Wednesday, February 8, 1865

On the Charleston to Augusta Railroad, with Logan’s Corp at Lowry’s Station, South Carolina

Unexpectedly we struck the railroad with little resistance. I had imagined that the enemy would fight like the devil for their railroad. Instead, they have retreated toward Augusta and Charleston, burning their bridges and saving us the trouble. When I move, they will not be able to pursue from my rear. Details of men are strung out along the tracks; set to work to tear up the rails, to burn the ties and twist the bars. This is a most important railroad, and I propose to destroy it completely for fifty miles, partly to prevent a possibility of its restoration and partly to make use of the time necessary for General Slocum to get up.

The country thereabouts is very poor, but the inhabitants mostly remain at home. Indeed, they know not where to go. The enemy’s cavalry had retreated before us, but his infantry is reported in some strength at Branchville, on the farther side of the Edisto; yet on the appearance of a mere squad of our men they burn their own bridges the very thing I wanted, for we have no use for them, and they do.

HDQRS. MIL. DIV. OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Lowry’s, February 8, 1865
The next movement will be against the railroad at any point between Orangeburg and the Congaree, as near Orangeburg as possible.

I. The Right Wing is charged with the destruction of the South Carolina Railroad from and including the Edisto bridge to Blackville, and the Left Wing with the engineer regiment and the cavalry will destroy from Blackville west as far as possible.

II. Major-General Howard will move the Seventeenth Corps by the State road to Binnaker’s and Holman’s Bridges, feign at one and cross at the other, and move on Orangeburg.

The Fifteenth corps will move up the railroad to a point about four miles west of Graham’s Station, and after having finished the destruction of the railroad to Blackville will cross the Edisto by Holman’s Bridge or the head of Young’s Island and move in support of the Seventeenth Corps.

III. The Twentieth Corps will move to Blackville and continue the destruction of the railroad westward, and the Fourteenth Corps will come up on the road about White Pond or Williston and as soon as the destruction of the road is complete will cross the Edisto at the head of Young’s Island or at Guignard’s Bridge, and push out to the Orangeburg and Edgefield road, ready to move on Orangeburg or Columbia, according to developments.

IV. The cavalry will continue to act in concert with the Left Wing, will burn the railroad as far west as possible, and cross the Edisto to the Edgefield road at the same time with the Left Wing. All troops will lean toward Orangeburg until it is known that the Right Wing has made a secure lodgment at or near Orangeburg.
By order of Major General W. T. Sherman

Will the enemy counter attack?

General HOWARD, Commanding Right Wing:
GENERAL: I would like to hear from the Edisto bridge. It is very important that it be destroyed by the enemy, else by ourselves. Better send word back to any wagons that have followed your track to join you via Graham’s, crossing the Salkehatchie at Buford’s. I sent a courier back last night to Corse and Slocum, but have not heard of them today. Kilpatrick will start from Blackville tomorrow for Aiken to break road as near Augusta as possible.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

Howard Reports:

Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:
Captain Henley, of General Blair’s staff, who conducted a reconnaissance of Walker’s or Valley Bridge, has just returned. He drove in the rebel pickets to their bridge-head and forced them to abandon it and cross the river. The rebels then fired the bridge, already prepared for burning, and opened on him with artillery. He says they have good works on the other side, and at least a section of artillery. He saw a force that he estimated at the strength of two regiments.

This bank of the river is swampy, with a single causeway approaching the bridge. The reconnaissance late last evening by a regiment of infantry caused the rebels to burn the railroad bridge, so that the bridges across the Edisto are all destroyed in this vicinity. General Blair has nearly completed the destruction of that part of the railroad assigned to his command. General Logan reports that his work is done, and well done. The road is now destroyed form Graham’s to the Edisto, including the railroad bridge. I believe the distance is twelve miles. A negro, who came form Branchville last night, says there were only about forty soldiers there; that the rebels were being transported toward Columbia on the cars, and that some few had been sent toward Charleston.

My orders are inclosed:
I. The Fifteenth Army Corps, Major General John A. Logan commanding, will move as follows, commencing tomorrow: One division by the most direct route across Sikes’ Creek to cross-roads nearest to Holman’s Bridge. The division will take up a strong position here and push forward a reconnaissance to Holman’s Bridge; hold this point as an outpost till the arrival of the rest of the corps. The other two divisions will move via Graham’s by the road south of the railroad to the Barnwell and Orangeburg road; remain at that point until they have destroyed the railroad between Graham’s and Blackville, then move on and join the leading division.

II. The Seventeenth Army Corps, Major-General Blair commanding, will move by the most direct route, starting at 8 a.m. tomorrow, to Binnaker’s Bridge; secure a lodgment on the other side of the Edisto and lay the bridge preparatory to moving forward. The bridge train and department headquarters will follow the leading division of the Seventeenth Army Corps. Headquarters will move to-night at the point easiest of access between Holman’s and Binnaker’s Bridges.
By order of Major General O. O. Howard:

O. O. HOWARD, Major-General

I further instruct Logan:
Make a reconnaissance to Cannon’s Bridge, ascertaining thereby the nature and condition of the crossing at that place.

Colonel Jones Reports Back:

I marched my brigade this afternoon to Cannon’s Bridge on the Edisto River; I found no enemy on this side of the river, but found him in works on the north bank. At the point where the works are, and for a long distance both below and above the bridge, there is a swamp about 600 yards wide on the south side of the river. I threw forward a line of skirmishers through the swamp to the main steam and found that [the] bridge had been burned, that there was a line of works along the bank of the river several hundred yards in length with an embrasure in it, covering the road; the works seemed to be well manned; the men could be seen and heard all along them. I think that a crossing might be effected here without very much difficulty, as the main stream does not seem to be very large; the distance from this camp to the bridge is about five miles; the road is a very bad one; I believe that one-fourth of it is covered with water. After exchanging some shots with the enemy, having learned all that could be learned about his position and strength without making a positive attack, I withdrew my line and returned to camp.

I order Williams to destroy track today and be ready to march tomorrow:
Place your entire command at Graham’s, and use all possible force in the destruction of the railroad, doing the work thoroughly by twisting rails and burning ties. Accomplish as much of this, working toward Augusta, as you can. Hold your command in readiness to move to Blackville tomorrow, awaiting further orders therefor.
Communicate with General Geary and get him up if possible.

Williams Replies:

I inclose herewith a note from General Wheeler to General Howard, which the lady delivering it said was to be opened by the first general officer who came up; General Jackson therefore opened it.

I am burning and destroying railroad track from the road crossing one mile and a half east of this point (where my advance struck the railroad west), and shall do all I can to-day. My headquarters will be here. I find over 350 bales of cotton here.

The letter from Wheeler Reads:

GRAHAM’S, S. C., February 7, 1865.
Major General O. O. HOWARD, U. S. Army, Commanding, &c.:

GENERAL: I have the honor to propose that if the troops of your army be required to discontinue burning the houses of our citizens I will discontinue burning cotton. As an earnest of the good faith in which my proposition is tendered I leave at this place about 300 bales cotton unburned, worth, in New York, over a quarter of a million, and in our currency one million and a half. I trust my having commenced will cause you to use your influence to insure the acceptance of the proposition by your whole army. I trust that you will not deem it improper for me to ask that you will require the troops under your command to discontinue the wanton destruction of property not necessary for their sustenance.

Respectfully, general, your obedient servant,
J. WHEELER, Major-General, C. S. Army

I Respond:
Major General J. WHEELER, Commanding Cavalry Corps, Confederate Army:

GENERAL: Yours addressed to General Howard is received by me. I hope you will burn all cotton and save us the trouble. We don’t want it, and it has proven a curse to our country. All you don’t burn I will. As to private houses occupied by peaceful families, my orders are not to molest or disturb them, and I think my orders are obeyed. Vacant hoses being of no use to anybody, I care little about, as the owners have thought them of no use to themselves. I don’t want them destroyed, but do not take much care to preserve them.

I am, with respect, yours, truly,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

The enemy believes my army is here to capture and occupy their cities. They are wrong. We will occupy and capture their cities, but my moves are to destroy their ability to maintain large armies and demonstrate the futility of war as a way to protect their property.

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Lowry’s Station, S. C., February 8, 1865.
General A. S. WILLIAMS, Graham’s:

Yours of this date is received. Burn all cotton. The Confederate Congress has appropriated all cotton to its own use. It is the only cash article left to the enemy. I send you a letter to Wheeler, in answer to his, which you can leave with the lady to be sent to Wheeler as she best can. Destroy all the railroad and its attachments, tanks, sheds, sewers, everything that facilitates its use. I will send your orders for tomorrow, which amount to moving up to Blackville. If you hear of Geary today in reach, turn him at once to Blackville. Slocum should move the Fourteenth Corps toward Williston. I think the Left Wing will cross the Edisto at about Guignard’s and Pine Log Bridges. I want to get the Left Wing on the Orangeburg and Edgefield road as soon as possible. We are twisting the iron here beautifully. I will send the engineers up to you tomorrow; they do the work best.

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

General Geary Reports:

On the March, February 8, 1865.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN:
Your dispatches were received by me at 6:30 this morning about three miles north of the Coosawhatchie Swamp. Those for Generals Slocum and Corse I forwarded immediately. I expect to encamp to-night at Buford’s Bridge. General

Slocum is several miles to the rear. All getting along well.
Your obedient servant,

JOHN W. GEARY, Brevet Major-General

We will send a scout to speed his movement.

General Corse, Commanding the Fourth Division was delayed by rains, and is marching to rejoin the right wing following our path.

The Left wing is marching rapidly to make up for lost time. They hope to make 20 miles today.

Kilpatrick Reports from Blackville:

I will encampe tonight at Williston and destroy some track; February 9, at or before Windsor, and all the following day make demonstration toward Augusta. Will, if prudent, destroy Government property at Aiken, and as much railroad as possible and return to Windsor. I will be prudent, bold, but not rash.

General KILPATRICK, Blackville:
I have just received your note in cipher. I send you a copy of orders for the next move, which will give you the key to the whole. Wheeler writes to General Howard offering not to burn cotton if we don’t burn hourses. I assured him that he would oblige me by burning cotton, for it saves us the trouble; that we don’t burn occupied houses, but if people vacate their own hourses I don’t think they should expect us to protect them. You may burn all cotton; spare dwelling houses that are occupied, and teach your men to be courteous to women; it goes a great ways; but take all provisions and forage you need. Act as though you are to be followed by infantry. I expect Hood’s army will try and join the South Carolina army about Columbia and I will try and interpose again at Orangeburg. I will order the Fourteenth Corps to Williston and Guignard’s Brigade or Pine Log Bridge. Edisto is narrow and easily passed up there. The Orangeburg and Edgefield road is the “key line” of South Carolina.
W. T. SHERMAN,Major-General, Commanding

Kilpatrick Writes:

I arrived at Williston at 4 p. m. today and am now destroying the track. I can find no force of the enemy between the railroad and the Edisto, save small picket posts. I understand that all the bridges on the Edisto are strongly guarded. After posting my pickets about the town, an attack was made upon a portion of the First Alabama Cavalry, holding the direct road to Augusta. Colonel Spencer was sent out with his brigade to feel of the enemy, and ascertain his strength. A fight ensued, in which six regiments of Allen’s division, First, Third, Seventh, Ninth, Twelfth, and Fifty-first Alabama, were totally routed. Colonel Spencer alone conducted the fight, displaying much skill and great gallantry. Several hundred stand of arms were abandoned by the enemy, and left scattered along the road. One officer and many men were killed, and a large number wounded; several prisoners have been taken, and are still coming in. Colonel Spencer pursued the enemy nine miles in direction of Augusta from this point, and brought back to me as trophies the flags belonging to the Twelfth and Ninth Alabama Cavalry, and General Hagan’s battle-flag.

From prisoners I learn that Wheeler’s command is very much scattered; that he has with him Anderson’s division and Young’s Virginia brigade only. Allen’s division is picketing the country between the Edisto and the Salkehatchie. Iveron’s division is upon the opposite side of the Salkehatchie, and Ferguson’s division is between Brier Creek and the Ogreechee. I find plenty of corn for my command, and I think you will have no trouble in subsisting the animals of your whole army by foraging upon each side of the railroad. I trust that I am now carrying out your instructions, and that my operations will be satisfactory.

There are rumors that portions of Hood’s army, and some dismounted cavalry, independent of Lee’s corps, are between this point and Augusta. I can learn nothing reliable.

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