Raft Swamp, North Carolina
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Bethel Church, Twenty-six Miles from Fayetteville, March 10, 1865-2 p. m.
Major-General HOWARD, Commanding Right Wing:
The heavy rain last night caught Hazen’s train in a swamp, and he has had to corduroy five miles, and his train is not yet up. Corse is behind him just on this side of Lumber River. I will come on in the morning as fast as possible, but you may go on in the morning ready to support Slocum, who reports that he will be ready to go into Fayetteville tomorrow. I have no doubt Johnson will try and get some troops to oppose, and it is well for us to anticipate his preparations, and, therefore, you may push so as to threaten the town on the southwest. Let Blair take from the plank road to the river; the two divisions of the Fifteenth on the direct road, communicating with Williams on the left, but let Slocum break into town. I will send a staff officer to him at daylight with orders to shove right in and push for the bridge. I think if the enemy fights us with a bridge to his rear he commits a mistake of which we must take immediate advantage. If any cause delays me, have prepartions made at once to cross over to the east bank of Cape Fear below the town, but we will pause thereabouts till we can get some real news from Wilmington. You may send any number of messengers to convey the intelligence that we are hereabouts, all well, and bound for Goldsborough, unless necessity forces us toward Wilmington.
The road via this point is so very bad that nearly the entire day has been spent in corduorying, and but little progress has been made in moving. I regret that this column has lost this day, but it seems inevitable.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding
General Howard Reports:
I have reached Davis’ Bridge. It is partially destroyed, but can soon be repaired. There is some water on the other side, but the bottom seems to be hard. General G. A. Smith could not find a good right-hand road, and will come up to the bridge, where he will take a good road on this side of the creek leading to the plank road. The road General Smith is moving on is pretty bad, but he is repairing it. the bridge train and my headquarters will be at this point tonight. It is thirteen miles from this place to Fayetteville.
I have just heard from General Blair. He found his bridge destroyed, but thinks he can build another without the aid of the pontoons. The plank road is a very good one. I have crossed General G. A. Smith, who repaired the bridge over the creek at this point, as I found the road on this side too bad. he is not yet entirely over, but will be tonight. I expected the head of General Logan’s column near here, at the fork before this. The cannonading heard today is reported to be on the plank road from Rockingham to Fayetteville.
Giles Smith from Blair’s Corp Reports:
Bummers report that they have been within two or three miles of Fayetteville. All citizens report no force there. A factory operative, who voluntarily came in, says he left here at 11 o’clock yesterday. There were only a few hundred soldiers there then. They were moving away marchinery on the Coalfield or Western Railroad. The citizens told him that Hardee’s army would be there today, but he thinks they have left for Raleigh. The Fourteenth Corps are reported on another plank road five miles to our left. I should like to go in tomorrow.
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Raft Swamp, N. C., March 10, 1865.
Major General H. W. SLOCUM, Commanding Left Wing:
The heavy rain of last night caught the column with which I am in the swamp, which is bottomless and has to be clared and corduroyed for miles to let the trains and artillery pass. The Seventeenth Corps is now at Rockfish Creek and will have time to repair the bridges and push into Fayetteville tomorrow, Saturday. I want you to go in first. This you can do in your own way, but General Howard will have the Seventeenth Corps and two divisions of the Fifteenth near enough to support. Do all that is possible to secure the bridge across Cape Fear, but if, as I suppose will be the case, the enemy burn it, effect a lodgment at once across and make a pontoon bridge with a brigade across intrenched.
We will await there some days. Destroy nothing till I meet you, unless there be special reason that you know I will approve. I will try and be near you by sunset. Should it be that Johnston has resolved to defend Fayetteville with a large force, it is to our interest, and you can engage his attention on the north and northwest, whilst General Howard closes in to the southwest. Avoid intrenchments, but make haste to prevent the making of them. I send you this message which may seem superfluous, but I am with troops delayed by the swamp and cannot afford to leave anything to chance. I have sent messengers and orders to wilmington. I set much store on a lodgment east of Cape Fear River, and would advise your having the pontoons convenient. The weather is now clearing away, and will give us, I hope, some days of sunshine. Our roads here are swampy in the extreme, but yours, I hope, have proven better.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding
General Mitchell of the infantry reports from Kilpatrick’s Camp:
I reached General Kilpatrick’s headquarters, in accordance with orders from corps headquartes at 10 this a. m. At his urgent request I remained with Kilpatrick until 2 this p.m. The engagement this morning was one of considrable magnitute, resulting in the discomfiture of the rebel forces after they had occupied Kilpatrick’s camp. Prisoners were taken from six diffeent brigades, whose testimony is concurrent to the effect that the whole rebel army is straining every nerve to reach Fayetteville before our forces can do so. Prisoners captured in the charge this morning also say that two divisions of their army were still in their rear. Tonight I caputred a prisoner who claims to belong to Rhett’s division, and that it was marching on a road to our left, and he (the prisoner) through it was less than a mile off. If this is true Kilpatrick will strike it tonight, as he is on the Chicken road, immediately on our left.
General Williams Reports from the Twentieth Corp:
I left Buffalo Creek a mile east of Lumber Creek this morning, and after corduroying every foot of the ten miles to this point, I reached here at 3:30 p.m. I find this creek and overflow at least 300 feet broad, with a depth of from three to eight feet. I have the pontoon train up, and shall have a bridge ready by daylight. I have never seen so spongy and treacherous a road as today. If made of jelly it could not have been less firm. A dispatch from General Slocum this morning says the Fourteenth Corps expected to encmap tonight on Little Rockfish Creek. My messenger says its train was strentched out for ten miles behind the camp of last night. My train is well up. I send some newspapers. Firing was heard this morning on our left front, probably from our cavalry.