Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

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, and heard afterward that 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.

There was an immense amount of stores in Cheraw, which were used or

destroyed; among them 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.

We remained in or near Cheraw till the 6th of March, by which time

the army was mostly across the Pedee River, and was prepared to

resume the march on Fayetteville. In a house where General Hardee

had been, I found a late New York Tribune, of fully a month later

date than any I had seen. It contained a mass of news of great

interest to us, and one short paragraph which I thought extremely

mischievous. I think it was an editorial, to the effect that at

last the editor had the satisfaction to inform his readers that

General Sherman would next be heard from about Goldsboro', because

his supply-vessels from Savannah were known to be rendezvousing at

Morehead City:--Now, I knew that General Hardee had read that same

paper, and that he would be perfectly able to draw his own

inferences. Up to, that moment I had endeavored so to feign to our

left that we had completely, misled our antagonists; but this was

no longer possible, and I concluded that we must be ready, for the

concentration in our front of all the force subject to General Jos.

Johnston's orders, for I was there also informed that he had been

restored to the full command of the Confederate forces in South and

North Carolina.

On the 6th of March I crossed the Pedee, and all the army marched

for Fayetteville: the Seventeenth Corps kept well to the right, to

make room; the Fifteenth Corps marched by a direct road; the

Fourteenth Corps also followed a direct road from Sneedsboro',

where it had crossed the Pedee; and the Twentieth Corps, which had

come into. Cheraw for the convenience of the pontoon-bridge,

diverged to the left, so as to enter Fayetteville next after the

Fourteenth Corps, which was appointed to lead into Fayetteville.

Kilpatrick held his cavalry still farther to the left rear on the

roads from Lancaster, by way of Wadesboro' and New Gilead, so as to

cover our trains from Hampton's and Wheeler's cavalry, who had

first retreated toward the north. I traveled with the Fifteenth

Corps, and on the 8th of March reached Laurel Hill, North Carolina.

Satisfied that our troops must be at Wilmington, I determined to

send a message there; I called for my man, Corporal Pike, whom I

had rescued as before described, at Columbia, who was then

traveling with our escort, and instructed him in disguise to work

his way to the Cape Fear River, secure a boat, and float down to

Wilmington to convey a letter, and to report our approach. I also

called on General Howard for another volunteer, and he brought me a

very clever young sergeant, who is now a commissioned officer in

the regular army. Each of these got off during the night by

separate routes, bearing the following message, reduced to the same

cipher we used in telegraphic messages:

HEADQURTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI

IN THE FIELD, LAUREL HILL, Wednesday, March 8, 1865.

Commanding Officer, Wilmington, North Carolina:

We are marching for Fayetteville, will be there Saturday, Sunday,

and Monday, and will then march for Goldsboro'.

If possible, send a boat up Cape Fear River, and have word conveyed

to General Schofield that I expect to meet him about Goldsboro'.

We are all well and have done finely. The rains make our roads

difficult, and may delay us about Fayetteville, in which case I

would like to have some bread, sugar, and coffee. We have

abundance of all else. I expect to reach Goldsboro' by the 20th

instant.

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.

On the 9th I was with the Fifteenth Corps, and toward evening

reached a little church called Bethel, in the woods, in which we

took refuge in a terrible storm of rain, which poured all night,

making the roads awful. All the men were at work corduroying the

roads, using fence-rails and split saplings, and every foot of the

way had thus to be corduroyed to enable the artillery and wagons to

pass. On the 10th we made some little progress; on the 11th I

reached Fayetteville, and found that General Hardee, followed by

Wade Hampton's cavalry, had barely escaped across Cape Fear River,

burning the bridge which I had hoped to save. On reaching

Fayetteville I found General Slocum already in possession with the

Fourteenth Corps, and all the rest of the army was near at hand. A

day or two before, General Kilpatrick, to our left rear, had

divided his force into two parts, occupying roads behind the

Twentieth Corps, interposing between our infantry columns and Wade

Hampton's cavalry. The latter, doubtless to make junction with

General Hardee, in Fayetteville, broke across this line, captured

the house in which General Kilpatrick and the brigade-commander,

General Spencer, were, and for a time held possession of the camp

and artillery of the brigade. However, General Kilpatrick and most

of his men escaped into a swamp with their arms, reorganized and

returned, catching Hampton's men--in turn, scattered and drove them

away, recovering most of his camp and artillery; but Hampton got

off with Kilpatrick's private horses and a couple hundred

prisoners, of which he boasted much in passing through

Fayetteville.

It was also reported that, in the morning after Hardee's army was

all across the bridge at Cape Fear River, Hampton, with a small

bodyguard, had remained in town, ready to retreat and burn the

bridge as soon as our forces made their appearance. He was getting

breakfast at the hotel when the alarm was given, when he and his

escort took saddle, but soon realized that the alarm came from a

set of our foragers, who, as usual, were extremely bold and rash.

On these he turned, scattered them, killing some and making others

prisoners; among them General Howard's favorite scout, Captain

Duncan. Hampton then crossed the bridge and burned it.

I took up my quarters at the old United States Arsenal, which was

in fine order, and had been much enlarged by the Confederate

authorities, who never dreamed that an invading army would reach it

from the west; and I also found in Fayetteville the widow and

daughter of my first captain (General Childs), of the Third

Artillery, learned that her son Fred had been the ordnance-officer

in charge of the arsenal, and had of course fled with Hardee's

army.

During the 11th. the whole army closed down upon Fayetteville, and

immediate preparations were made to lay two pontoon bridges, one

near the burned bridge, and another about four miles lower down.

Sunday, March 12th, was a day of Sabbath stillness in Fayetteville.

The people generally attended their churches, for they were a very

pious people, descended in a large measure from the old Scotch

Covenanters, and our men too were resting from the toils and labors

of six weeks of as hard marching as ever fell to the lot of

soldiers. Shortly after noon was heard in the distance the shrill

whistle of a steamboat, which came nearer and nearer, and soon a

shout, long and continuous, was raised down by the river, which

spread farther and farther, and we all felt that it meant a

messenger from home. The effect was electric, and no one can

realize the feeling unless, like us, he has been for months cut off

from all communication with friends, and compelled to listen to the

croakings and prognostications of open enemies. But in a very few

minutes came up through the town to the arsenal on the plateau

behind a group of officers, among whom was a large, florid

seafaring man, named Ainsworth, bearing a small mail-bag from

General Terry, at Wilmington, having left at 2 p.m. the day

before. Our couriers had got through safe from Laurel Hill, and

this was the prompt reply.

As in the case of our former march from Atlanta, intense anxiety

had been felt for our safety, and General Terry had been prompt to

open communication. After a few minutes' conference with Captain

Ainsworth about the capacity of his boat, and the state of facts

along the river, I instructed him to be ready to start back at 6

p.m., and ordered Captain Byers to get ready to carry dispatches to

Washington. I also authorized General Howard to send back by this

opportunity some of the fugitives who had traveled with his army

all the way from Columbia, among whom were Mrs. Feaster and her two

beautiful daughters.

I immediately prepared letters for Secretary Stanton, Generals

Halleck and Grant, and Generals Schofield, Foster, Easton, and

Beckwith, all of which have been published, but I include here only

those to the Secretary of War, and Generals Grant and Terry, as

samples of the whole:

HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, IN THE FIELD,

FAYETTVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA, Sunday, March. 12, 1885.

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

DEAR SIR: I know you will be pleased to hear that my army has

reached this point, and has opened communication with Wilmington.

A tug-boat came up this morning, and will start back at 6 P. M.

I have written a letter to General Grant, the substance of which he

will doubtless communicate, and it must suffice for me to tell you

what I know will give you pleasure--that I have done all that I

proposed, and the fruits seem to me ample for the time employed.

Charleston, Georgetown, and Wilmington, are incidents, while the

utter demolition of the railroad system of South Carolina, and the

utter destruction of the enemy's arsenals of Columbia, Cheraw, and

Fayetteville, are the principals of the movement. These points

were regarded as inaccessible to us, and now no place in the

Confederacy is safe against the army of the West. Let Lee hold on

to Richmond, and we will destroy his country; and then of what use

is Richmond. He must come out and fight us on open ground, and for

that we must ever be ready. Let him stick behind his parapets, and

he will perish.

I remember well what you asked me, and think I am on the right

road, though a long one. My army is as united and cheerful as

ever, and as full of confidence in itself and its leaders. It is

utterly impossible for me to enumerate what we have done, but I

inclose a slip just handed me, which is but partial. At Columbia

and Cheraw we destroyed nearly all the gunpowder and cartridges

which the Confederacy had in this part of the country. This

arsenal is in fine order, and has been much enlarged. I cannot

leave a detachment to hold it, therefore shall burn it, blow it up

with gunpowder, and then with rams knock down its walls. I take it

for granted the United States will never again trust North Corolina

with an arsenal to appropriate at her pleasure.

Hoping that good fortune may still attend my army. I remain your

servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.

HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, IN THE FIELD,

FAYETTVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA, Sunday, March. 12, 1885.

Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, commanding United States Army,

City Point, Virginia.

DEAR GENERAL: We reached this place yesterday at noon; Hardee, as

usual, retreating across the Cape Fear, burning his bridges; but

our pontoons will be up to-day, and, with as little delay as

possible, I will be after him toward Goldsboro'.

A tug has just come up from Wilmington, and before I get off from

here, I hope to get from Wilmington some shoes and stockings,

sugar, coffee, and flour. We are abundantly supplied with all

else, having in a measure lived off the country.

The army is in splendid health, condition, and spirits, though we

have had foul weather, and roads that would have stopped travel to

almost any other body of men I ever heard of.

Our march, was substantially what I designed--straight on Columbia,

feigning on Branchville and Augusta. We destroyed, in passing, the

railroad from the Edisto nearly up to Aiken; again, from Orangeburg

to the Congaree; again, from Colombia down to Kingsville on the

Wateree, and up toward Charlotte as far as the Chester line; thence

we turned east on Cheraw and Fayetteville. At Colombia we

destroyed immense arsenals and railroad establishments, among which

wore forty-three cannon. At Cheraw we found also machinery and

material of war sent from Charleston, among which were twenty-five

guns and thirty-six hundred barrels of powder; and here we find

about twenty guns and a magnificent United States' arsenal.

We cannot afford to leave detachments, and I shall therefore

destroy this valuable arsenal, so the enemy shall not have its use;

and the United States should never again confide such valuable

property to a people who have betrayed a trust.

I could leave here to-morrow, but want to clear my columns of the

vast crowd of refugees and negroes that encumber us. Some I will

send down the river in boats, and the rest to Wilmington by land,

under small escort, as soon as we are across Cape Fear River.

I hope you have not been uneasy about us, and that the fruits of

this march will be appreciated. It had to be made not only to

destroy the valuable depots by the way, but for its incidents in

the necessary fall of Charleston, Georgetown, and Wilmington. If I

can now add Goldsboro' without too much cost, I will be in a

position to aid you materially in the spring campaign.

Jos. Johnston may try to interpose between me here and Schofield

about Newbern; but I think he will not try that, but concentrate

his scattered armies at Raleigh, and I will go straight at him as

soon as I get our men reclothed and our wagons reloaded.

Keep everybody busy, and let Stoneman push toward Greensboro' or

Charlotte from Knoxville; even a feint in that quarter will be most

important.

The railroad from Charlotte to Danville is all that is left to the

enemy, and it will not do for me to go there, on account of the

red-clay hills which are impassable to wheels in wet weather.

I expect to make a junction with General Schofield in ten days.

Yours truly,

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