Saturday, March 4, 1865

Early in the morning I rode out of Chesterfield along with the Twentieth Corps, which filled the road, forded Thompson’s Creek, and, at the top of the hill beyond, found a road branching off to the right, which corresponded with the one, on my map leading to Cheraw. Seeing a negro standing by the roadside, looking at the troops passing, I inquired of him what road that was. Told it led to Cheraw, I started up the road. I was on my Lexington horse, who was very handsome and restive, so I made signal to my staff to follow. General Barry took up the questions about the road, and asked the same negro what he was doing there. He answered, “Dey say Massa Sherman will be along soon!” “Why,” said General Barry, “that was General Sherman you were talking to.” The poor negro, almost in the attitude of prayer, exclaimed: “De great God! just look at his horse!” He ran up and trotted by my side for a mile or so, and gave me all the information he possessed, but he seemed to admire the horse more than the rider.

We reached Cheraw in a couple of hours in a drizzling rain, and, while waiting for our wagons to come up, I staid with General Blair in a large house, the property of a blockade-runner, whose family remained. General Howard occupied another house farther downtown. He had already ordered his pontoon-bridge to be laid across the Pedee, there a large, deep, navigable stream, and Mower’s division was already across, skirmishing with the enemy about two miles out. Cheraw was found to be full of stores which had been sent up from Charleston prior to its evacuation, and which could not be removed. I was satisfied, from inquiries, that General Hardee had with him only the Charleston garrison, that the enemy had not divined our movements, and that consequently they were still scattered from Charlotte around to Florence, now behind us. Having thus secured the passage of the Pedee, I felt no uneasiness about the future, because there remained no further great impediment between us and Cape Fear River, which I felt assured was by that time in possession of our friends.

The day was so wet that we all kept in-doors; and about noon General Blair invited us to take lunch with him. We passed down into the basement dining-room, where the regular family table was spread with an excellent meal; and during its progress I was asked to take some wine, which stood upon the table in venerable bottles. It was so very good that I inquired where it came from. General Blair simply asked, “Do you like it?” but I insisted upon knowing where he had got it; he only replied by asking if I liked it, and wanted some. He afterward sent to my bivouac a case containing a dozen bottles of the finest madeira I ever tasted; and I learned that he had captured, in Cheraw, the wine of some of the old aristocratic families of Charleston, who had sent it up to Cheraw for safety. Blair had found about eight wagon-loads of this wine, which he distributed to the army generally, in very fair proportions.

After finishing our lunch, as we passed out of the dining room, General Blair asked me, if I did not want some saddle-blankets, or a rug for my tent, and, leading me into the hall to a space under the stairway, he pointed out a pile of carpets which had also been sent up from Charleston for safety. After our headquarter-wagons got up, and our bivouac was established in a field near by, I sent my orderly, Walter over to General Blair, and he came back staggering under a load of carpets, out of which the officers and escort made excellent tent-rugs, saddle-cloths, and blankets.

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Cheraw, S. C., March 4, 1865. 8 p.m.
Major-General SLOCUM, Commanding Left Wing, Sneedsborough:
I got here at 10 a.m. found the Seventeenth Corps in town and laying a pontoon bridge across the Pedee. The Fifteenth Corps is also here, and their trains are coming in all safe. The bridge is down; one division (Mower’s) is across and is skirmishing about two miles out. Hardee commanded here, and had, it is said, about 15,000 men, but I doubt if he had more than the Charleston garrison and S. D. Lee’s corps, in all, 10,000. There was a gun-boat here that had come up when the Yankees got Georgetown, but it was blown up today about six miles down the river. There is a good deal of property here, such as guns (twenty-five), ammunition, &c., and more of a town than I expected to find. General Howard has sent a mounted force to destroy public property at and near Florence, which cannot return before the day after tomorrow, by which time I think he can have all his command across. Of course the sooner we reach Fayetteville the better, but we must move in compact masses, as either column may encounter the whole of Hardee’s command, and it may be re-enforced by some from Charlotte.

I have no doubt Schofield is at work in North Carolina. I feel assured he is fully possessed of my views and will have Goldsborough with both the Wilmington and New Berne roads done by the 15th, the day appointed. Still, it is but prudent to continue as heretofore to collect all the food possible, in case we are delayed thereabouts. There is a story afloat that 6,000 of Schofield’s men are already at Fayetteville, which will be a great success, better than we expected; but I know Grant will spare no efforts to second us; he is fully alive to the importance of our movement. Get your bridge down and cross over as fast as possible, and stretch out on the road you want, and I will order General Howard to conform to you. If you can get out ten miles during all Tuesday it will be as much as I expect.

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

Kilpatrick Reports:

General Hampton attacked me with his entire command at 4 p.m. yesterday near my headquarters, where Major Audenried found me. I was not in position, but was just leaving camp; however, such attack was repulsed, until I could mass my troops, when he again made a deliberate attack, and was finally repulsed about 7 p.m. last evening. I expected to fight this morning, but I find that the enemy has left my front, and I believe him to be moving for Wall’s Ferry, via Wadesborough. General Baird’s division encamped last night five miles from this point on road to Sneedsborough. General Carlin’s division is now passing. I believe the entire country now in rear to be free of the enemy. I await your further orders.

Very respectfully,
J. KILPATRICK, Brevet Major-General

General Blair sent a small force to destroy the Darlington and Cheraw Railroad, and destroy the trestle-work as far down as they could go today. At Thompson’s Creek they found the railroad and dirt road bridges destroyed by the enemy. A 600 feet high trestle-work on this side of the railroad bridge was destroyed along with a box-car.

General Logan Suggests We Parole Prisoners:

The prisoners we now have belonging to the South Carolina militia, old men and boys, I propose we release on their parole and oath not to serve against the United States during the war. They are now but a burden to us, requiring an issued of subsistence when it is necessary to husband our supply, and can scarcely be looked upon as fit subjects for imprisonment or exchange.

General Howard Tries to Reign In the Burning:

The attention of corps commanders is called to the fact that the foragers are in the habit of destroying or rendering useless the mills along the line of march and frequently burning large quantities of grain which are of great necessity for the use of the army. Last night a large quantity, over 1,000 bushels of shelled corn, was destroyed by the unauthorized burning of store buildings in this town. The general commanding desires that for the safety and comfort of the army some measures be taken to prevent the continuance of this destruction.

Howard Reports:

Inclosed please find a copy of my order of march. I do not expect to get everything across and the bridge taken up till Monday night, so that General John E. Smith and the Seventeenth Corps will have ample opportunity to fill up their wagons. I expect the mounted force I sent to Florence will be back before Monday night. There is a story that 6,000 of the Twenty-third Corps have arrived at Fayetteville.

The next series of movements of this command will be on Fayetteville, N. C. The Fifteenth Army Corps, Major General John A. Logan commanding, will move via Harrington’s, Quick’s Church, Springfield, Laurinburg, and Gilchrist’s Church. The Seventeenth Army Corps, Major-General Blair commanding, will move via Bennettsville, Bam’s Bridge, Stewartsville, and Gilopolis or Campbell’s Bridge. General Blair will cross the Pedee with his leading division and all its material to-night. At 6 a. m. to-morrow General Logan will cross Bvt. Major General John E. Smith’s divisionand move it out via J. W. Harrington’s to the vicinity of Phill’s Creek, taking possession of Irby’s Mills for the use of the division. General Blair will follow with the remainder of his command and move out to the vicinity of Naked Creek and take possession of all mills near Bennettsville. The provost-guard of the Seventeenth Army Corps, on duty in the town, will be relieved tomorrow by a guard from the rear division of the Fifteenth Army Corps. As soon as the crossing of the Seventeenth Army Corps is completed the remainder of the Fifteenth Army Corps will follow and move out, with its head of column on Phill’s Creek.

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Cheraw, S. C., March 4, 1865. 8 p.m.
Major-General HOWARD, Commanding Right Wing:
GENERAL: I have just received your note and the copy of your orders. I would not be surprised if it were true that some of Schofield’s command were at Fayetteville. I know Grant’s anxiety for us, and he will move heaven and earth to co-operate. Your orders are all right. I have written to Slocum, who is at Sneedsborough, and he will use the road from Sneedsborough by Mark’s Creek and McFarland’s Bridge, and all roads north of it. It may be well for you to let Slocum have a day’s start, that the columns may assume an echelon toward the north. Slocum can hardly have all across earlier than Tuesday, and I have intimated that I would like him to be ten miles out during all Tuesday. The river with him seems to be wider than with you. Get a good scout or two ready for me to send a messenger to Wilmington as soon as any of your heads of column is across Lumber River.
Yours, truly,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

GENERAL Howard Replies:

Your note just received. I will try and have the scout ready for you. I would rather make short marches, if you do not object, on account of supplies, than to halt for General Slocum.

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