part of a volume entitled History of the Ninety - Third Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry: From Organization To Muster Out --Statistics Compiled by Aaron Dunbar Sergeant, Company " B", Revised and Edited by Harvey M. Trimble, Adjutant
Submitted by Jeffrey MacAdam, to whom every reader should be grateful.
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This web page is one of four of Chapter X.
After the conclusion of the Georgia campaign, from the 22nd day of December, 1864, to the 2nd day of January, 1865, both days inclusive, the Ninety-Third Illinois remained in camp near the city of Savannah. On the 24th day of December, 1864, the Fifteenth Army Corps was reviewed by General Sherman, and the other corps on the days immediately following. This was at once interpreted to mean that the army would very soon enter upon another campaign. It was said, that by the capture of Savannah, the army had established a new base of operations more extensive and important than the capture of that city; and Special Field Orders, No. 119, was quoted. It was soon developed that this view of matters was correct.
On the night of December 28th, a small blockade runner dropped into the port, its officers being ignorant of the fact that the city had changed hands. She was surrendered to the military authorities, and her cargo was turned over to the Chief Quartermaster of the army. She came directly from Nassau. Her captain, King, was greatly grieved. On January 3rd, 1865, the Ninety-Third Illinois marched two miles, and went into camp in the city, reporting to General Easton, Chief Quartermaster of the Military Division of the Mississippi, as per orders, for guard and fatigue duty. The command continued on this duty, until the 16th of that month, when it was relieved. But it still remained in camp in the city until the 18th of the month, inclusive. On the morning of the 7th of that month, Major Fisher and Captain Brown returned to the regiment. On the 8th of the month, Maj. Gen. John A. Logan returned, and at once assumed command of the Fifteenth Army Corps. On the 16th of the month, Chaplain Charles M. Barnes, of the Ninety-Third Illinois, was mustered into service, to take effect from the 5th day of December, A. D. 1864.
On December 6th, 1864, before any part of the army reached Savannah, General Grant had written to General Sherman, suggesting that General Sherman's army, after establishing a base on the coast, should be transferred to the James River, by ocean steamers, to coordinate with the Potomac Army against General Lee. General Shaman's original plan contemplated the continuance of his march, through the Carolinas, to Virginia, for the same purpose. But, after the capture of Fort McAllister, he at once began to plan for the carrying out of the instructions, or suggestions, of General Grant. In the delay incident to getting transportation, General Sherman determined to capture Savannah, and did so, as stated in the previous chapter. In the meantime, he had heard of the battle with General Hood's army at Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30th, 1864, and also of General Hood's defeat at Nashville, Tennessee, on December 15th, 1864. The capture of Savannah so soon after general Hood's defeat, strongly illustrated to the outside world what had all along been clear to General Sherman's mind, namely, the tremendous significance of the "March to the Sea." Immediately, out of a silence that had been intense, there was a universal shout of triumph, and of praise to General Sherman, doubly crowned victor by his own success at Savannah, and by the no less signal victory of his subordinate, General Thomas, at Nashville. In consideration of these events, and upon more mature consideration of the subject, General Grant seems to have changed his mind somewhat, and drifted toward General Sherman's original plan of marching to Virginia. And he so wrote to General Sherman on December 18th, 1864. Although it is clear that General Sherman had formed that plan in his own mind, he had not communicated it to General Grant. That each of these great leaders reached the same conclusion, without conference between them, demonstrates the superior military genius of both. General Sherman was greatly pleased, and on December 24th, 1864, he fully communicated his plan for the campaign of the Carolinas to General Grant. General Grant replied, three days later, giving his assent, and making some suggestions.
General Geary had been assigned to the command of the city of Savannah, and his division was on the duty there. The mayor, R. D. Arnold, was left in the exercise of his functions, subject, however, to the military authorities. The defenses of the city were overhauled and put into good condition. Some of the old Confederate forts were dismantled, and their heavy guns moved to Hilton Head, South Carolina, which was then in Federal possession. Orders were issued for the regulation of the internal trade of the state of Georgia. A national bank was established in Savannah. The city was to be left in the enjoyment of tranquillity, the people pursuing their usual avocations. General Grover's division, of the Nineteenth Army Corps, had been taken from General Sheridan's army and brought to Savannah. This division now relieved General Geary's division, and took charge of the city; and the city and adjacent territory, in Federal possession, were made a part of General Foster's department for all military purposes.
On January 19th, 1865, the army was ready to move, and the campaign of the Carolinas was inaugurated on that day, with Goldsboro, North Carolina, as the first objective point. The right and left wings of the army were substantially the same as on the Georgia campaign. One brigade, under the command of Colonel Spencer, had been added to general Kilpatrick's cavalry division.
On January 19th, 1865, at 8:30 o'clock in the morning, the Ninety-Third Illinois moved out of the city of Savannah, crossed the Savannah River, and started on the campaign. After marching about two miles, the whole command "stuck in the mud." Rain, fell nearly all day. At dark, all efforts to proceed were abandoned, and shelter was found in the house on a large plantation near by. On the morning of the 20th, we woke up, as we went to sleep the night before, "stuck in the mud." Everybody was "stuck;" and the waters were still rising, and overflowing the whole country in our front. It soon became evident that we could not advance. Hence, after much hard work, pulling wagons out of the mud and building roads, the command returned to the city of Savannah. All were convinced that, in times of high water, at least, the "sacred soil of South Carolina" was a "hard road to travel." On the 21st and 22nd, the regiment remained in camp at Savannah. Rain continued to fall during the most of both days.
General Howard, with the Seventeenth Corps, established a deport for supplies at Pocotaligo, near the mouth of Pocotaligo Creek, in communication, down Broad River, with Hilton Head. Three divisions of the Fifteenth Corps now followed the Seventeenth Corps. General Corse's division was cut off by the freshets, and moved with the left wing of the army. The "Union Causeway" was covered with water, four feet deep, after that division crossed it.
On the 23rd, the Ninety-Third Illinois embarked on the steamship "Mary A. Boardman," which at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, steamed down the Savannah River, bound for Beaufort, South Carolina. We reached the open sea, then tolerably smooth, just before dark. About 7 o'clock p.m., the wind rose, blowing from the shore, and from that time until 11 o'clock p.m. the sea was quite rough. A large number of the regiment were seasick. The ship arrived off Beaufort at 2 o'clock that night, and anchored in Broad river. The command remained on board until morning. On the 24th, the regiment disembarked from the steamship, and marched to camp, four miles west of the city, or town, of Beaufort. Lieutenant Ogan, of Company B, returned to the regiment that day. From the 25th to the 28th, both days inclusive, the command remained in camp. Teams and wagons were back at Savannah. On the 27th, Brevet Brig. Gen. William T Clark, formerly Assistant Adjutant General of the Army of the Tennessee, was, by orders, assigned to the command of the First Brigade. He reached the brigade and assumed command on the 28th, evening.
On January 26th, General Slocum, with the left wing of the army, went up the Savannah River to Sister's Ferry, and found that the river there was then three miles wide. He did not get across until the 7th day of February. Two divisions of the Twentieth Corps, general Jackson's and Geary's, had crossed the river at Pureysburg, several days earlier, and moved out to Hardeeville, on the Savannah & Charleston Railroad, and communicated with General Howard at Pocotaligo. As on the Georgia campaign he feigned on Macon and Augusta, and passed both by, so now, it was General Sherman's purpose to demonstrate against both Augusta and Charleston, and take neither. The scheme was bolder than the one he had just executed, because the enemy would now have time and opportunity to concentrate in his front. But his plan was to keep them divided, by causing them to hold fast to both Augusta and Charleston, as he believed they would do, the same as they had to both Macon and Augusta before. General Sherman was with the right wing. The enemy's defensive line covering Charleston, was on the Salkehatchie River. From January 25th, for about a week, the Seventeenth Corps threatened the railroad bridge over that stream, on the Savannah & Charleston line, as a feint on Charleston. While still maintaining the feint a few days later, the main body of the right wing, about February 1st, moved in a northwesterly course up the Salkehatchie River.
On January 29th, between 1 and 5 o'clock p.m., the Ninety-Third Illinois marched twelve miles, in a northwesterly direction, and went into camp for the night. The roads were fair. On the 30th, starting at 5 o'clock a.m., the regiment, after marching six miles, joined the division, which had previously moved ahead. Between 1 and 5 o'clock that afternoon, the command marched five miles, and went into camp near McPhersonville. On the 31st, the division remained in camp. The Ninety- Third Illinois went two and a half miles to the front, to protect the Pioneer Corps while removing obstructions from the road. Found no enemy, and returned to camp. On the 1st day of February, starting at 7 o'clock a.m., the regiment marched fifteen miles, and went into camp, at dark, at Hickory Hill, or McBrideville. There was some skirmishing at the head of the column. Nearly every house on the line of march was burned. They were dilapidated concerns, and all deserted. No citizen has been seen since leaving Beaufort. County poor. On the 2nd, starting at 11:15 o'clock a.m., the command marched twelve miles, and camped at 7 o'clock p.m. There was more skirmishing in the front to-day. About dark, heavy cannonading was heard on the left. Probably the Twentieth Corps. On the 3rd, starting at 7 o'clock a.m., the regiment marched five miles, and went into camp at Owen's Cross Roads. The First brigade had the advance, and this command was second in the line of march. The Fifteenth Corps was the only one on that road. The advance regiment skirmished a little with the enemy, but the Confederates quickly ran away. On the 4th, starting at 6:15 o'clock a.m., the command marched ten miles, and camped, at 3:30 o'clock p.m., near Buford's Bridge, over the Salkehatchie River. Left the swamps to-day, and found higher country and plenty of forage. The system of foraging is well organized. On the 5th, starting at 7 o'clock a.m., the regiment crossed the Salkehatchie River, at Buford's Bridge, marched four miles, and went into camp at 10:30 o'clock a.m., and remained until the next morning. The weather was like May in Illinois.
The Seventeenth Corps crossed the Salkehatchie River at River's Bridge, on the 3rd, and the Fifteenth Corps crossed higher up, west-northwest on the 4th and 5th. The crossing at River's Bridge was opposed by a brigade of the enemy. General Mower's and G. A. Smith's divisions crossed a swamp, three miles wide, below the bridge, wading through water from knee-deep to shoulder deep, and then turned upon and whipped the Confederates at the bridge. The enemy's loss was not known, except that eighty-eight wounded were sent back to Pocotaligo. The enemy then fell back to their lines on the South Edisto River. On February 6th, starting at 6:30 o'clock a.m., the Ninety-Third Illinois marched nine miles. The Third Division had the advance, the Second Brigade leading. This regiment crossed the north branch of the Salkehatchie River at 12:30 o'clock p.m. Confederate cavalry made slight opposition. Four companies of one of the regiments of the Second Brigade ousted them, losing one or two men, wounded, in the skirmish. One of the enemy was killed. The command camped two miles from the river. A raw day. A little rain. On the 7th, starting at 9:30 o'clock a.m., the regiment marched five miles, and camped, at 2 o'clock p.m., near Bamberg, in Barnwell County, fourteen miles west-northwest of Branchville. The First and Second Divisions were in advance. The First Division reached the South Carolina Railroad, leading from Augusta to Charleston, at a point near Bamberg, this morning. A portion of the railroad was destroyed, without opposition by the enemy. On the 8th, the command did not move camp. In the forenoon, the regiment went three miles west of Bamberg and destroyed three-eighths of a mile of railroad, and, in the afternoon, went three miles east of the town and destroyed one-eighth of a mile of the same road.
At this time the right wing of the army destroyed the South Carolina Railroad from the South Edisto River to Blackville, a distance of about twenty miles. And about the same time, General Kilpatrick', with his cavalry division, went to Aiken, and made a feint against Augusta, Georgia.
On the 9th, the Ninety-Third Illinois, between 6:45 o'clock a.m. and 12 o'clock m., marched eight miles, and went into camp a mile and a half west of Graham, in Barnwell County. A cold and disagreeable day. On the 10th, at 6:30 o'clock a.m., the regiment marched five miles from camp, tore up fifteen rods of railroad and twisted the rails of a mile more, and returned to camp at 3 o'clock p.m. At 4 o'clock p.m., the regiment marched in a northerly course, three miles, and at 5:30 o'clock p.m., went into camp a mile south of Binnakin's Bridge, over the South Edisto River.
The left wing of the army reached Blackville on the 10th, and destroyed the South Carolina Railroad from that place to Windsor, in Aiken County, a distance of about sixteen miles.
On the 11th, starting at 6:45 o'clock a.m., the regiment crossed South Edisto River, at Binnakin's Bridge, marching fifteen miles, and, at 5:15 o'clock p.m., went into camp at Poplar Springs. On this date, the whole army was well consolidated between Augusta and Charleston, and the forces of the army were divided. They were vigorously defending those two cities, although general Sherman had not the slightest intention of attacking either of them. He judged them correct. On the 12th, the Ninety-Third Illinois, starting at 8 o'clock a.m., marched six miles, crossing the North Edisto River during the day, and camped, two miles beyond that stream, at 10 o'clock p.m. A brigade of the enemy opposed the crossing of the river. The Second Division did the small amount of fighting necessary to dislodge them. Considerable work was required to repair the bridge and road for the passage of the trains. On this date, the Seventeenth Corps appeared in front of Orangeburg, the county seat of the county of the same name, and at once swept the Confederates out of their intrenched position there, pushed them across the North Edisto River, and flanked them out of their fortifications there. After crossing the river, a portion of the railroad, leading from Orangeburg to Columbia, was destroyed. The left wing was moving on the roads farther west, covered on its left flank by General Kilpatrick's cavalry. On the 13th, the Ninety-Third Illinois, starting at 6:30 o'clock a.m., marched twenty miles, and camped at 3:45 o'clock p.m. Passed Orangeburg, a half mile to the right of us. The Thirty Division had the advance. The weather was cold. Roads good. Since leaving the North Edisto River the country is more undulating. From several hills, over which we passed to-day, the Seventeenth Corps was seen on our right, and the Twentieth Corps on our left. There was a great deal of burning on all the roads. On the 14th. Starting at 9 o'clock a.m., the regiment marched twelve miles, and camped at 3:15 o'clock p.m. Rain fell during the afternoon and evening. This side of Orangeburg we have been on the direct road to Columbia. On the 15th, starting at 9 o'clock a.m., the command marched four miles, and having left the main road, reached the Congaree River at Bates' Ferry. There, we skirmished with a small squad of the enemy's cavalry, across the river, and drove them away. At 8 o'clock p.m., the division moved forward, leaving the Ninety-Third Illinois at the ferry, to picket the river. On the 16th, the regiment moved at 6 o'clock a.m., joined the division an hour later, when the whole division moved forward. Between 11 and 12 o'clock in the afternoon, we came in sight of the city of Columbia, the capital of the State. All of the right wing, certainly, and, it was said, the whole army, was maneuvered, in plain view of the city, in a large open field southwest from the city, on the opposite side of the Congaree River. The field was on a slope that gradually rose from the river and extended to the heavy timber, nearly two miles away. Over this fine open field, that great mass of troops, infantry, artillery and cavalry, marched and counter marched to positions, in such manner as produced one of the most brilliant and imposing spectacles ever witnessed in this country, or, perhaps, anywhere. Infantry, with colors flying, moved by the flank, as when on the march, in line of battle, and in solid columns, and en eschalon; and artillery, with banners waving, moved by the flank, in double columns, and in line, slowly, on a trot, and at the gallop; and cavalry, with flags and streamers fluttering, moved by the flank, in line of battle, in solid columns, squadrons, regiments, and brigades, walking, on a trot, and at the mad gallop; and all were moving, in all those different forms, and at different rates of speed, at the same time; and the entire field, the whole scene, was all the time in view, under any and every glance of the eyes. It was inspiring beyond description. The bands played patriotic airs, flags wildly waved and fluttered, and cheer upon cheer rose everywhere all over that vast field. It was most thrilling, magnificent and sublime! And was all in plain view of the capital of South Carolina! Think of that!
During the day, there was considerable skirmishing and cannonading at different points along the rivers near the city. The confluence of the Saluda and French Broad river, just at the west side of the city, forms the Congaree River. A pontoon bridge was laid across the Saluda River at a point where it was about one hundred yards wide, on which the Ninety- Third Illinois crossed the river at midnight. The regiment, having marched fifteen miles, went into camp at 1:15 o'clock that night. On that day, the 16th, the two wings of the army, (if the left wing, as above indicated, was not actually in the open field southwest of the city), were practically united again. But they again immediately diverged, as we shall see. The left wing did not enter Columbia at all. About this time, General Sherman received a communication from General Wheeler, proposing that he would burn no more cotton, if General Sherman would burn no more houses. General Sherman replied: "I hope you will burn all the cotton, and save us the trouble. We don't want it, and it has proved a curse to our country. All you don't burn I will. As to private houses, occupied by peaceful families, my orders are not to molest or disturb them, and I think my, orders are obeyed. Vacant houses, being of no use to anybody, I care little about , as the owners have thought them of no use to themselves." That ended the correspondence on those two subjects.
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