Horace Greeley.

The American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 online

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great fury.

" The horrors of the conflagration were
heightened by a terrible catastrophe. It ap-
pears, some boys had discovered a quantity
of powder at the d^p6t of the Nortn- west-
em Railroad, and amused themselves by
flinging handfuls of it upon the masses of
burning cotton in the streets. It was not
long before the powder running from their
hands formed a train upon the ground, lead-
ing from the fire to the main supplies of
powder in the d^p6t The result is easily
conjectured. A spark ignited the powder
in the train ; there was a leaping, running
Are along the ground, and then an explo-
sion which shook the city to its very foun-
dations from one end to the other. The
building was, in a second, a whirling mass
of ruins, in a tremendous volume of flame
and ^oke. About 200 lives were lost by
the explosion, and not less than 150 bodies
were found charred in that fiery furnace.

" From the d^pAt, the fire spread rapidly,
and, communicating with the a^oining
buildings, threatened destruction to that
part of the town. Four squares, embracing
the area bounded by Chapel, Alexander,
and Washington streets, were consumed
before the conflagration was subdued.

'* The destruction of public property had
been as complete as Gen. Hardee could
make it. He.bumed the cotton warehouses,
arsenals, quartermaster's stores, railroad
bridges, two iron-clads, and feme vessels in
the ship-yard. Among the captured prop-
erty were 200 pieces of artillery; spiked
and temporarily disabled, as they could not
be brought oflT.

"The Yankees occupied Charleston on
the 18th of February. A scarred city,
blackened by fire, with evidences of destruc-
tion and ruin wrought by the enemy at al-
most every step, had at last come into their
possession ; but not until a heroic defense,
running through nearly four years, and at
last only by the stratagem of a march many
miles away from it The appearance of the
city was eloquent of the sacnficea and hero-
ism of its people. A Yankee correspondent,
irho had joined in the triumphal entry into

Charleston, thus described the scene before
his eyes : ^ Not a building for blocks here
that is exempt from the marks of shot and
shelL All have suffered more or less. Here
is a flne brown-stone bank building vacant
and deserted, with great, gaping holes in
the sides and roof, through which the mm
shines Yind the rain pours; windows and
sashes blown out by exploding shell within;
plastering knocked down; counters torn
up ; floors crushed in, and fragments of Mo-
saic pavement, broken and crushed, lyins
around on the floor, mingled with bits of
statuary, stained glass, and broken parts
of chandeliers. Ruin within and without;
and its neighbor in no bAter plight The
churches, St Michael's and St Philip's,
have not escaped the storms of our projec-
tiles. Thei r roofs are perforated, their walla
wounded, their pillars demolished, and with-
in the pews filled with plastering. From
Bay street, studded with batteries, to Cal-
houn street, our shelb have carried destmo-
tion and desolation, and often death, with

Lt-CoL A. G. Bennett, command-
ing on Morris island, receiving infiH>
mation which justified a belief that
Charleston had been evacnated, at
once dispatched a boat toward Fcst
Moultrie ; which boat, when 40 yards
east of Fort Sumter, was met by one
from Sullivan's island, containing a
band of musicians left behind by
Hardee. These confirmed the ru-
mored evacuation ; whereupon, Maj.
J. A. Hennessy was sent to raise the
fiag over recovered Fort Sumt^;
which was effected at 9 a. m. Fort
Ripley and Castle Pinckney submit-
ted promptly and gracefully to a like
embellishment — their guns having
been left in a serviceable condition.
At 10 A. M., Bennett reached the
city, which the enemy had not yet
wholly evacuated ; a mounted force
being still engaged in setting fires.
He at once demanded of Mayor Mac-
beth a surrender, which was promptly
accorded, A small force was brought
up so soon as possible, and the woric
of extinguishing the raging fires rig-
orously prosecuted — ^tbe Blacks of

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the city^ing impressed therefor. The
IT. S. Arsenal was thus saved from
destruction, as were large quantities
of Confederate rice, which were dis-
tributed among the poor of the city.^

. Georgetown was at the same time
evacuated — Hardee, with 12,000 men,
gathered from all lower South Caro-
lina, making all haste to cross the
Santee and Pedee before Sherman
could turn upon and crush him;
which, as Sherman did not attempt
to intercept him, having other ob-
jects in view, was safelj accom-

Gen. Gillmore, then in command
on the coast, reports the guns cap-
tured in Charleston and its defenses
at 450 ; a ffood part of them 8 and
10-inch Commbiads and 7-inch rifled
guns — ^many of foreign make. Much
good ammunition, 8 locomotives, with
many passenger and platform cars,
also escaped the Rebel conflagration,
and came into possession of the victors.

Before proceeding with the narra-
tive of Sherman^s Great March, it is
but just to speak of the devastation
of South Carolina by his army.

Sherman's general order, prescrib-
ing the conduct of his troops in their
march, was precise and considerate,
though its execution would naturally
seem harsh to those it despoiled. He

** IV. The army will forage liberally on
the country during the march. To this end,
each brigade commander will organize a
good and safficient foraging party, under
the command of one or more discreet offi-
cers, who will gather, near the route trav-
eled, com or forage of any kind, meat of
any kind, vegetables, corn-meal, or whatever
is needed by the command : aiming at all
times to keep in the wagon-trains at least
ten days^ provisions for the command and
three days^ forage. Soldiers must not enter
the dwellings of the inhabitants or commit
any trespass; during the halt or at camp,

they may be permitted to gather tnmipa,
potatoes, and other vegetables, and drive in
stock in front of their camps. To regular
fora^ng parties must be intrusted the gather-
ing of provisions and forage at any (Ustance
from the road traveled.

"V. To army corps commanders is in-
trusted the power to destroy mills, houses,
cotton-gins, etc. -, and for them this general
principle is laid down: In districts and
neighborhoods where the army is unmo-
lested, no destruction of such property
should be permitted ; but, should guerrillas
or bushwhackers molest our march, or
should the inhabitants burn bridges, ob-
struct roads, or otherwise manifest local
hostility, then army corps commanders
should order and enforce a devastation
more or less relentless, according to the
measure of such hostility.

" VL As for horses, mules, wagons, &«.,
belonging to the inhabitants, the cavalry and
artillery majr apprdpriate freely and without
limit ; discriminating, however, between the
rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor or
industrious, usually neutral or friendly. Fo-
raging parties may also take mules or horses
to replace the Jaded animals of their trains,
or to serve as paok mules for the regiments or
brigades. In all foraging, of whatever kind,
the parties engaged will -refrain from abu-
sive or threatening language, and may, when
the officer in command think^s proper, give
written certificates of the facts, but no re-
ceipts; and they will endeavor to leave
with each family a reasonable portion for
their maintenance.'*'

Of course, **the inhabitants'* did
"bum bridges, obstruct roads," and
" otherwise manifest local hostility."
Most of them were quite willing;
but they would have been compelled
sotoactift^nwilling. And such mani-
festations of" local hostility," accord-
ing to the terms of the order above
given, constrjdned the corps com-
manders to "enforce a devastation
m<»-e or less relentless, according to
the measure of such hostillity." But
the mere necessity of subsisting such
an army off the country, while pass-
ing rapidly through it, necessarily
involved its devastation. It was like
a cloud, of locusts, devouring every
thing edible, and many things that
were not. And Gen. Sherman, in

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his report of his passage through
Georgia, says of his men :

"u4 little loose in foraging^ they *did
some things they ought not to have done ;*
yet, on the whole, they have supplied the
wants of the army with as little violence as
could be expected, and as little loss as I

Naturally, the "little violence''
and "little loss" lookedlarger, and
were regarded with less eomplai-
aance, from the other side ; but there
was not much complaint of wanton
destruction or outrage.

In South Carolina, new conditions
were presented. Thereon traversed
was, in the main, more sparsely settled
than central Georgia — ^the mass of its
I)eople poorer, and its supplies more
scanty. And South Carolina was re-
garded by our soldiers with more
marked disfavor, as having been the
cradle of Secession and Civil Wsx.
So, doubtless, the taste for plunder
had grown keener by gratification,
while the instinct that discerns the
location of hidden food and valuables
had by use become amazingly sharp
and subtle. Though a good many
watches and pieces of plate which
were claimed to have been " found
hidden in a swamp, a mile from any
house," were in fact drawn from less
occult sources, it would have been
difficult to hide a watch or goblet
where it would not have been dis-
covered and appropriated. And the
business of foraging had been gradu-
ally assumed as a specialty by the
least scrupulous of the soldiers, who,
having mounted themselves some-
how on beasts of burden, scoured the
whole region in advance of our
marching columns — often many miles
in advance — gathering provisions for

the army, and any thing inviting and
portable for themselves — dismount-
ing and fighting in line of battle when
charged or impeded by cavalry or
militia in moderate numbers;" but
fonder, on the whole, of rifling a
house than of fighting its owner;
and constantly intent on the main-
chance. No other State or section
has in modem times been so tho-
roughly devastated in a single cam-
paign signalized by little fighting, as
was South Carolina by that march
through its utmost length, and over
an average breadth of forty miles, by
Sherman's army.

Gen. Kilpatrick, with a total force
of 6,068 men, including ^6-gun bat-
tery of horse artillery, and a small
brigade of dismounted men, had de-
monstrated northward, on our ex-
treme left, so far as Aiken ; imbuing
the enemy with the fullest belief that
Augusta was Sherman's objective,
and causing Wheeler's cavalry to
confront him in this direction ; leav-
ing the passes of the Edisto un-
guarded. In effecting this, one of
his brigades, led by CoL Spencer,
had engaged," near Williston's sta-
tion. Gen. Allen's division of Ala-
bama cavalry (six thin regiments),
and routed it with no serious loss to
either side. Having destroyed the
railroad hereabout to his heart's con-
tent, and deceived Wheeler as to
his purpose, Kilpatrick merely sent"
Atkins's brigade into Aiken, where
Wheeler was in force, and of course
drove Atkins back ; charging, at U
A.M., Kilpatrick's entire command,
and being repulsed with a loss of 31
killed, 160 woundfed, and 60 prison-

^ ** Some of these foraging parUea bad en-
oounters with the euemj which would, Id ordi-

nary times, rank aa reapectable battles."-'
Sherman's Bqnnt • "'Feb. 8. "Peb IL

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ers. He thereupon fell back into
Aiken ; and Kilpatrick, after threat-
ening him there till the night of the
12th, suddenly drew off, moved rap-
idly across the South and then the
North Edisto,*' and, moving on the
left of the 14th corps, struck the Lex-
ington and Augusta road 9 miles
north-west of Lexington, when barely
1,500 of Wheeler's men had got be-
tween him and Columbia, while
Cheatham's force (the remnant of
Hood's army) was moving parallel
with our advance still farther to the
left. But, on crossing the Saluda,"
Wheeler was found to be ahead ; and
our cavalry marched all day " paral-
lel with Cheatham's corps, moving
at times within three miles — a diffi-
cult stream forbidding an attempt to
strike the enemy in flank, as he was
strung along the road. Crossing the
Greenville and Columbia road, Kil-
patrick tore it up down to Alston,
where he crossed" the Broad, and
pushed north nearly to ChesterviUe ;
when he foimd that Wheeler had
moved around his front, united with
Wade Hampton, and was before him
on the road to Charlotte and Ealeigh,
N. C, which Sherman's advance
northward from Columbia to Winns-
boro' " had led the enemy to believe
was his intended course.

They were at fault, as usual.
Though his left wing was thrown
north nearly to ChesterviUe, the
movement in this direction was a
feint, and the whole army soon turned
sharply to the right, crossing the
Catawba," and, after halting the
right wing three days to enable Slo-
cum (who had been delayed by a
flood in the Catawba) to come up,
stru^ the Great Pedee at Cheraw**

(where Blair ciiptured 25 guns), and
thence up to the State line at Sneeds-
boro'; moving on parallel roads with-
in easy supporting distance, till they
were concentrated all sim-
set, when Gen. Butler arrived in his
flagship; his transports being still
absent. Com. Porter now drew off
for the night.

At 7 A. M. next day, the transports
and troops having arrived, the bom-
bardment was renewed, and was con-
tinued for seven hours : the Rebels re-
sponding for a while with two guns
only. Some of our vessels drew off

before the rest, because out of amaiu.
nitiofi. Ihe iron-clads were ordered
to continue their fire throughout the

Our land forces had meantime
commenced debarking, imder the im-
mediate command of Gen. Weitzel,
who headed the first or reconnoiter-
ing party of 500 men ; going himself
to within 800 yards of the fort,
pushing up a skirmish-line to withiu
160 yards, and capturing a little out-
work called Flag-pond Hill battery, '
with 65 men.

Weitzel's observations convinced
him that the work was exceedingly
strong, and that its defensive power
had not been essentially injured by
Porter's fire. He soon returned, as
directed, to Butler, and reported that
it would be murder to assault such a
fort with our 6,000 men. Butler,
disappointed, now ran close up in his
vessel, reconnoitered for himself, and
reluctantly acquiesced in Weitzel's
decision. Our men, of whom about
half had been landed, were there-
upon reembarked;" and Gen. Butler
returned with the land force to the
James, leaving the fleet still off Wil-

Our loss in this bombardment was
about fifty killed and wounded —
nearly or quite all by the bursting of
six of •our heavy Parrott guns — ^the
enemy inflicting no injury, because he
could not work his guns imder our
fire. His loss was 3 killed and 55
wounded. Butler reports that we
took 300 prisoners.

Grant was profoundly dissatisfied.
In the first place, he had not in-
tended that Gen. Butler should go,
and had at length plainly intimated
this ; though, as Fort Pislier was in

»' Pea 26-7.

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Butler's military department, he did
not absolutely forbid it. Still, as
Weitzel was his choice, and the de-
cision not to assault was primarily
Weitzel's, he could not object to this.
But he did complain, and with rea-
son, that his express order, addressed
to Butler for Weitzel, had been vio-
lated in the return of the expedition.
That order is as follows :

"City Point, Va., Dec. 6, 1864.

** General : The first object of the expe^
dition under Gen. Weitzel is to close to the
enemj the port of Wilmington. If sncoess-
ful in this, the second will be to capture
Wilmington itself. There are reasonable
grounds to hope for success, if advantage
can be taken of the absence of the greater
part of the enemy's forces now looking after
Sherman in Georgia. The directions jou
have given for the numbers and equipment
of the expedition are all right, except in the
unimportant matters of where they embark
and the amount of intrenching tools to be
taken. The object of the expedition will
be gained by effecting a landing on the main
land between Cape Fear river and the At-
lantic, north of the north entrance to the
river. Should such landing be effected
whilst the enemy still holds Fort Fisher
and the batteries guarding the entrance to
the river, then the troops should intrench
themselves, and, by cooperating with the
navy, effect the reduction and capture of
those places. These in our hands, the navy
could enter the harbor, and the port of Wil-
mington would be sealed. Should Fort
Fisher and the point of land on which it is
built fall into the hands of our troops, im-
mediately on landing, then it will be worth
the attempt to capture Wilmington by a
forced march and surprise. If time is con-
sumed in gaining the first object of the ex-
pedition, the second will become a ^matter
of aft^r consideration.

*^ The details for execution are intrusted
to you and the officer immediately in com-
mand of the troops.

"Should the troops under Gen. Weitzel
ftul to effect a landing at or near Fort Fish-
er, they will be returned to the armies op-
erating against Richmond without delay.

" U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General.
"M^or -General B. F. Butler."

Gen. Weitzel had concurred in
the propriety of returning, but in en-
tire ignorance of this order. Had it
been direbted to him, and he placed

in command of the expedition, he
would have obeyed it.

Advised by the Navy Department
that the fleet was still off Fort Fill-
er, and ready for a fresh attempt,
Grant promptly determined that it
should be made. Designating Gen.
Alfred H. Terry to command the
new expedition, he added a brigade
of about 1,500 men and a si^e-train
(which was not landed), and ordered
Gen. Sheridan to send a division to
Fortress Monroe, to follow in case of
need. Terry's force, therefore, though
nominally but a quarter stronger, was
really much more so ; since all who
were under his orders added vigor
and ccmfidence to his efforts. Gen.
Terry was first apprised of his desti-
nation by Gen. Grant, as together
they passed down the Jamee.

The new expedition, composed in
good part of the old one, minus its
two Generals, left Fortress Monroe
Jan. 6, 1865 ; put into Beaufort, N.
C, on the 8th ; was detained there
by bad weather till the 12th; was
offWilmington that night; and com-
menced its landing, under cover of a
heavy bombardment from Porter's
fleet, early next morning ; and, by 8
p. M., nearly 8,000 men, with three
days' rations in their haversacks, 40
rounds of ammunition in their boxes,
arms, intrenching tools, munitions,
&c., complete, had been landed, in
spite of a heavy surf; hlaving thrown
out pickets which had exchanged
shots with those of the enemy. The
work asMgned them was already wdl

Oten. Terry's first concern was to
throw a strong defensive line across
the sandy peninsula whereon Fort
Fisher stands, so as to isolate it from

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all support, and enable him to hold
his ground against any relieving force
that was likely to be sent down from
Wilmington. This was effected, after
some hours necessarily given to ex-
aminations ; the first line being, at 9
p. M., drawn across some three miles
above the fort; but a better was
finally found a mile nearer; where
a position was taken** at 2 a. m., and
where a good breastwork, stretching
from river to sea, partially covered
by abatis, had been constructed by 8
A. M. And now the landing of the
lighter guns was commenced, and by
sunset completed; the guns being
placed in battery before morning,
mainly toward the river, where, in
case of an attack on us, the enemy
w^ould be least exposed to the fire of
our gunboats.

CurtisV" brigade was now thrown
forward toward the fort, and a car^
ful reconnoissance made, imder cover
of the fire of the fleet, to within 600
yards of the wall; as a result of
-which, it was decided to deliver a
determined assault next day.**

The iron-clads continued their fire
through this, as they had through
the preceding night ; but, at 9 a. ic,
the wooden vessels moved up to re-
Tiew the bombardment; reaching
position about 11, and opening fire,
with the usual effect of driving the
Rebels from their batteries into their
bomb-proofs, and thus silencing their
guns. Meantime, 2,000 sailors and
marines, armed with cutlasses, re-
volvers, and a few carbines, had been
detailed fix)m the fleet, and landed to
share in the meditated assault, and
had worked their way up, by digging
ditches or rifle-pits, under cover of
the fire of the fleet, to within 200

yards of the fort,
awaiting the order 1
came at 3:25 p. m.,
landsmen were read
fleet changed the di
so as to cover the
assaulting columns,
each other in theii
first in the fort ; the
by the flank along
the soldiers chargec
toward the left.

Up to this mom
been trifling ; but, ^
reached the fort, i
possible for the flee
fii:e without doing m
than to the enemy ;
parapets swarmed
keteers, who — scar
the aimless, random
marines, who had
rifie-pits to cover, I
the charging sailors-
stonners in winrows
canister plowed thr<
the head of the co
sailors' assault was
with great camag
number of them had
and some even clim

But the sailors,
cessftd, had done a ,
had largely engross
and efforts of the
enabling Curtis's
Terry's column of as
Pennypacker's, and
having already gair
ate loss, partial she!
from the fort — ^to
under a heavy enf
marshy and difficuli
through the palisad<
a lodgment on the

•• Jan, 14.

•• Jan. II

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Pennypacker, advancing to Curtis's
Bupport, overlapped his right, drove
the enemy from the heavy palisading
that extended from the west end of
the land-face to the river, taking
some prisoners; and now the two
brigades, uniting, drove the enemy,
by desperate fighting, from about
one-quarter of the land-face. Gen.
Ames, commanding the assaulting
division, now brought up Bell's brig-
ade, and placed it between the fort
and the river, where the hollows
whence sand had been dug for the
parapet, the ruins of barrack* and
store-houses, and the large magazine,
formed, with the huge traverses of
the land-face, a series of rude breast-
works, behind which successively the
enemy rallied, and over which the
combatants fired into each others'
faces. Nine of these traverses were
successively carried by our men ;
while Terry strengthened the assail-
ants by sending down Abbott's brig-
ade from the north, where their place
was taken by the discomfited sailors
and marines, with the 27th U. S. col-
ored, Brig.-Gen. A. M. Blackman;
who entered the fort and reported
to Ames at 6 p. m.

Still, the defense was obstinately
maintained; the fleet now shifting
its fire from that portion of the fort
not yet gained by our troops to the
beach, to prevent the possibility of
succor from the Rebel garrison of
Battery Buchanan ; imtil, at 9 p. m.,
two more traverses haying been car-
ried, the Rebels were fairly driven
by Abbott's men out of their last
foothold in the fort, fleeing down the
Point to Battery Buchanan ; but it
was idle to hope to make a successfril
stand here against their eager pur-

suers ; and Maj.-Gten. "WTdting (ma^
tally wounded), CoL Lamb, and their
followers, had no choice but to sur-
render. Terry took 2,083 prisoners;
while his material trophies were 169
guns, most of them heavy, over 2,000
small arms, and considerable ammu-
nition, provisions, &c. Before morn-
ing. Fort Caswell, across the river,
with the extensive works at Smith-
ville and Reeve's point, were aban-
doned and blown up by the enemy:
so that the triumph was complete.

Our loss in this desperate assault
was 110 killed, 636 wounded; but
among these were Col. Bell, mortally,
and Oten. N. M. Curtis and CoL G.
A. Pennypacker, severely wounded,
while leading their bri^Eules in the

Qen. Hoke, with a considerable
Rebel force, had watched the landing
of our troops at a respectful distance
inland ; but did not venture to annoy
them, though expected, and finally
ordered, by his superior, Bra^, todo

Online LibraryHorace GreeleyThe American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 → online text (page 100 of 113)