Charles Wright Wills.

Army life of an Illinois soldier, including a day by day record of Sherman's march to the sea; letters and diary of the late Charles W. Wills, private and sergeant 8th Illinois Infantry; lieutenant and battalion adjutant 7th Illinois Cavalry; captain, major and lieutenant colonel 103rd Illinois Infa online

. (page 29 of 31)
Online LibraryCharles Wright WillsArmy life of an Illinois soldier, including a day by day record of Sherman's march to the sea; letters and diary of the late Charles W. Wills, private and sergeant 8th Illinois Infantry; lieutenant and battalion adjutant 7th Illinois Cavalry; captain, major and lieutenant colonel 103rd Illinois Infa → online text (page 29 of 31)
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first motion would have amused a very solemn man.

Shilling's Bridge, left bank North Edisto River,

February 12, 1865.

Started at 7 a. m., moved one-half mile and laid still two
hours waiting for Hazen and Smith to straighten out ahead
of us. I thought I'd tell you how we had been bored to-
day, fooling along the road from 7 a. m. until 3 o'clock in
the night, making five miles, but it disgusts me to think of


it. Crossing the river is what delayed us. The Rebels
held Hazen there four or five hours and shot a few men
for him, but he run the 48th Illinois through some swamps
on their flank, crossed and got some prisoners. They are
from Hood's army and just got here yesterday. This North
Edisto is about like the other branch. The I7th Corps
crossed below our right, and the 2Oth on our left. Can't
hear anything of the I4th or Kilpatrick. It is freezing now
and has been very cold all day, yet to get clear water for
dinner hundreds of the men waded out to the middle of the
pond (muddy on the border) over their knees in water.
They think nothing of it. It was the 2d Brigade 2d Divi-
sion that waded the swamp and the river to flank the
Rebels from the crossing. A large number of foragers
waded with them just for devilment. It was from middle
to arm-pit deep and I suppose they waded at least a mile.
They got 54 prisoners, and the rest threw down guns,
knapsacks and everything that impeded their flight. The
flanking party did not lose a man. The men of this army
surprise me every day with their endurance, spirit and

Twenty-four miles southeast of Columbia, S. C.,

February 13, 1865.

Made 18 miles to-day. Rear guard for the corps in the
morning, but the 2d and 3d Divisions took a right hand
road and in the p. m. the 4th Division also went to the
right. We followed a cow path to camp. Passed through
two large turpentine camps. The boys fired most all the trees
and nearly burned us up. The smoke made the road very
disagreeable. There is not much destruction of property
since Logan's last order. Hear of no skirmishing. The
chivalry give us very little trouble, never stop but at rivers.
Foragers get a good many animals. Provisions plenty. Hear
nothing of the left wing, or Kilpatrick.



February 14, 1865 to May 19, 1865. Adopting a badge for the isth
Army Corps. Its origin. Fighting Wheeler's Kentucky Brigade.
Shelled in bivouac. Crossing the river on pontoons. Mayor of
Columbia surrenders the city. Marching through Main street to
the Capitol, greeted by citizens and negroes wild with joy. Troops
get drunk. Two-thirds of the city burned. Restoring order. On
provost duty stopping progress of the flames. Last to leave the
city, followed by fifty white families and innumerable negroes.
Straggling fights. Shooting prisoners in retaliation for murdering
foragers. Resume of miles marched. More foragers murdered.
Sherman issues retaliatory orders. Sacrilegious stealing. Hungry
for the first time. The country denuded for 15 miles around.
Cheraw captured and burned. Exploding concealed ammunition
magazines. Foraging stopped and army rations resumed. Crossing
into North Carolina. Forager fights and outrages at Fayetteville.
Corduroy roads covering quicksand. Fighting near Goldsboro,
N. C. On picket duty. North Carolina clay eaters. Lee's sur-
render disbelieved. Reviewed by Sherman in Raleigh, N. C. Truce
between Sherman and Johnston. News of Lincoln's assassination.
Army crazy for vengence. Johnston's surrender. Shocked at
Sherman's terms. Out of Carolina into Virginia. Graphic scenes
and incidents. Meets army of Potomac. Reviewed by Howard,
Logan and Hartsuff in Petersburg. In view of Richmond but
frobidden to enter. In camp at Alexandria, Va. Participates in
the Grand Review, in Washington, D. C., May 24, 1865. Finale.


Until this time the I5th Army Corps had never had a Corps
Badge, though the other corps commanders had long tried to
induce General Logan to adopt one. Yielding at last to their
solicitations he issued the following order:


BAKER'S PLANTATION, S. C, February 14, 1865.


No. 10.

I.... The following is announced as the badge of this
Corps : A miniature Cartridge-box, black, one-eighth of
an inch thick, fifteen-sixteenths of an inch wide, and
thirteen-sixteenths of an inch deep, set transversely on a
field of cloth or metal, one and five-eights of an inch
square ; above the cartridge-box plate will be stamped or
worked in a curve the motto: "Forty Rounds." The field
on which the cartridge-box is set will be Red for the ist
Division, White for the 2d Division, Blue for the 3d Divi-
sion, and Yellow for the 4th Division. For the Head-
quarters of the Corps the field will be parti-colored of Red,
White, Blue and Yellow.

II. .. .The badge will invariably be won upon the hat or

III. . . .It is expected that this badge will be worn con-
stantly by every officer and soldier in the corps. If any
Corps in the army has a right to take pride in its badge,
surely that has which looks back through the long and
glorious line of Wilson's Creek, Henry, Donelson, Shiloh,
Russel House, Corinth, luka, Town Creek, Chickasaw
Bayou, Arkansas Post, Champion Hills, Big Black, Sny-
der's Bluff, Vicksburg, Jackson, Cherokee Station, Lookout
Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Ringold, Knoxville, Resaca,
Kingston, Dallas, New Hope Church, Big Shanty, Kenesaw
Mountain, Nickojack, Decatur, the 22d and 28th of July,
before Atlanta, Jonesboro, Lovejoy, Altoona Pass, Gris-
woldville, Fort McAlister, and scores of minor struggles ;
the Corps which had its birth under Grant and Sherman
in the darker days of our struggle; the Corps which will
keep on struggling until the death of rebellion.


Assistant Adjutant General.


The adoption of the cartridge box as the distinguishing
badge of the I5th Corps is said to have originated in this
way: Before the battle of Missionary Ridge a soldier in
the nth Army Corps asked an Irish soldier of the I5th
Corps what the badge of his corps was.

"And phwat is that badge thing?" he asked.

Being told and having no badge to show in reply, he
answered, slapping his cartridge box: "It's that, wid 40
rounds !"


Nearing Columbia, S. C., February 14, 1865.
Good road to-day. Fine rolling country. Sand with
pine wood and scrub oak. Saw the wagoners use their
locks to-day for the first time since we crossed the Oconee,
in Georgia. Logan's escort got after some Johnnie fora-
gers to-day and captured four wagons and 50 or 60 horses
and mules. The Rebels are shooting from the other side
of the river and there was a lot in front of us when we
stopped here. Lee is said to be in front with 40,000 men.
It seems to be the opinion that we will have a fight. Can
probably tell better to-morrow night. Rain all p. m., and
still quite cold. Wear overcoats all the time.

Three miles from Columbia, February I5th.
A rather lively day. We started the Johnnies right by
our camp. Our brigade in advance of the corps and army.
The 4Oth Illinois was deployed as skirmishers, and drove
them four miles rapidly, losing only five men. Our regi-
ment then relieved them. They opened artillery on us
and fought stubbornly. It was the Kentucky brigade of
Wheeler's "Critter Co." We drove them from a splendid
position and heavy line of works with the assistance of
three companies of our 3d brigade, 4th Iowa and th
Ohio. They killed F. M. Cary, of my company and took


my orderly Sergt. T. S. Brown's right arm off. Wounded
three other men in the regiment, Henry H. Orendorff, Joe
Parkinson and Stewart, of company F. It is said we go
for the city to-morrow.

February 16, 1865, 7 a. m.

The Johnnies shelled our bivouac all night, but hurt no
one, but induced us to extinguish our fires, and killed one
of the 48th Illinois. We could hear their cars whistling
all night. They had large fires near town. We can see
the steeples of the city plainly this morning. Many think
the Rebels have left. If not I look for a hard battle
to-day. There is no firing this morning yet, and our
skirmish line is advancing. I can see it a mile ahead of
us. Can see the State House now, and a large portion of
the city. We can shell it from here.

Nine a. m. The enemy opened the three guns on us again
that he used last night, but the skirmish line deployed along
the river silenced them.

Ten a. m. The sun has shown himself, dispelled the fog,
and we find we have an excellent view of the city. From
our position it looks much like Peoria from the left
bank of the river. The Congaree here is larger than the
Illinois. Our batteries have got in position well down on the
river bank, and some of them are bursting shell over the
city. Our division moves down to take a closer view ir
a few minutes. The skirmishers are shooting quite livelj
across the river. You know our muskets carry up well
at 800 yards. 'Tis a beautiful morning and view.

Twelve m. The 2d Division leading, we pushed for the
Rebel works at 9. Johnnies had mostly retired across the river.
Our pontoon train running by a Rebel battery made some
fun. They were furiously shelled and stood quite a heavy
fire of musketry. Casualties, one mule killed, and the
seat torn out of a small darkey's pants. We now lay on the
river side opposite the town. A number of our guns are


practicing on the State House and other prominent build-
ings, and the Rebels are not answering a shot, though we
can see a number of cavalry riding through the town.
Hazen is laying the pontoons above the junction of the
.Saluda and Broad rivers where we will cross. Yesterday
when the 4oth Illinois charged the Rebels out of one of
their numerous barricades a "Forty" boy and a Johnnie had a
real scuffling fight . Forty downed the Rebel and choked him
until he surrendered. Some 26th boys captured a Rebel
colonel after we crossed the Congaree creek. He was
quite drunk and rode up to the boys who were straggling
ahead of the skirmish line, and asked them what they
were waiting for, and why they did not come along.

8 p. m. Crossed the Saluda, since dark, and stay here
for the night on the bank of Broad river.

Columbia, S. C., February I7th.

The 3d brigade of our division marched all night and
worked all night before they could get a cable across the
river to string the pontoons, and the bridge was not com-
pleted until 10 a. m. There was lively skirmishing all
the time. Our division crossed first. The 3d brigade cap-
tured 30 Rebels near the crossing. The Mayor came out
and surrendered the town to Colonel Stone, commanding
our 3d brigade. The division marched through Main
street to the Capitol. We were never so well received by
citizens before, and the negroes seemed crazy with joy.
We halted in the street a few minutes, and the boys
loaded themselves with what they wanted. Whiskey and
wine flowed like water, and the whole division is now
drunk. This gobbling of things so, disgusts me much.
I think the city should be burned, but would like to see it
done decently.

February 18, 1865.

Two-thirds of the city burned last night. The colonel
and I got up last night and rode through the streets until
3. At 4 this morning the 4Oth Illinois cleared the streets


with bayonets and order again reigned. Our regiment
is on Provost duty, and I have just been through the streets
(8:30 p. m.) and it is as quiet as Sunday night in Canton.

February 19, 1865.

Another block of the city burned to-day. Our regiment
was out and stopped the fire from spreading further. Have
seen the men work better on other occasions. In de-
stroying some captured ammunition to-day the 63d Illi-
nois, by an explosion, lost three killed and 20 wounded. We
captured about 20 cannon here. I noticed one complete
battery of fine Blakely guns.

Sixteen miles northeast of Columbia,

February 20, 1865.

The Provost Guards were the last to leave town. Fifty
families of Columbians accompany us ; have no idea how
many negroes. Hard day's march.

Pleasant Hill, S. C, February 21, 1865.
Fifteen miles to-day. Yesterday we traveled the Cam-
den road. To-day we turned northwest. Poor country,
quite rolling. Pine, scrub oak and sand.

Page's Ferry, Wateree River, February 22, 1865.
It seems to be certain that we have Charleston. Made
about ten miles to-day. Our regiment and the 6th Iowa
were sent down to an old ferry to make a demonstration.
Found no enemy. The 2d and 3d are already across and
we cross in the morning and take the advance. We now
have eight days' rations which are to last 30 wish they'd
burn them all to get rid of the wagons.

Flat Rock P. O., February 23, 1865.

Fifteen miles. Traveled east or northeast. Very rough,
hilly country, hills rock topped. No enemy. Passed
through a village called "Liberty Hill," some elegant
houses. Forage plenty. No news and don't know any-


West's Cross Roads, 13 miles northeast of
Camden, S. C,

February 24, 1865.

Made 14 miles a little south of east. We passed about a
mile south of Gates' old battle ground. A dozen foragers of
the 99th Indiana were captured to-day, but our foragers
caught more Rebels than that, besides 50 wagons and 200
horses and mules belonging to refugees. Stringent orders
from Howard, Logan and Wood about stealing. It has
rained for 24 hours. No enemy in front to-day. Got out
of the clay hills again on sand pine flats.

February 25, 1865.

Have not moved to-day. Rebels captured 15 men of the
29 Missouri to-day. Our foragers have been straggling
for seven or eight miles in every direction ; three of our
regiment captured a refugee camp of seven men, ten guns,
two revolvers, some pistols and 25 mules. Ordered to keep
men well in hand this p. m., as Rebel cavalry is demon-
strating on our front and flanks. I think it must be at a re-
spectful distance. Rumor says Longstreet is somewhere
around. Think we are waiting for the left of the army to get
up with us. Our foragers have been to Camden, 13 miles ;
pretty tall straggling. Others have been out southeast
II miles, and saw our 2d and 4th divisions moving on a big
road, side by side, going east. Nobody can yet decide
what our destination is. It is reported to-day that 13
of our 2d division foragers were found by the roadside
dead, with a card marked "Fate of foragers;" also four of
the 3d division killed. Gen. J. E. Smith, commanding,
shot four of his prisoners in retaliation. Colonel Catterson
says as we were marching to this camp to-day he had
pointed out to him the tree under which Baron DeKalb
died at the battle of Camden. Have had 48 hours of rain
with a prospect of continuance.


Fullersville, S. C, Sunday, February 26, 1865.
Sixty hours of rain terminated at daylight this morning, but
it has not hurt the sandy roads a particle. We made n miles
in four and one quarter hours, and are now waiting for a
bridge to be completed over this creek, "Lynch's." We think
now we are on the road to Wilmington. The map shows a
good deal of railroad to be destroyed on the way, but I think
we will get through by the i$th of March. Expect "you uns"
are getting anxious about "we uns" again. This is, I think, a
much longer thing than the Savannah campaign. Our 4th
division took 103 prisoners here last night and our 2d took
200 more to-day. They are State Line Troops and muchly de-
moralized. It is a fact about that murdering yesterday. Sher-
man is out in a big retaliation order to-day. Wilmington is
reported ours. Thunder and lightning last evening. Hear
that the rain has raised the creek until it is three-quarters of a
mile wide, and we won't get across to-morrow. I think I'll put
down our principal campaigns :

ist. Dec., 1862, The Tallahatchie River Cam-
paign 120 miles.

2nd. April, 1863, The Panola, Miss., 9 day's

march 180 miles.

3rd. July, 1863, Jackson, Miss., Campaign... 100 miles.

4th. Oct. & Nov., '63, Memphis to Chatta-
nooga, and in

5th. Dec. to Maryville, Tenn., and back to

Scottsboro, Ala 800 miles.

6th. Jan., '64, Wills Valley Campaign 100 miles.

7th. Feb. & March, '64, Dalton, Ga., Cam-
paign 300 miles.

8th. May until Sept., Atlanta Campaign 400 miles.

9th. Oct., 1864, Atlanta to Gadsden, Ala., and

return 300 miles.

loth. Nov. & Dec., Atlanta to Savannah 300 miles.

Jan., Feb. & March, '65, The Carolina Cam-
paign 400 miles.

Total 3,ooo miles.


A captain and seven men who went foraging yesterday are
still missing, supposed to be captured or killed. And 20 men
of the 97th Indiana who went out this morning are reported
all killed by a 46th Ohio man, who was wounded and left for
dead by the Rebels. He says the 97th boys paid for themselves
in dead Rebels before they were overpowered. Our corps has
now 500 prisoners, three times as many as we have lost.

Tillersville, February 27, 1865.

We have half a mile of bridging to build before we can get
across this Lynch's creek, the rains have swollen it so much.
Our 6th Iowa foragers we thought captured are all right.
They got across this creek before the freshet and it cut them
off. The 97th Indiana men are gone up. All of the 20 killed or
captured but 3511 dead Rebels were found on their little bat-
tle field, so the report comes from General Corse, I understand.
The Rebels are losing, I should think, about 3 or 4 men to
our one, but they are showing more manhood than those who
opposed our march in Georgia. It isn't the "militia," for the
360 prisoners our corps have taken within four days surren-
dered without firing a shot. They were S. C. chivalry, proper.
The men who are most active on their side, I think, belong to
Butler's or Hampton's command from the Potomac. They are
cavalry and don't amount to anything as far as infantry is
concerned, but only think they venture a little closer than
Wheeler does. (You are expected to emit a sarcastic ha! ha!!
and remark: "They don't know Sherman's army as well as
Wheeler does.") They say we can't cross here until the water
falls, and as there is an excellent prospect for more rain, we
are thinking of building cabins in which to pass the rainy
season. All our v/ounded are doing excellently. The sur-
geons say that the wounded do much better being transported
in ambulances than in stationary hospitals. They escape the
foul air is the main reason.


February 28, 1865.

High water still keeps us here. We will probably get off
to-morrow. It is thought we will cross the Great Peedee at
Cheraw; there is so much swamp lower down that might
trouble us.

A thousand rumors afloat to-day. The citizens have it that
Grant has whipped Lee since the Hatcher Run affair. It rained
some last night and is now 8 p. m. sprinkling again. If it
rains hard to-night we will have to give up crossing here and
go higher up. The i/th is across. The left wing is reported
near Charlotte, N. C., but don't know that it is so. We have
heard that Davis' commissioners have returned to Washington.

We are having a time sure. They say now that we will not
get across to-morrow. I heard some outrageous jokes to-day
about a Golden Christ which was stolen by some of our thieves
in Columbia, and in an inspection on the 26th it was found
in a department headquarter's wagon. They are too wicked to
tell. This army has done some awful stealing. Inspectors
pounce down on the trains every day or two now and search
them. Everything imaginable is found in the wagons. The
stuff is given to citizens or destroyed. Our last winter cam-
paign ends to-day. Only five and one-half months more to

Left Bank Lynch's Creek, March i, 1865.
We have finally got across this deuced creek. It has de-
layed us fully four days, more than any three rivers did before.
Our division train is yet to cross and may not get over in 24
hours. We are getting hungry for the first time, having for-
aged the country out for 15 miles around. The 4th division
started to-day on the Cheraw road. Prisoners taken to-day
report that Wilmington was being evacuated when Schofield
with the 23d Corps, dropped in and took the town and a
brigade of prisoners. I wish he'd organize an expedition and
bring us some late papers. Everybody is speculating on a
big time with the enemy crossing the Great Pedee, but I don't
believe they will trouble us as much as this confounded creek


New Market, S. C., March 2, 1865.

A disagreeable, half drizzle, half sprinkle, all last night and
to-day. Our brigade in advance and made 10 miles. Poor
country, but pretty well settled. Many of the men have had
no breadstuffs for three days. They drew two days of hard-
bread February i8th, and have foraged everything else we
have had since. Don't know when we draw again. Still have
our 8 days of "tack" in the wagons. We will get plenty of for-
age again to-morrow. Can hear nothing of the enemy. We
left Darlington 20 miles on our right to-day and will prob-
ably strike the Peedee near Society Hill.

Five miles south of Cheraw, S. C., March 3, 1865.

General Wood says we have made 24 miles to-day. Our
whole corps on one road and hardly a check all day. This is
Thompson's Creek, and the Rebels under Hardee thoroughly
fortified it. Logan's orders are to carry the works to-morrow,
but as usual the Rebels have left. The i/th A. C. took Cheraw
this p. m. without a fight, getting 27 pieces of field artillery,
3,000 stands of small arms, besides a great deal of forage.

There were only two or three small farms on the road to-
day. Poorest country I have seen yet. An intelligent pris-
oner captured to-day says that Kilpatrick has taken Char-
lotte, N. C., and that Lee is evacuating Richmond. Saw the
sun to-day; had almost forgotten there was such a luminary.

Cheraw, S. C., March 4, 1865.

We were from 8 a. m. until 4 p. m. on this little five miles.
The i /th have their pontoons down and have a division across.
Hear that the enemy is fortified a short distance back from
the river. Can hear no firing. Our foragers took Society Hill
last night.

This is a very pretty place, about the size of Canton.

The river, Great Peedee, is navigable for boats drawing five
feet. The left wing is at Chesterfield 12 miles above. There
is an immense amount of cotton here. Noticed guards on it,
and some think it is to be sent down the river. A thousand


mounted men are to start from here to-morrow (from our
corps, and it is said the same number from each corps) for
somewhere rumor says, to release 8,000 of our prisoners
at Florence. Our wounded men are all doing splendidly.

March 5, 1865.

The 1 7th and all our corps, except our division, have
crossed the river. We follow in the morning. The enemy did
not attempt to oppose us. The boys say that an intercepted
dispatch from Hampton to General Butler reads : "Do not
attempt to delay Sherman's march by destroying bridges, or
any other means. For God's sake let him get out of the coun-
try as quickly as possible." Were I one of the S. C. chivalry
I'd be in favor of turning out en masse and building up roads
for him.

We will get out of S. C. to-morrow. I have not been in
a house in the State occupied by a citizen. Everything in
Cheraw of any value to the enemy, including cotton and busi-
ness houses, is going up in smoke. Hear to-day that Schofield
is in Goldsboro or Fayetteville, N. C.

General Wood says we have 120 miles yet to make. You
may give the credit of Wilmington, Charleston and Georgetown
to whom you please, we know Sherman deserves it. We hear
that that miserable Foster is claiming the glory over his cap-
ture of Charleston. We are yet pretty short of breadstuff's,
but have plenty of meat. Sherman has been heard to say that
this army can live on fresh meat alone for 30 days. I'd like
to see it tried on him. We think to-day that Goldsboro is our
resting place. You must understand that we don't know any-
thing at all about anything. Our foragers all went across the
river this morning and got plenty of flour, meal and meat.
They were out n miles and saw a few Rebels. The Rebels
left seven cannon on the other side of the river, and burned

Online LibraryCharles Wright WillsArmy life of an Illinois soldier, including a day by day record of Sherman's march to the sea; letters and diary of the late Charles W. Wills, private and sergeant 8th Illinois Infantry; lieutenant and battalion adjutant 7th Illinois Cavalry; captain, major and lieutenant colonel 103rd Illinois Infa → online text (page 29 of 31)