Thursday, February 23, 1865

Rocky Mount Post-Office on the Catawba River, South Carolina

The Twentieth Corps laid its pontoon-bridge and crossed over the Catawba River. Kilpatrick arrived in the midst of heavy rain, and was instructed to cross at once, by night, and to move up to Lancaster, to make believe we are bound for Charlotte, NC. I hear that Beauregard has directed all his detachments to Charlotte, including a corps of Hood’s old army, which has been marching parallel with us, but has failed to make junction with the forces immediately opposing us. I had no purpose of going to Charlotte, for the right wing is already moving rapidly toward Fayetteville, North Carolina. The rain is so heavy and persistent that the Catawba, River rose fast. Soon after I had crossed the pontoon bridge at Rocky Mount it was carried away, leaving General Davis, with the Fourteenth Corps, on the west bank.

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Rocky Mount, February 23, 1865. 10 a.m.
Major-General HOWARD, Commanding Right Wing:
I have just gone down to the bridge. It will take all of today and tomorrow to get this wing across and out. You may go ahead, but keep communication with me. I expect Kilpatrick here this p.m. and will send him well to the left. He reports that two of his foraging parties were murdered by the enemy after capture and labeled, “Death to all foragers.” Now it is clearly our war right to subsist our army on the enemy. Napoleon always did it, but could avail himself of the civil powers he found in existence to collect forage and provisions by regular impressments. We cannot do that here, and I contend if the enemy fails to defend his country we may rightfully appropriate what we want. If our foragers act under mine, yours, or other proper orders they must be protected. I have ordered Kilpatrick to select of his prisoners man for man, shoot them, and leave them by the road side labeled, so that our enemy will see that for every man he executes he takes the life of one of his own. I want the foragers, however, to be kept within reasonable bounds for the sake of discipline. I will not protect them when they enter dwellings and commit wanton waste, such as woman’s apparel, jewelry, and such things as are not needed by our army; but they may destroy cotton or tobacco, because these are assumed by the rebel Government to belong to it, and are used as a valuable source of revenue. Nor will I consent to our enemy taking the lives of our men on their judgment. They have lost all title to property, and can lose nothing not already forfeited; but we should punish for a departure from our orders, and if the people resist our foragers I will not dem it wrong, but the Confederate army must not be supposed the champion of any people. I lay down these general rules and wish you to be governed by them. If any of your foragers are murdered, take life for life, leaving a record of each case.
I am, with respect,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

Genearal Howard Reports from Red Hill Post-Office, February 23, 1865. 12 m.

General Logan’s head of column is already near Flat Rock. General Blair has been directed to reach Russell Place with his head of column tonight. I have two bridges, a wagon bridge and foot bridge, across the river, and if it does not rain expect to get everything across before night. The roads I have marked out are for General Blair to move from Russell Place to Williams’, near Copeland’s, thence by country roads to Young’s Bridge; for General Logan to move from Flat Rock to lower Williams’ Cross-Roads, thence to Tillersville Post-Office. The two corps will then concentrate at Cheraw. I found a good road directly from Liberty Hill to Flat Rock. Two of General Logan’s divisions are moving on a road a little farther south. There is a road also from Russell Place to Flat Rock, via an old mill, that is shorter than any laid down on the maps. My headquarters will be at this point tonight, viz, at Patterson’s Cross-Roads, so as to be within easy communication with General Blair Logan.

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISIOIN OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Rocky Munt, February 23, 1865
General HOWARD, Commanding Right Wing:
Your note of today is received. I don’t see as we can do better than follow the roads you have indicated, although they carry you too far south. Davis will cross tomorrow and get on the road from Lancester to Cheraw via Chesterfield. Williams is now at Colonel Ballard’s, but his trains are not yet across. Kilpatrick will cross at 7 p.m., move out five miles, and tomorrow move to Lancaster, and there await Davis’ coming. I will accompany Williams, and expect to be about Hanging Rock tomorrow night, thence will find a road across the Chesterfield. I fear much the present rain will make the roads very bad. You will have better roads and should move slower. If circumstances warrant, you might send a small cavalry force into Camden and get more positive news of Charleston. It might save you being troubled by cavalry to burn the bridge. If you should calculate that you will reach Cheraw much in advance of us you may threaten Florence, or actually break the railroad near there, to divert attention from our real course.

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

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Rocky Mount, S. C., February 23, 1865.

Major-General KILPATRICK, Commanding Cavalry:
Yours of last night is received and your dispositions of matters are all rights. The bridge is laid and troops are crossing. I am anxious to get the wagons across and up on high ground before the rain comes. I wish you would keep your cavalry on roads to the north of the direct one by Gladden’s Grove, as that will be needed all day for infantry and wagons. You shall have the bridge as fast as your brigades come. I regret the matter you report, that eighteen of your men have been murdered after surrender, and marked that the enemy intended to kill all foragers. It leaves no alternative; you must retaliate man for man and mark them in like manner. Let it be done at once. We have a perfect war right to the products of the country we overrun, and may collect them by foragers or otherwise. Let the whole people know that the war is now against them, because their armies flee before us and do not defend their country or its frontier as they should. It is pretty nonsense for Wheeler and Beauregard and such vain heroes to talk of our warring against women and children. If they claim to be men they should defend their women and children and prevent us reaching their homes. Instead of maintaining their armies let them turn their attention to their families, or we will follow them to the death. They should know that we will follow them to the death. They should know that we will use the produce of the country as we please.

I want the foragers to be regulated and systematized so as not to degenerate into common robbers, but foragers, as such, to collect corn, bacon, beef, and such other products as we need, are as much entitled to our protection as our skirmishers and flankers. You will, therefore, at once shoot and leave by the roadside an equal number of their prisoners, and append a label to their bodies stating that man for man shall be killed for every one of our men they kill. Never let an enemy judge our men and be the law. For my part I want the people of the South to realize the fact that they shall not dictate laws of war or peace to us. If there is to be any dictation we want our full share.

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

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