Chesterfield, South Carolina
We entered the village of Chesterfield, skirmishing with Butler’s cavalry, which gave ground rapidly. I received a message from General Howard, who, reports that he is already in Cheraw with the Seventeenth Corps, and that the Fifteenth is near at hand.
General Hardee has retreated eastward across the Pedee, burning the bridge. I therefore directed the left wing to march for Sneedsboro’, about ten miles above Cheraw, to cross the Pedee there, while I in person propose to cross over and join the right wing in Cheraw.
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, March 2, 1865.
General KILPATRICK, Near Lancaster:
The Twentieth Corps is now starting from Big Lynch’s Creek for Chesterfield, twenty miles distant. The Fourteenth Corps is now at Little Lynch’s Creek, behind us, and will march by McManus’ Bridge toward Chesterfield. General Howard was on the 28th February across Lynch’s Creek at Tiller’s, and General Blair within sixteen miles of Cheraw. All move on Cheraw, where it is said the Charleston and Wilmington garrisons are expecting to meet us. I don’t believe they will fight on this side the Pedee, but you may move on General Davis’ flank near Chesterfield, and by the time you get there I can select the points of crossing. But if there be any enemy at Cheraw he will, of course, break the bridge there and force us to use pontoons, in which case we will probably use Cheraw and Sneedborough.
General Howard sent his company of scouts from Tiller’s toward the Charleston and Wilmington road, but they met two brigades of cavalry near Mount Elon Post-Office, and were driven back. General Howard reports Hampton’s headquarters at Darlington, but I doubt it. I don’t think the enemy would leave his cavalry, or any material part of it, between us and the sea. Doubtless he is watching and using the railroad east and south of us, but to what extent I cannot conjecture until I know whether our people have Wilmington. I suppose Schofield by this time must be on the railroad north of Wilmington, at or near Goldsborough.
Keep near General Davis’ left and act defensively till we know about Cheraw. I will be with the Twentieth Corps, near Chesterfield, where the Lancaster road meets this, about four miles this side of Chesterfield. I will send infantry to Chesterfield to secure if possible the bridges across Thompson’s Creek near that place, tomorrow at Cheraw. You should be tonight on Lynch’s Creek, and tomorrow near Chesterfield. Roads are sandy and good; enemy leaves us good bridges, and thus far we find not even pickets. General Blair found some cavalry on his road, who gave ground easily.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding
HDQRS. CAVALRY COMMAND, ARMY OF INVASION, In the Field, near Blakeny’s Cross-Roads, March 2, 1865
Captain Northrop, of my staff, dashed into Monroe yesterday and captured nine of the enemy and broke the enemy’s courier line. Two dispatches had been received from Beauregard to Hampton and Hardee; the one addressed to Hampton seven miles from Lancaster, the other at Cheraw. Captain Lee, of Beauregard’s staff, had just passed through. He told the citizens that our Right Wing was swinging around to Cheraw, and that he was taking orders to Hardee to fight and delay our march; that Charleston and Wilmington had been evacuated in order to concentrate troops; that Cheatham and a portion of A. P. Hill’s corps had reached Charlotte. Beauregard was still in doubt as to our objective point. My officers are fast learning to be good cavalrymen. All little expeditions sent out have been characterized by that enterprise and dash so requisite to success. Captain Northrop brought away nearly one hundred good horses and mules. This information is reliable. Hampton and his cavalry is near Monroe, and not in General Howard’s front. I shall hold the roads to the left of Chesterfield tomorrow night, and will reconnoiter the river as high up as opposite Wadesborough. The impression among citizens and rebel soldiers about Monroe is that Petersburg has been evacuated.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. KILPATRICK, Brevet Major-General, Commanding Cavalry
The Right Wing Struggles With High Water:
HDQRS. DEPARTMENT AND ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, Big Black Creek, March 2, 1865 3:30 p.m.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:
Your dispatch of March 1 just received. I did not get it in season to order General Blair forward today. I had ordered General Blair to wait until the Fifteenth Corps was in supporting distance, and hoping that you would get on the road leading from Cheraw northward.
The division of cavalry (Butler’s) in Darlington was withdrawn to Cheraw two days ago. The brigade commander, Brigadier-General (or Colonel) Aiken was killed in Duncan’s night skirmish near Mount Elon, and also a colonel is reported killed. From the tenor of your dispatch I thought you supposed me purposely delaying. I have not done so.
After Hazen had laid bridges across the Lynch his bridge swayed over and fell as soon as the first wagon commenced crossing, and after he had gotten ready again to cross, the old bridge was carried a few feet down-stream and had to be supported. Working hard all the time Generals Corse and Woods only succeeded in effecting a crossing yesterday evening.
The water was three and four feet deep over the roadway, and about a mile of road was covered. After the first few wagons passed any point the bottom gave out and black mud appeared. Everybody worked day and night, and often in the water waist deep. You may ask why I did not go up higher? Because the Little Lynch became almost equally difficult, and I was obliged to get supplies. We have secured them in the vicinity of Kellytown in some quantity. General Corse is now repairing the road across the Big Black, with part of his force on the other side. He will encamp tonight where the New Market raod comes in; General Woods between New Market and that point; General Hazen, and probably General Smith, at Kellytown. Everything will push on to Cheraw tomorrow. As soon as possible I will break the railroad with mounted infantry. The enemy has not destroyed the bridges across these creeks, but the approaches are awful.
I have positive information that Wilmington is in our hands, and that a brigade under Hagood was captured entire near Town Creek, only about twenty-five men escaping. Deserters from that brigade are now at my headquarters. I have forwarded the dispatch you desired to Charleston, and think it will get through safe. From information received I did not think it best to attempt the Florence road again. Could I have gotten my command over Lynch’s Creek promptly nothing would have suited me better than to have gone for Hardee with all my might. My headquarters tomorrow night will be as near Cheraw as I can get.
O. O. HOWARD, Major-General
General Blair Writes:
I was making preparation to move forward at once on Cheraw, in accordance with inclosed letter from General Sherman, when I received General Howard’s directions to wait. Unless further orders are received I shall move forward tomorrow morning.
Howard Orders Blair To Cheraw:
Move forward on Cheraw at as early an hour as possible tomorrow morning. General Corse and Woods are over Lynch, but are detained to Big Black. Hazen and Smith are not yet all across Lynch. Corse and Woods will probably be near to Cheraw tomorrow night.
Davis’s Corp has been halted at McManus Bridge due to high water. They are repairing the bridge and corduroying the road.