Maj. Gen. O. O. HOWARD,
Commanding Army of the Tennessee.
On the 7th of January, 1865, we moved out into the river, and the next day put to sea. The passage was rough, and the vessel, as I afterward found, unseaworthy, but we arrived in safety at Beaufort, S.C. On reporting to General Howard I was ordered to report to the Quartermaster-General, then in Savannah. I proceeded in the steamer Crescent City and reported accordingly. By you I was ordered to report to General Easton, and by him to General Sherman, who placed me on his staff as chief quartermaster, Military Division of the Mississippi, in the field. General Sherman's army was now rapidly moving on its South Carolina campaign. The Army of the Tennessee had gone by sea to Beaufort. The Army of Georgia moved up the Savannah River to cross at Sister's Ferry. On the 23d of January I proceeded with the military division headquarters to Beaufort, S.C. January 27 marched to Pocotaligo, a distance of twenty-two miles; the road, lying through some of the worst swamps of South Carolina, had to be corduroyed nearly half the distance. We went into camp at Elliott's plantation and remained there till the 1st of February. Here I wrote up and mailed my January reports.
On the morning of February 1 we moved, traveling with the Fifteenth Corps. We marched this day twenty-three miles, going into camp at Hickory Hill Post-Office. Some skirmishing occurred on the front, a private and one lieutenant being killed. February 2, marched to Duck Creek; ten miles; more skirmishing; several men killed on both sides. Next day remained in camp awaiting the Army of Georgia to close up. February 4, marched to the Salkehatchie; camped near Buford's Bridge. General Howard having fought his way across at Binnaker's Bridge, this strong point was abandoned without a struggle. We had, however, to rebuild the causeway across the marsh that borders the river. This causeway, two miles in length and containing twenty-seven small bridges over the little rivers of the marsh, was built between 4 o'clock in the afternoon and the following morning. Next day we went across the river and camped at Buford's Bridge. February 6, marched eleven miles; camped at Doctor Fishburn's plantation. At the crossing of the Little Salkehatchie the enemy fought three hours and burned the bridge. A new bridge was soon built. Beyond the bridge the trains were compelled to pass through water for nearly two miles to the depth of from two to four feet. February 7, marched into Bamberg; five miles. This was a once thriving town on the Charleston and Augusta Railroad. The Fifteenth Corps was busy tearing up the railroad; as we entered the last train to Charleston passed about 4 o'clock that morning. In Bamberg we found an immense quantity of cotton, which was burned. February 9, marched to Walker's plantation; distance, ten miles. Here we remained one day while the troops were completing the destruction of the railroad. February 11, marched twenty miles. Crossing the Edisto, encamped at Poplar Springs. February 12, moved early on the Ninety-Six road. Halted till afternoon near the North Edisto. A severe fight took place, which ended in the rout of the foe; two pontoon bridges were thrown across and about 6 o'clock the crossing commenced and continued all night. I remained at the bridge until near midnight, then rode out to camp. The concentration of the army at the bridge gave me an opportunity of seeing the captured horses and mules ridden by foragers, and it was with surprise I noted the great number already captured. February 18 , marched seventeen miles to Beaver Creek. Our route lay over a sandy ridge between Caw Creek and Limestone Creek. This ridge being covered with a turpentine timber Which was set on fire by our soldiers, our trains were at one time in danger of being burned. February 14, marched seven miles; camped in a pine grove. February 15, marched seven miles to near Congaree Creek. Witnessed a charge by a division on the enemy, who fled over the creek, leaving the bridge unharmed. They had strong works on the opposite bank, but did not occupy them. February 16, marched across a broad plain opposite Columbia; camped near the Saluda River. February 17, crossed the Saluda and Broad Rivers on pontoon bridges. While laying the second pontoon, word came that Columbia had surrendered to our skirmishers. I had the honor of accompanying General Sherman in his triumphal entry into that city. I was ordered by the general to hunt up valuable machinery, especially lathes, and take charge of captured property. I entered upon this duty and found large and valuable stores.
The great fire, however, destroyed most of them to the great loss and detriment of the Government. At the depot a large quantity of corn was found and secured. Mills were occupied and flour and corn meal ground for the troops and for indigent citizens. When we left the city three mills were spared from the general destruction and turned over to the citizens with a quantity of corn to save them from starvation. The next three days were spent in destroying public buildings, including the gas-works, depot, arsenal, &c. In the arsenal immense quantities of ammunition were found; the latter was carried down to the river and thrown in. A pile of it unfortunately exploded, causing the death of some twenty men. Many escaped prisoners, both officers and privates, joined us there with the most extravagant demonstrations of joy. In regard to the fire in Columbia I will say that although its origin cannot be clearly ascertained, and our general and officers used every exertion to subdue it, I cannot but look upon it as a just and righteous retribution upon the citizens for the unexampled malignity they have ever displayed toward the Government. Here the Ordinance of Secession was hatched and long before the war a northern lady teacher was tarred and feathered, a number of Germans served the same way, while the escaped prisoners all tell the same tale of villainous treatment. February 20, marched out of Columbia; proceeded up the Charlotte and Columbia Railroad eleven miles. Camped by a saw-mill. February 21, marched fifteen miles to Winnsborough. A rebel woman set fire to her store filled with cotton and destroyed two or three blocks before the troops entered. The Fourteenth Corps entering first put out the fire and appropriated the large amount of supplies found there. February 22, marched twenty miles to Rocky Mount. Camped on the Berkeley place. The roads were fair and the country rich and plentiful in supplies. Troops crossed the Catawba River by night on a pontoon bridge 550 feet long. We remained in camp the next day, the trains of the Twentieth Corps crossing all day and the cavalry all night. Heavy rains fell all day and night, which rendered the steep hills leading to and from the pontoons all but impassable. February 25, crossed the Catawba and marched eight miles. February 26, marched eight miles to Hanging Rock. Remained there the next day waiting for the Fourteenth Corps to cross the Catawba River. A freshet had broken the pontoon and caused delay. General Sherman ordered all wagons not over by the next morning to be burned. General Jeff. C. Davis by making great exertions saved the trains. Large numbers of valuable horses and mules were found corraled in the few camps and glens of this region as well as caches of food and clothing. February 28, marched ten miles, crossing Little Lynch Creek. Camped at Widow Clyburne's house. Roads quicksand; worse than any I had seen.
March 1, marched ten miles, crossing Big Lynch Creek; camped on Brewer's farm. On the Right Wing refugees from Charleston and Columbia crossed the line of march and fifty wagons were captured. March 2, made a forced march of some twenty miles to Chesterfield CourtHouse, hoping to secure the bridge over Thompson's Creek, but it was burned. Next day remained in Chesterfield, waiting for the Fourteenth Corps to close up. March 4, moved twelve miles to Cheraw. Found General Blair in possession, with large captures of supplies, including corn and provisions, which were distributed to the troops. March 6, moved across the Pedee River and camped two miles beyond. A terrible explosion took place on the bank of the river, where powder had been carried and thrown into the water, that shook the earth for miles round. General Howard's headquarters train was near, waiting to cross the pontoon. It stampeded to the woods, killing one teamster and breaking wagons and harness. March 7, moved twelve miles and camped in a pine grove. March 8, moved eleven miles and a half. Roads sandy, but good. Light rain. Crossed the Wilmington and Charleston Railroad. Entered the State of North Carolina. Went into camp at Laurel Hill. March 9, moved fourteen miles to Bethel Church. Crossed the Lumber River on a pontoon. Entered the Big Raft Swamp. Trains could not get up by night and the general and staff slept in the church. The supply trains were scattered along the road clear back to Laurel Hill. All the available troops were employed in making roads. Next day we remained in camp waiting for the trains to close up. March 11, entered Fayetteville amid loud cheers from the Fourteenth Corps, which, being the first to enter, held the place. Made the dis-tance--twenty six miles--by noon. Trains did not get in till night. Took up quarters in the arsenal. Found several hundred bags of corn and some hay there. Remained in Fayetteville till the 14th. The public buildings were destroyed. Mills were used to grind corn and wheat for the troops. A gun-boat from Wilmington arriving brought the first direct news from the North since leaving Pocotaligo. Transports came up bringing oats (shoes and socks would have been more acceptable), and word was sent down to forward clothing and hard bread, sugar and coffee. The boats were sent back laden with the sick and wounded. March 14, crossed Cape Fear River and camped two miles beyond. I established a landing at the river, expecting more supplies. The Benton arrived laden with shoes, pants, and hard bread. I directed Lieutenant-Colonel Fort to take the clothing and distribute equally to the four corps. The hard bread I turned over to Colonel Carpenter. March 15, moved with the Left Wing fourteen miles on the Wilmington plank road to Silver Run. March 16, moved five miles. Came upon the enemy in a strongly fortified position. They fought with great fury, and being driven from one line of works fell back to another, which they held all night, when they decamped. This day, while standing with the general and staff a little behind the front, when the battle was raging furiously, a canister that dropped in among us sent a shower of leaden balls around. No one, however, was hurt, and the only notice taken was by moving a few rods on one side to be out of range. The losses on each side this day must have been nearly 600. March 17, moved about two miles. Built a log bridge across Black River, which was much swollen by the rains. Alfred Rhett, a rebel colonel of artillery, was captured and brought to headquarters this morning. March 18, marched eleven miles. Roads bad and creeks high. Crossed Beaver Dam Creek. Foraging very plentiful. Skirmishing in the advance all day. March 19, moved with the Seventeenth Corps on the Goldsborough road. Made twenty-five miles. Crossed Falling Creek. Trains did not get up, being stuck in the swamp. The general and staff were indebted to General Howard and staff for supper and bed. Camped near the cross-roads leading to Cox's Bridge on the Neuse River. Heavy fighting was heard on our left all day. It was, as we learned at night, a desperate attempt of Johnston to crush the Left Wing by falling upon it with his whole army. All this day the woods on our left were swarming with rebel cavalry. The trains at times were seriously threatened. Many small foraging parties were captured, but supplies were never so abundant. March 20, moved early. The Right Wing moved up the Neuse River some ten miles and fell heavily on Johnston's rear. I rode with the general to the scene of conflict. The battle raged furiously. Lines of works were taken and retaken. Thousands of our men fought through the timber and brush barefooted, but the greatest spirit of cheerfulness and resolution seemed to animate the men. At night the balance of advantage was in our favor. The firing continued briskly all night. March 21, we had expected to be in Goldsborough to-day and there clothe the army anew. This desperate attack of Johnston's prevented it, and as this morning the fighting was renewed with great ardor, it seemed uncertain when we would get there. The general therefore directed me to proceed to Kinston and forward shoes, socks, and hard bread to the army without delay. In company with Colonel Remick, chief commissary, I proceeded to Kinston, reaching there by the afternoon of the 22d, distance fifty miles. Orders were issued to all the corps quartermasters to unload their supply trains at specified depots and send them at once to Kinston. At Kinston I found supplies already arrived by barges from Morehead City. March 23, large trains from the army having reported, those of the Seventeenth Corps were loaded up and ready to start by night. Next day the trains of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth were got off and the Twentieth reported. By the 25th I had sent to the army 43,000 pairs of bootees, 21,000 pairs of socks, 28,000 shirts, 12,000 pairs of drawers, 13,000 pairs of pants, with a large quantity of other articles, in addition to which heavy commissary supplies were sent forward. March 25, General Sherman passed down on the first through train from Goldsborough to Morehead City. I commenced sending supplies to Goldsborough by rail, but as the amount of rolling-stock was very limited I thought it best to keep the wagon trains still running. I remained in Kinston until the 30th, when I rode up to Goldsborough. Capt. S. W. Hoskins, assistant quartermaster, was left in charge of clothing and quartermaster's stores; Capt. R. W. Clarke, assistant quartermaster, in charge of forage, and Lieutenant Hibbard, acting assistant quartermaster, in charge of railroad transportation.
Federal Casualties in South Carolina
Sixteenth Wisconsin, Company A :--"George Halsey; drafted----; died February 27, 1865, Lynch Creek, S.C., of fatigue."
John C. Rigdon