Thursday, February 9, 1865

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Walker’s House, near Railroad, February 9, 1865

General HOWARD, Commanding Right Wing:
An officer has just left me for Blackville, where Slocum will arrive with Geary’s division, which completes the Twentieth Corps at Blackville.

Davis is moving for Barnwell and will come up to the west of Blackville about Williston. I have ordered Slocum to put in tomorrow good on the railroad and then look to crossing the Edisto at the head of Young’s Island and at Guignard’s. I want you to effect a crossing at or between Binnaker’s and Homan’s Bridges. Do it in your own way, using all the Seventeenth Corps and one division of the Fifteenth sent by Logan to Holmans’ Bridge. If you can secure a lodgment tomorrow and get to work on a bridge at Binnaker’s it will be time enough to cross the day after tomorrow. All accounts agree that the road from Binnaker’s to Orangeburg is better than from Holman’s. I am seven miles from Binnaker’s, five from Holman’s, and six from Blackville. I will probably go up to Blackville tomorrow to see Slocum. Keep me well advised of your progress. As soon as Logan completes the destruction of the road, to Blackville he can move his two other divisions down to Holman’s, or wherever you need him. It is to me patent that the enemy has only cavalry at the Edisto, and we must keep it busy that Kilpatrick may encounter less about Aiken. His movement on Aiken besides the substantial damage will disconnect the part of Lee’s corps that did not get over the railroad. Proceed to effect a lodgment on the north of the Edisto by cautions but persistent efforts. Once across, the enemy will fall behind the Santee.

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

HDQRS. DEAPRTMENT AND ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, Near Binnaker’s Bridge, February 9, 1865.
Major-General SHERMAN:
Major-General Mower effected a crossing of the Edisto this evening about 6 o’clock. He laid a pontoon to an island, and as soon as he had got one brigade over he pressed on across the island and waded the swamp beyond and effected a lodgment on what appeared to be the mainland. He met, however, a skirmish line about 8 p. m. and, as it was night, concluded to intrench and wait for daylight. The island is marshy, and the water in the main swamp between two and three feet deep. The men swung their cartridge-boxes around their necks.
I am inclined to think the crossing at Holman’s Bridge is no worse than this. General Hazen has crossed some men over a half mile above the bridge and cut his way nearly through the swamp.
Word has just come that Mower has driven the enemy off, sent back a regiment along the main road, and has taken up a strong position a mile and a half from the river. The bridge on the main roads is being laid.
Respectfully,
O. O. HOWARD, Major-General

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Walker’s House, February 9, 1865 – 11 p. m.

Major-General HOWARD, Commanding Right Wing:
Your note is just received. General Sherman directs me to answer saying he is very much gratified that General Mower has effected a crossing and a lodgment. It is of great importance and he wishes it held beyond a possibility of loss, but does not wish General Mower to go farther at present. Complete your crossing facilities, getting bridges, &c., in good order for use. Tomorrow he will go to see General Slocum at Blackville and hurry up matters on that wing. Have you any news yet from the wagon train sent back from Rivers’ for bread, &c.? Let Hazen also make good crossings, looking to the move on Orangeburg day after tomorrow (11th).
I am, &c.,
L. M. DAYTON, Assistant Adjutant-General

General Mower is across the river below the enemy’s position; has crossed about a mile of swamp, and is intrenching on the high ground. After some skirmishing the enemy fell back from his line nearest the river, but is thought to be in another line in the rear of this.

Hazen is also across and five boats will be sent him in the morning. He is to make a reconnaissance in the morning with a strong skirmish line, and that if he finds the enemy gone, to take position on the mainland and build foot bridges through the swamp. General Mower has succeeded in driving off the enemy and is intrenching a mile and a half beyond the river. If the enemy has not left General Hazen’s front their position can be turned by General Mower.

We destroyed from 1,200 yards to a mile of the railroad this side of Blackville. There are still about three miles of road remaining undestroyed.

Hazen Reports from Near Holman’s Bridge:

I have my skirmish line at the river bank, which is bluff on this side; on the one opposite a cypress swamp extends for half a mile, and the road runs through it in a straight line. The enemy have a few sharpshooters posted on this road about 100 yards from the river. I can form no conjecture of their force beyond the swamp. I have a crossing of felled trees and a way cleared nearly through the swamp about half a mile above the bridge and a raft completed below it, and will tonight put in a piece of artillery, sweeping the road. If it is desired I will cross a brigade in the morning and endeavor to force away whatever may be beyond, or will clear the road with artillery and push a skirmish line or light force through the swamp. I would be glad if the wishes of the general commanding might be sent me by the bearer of this. It will require our four boats to put a pontoon bridge across here, or by more labor one could be made without boats.

General Howard has ordered five boats to be sent Hazen in the morning, with which he can cross the main stream. General Mower has succeeded in crossing the main stream, has waded the swamp for a mile beyond, has succeeded in driving the enemy off and is now intrenching on the mainland a mile and a half from the river. The enemy will probably leave their front during the night.

General Mower is now laying a pontoon brigade. The enemy have not yet discovered him, and are still in position. There is a swamp between where he landed and the enemy, which he thinks passable.

The Seventeenth Corp should effect a lodgment on the other side of the river by making a detour sufficiently far to your left to turn the enemy’s position without loss. We are satisfied that the enemy has nothing but two pieces of artillery, supported by cavalry in small force, and think that he may be driven off by persistent and continued efforts, though there is no immediate hurry.

Slocum Writes:

HEADQUARTERS LEFT WING, Salkehatchie River, February 9, 1865.
Geary’s division leaving here at 6 a. m. today and will reach Blackville tonight.

I ordered the Fourteenth Corps to Blackville, but in view of the movements of the Twentieth Corps I shall direct Davis to some point west of Blackville. Before leaving Savannah I applied for a regiment of cavalry, also for one of the engineer regiments. I understood that both applications were approved by General Sherman, yet I have not had an engineer soldier with me and have had but six mounted men.

All my messages have been sent by footmen. I cannot today send a mounted man to the general-in-chief nor to either of the corps commanders under me. I have had bridges to construct in water from eight to fifteen feet in depth and have not had a man of experience with me. If it is not absolutely necessary to retain all the engineer troops with the Right Wing, I earnestly hope that at least one company of the Fifth Michigan may be sent to this wing. I also ask that at least 100 good cavalrymen, under good officers, my be permanently assigned to duty with me. I would like the Ninth Illinois Mounted Infantry.

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Graham’s Station, February 9, 1865-12 m.

Major-General SLOCUM, Blackville:
Your note of this morning is received. Williams moved hence for Blackville this a.m. The Michigan Engineers have been ordered to your flank to twist railroad. Tell Williams I have inspected his work here, and the bars are not twisted; better do half the quantity, but do it thoroughly; unless there be a warp, the bar can be straightened again. All the cavalry is now and has been on your flank. Kilpatrick was last night up at Williston, where he whipped a division of cavalry, and is moving to break up railroad partially as far as Aiken. I was in hopes you would turn Davis off below Coosawhatchie Swamp, through Barnwell, to Williston or White Pond. Get him, as soon as possible, at work on the railroad from Williston west, and in the meantime have the bridges at Guignard’s and Pine Log examined, so as to cross there, or at the head of Young’s Island. My orders of yesterday give the next movement.

Today, Howard with the Seventeenth Corps, is moving to Binnaker’s Bridge. Two divisions of the Fifteenth Corps are at the forks of the roads west of this, and the other at Holman’s Bridge. Don’t take any of Kilpatrick’s cavalry to make escorts or orderlies, for he has to fight and contend now with double and nearly treble his numbers. For courier duty and orderlies, pick up horses and mount drummers and non-combatants. If necessary to get horses, break up teams and use mules for ambulances, burning up the empty wagons. Howard has no cavalry save one fragment of mounted infantry. By keeping on our left you will have henceforth good foraging ground, and may pick up horses and plenty of forage. Pine Log Ford will be the place for Kilpatrick to cross over the South Edisto. Your best points will be the head of Young’s Island and Guignard’s. We must all turn amphibious, for the country is half under water. Mower had to fight at the Salkehatchie with his men up to their armpits, he setting the example. I think we can spend all of tomorrow on railroad breaking, but next day we must be across Edisto. You can gain time on Howard as he swings against Orangeburg. Your wing will move on Columbia.

Yours,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

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