Monday, March 6, 1865

Cheraw, South Carolina

There was an immense amount of stores in Cheraw, which we will use or destroy. among We captured twenty-four guns, two thousand muskets, and thirty-six hundred barrels of gunpowder. By the carelessness of a soldier, an immense pile of this powder was exploded, which shook the town badly; and killed and maimed several of our men.

General Woods Reports on the Explosion:

The explosion was cused by the accidental ignition of a large quantity of rebel ammunition which had been found in the town of Cheraw and hauled out and thrown in a deep ravine lying between the town and the pontoon bidge. The ammunition consisted of loaded shells and loose powder. The bottom of the ravine to the depth of four or five feet was filled with it, and powder was scattered up the banks of the ravine, and for several rods from the edge of the ravine. While the brigade was halting, having stacked arsms to await the passage of the train, of which it was the rear guard, some of the men at a distance of several rods from the edge of the ravine are reported to have applied fire to some small cakes of powder found upon the ground. The fire immediately ran to the edge of the ravine, down the bank, and exploded the immense piles of ammunition in the bottom of the ravine. One man of this brigade was killed and 1 officer and 4 men wounded. After diligent inquiry I am unable to ascertain the names of the men who set fire to the powder, but have no doubt they were ignorant, as I was myself, that any explosive material was in the ravine. The following named officers and men were near the ravine when or shortly before the explosion ocurred: Captain Edward H. Webster and Lieutenant George H. Williams, and Private John Werden, Compnay G, Seventy- sixth Ohio Infantry.

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OFTHE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Cheraw, S. C., March 6, 1865.

Major General H. W. SLOCUM, Commanding Left Wing, Sneedsborough:
I shall in person to-day cross the Pedee and go out on the main Fayetteville road about five miles, to the point on Phill’s Creek where are encamped two division of the Fifteenth Corps. There I shall wait until the fact that you are all across and off for Fayetteville, and will try and hold the RIght Wing ready to turn to you in case Johnston attempts to strike you in flank or to move on toward Fayetteville, aiming to arrive there or near about the same time with your rear. I propose your command should first enter and occupy Fayetteville and secure the bridge if possible, otherwise to make a lodgment across with pontoons. En route break the railroad which is known as the Wilmington and Charlotte, but is only partially down to Rockingaham. It is of little importance, but being on it, we might as well use up some of its iron. At its depots you many find some corn and meal. On approaching Fayetteville you may give out that.

If the bridge is destroyed we will deal harshly by the town, but if there be no positive resistance and if the enemy spare the bridge I wish the town to be dealt with generously. Of curse we will dispose of all public stores and property but will spare private houses. Use wheat, corn meal, bacon, animals, wagons, &c., needed by your command, but try and keep the foragers from insulting families by word or rudeness. It might be well to instruct your brigade commanders that we are now out of South Carolina and that a little moderation may be of political consequence to us in North Carolina. At Fayetteville if we can secure boats of any kind, even coal flats, I will send down Cape Fear River the bulk of the refugees, white and black, that swells our numbers and consumes the food necessary for our combatants. I have no doubt of having daily intercourse with you by courier or in person, and only name these points that you may initiate measures to accomplish these ends. The enemy has abandoned many caissons loaded with ammunition, and if you can push or threaten him about Rockingham I doubt not he will drop more. The moment General Davis strikes the plank road he should push with all possible speed into Fayetteville.

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

Slocum Replies:

SNEEDSBOROUGH, March 6, 1865. 11 a.m.

Major- General SHERMAN, General-in-Chief:
I have sent Williams to Cheraw to cross, with orders to push direct to McFarland’s Bridge. Kilpatrick is now crossing at this point and will act on your orders of yesterday, which were forwarded to him at once.

I hope to get Davis across by daylight, and shall move with him as far as Lowe’s Bridge, and perhaps to Fayetteville. All your directions as to the course to be pursued at Fayettevelle will be remembered. We have had trouble with the bridges here, but I hope are all right now. The river is 850 feet wide and our pontoon train is not good. Boats have been lost, and the organzation has run down since Buell left it; but we are all right now, and there will be some rapid marching when we get started.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. SLOCUM, Major- General


About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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