paragraph 5, Special Field Orders, Numbers 15, current series, &c., so as to leave the duties of enlistments and organization of negro troops as they were established by the above orders and instructions. The reasons for the above are as follows:

First. The orders from the War Department, copies of which are inclosed, from Nos. 1 to 6, show that Brevet Brigadier-General Littlefield is regularly appointed as general superintendent of volunteer recruiting service for this department, and has his rendezvous established at Hilton Head, in accordance with above orders from the War Department.

Second. That by said orders and by the letter of Major-General Halleck, of December 21, 1865, a copy of which is inclosed, the power is conferred upon me to organize all the colored men in the department into regiments, and to appoint their officers for confirmation by the President, and to have them carefully drilled and exercised.

Third. Acting under your Special Field Orders, Numbers 15, Brevet Major-General Saxton has assumed control of all the recruiting, and is disposed to question the power delegated to me by the above orders. He has taken action in the calling of a mass-meeting of the colored men in Savannah antagonistic to the wishes that I understood you to express with regard to delaying such action until after all the quartermaster’s and commissary’s work necessary to the forwarding of your supplies had been completed. By haranguing said meeting, in company with the Rev. Mr. French, and informing the blacks that he intended establishing a camp of instruction for negro regiments in Savannah, he has tended to produce confusion, excitement, and an erroneous impression upon the colored people and upon the white inhabitants of the city which is prejudicial to the good order and well-being of the city. General Grover objects to it as tending to confusion and affording opportunities, under cover of which incendiary attempts of secret spies may be made.

In addition to the above, General Saxton, also in opposition to General Grover’s wishes, has appointed another mass-meeting of the negroes in Savannah on Thursday next. One consequence of this ill-judged action on General Saxton’s part is, that the negroes generally prefer idleness to either work or enlisting, and only about 450 recruits have presented themselves thus far. It is reported that in private conversation General Saxton expressed a determination to carry out fully his ill-judged course, and that he could have the head cut off of any officer who opposed him. I would earnestly and respectfully urge upon the Major-general commanding, the necessity of changing paragraph 5 in Special Field Orders, Numbers 15, by omitting the last sentence, so as to leave the whole subject of recruiting where it was placed by the orders and instructions inclosed.
I cannot avoid expressing the conviction that this course is absolutely necessary to prevent serious interference on the part of General Saxton with the duties and prerogatives both of myself and the general officers under me.

Again earnestly soliciting your favorable attention to the above request, at your earliest convenience,

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. G. FOSTER,
Major-General, Commanding Department of the South

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