HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Chesterfield, South Carolina, March 3, 1865 6 a.m.
Major-General KILPATRICK, Commanding Cavalry:
I got your dispatch from Blakeny’s last night. I want you to interpose between Charlotte and Cheraw till we are across. General Blair’s head of column was thirteen miles southwest of Cheraw last night. General Jackson’s division of Twentieth Corps pushed Butler’s cavalry at a run through Chesterfield and across the bridges of Thompson’s Creek, saving the one on the Wadesborough road, excepting one post, which the enemy had time to cut. The other bridge, on the Cheraw road, was burned.
The balance of the corps is pretty well strung out by reason of the roads. I don’t know exactly where General Davis is, but will direct him on Sneedsborough; and would like you to report to me the nature of the roads, especially the one from Mount Croghan by Sinclair’s. By the way, that is your true position, and you should get a party over on the plank road on the line of Jones’ Creek and cut off any courier-line from Wadesborough. I think Hardee will try and escape toward Wadesborough, and in that event you will strike his flank anyhow; and I want you to let go everything and cut his column, reporting to me, that I may throw infantry across.
Until I hear the exact state of matters at Cheraw, I will move the Right Wing on Cheraw and Left on Sneedsborough. I don’t much care now what Beauregard does. He has no railroad now to circulate on and must foot it now, as we do, and he has not the trains that we have. Still he can move more rapidly than we. I want, of course, to get across Pedee and then will fight him where he pleases, and don’t care for his Virginia re-enforcements. We have to meet them some time, and now as well as later; only let me know in advance, as much as possible, the route or routes on which his infantry moves. His cavalry gives no clue on which I can judge. My belief, however, is that Beauregard is tied to a railroad and that railroad will be from Charlotte to Danville.
I have no doubt that Wilmington is, or soon will be, in our hands, and, moreover, that Schofield will or has made a lodgment on the Goldsborough road. A mere strong picket of observation toward Monroe, to give General Davis notice of the approach of danger, will suffice. The bulk of your force should be north of Thompson’s Creek, from Burch’s up toward Jones’ Creek. Reconnoitering parties should examine Pedee from Jones’ Creek down, but do nothing to show a purpose to cross.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding.
HDQRS. CAVALRY COMMAND, ARMY OF INVASION, In the Field, S. C., March 3, 1865.
The enemy appeared in a considerable force this morning from the direction of Monroe, on the road to Blakeny’s, and skirmished with Colonel Spencer’s command, which crossed that road at 10 a. m. today at a point about six miles north of Blakeny’s. After striking the Chesterfield and Monroe road I moved down to Hornsborough Post-Office, then out upon the Wadesborough road to within ten miles of that point, where my own headquarters now are. My scouts have felt the enemy all day upon the left. I think Allen’s division of cavalry is now on the road from White’s Store to Wadesborough. I do not know what other forces of the enemy may be with him. I send you a map indicating my encampment and country watched by my troops. I have had a horrible road to march on today. Tomorrow I shall move to the vicinity of Sneedsborough unless I hear from you.
Five miles of this road will be red slate and firm, after that sandy, and of course good. I have a scouting party in Wadesborough, who will bring me information of the enemy in that direction. Artillery firing is now heard north of and near to Clay’s Creek. Spencer, an hour since, had passed the road coming in from Meltonsville and White’s Store, and should be at this moment in position, covering that road, where I directed him to encamp tonight. My command is all in camp, and I believe my position a good one; covering, however, as I do so many roads, I shall have comparatively but a small force to resist any determined attack upon either one. I will be massed, however, at an early hour tomorrow morning on Chesterfield and Wadesborough road, at a point just north of North Carolina line. Please inform me what operations you require of me tomorrow, and, if possible, for the next day.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. KILPATRICK, Brevet Major-General, Commanding Cavalry
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Chesterfield, S. C., March 3, 1865. 7 a.m.
Major-General SLOCUM, Commanding Left Wing:
General Kilpatrick reports that he is near Blakeny’s, and will move today around the head of Thompson’s Creek to the neighborhood of Sinclair’s and reconnoiter well across to the Pedee. General Blair also reports from his position thirteen miles from Cheraw on the Camden road. General Howard halted him there till the Fifteenth got up in supporting distance. The Fifteenth has been delayed by all sorts of mishaps occasioned by high waters, but General Blair, pursuant to my orders, is now moving straight on Cheraw. I want you to finish up the two bridges, get up your troops from the rear, and move the Twentieth toward Cheraw, north of Thompson’s Creek, until you know that General Blair is in Cheraw, when it will work across to the plank road and up to Sneedsborough, where I design your wing and the cavalry to cross over. You may instruct General Davis to move on Sneedsborough at once, but I don’t see as be can do better than to come here and use your upper bridge unless he gets better roads and more forage by Mount Croghan, Sinclair’s, McQuaig’s, &c. I believe that Hardee is at Cheraw with his Charleston garrison, and it may be part of the Wilmington forces, but I rather think these latter will be used to meet Schofield about Goldsborough. I want Hardee attacked rapidly and boldly, if in any position this side the Pedee. If he makes the mistake to fight on this side we ought to catch him.
I have instructed General Kilpatrick to get a brigade of cavalry across to the plank road at once to observe and attack any force moving on that road from any direction. If Hardee tries to escape toward Wadesborough we must let go our trains and attack him in flank. I think Beauregard, without many wagons, is tied to his Charlotte and Danville railroad. He would not dare depend on the coast road, held as it is, and threatened at Goldsborough. Let us get across the Pedee at all hazards as soon as possible, and then we are all right with Fayetteville as our objective and the Cape Fear River as an alternative.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Chesterfield, S. C., March 3, 1865. 6 a.m.
General F. P. BLAIR, Commanding Seventeenth Corps:
Your messenger with copies of General Howard’s letter and your reply is received. I trust you have marched in accordance with your reply to the general, but if not, do so at once, for this corps is near enough in support, and report to General Howard your action and my orders. I expect to see you soon, and will explain my reasons and information. Don’t break the railroad bridge across Thompson’s Creek, as it will be useful to Howard, but tap the railroad below Cheraw at any point convenient other than that of Thompson’s Creek. We hold Chesterfield, and one of the bridges, viz, that on the Wadesborough road, but the enemy burned the other on the Cheraw road, two miles out, where Jackson’s division is now repairing.
Have your pontoons at the head of column, or enough for 150 feet of bridge. Feign at several points, but cross at one. We will operate north of Thompson’s Creek. If you get a chance let Mower and Force do some of their sharp, quick work. I hardly hope to save the big bridge across the Pedee at Cheraw, but it is worth the effort. Once you start the enemy, keep him going, and force him across the Pedee, or rather up the plank road on this side. Let us hear your artillery occasionally, but don’t waste ammunition. When you get the forks of the road below Thompson’s Creek send me word here. Send this to General Howard as explanation for your advance, and I want him up as soon as he can get all up in good shape. As soon as you have got both banks of Thompson’s Creek, set the engineer regiment at work on the bridge, unless the banks are low and favorable to pontoons; but we will want the pontoons before are done with the Thompson’s Creek bridge. I take it for granted the enemy will burn the road bridge, but think he will spare the railroad bridge. Cheraw is full of hospitals, but not much stores. Hardee is there, but Hampton is not. We encountered Butler’s cavalry here, but they gave to a skirmish line. SHERMAN,
Blair Has Taken Cheraw:
My advance entered this town about 12 m., having skirmished with the enemy’s cavalry for seven miles. I endeavored to save the bridge on the Pedee by pushing forward my skirmish line rapidly as possible, but just as the men reached it, it was fired at the other end, and, being prepared with rosin, the flame spread like lighting, and it was comletely destroyed. I shall lay my pontoon tonight if possible. The enemy are in some force on the other side. I found in the city twenty-four pieces of artillery, heavy and light, and a large amount of ammunition. The commissary stores were in the depot and fired by the enemy before leaving
I write Major-General HOWARD:
Your dispatch from Cheraw is received. Concentrate your command at Cheraw and make a crossing of and lodgment beyond the Pedee with all possible dispatch, as it is all important we at once hold its left bank. If you think you will have time, send any kind of a force from the rear portion of your command, probably mounted would be the best, down to Florence, with directions to destroy anything of public property there. We will come into Cheraw tomorrow morning. It is not probable there is anything of an enemy at Florence.
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Chesterfield, S. C., March 3, 1865 2:30 p. m.
Major-General HOWARD, Commanding Right Wing;
Your dispatch, of 3:30 p. m. of yesterday, from Black Creek, is just received. I wrote this a.m. to General Blair a letter to be sent you, which may reach you before this, but will repeat. Slocum took Chesterfield yesterday, driving Butler’s cavalry to and through the town, but the enemy broke one of the bridges and burned the other. Both are now repaired, and Slocum will push one division down on the north bank so as to uncover your crossing; but send me word as soon as you are over, that the Twentieth Corps may cross over to the Pedee toward Sneedsborough, where I want his wing and the cavalry to cross over. Of course I am a little impatient to get across Pedee before Beauregard can swing around from Charlotte and Salisbury and oppose our crossing. Once across Pedee, I don’t fear the whole Confederate army, for if need be we can swing in against the right bank of Cape Fear and work down till we meet our people, but I shall aim to reach Fayetteville and Goldsborough, where I know Schofield must now be.
I have ordered Davis from McManus’ Bridge via Mount Crogham to Sneedsborough, and Kilpatrick is above him toward Wadesborough. Roads are very bad up here, either quicksand or red clay. The country is also poor; still thus far we find forage, bacon, and corn meal. I met at Winnsborough Mrs. Aiken, wife of the very Colonel Aiken you report as killed in the fight with Duncan. She was a Miss Gayler, of Mobile, sister of Mrs. General Gorgas, of the rebel Ordnance Department. In her conversation with me she said she supposed her husband would have to “submit or get killed,” and I answered her that such was the case, but I hardly thought so soon to be a prophet.
I will send your letter to Slocum, with instructions to read it and push one or two divisions down toward Cheraw as fast as possible, leaving his wagons near the Sneedsborough road. I will stay here tonight and tomorrow come down, in hopes to go into Cheraw. I don’t believe Hardee will fight on this side the river, and it is now too late for him to slip out by way of Wadesborough. Your rear divisions will have plenty of time to close up whilst you are getting your crossing secured and bridged. I take it all the bridges across Thompson’s Creek are gone, unless it be the railroad bridge, which may have been spared for the sake of the wounded that must still be there. I also feel confident that Wilmington is in our possession, and that none of its garrison is at Cheraw.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General
HDQRS. DEPARTMENT AND ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, Cheraw, S. C., March 3, 1865-1. 40 p. m.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:
GENERAL: General Blair entered here at about 11:30 a.m., skirmishing with the enemy’s cavalry. Hardee left with the last of his troops this morning. General Mower pushed with all his might, and tried to save the bridge, but could not do it. We have 17 pieces of artillery as far as counted, about 2,000 muskets, and 1 building containing ammunition. The enemy’s skirmishers are on the other side of the river. General Blair will encamp here tonight, and General Logan about eight miles to the rear, on Thompson’s Creek. I send you Fayetteville Observer of the 27th instant [ultimo]. An expedition was sent to break the railroad, with instructions to make a very small break, as I thought you may want to use the road for some purpose.
O. O. HOWARD, Major-General