1865 February 11: Sherman Heads for Charleston as the Carolinas Campaign Gets Under Way
The following letter comes from the February 11, 1865, issue of The Prescott Journal.
The Campaign in Virginia.
The Armies of the Potomac and the James.
SHERMAN’S NEW CAMPAIGN.
From the Sixteenth Wisconsin.
Entering Savannah—Removal to Beaufort—
March on Pocatoligo [sic]—A fight with the Rebels—
Lt. Chandler, of the 12th killed—Retreat of the Enemy—
Only forty Miles from Charleston—Col. Fairchild—
The Army in Splendid Condition.
Correspondences of the State Journal.
CAMP OF 16TH REGT. WI. VET. VOL. INF., }
POCATOLIGO [sic], S. C. Jan. 16, 1865. }
Our regiment left Atlanta with the rest of Gen. Sherman’s [William T. Sherman] army and marched through to Savannah, Ga., arriving there Dec. 11th, having marched three hundred miles in twenty-six days. We destroyed the railroad running from Atlanta to Savannah as we marched and subsisted chiefly on the country generally finding abundance, and meeting with no opposition.
We remained in front of Savannah from the date of our arrival until the morning of the 21 of Dec. The city being surrounded with rice fields which the rebels had flooded with water, we were prevented from making an assault immediately upon our arrival, but the morning of the 21st, the rebels having learned that Gen. Sherman had perfected his arrangements for successfully crossing the rice fields they evacuated, and crossing the Savannah river went into South Carolina. We immediately marched into the town and found everything in good order. The citizens appeared at their doors and windows and greeted our appearance with cheers and demonstrations of pleasure. It seemed like marching through one of our northern cities. Many ran out with refreshments distributing them among the men.
We remained in Savannah until January 5th, when we crossed on board of transports and came to Beaufort, on Port Royal Island, where we remained until the 13th, when we marched to Broad river, which surrounds Port Royal Island, put ever a pontoon bridge in the night, and in the morning crossed, and marching a short distance ran into the rebel pickets. Skirmishers were immediately deployed, when we advanced, driving the rebels about three miles, when the 2d brigade of our division followed them up, and our brigade, Gen. Force commanding, consisting of the 13th and 16th Wisconsin regiments and the 30th, 31st and 48th Illinois, with one section of artillery, were sent around to get to their rear, if possible, while the 2d brigade amused them in front. Skirmishers were deployed from the 12th Wisconsin and 15th Illinois, the whole under charge of the brigade picket officer, Lieut. Chandler,¹ of the 12th.
We found them in force in our front, but succeeded in driving them easily. Our brigade being separated from the rest of the corps, we were obliged to guard our rear as well as front. Gen. Force [Manning Force] accordingly ordered Col. Fairchild [Cassius Fairchild] to take his regiment and the battery and be prepared to resist an attack from that quarter. After marching about four miles we again struck the main Charleston road, getting in just ahead of the two brigades, but not cutting off the rebels, as we supposed we would. Marching about one mile further, we drove them inside their fortifications, Fort Pocatoligo [sic], our skirmishers getting so near as to prevent them from using their artillery with much effect.
Our loss in driving them in was eight men and two officers, Lieut. Chandler, of the 12th, being killed as he was gallantly charging with his line of skirmishers upon the retreating rebels. No better officer has fallen.
In the night the rebels evacuated, and in the morning we pursued them until we came to Pocatoligo [sic] bridge, where the Charleston & Savannah Railroad crosses, and where we at present remain. We are encamped upon the railroad, on ground previously occupied by the rebels for that purpose. They had erected neat log houses, which we have taken possession of, and are quite comfortable. We will probably remain here until the 14th, 15th and 20th Corps come up. We are now within forty miles of Charleston. Hilton Head will be our base, getting our supplies from there up the river to our present camp, when they will follow us up by rail as we advance towards Charleston. From here we have railroad communication with Savannah.
Gen. Foster has been trying to take this place for two years past, and it was but recently he was defeated with a loss of four hundred. We took one prisoner who told us that when we commenced skirmishing with them in the morning, they said it was only Gen. Foster with his brigade, and that they would soon clean them out ; but when our boys cried out, “Skedaddle, Johnnies !” they raised the cry of “Sherman, Sherman in coming !” and gave way. They seem to be impressed with a wholesome terror of Gen. Sherman’s army.
Gen. Force is now commanding our division, which puts Col. Fairchild in command of the brigade, a position which the whole brigade is pleased to see him occupy, and one which he is well qualified to fill. He is esteemed as one of the best officers in the Corps, is universally and deservedly popular, and is an officer of whom Wisconsin and especially Madison may well be proud.
Our army is in splendid condition, the men are all healthy and feel fine, and are anxious to be led against Charleston, feeling perfectly confident of success.
A. J. SENECA.
1. Almon N. Chandler was actually a captain by this time, of Company K, 12th Wisconsin Infantry, having been promoted as of January 6, 1865. From Marietta, Wisconsin, he enlisted September 7, 1861, was promoted to 1st lieutenant October 19, 1861, and was killed in action on January 14, 1865, at Pocotaligo, South Carolina.