Thursday, February 16, 1865

Across the River from Columbia, South Carolina

The Fifteenth Corps reached the point opposite Columbia, and pushed on for the Saluda Factory three miles above, crossed that stream, and the head of column reached Broad River just in time to find its bridge in flames, Butler’s cavalry having just passed over into Columbia. The head of Slocum’s column also reached the point opposite Columbia the same morning, but the bulk of his army was back at Lexington. I met General Slocum and explained to him the purport of General Order No. 26, which contemplated the passage of his army across Broad River at Alston, fifteen miles above Columbia. Riding down to the river-bank, I saw the wreck of the large bridge which had been burned by the enemy, with its many stone piers still standing, but the superstructure gone. Across the Congaree River lay the city of Columbia, in plain, easy view. I could see the unfinished State-House, a handsome granite structure, and the ruins of the railroad depot, which were still smouldering. Occasionally a few citizens or cavalry could be seen running across the streets, and quite a number of negroes were seemingly busy in carrying off bags of grain or meal, which were piled up near the burned depot.

Captain De Gres had a section of his twenty-pound Parrott guns unlimbered, firing into the town. I asked him what he was firing for. He said he could see some rebel cavalry occasionally at the intersections of the streets, and he had an idea that there was a large force of infantry concealed on the opposite bank, lying low, in case we should attempt to cross over directly into the town. I instructed him not to fire any more into the town, but consented to his bursting a few shells near the depot, to scare away the negroes who were appropriating the bags of corn and meal which we wanted, also to fire three shots at the unoccupied State-House. I stood by and saw these fired, and then all firing ceased.

Tonight I camped near an old prison bivouac opposite Columbia, known to our prisoners of war as “Camp Sorghum,” where remained the mud-hovels and holes in the ground which our prisoners had made to shelter themselves from the winter’s cold and the summer’s heat. The Fifteenth Corps is ahead, reaching to Broad River, about four miles above Columbia; the Seventeenth Corps is behind, on the river-bank opposite Columbia; and the left wing and cavalry has turned north toward Alston.

HDQRS. MIL. DIV. OF THE MISSISSIPPI. In the Field, near Columbia S. C., February 16, 1865
SPECIAL FIELD ORDERS, Numbers 26.

The next series of movements will be on Fayetteville, N. C., and thence to Wilmington or Goldsborough according to events. Great care must be exercised in collecting forage and food, and at the same time in covering the wagon trains from cavalry dashes.

I. General Howard will cross the Saluda and Broad Rivers as near their mouths as possible, occupy Columbia, destroy the public buildings, railroad property, manufacturing and machine shops, but will spare libraries and asylums and private dwellings. He will then move to Winnsborough destroying en route utterly that section of the railroad. He will also cause all bridges, trestles, water-tanks, and depots on the railroad back to the Wateree to be burned, switches broken, and such other destruction as he can find time to accomplish consistent with the proper celerity. For movements of his army he will select roads that cross the Wateree to the south of Lancaster.

II. General Slocum and Kilpatrick will cross the Saluda River near Mount Zion, and the Broad River below or at Alston, and will cause the destruction of the bridge at Alston and the railroad back toward Columbia as far as possible, aiming to be in communication with Winnsborough by the time General Howard reaches that point. They will study to get roads in the direction of Lancaster, and should they have any spare time on reaching the Great Northern Railroad they will prolong the break in the direction north of Winnsborough.

Colonel O. M. Poe, chief engineer, will cause the First Regiment Michigan Engineers to accompany the Right Wing, and have it destroy as much of the railroad from Columbia northward through and beyond Winnsoborough as possible, working in concert with any troops he may find employed at that work.

IV. The general-in-chief will be with the left division of the Right Wing, or right division of the Left Wing, or as near the center of the army as possible, and will from time to time advise commanding officers of his whereabouts. He also expects the fullest possible reports of subordinate commanders. In the absence of specific orders the Right Wing will be the “column of direction,” and will aim for Winnsborough, Cheraw, Fayetteville, &c.
By order of Major General W. T. Sherman:
L. M. DAYTON. Assistant Adjutant-General.

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI. In the Field, February 16, 1865.
Major-General HOWARD:
I see the bridge over the Broad burning. It is very important that you effect a crossing tonight. If necessary, get over the Saluda the bulk of the Fifteenth Corps, then take up enough pontoons to finish one across the Broad. Send an officer with the inclosed note to General Slocum, who can send you ten before daylight. Slocum can cross Broad River as high up as Alston and thereby use his bridges at one day’s interval.
Yours,
W. T. SHERMAN. Major-General

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, February 16, 1865.
Major-General SLOCUM:
General Howard has to pass Saluda and Broad Rivers at the same time, requiring more bridging than he has. I send this through him that he may note on it how many he wants. I suppose you can spare ten, as you will be able to remove that over the Saluda before you pass the Broad. In case Howard calls for any pontoons he will conduct them to the point where he needs them.
Yours, truly,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

Howard Orders the Right Wing:

The following will be the movemetns of this command tomorrow:
The Fifteenth Army Corps, Major General John A. Logan commanding, will cross the Broad River and take up position beyond the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad, facing eastward and be prepared to destroy the road from the city fifteen miles southward.

The Seventeenth Army corps, Major General F. P. Blair, commanding, following the Fifteenth Army Corps, will take up position on the west side of the railroad facing northward, and be prepared to destroy the railroad from the city toward Winnsborough. The trains of department headquarters will follow the leading division of the Seventeenth Army Corps. Department cattle herd will follow the Seventeenth Army Corps.

Logan Prepares to Cross the River:

I want General Woods to put one of the brigades across the river in small baots as rapidly as possible. When across, they will throw up a bridge-head, so as to completely protect the pontoon bridge to be laid, and push their skirmishers out as far as they can without endangering them too much. Have pioneers at work fixing the road on both sides of the river and assist in laying the bridge. Please give this your personal attention and the laying of the bridge your supervision, so that you may cross early in the morning into Columbia.

General Woods Replies to Logan:

At daylight this morning I pushed my skirmishers forward, as was directed in your communication last night, but found no enemy in my front. Moving during the morning in rear of the Second Division I halted for a short time and took position on the State road, near the crossing of the Congaree, when receiving orders I again moved out in rear of the Second Division. The road, however, was so crowded with trains I was unable to reach the ground assigned me until after dark. My troops are encamped, two brigades front, on the river bluff, just above the Factory road. One of my brigades, the Third, is crossing over in the pontoon boats, intending to cover the laying of the pontoons at this point. My headquarters are near the right of my line.

General Hazen Reports:

I sent forward my skirmish line at daylight this morning, and that they found the country west of the Congaree and Saluda Rivers evacuated by the enemy. At 8 a. m. the division moved opposite Columbia, and soon after to the crossing of the Saluda near Saluda Factory, where two regiments were crossing in boats, driving away the enemy. Afterwards the entire division crossed and pushed on to the Broad, but failed to save the bridge. Early this morning two men were wounded from the shots of the enemy across the Congaree River. My headquarters are at the white house, about a half mile west of the Broad River.

Blair Orders the Seventeenth Corp:

I. Division commanders will cause their white pioneer corps to report at once to captain Kossak, chief engineer, at the houses that are near the battery that is playing on the city.

II. Division commanders will cause all animals in their commands ridden by unauthorized persons to be seized at the crossing of the Broad River. They will dispose of the serviceable animals in their batteries, escort companies, trains, and quartermaster’s department. The worthless ones will be shot.

III. The following are the orders for to-morrow:
Major General J. A. Mower, commanding First Division, will have the advance in crossing the river, and will be prepared to move at daylight, but will not move until he receives orders.

Brigadier General M. F. Force, commanding Third Division, will be prepared to move at 7 o’clock and will follow the First Division.

Bvt. Major General G. A. Smith, commanding Fourth, Division, will be prepared to move at 8 o’clock, and will follow the Third Division.
The trains will move with their respective divisions.

Kilpatrick Writes from Lexington:

HEADQUARTERS CAVALRY COMMAND,
In the Field, Lexington, S. C., February 16, 1865.

Major-General SHERMAN:
I have the at my headquarters a discharged Confederate soldier, who left Richmond Saturday evening last at 6 p.m. He left Columbia yesterday evening. He reports R.E. Lee, and Longstreet stopping at the Plametto House. He thinks that, all told, militia and regular troops, the enemy has not over 20,000 effective, men. Only a portion of S. D. Lee’s corps is in Columbia. Longstreet’s corps, or a portion of it, was expected but Grant’s attack on Burgess’ and Armstrong’s Mills, near Petersburg, delayed the departure.

A large portion of Wheeler’s cavalry is now in and around Columbia; the remaining portion was in my rear at noon today, but is at this present moment crossing the river about fifteen miles above this point. Major-General Hampton is in Columbia, with two brigades of cavalry, Butler’s and Young’s, but not mounted. Their horses are now up in Fairfield District; have been sent for and are not expected before Sunday. Seventeen hundred Federal officers were yesterday at noon still in Columbia, confined near the asylum. Nearly 20,000 of our prisoners he reprots now in a large stockade on the Charlotte and Columbia Railroad ten miles from Columbia.

I don’t fear Wheeler and Hampton combined, even without supports. Wheeler’s men have thrown away and I have detsoryed upward of 1,500 stand of arms in the various stampedes my people have given different portions of his command since leaving Sister’s Ferry. In the fight near Aiken in whichone of my regiments (the Ninety-second Illinois), one company of the Ninth Michigan, and small detachments from the Ninth and Tenth Ohio and my staff and escort, were alone engaged against Humes’ and Allen’s divisions, commanded by Wheeler in perseon, I lost but 25 men killed and wounded and less than 20 taken prisoners. But was not a general fight, but simply a reconnaissance. This party fell slowly back from Aiken before these two divisions and at 11 a. m. Wheeler, with one brigade, feigned upon my left flank and charged me, mounted, with his entire command. I occupied a strong position, had no flanks, and he was most handsomely repulsed. His loss before he reached my barricades, in Allen’s division alone, according to his official report, was 31 killed and upward of 160 wounded. I took upward of 60 prisoners, and have in my possession 5 battle-flags as proof of our superiority over his cavlary. I am now guarding the country from Wise’s Ferry across to and beyond the Two Notch road, and I am scouting the country farther south. I can hear of no force of the enemy in our rear. If I could be thrown across the Saluda I could capture a large number of horses, and should be only too happy to be thrown even across Broad river, when it will take more than Wheeler’s cavalry, assisted by Hampton, to keep me off of the Charlotte and Columbia Railroad. I write you this in detail and fully, that you may have the facts in the case.

Wheeler has, as usual, reported a victory over my people, whose backs he never yet has seen, and from all that I can learn a portion of our army seems only too willing to believe such reports. Unfortunately for me, Wheeler did not this time have the good fortune to meet and be routed, as at Waynesborough, by one of our infantry corps.
I am ready, general, for any orders you may have to send me.

I am, general, very respectfullyl, your obedient servant,
J. KILPATRICK, Brevet Major-General, Commanding Cavalry

Kilpatrick Writes to Davis:

Colonel Jones reports that the banks of the Saluda at Wise’s Ferry, on this side, are low and swampy, and that a muddy creek has to be passed before reaching it, which would require a bridge. He thinks it a bad place to attempt a crossing. The enemy have a picket on the opposite bank, on the bluff which overlooks the ferry and which commands the low lands on this side. He also reports a ferry about one mile and a half below, at Swygert’s Mill, where the road is good to the water, with the bluff on this side commanding the low lands on the opposite. The enemy also have a picket at this point, but the colonel says they can be easily dislodged. The river is about 400 feet wide, and may be 500. Forage is plenty. The colonel has captured thirty horses and mules and the men are constantly bringing them in. There is a ford on the Saluda at Dreher’s Mills, about four miles from this point, but whether it could be now forded is doubted by the people here. I have just been informed of it, and will send a scout to that [point] to determine the matter. I have left Colonel Jones encamped near the ferry, which I suppose is correct. If not, let me hear from you. Captain MacKnight, of my staff, accompanies Colonel Jones, and fully corroborates his statements. Captain MacKinght thinks the Saluda 250 yards wide.

Only about 1,500 of Wheeler’s people found through Lexington; the remaining portion of his command is now crossing ten miles above this point. If 500 feet of pontoon bridging can be spared me I can cross at the point indicated by Colonel Jones, scatter and break Wheeler up. The entire country in our rear is now free of the enemy, and I can leave this point, so far as the enemy is concerned. I need horses and can capture them on the opposite side. The country is rich. My orderly will bring reply.

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