Thursday, February 2, 1865

Duck Branch Post-Office, Thirty-one miles out from Pocotaligo
We have advanced 20 miles the first day and 11 more today. We are making good progress.

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Hickory Post-Office, February 2, 1865. 3:45 a.m.

General HOWARD:
I have just received your dispatch. You may go on with two divisions and secure, if possible, Rivers’ Bridge. Let one division keep to Angley’s Post-Office by the south of Whippy. Logan will move so as to get his head of column on the road leading from Duck Branch Post-Office to Angley’s. That road, the old Orangeburg road, is supposed to be on good, firm ground, and is an old road leading to Buford’s Bridge, which is the one I expect to use. Wheeler’s cavalry is mostly to our left. At Rivers’ you will find infantry and Artillery in position. Slocum is unable to cross the Savannah by reason of water over the banks; will have to bridge three-quarters of a mile from four to six feet of water. We may have to go to the railroad without him. I have a cipher dispatch from him, the contents of which, when translated, I will tell the bearer of this.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.

HDQRS. DEPARTMENT AND ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, Near Rivers’ Bridge, S. C., February 2, 1865.

Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:
General Blair crossed his Fourth Division to this side of Whippy Swamp and pushed on, skirmishing constantly with some 300 rebel cavalry. General Mower had the advance. On reaching the road leading to Broxton’s Bridge he pushed a reconnaissance to the river and found the bridge throughly destroyed.

The enemy had a long line of skirmishers on the other side, who wounded two or three of our men. We left a regiment to continue the demonstration, and moved on rapidly to Rivers’ Bridge. General Mower succeeded in preventing the rebels from destroying it, but discovered an earth-work upon the other shore with two pieces of Artillery bearing on the road; the rebels opened fire as soon as our men appeared. Colonel Swayne, of the Forty-third Ohio, commanding brigade, lost his leg, and the adjutant of the Twenty-fifth Wisconsin, Lieutenant Fitzgerald, was killed. Several were wounded by the shelling. The skirmish line got through the swamp as far as the Salkehatchie River, and at dark the pioneers were felling trees across the river for foot bridges. General Force, with the Third Division, Seventeenth Corps, was three or four miles from Angley’s Post-Office when last heard from.

The Ninth Illinois Mounted Infantry led the skirmish line during part of the day; they made several gallant charges, in one of which Lieutenant-Colonel Kirby, of General Blair’s staff, was wounded and had his horse killed.

I send you copy of my order for tomorrow.

I am anxious to have more force here so as to control Buford’s Bridge.
The enemy seem to have considerable force opposite us at this point, enough to furnish quite an extended skirmish line. In case you wish to detain General Logan longer for the Left Wing, I hope you will allow one division at least to move up to Angley’s Post-Office tomorrow.

Broxton’s Bridge is near Williams’ on the map, and Rives’ Bridge is five miles above.

Very respectfully,
O. O. HOWARD, Major-General

Near River’s Bridge, S. C., February 2, 1865.

The following disposition of troops will be made for tomorrow: The Fifteenth Army Corps, Major General John A. Logan commanding, will move to Angley’s Post-Office, and sending forward a reconnaissance will endeavor to take and hold possession of Buford’s Bridge.

Major General F. P. Blair, commanding Seventeenth Army Corps, will cause his Third Division to close in with the corps and reconnoiter the line of the river, with a view of turning the enemy’s position at Rivers’ Bridge in case it is not turned during the night.

I don’t feel quite satisfied about our north face. I think Blair had better have General Giles Smith move up his smallest brigade entire, and extend the line to the left, facing north; and as soon as it is dark back the main line of General Mower to the high ground, and cover the north front by a good skirmish line.

Please have the Ninth Illinois send out good road pickets.

Should the enemy be able to comprehend our position, and had he force enough, he might give us annoyance by turning our left by the way of Buford’s Bridge.

Very respectfully,
O. O. HOWARD, Major-General

The Left Wing is Advancing:

ORDERS. HEADQUARTERS TWENTIETH CORPS, Near Lawtonville, S. C., February 2, 1865.
This command will march tomorrow toward Duck Branch Post-Office, as follows: The First Division at 6. 30 a.m. ; Third Division at 7. 30 a.m. The immediate presence of the enemy requires that two unencumbered brigades with one battery of Artillery should precede the trains. General Jackson will, therefore, march his two brigades in front of all the trains. General Ward will distribute his troops along the whole train, so as to assist and protect them. A rear guard of two regiments will be sufficient.
The Artillery will march, one battery with the advance brigades, one immediately in rear of the First Division trains, and one with the Third Division.
General Jackson will have as strong a pioneer force as possible at the head of the column.
By command of Bvt. Major General A. S. Williams

Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:
I neglect to mention in the items sent you yesterday ghat General Foster wishes me to say to you that he considers it absolutely necessary that General Saxton shall be relieved from superintending the recruiting colored troops. He is crazy on the subject, has harangued meetings, and had an appointment for a mass-meeting in Savannah yesterday. It is, however, probable that General Grover yesterday forbid the mass-meeting. The negroes misunderstand their recently acquired freedom, and will neither work nor enlist. General Saxton’s course is thought to encourage them in their opinions. General Littlefield is considered capable of managing an organizing the recruiting of blacks.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN P. HATCH, Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding
I shall cross at Combahee Ferry as soon as I can get boats to that point.

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, at a point 2 1/2 Miles north of Duck Branch Post-Office, 3 1/2 Miles from Pocotaligo, February 2, 1865. 7 p.m.
General J. G. FOSTER, Commanding Department of the South:

I wrote you on the road yesterday touching the matter of General Saxton, and gave you my reasons for not changing my orders. I still adhere to that conclusion, but have no objection whatever that you should apply to the Secretary of War direct and leave him to judge. But as to military discipline, I decide that General Saxton cannot go to a military post and do anything which in the judgment of its commander is calculated to produce confusion or disorder. The commanding officer of a post is the proper person to see that it does not become unencumbered with idle or worthless vagabonds of any color, sex, or kind. You may sustain General Grover in anything he may do as to maintaining good order and government at Savannah.

The Secretary of War is charged by Congress with the administration of the war policy, and we are bound to respect his authority and wishes, and these are contained in my orders. If General Saxton presumes on any special influence let him alone and he will commit some breach of military propriety, when you will take action. I consider he has no more control over organizations of colored troops after they are mustered and paid than the superintendent of the general recruiting service for white troops. During the inchoate existence of a regiment or company he may use it about his rendezvous for guard and police; but after troops are organized as companies, battalions, or regiments, mustered in and paid by the United States, they at once become, like any other part of your command, subject to your orders and detail. Indeed, were I in your place, I would prefer this disposition, as it relieves you of all the details of organization. As to Littlefield’s duties, you can put him subject to Saxton, or your can give him the detail of any other officers and men of your command at your own option. You may require him to apply for such details as he wants, and you can make them just as you would for the quartermhe nomination of offices for negro regiments, that purely belongs to the appointing power, the President, who may delegate it to whom he sees fit.

As to steam-boats, I don’t think General Easton has any feeling as to you; but I think he has an idea that Major Thomas, much his junior, is left to judge. If he knows that you give the subject your personal attention, he will be content. It would be well for you to confer with him, for I have given him carte blanche and hold him accountable as to my immediate Army.

My movements now will depend for a day or so on Slocum; but you had better be all ready for the steps I indicated.
We find a good deal of cavalry on all the roads, but they do not delay our march.

The infantry is behind the Salkehatchie, which is a swampy, ugly stream all the way up to Barnwell.

I am such obliged for the papers. All well.

Yours, truly,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding.

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