Lest We Forget - African American Military History by Researcher, 
					Author and Veteran Bennie McRae, Jr.

HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF BEAUFOR

HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF BEAUFORT,
Beaufort, S.C., May 6, 1865.

SIR: I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of the troops under my command in the recent expedition, having for its object the destruction of the locomotives and rolling-stock collected on the railroad between Sumterville and Camden, S.C.

On the 1st of April I proceeded to Georgetown and took command of the force which had been ordered there. This force consisted of six regiments of infantry, divided into two brigades. The First consisted of the Twenty-fifth and One hundred and seventh Ohio Volunteers, the One hundred and fifty-seventh New York Volunteers, and a detachment of the Fifty-sixth New York Volunteers; under command of Col. P. P. Brown, jr., One hundred and fifty-seventh New York Volunteers. The Second Brigade---Colonel Hallowell, Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers, commanding--was made up of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers, five companies of the One hundred and second U. S. Colored Troops, and the Thirty-second U.S. Colored Troops; a section of Battery F, Third New York Artillery, Lieut. E. C. Clark, commanding; a detachment of the Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry, under Major Webster, and a detachment of the First New York Volunteer Engineers, Lieutenant Waterman, completed the force, which numbered 2,700 effective men. The armed transport Savannah and the transports Hooker and Planter, with rations and ammunition, were ordered up the Santee River to Murray's Ferry, there to await my orders. A naval force of armed tugs and launches, under Commander Stanly, U.S. Navy, also proceeded to the same point. On the 5th of April I marched from Georgetown, taking the road on the south side of Black River. The country passed through during the first two days' march was poor and sandy. As we neared Kingstree detachments were sent down to destroy the bridges over the Black River, but the enemy had already done that work. On the 7th Major Webster was sent to Murray's Ferry with orders for the transports to ascend the Santee to the Camden railroad bridge, or as near that point as possible.

On the morning of the 8th we reached the bridge across Brewington Swamp and found it burned. As the reconstruction of the bridge, which was 120 feet in length, would have consumed the day, I moved on to Manning, ten miles farther west, keeping the south side of the Pocotaligo River, a branch of the Black. The cavalry drove a small force of the enemy out of Manning. A causeway, a mile in length, with six bridges, here crossed the Pocotaligo River and swamp. These bridges had all been fired by the enemy, but were not entirely destroyed. During the night of the 8th Hallowell's brigade was crossed on the stringers which remained of the bridges, and the bridges themselves rebuilt under the direction of Major Place, First New York Volunteer Engineers, and the whole force crossed on the morning of the 9th. I had learned that the enemy were intrenched at Dingle's Mill with two pieces of artillery commanding the causeway, which serves as a mill-dam. Before arriving at this point, on the afternoon of the 9th I ordered Colonel Hallowell's brigade to turn the enemy's position on the left by taking a plantation road which led to the main road between Dingle's Mill and Sumterville. As soon as the head of the column came in sight of the mill pond the enemy opened with their two guns. Our skirmishers were pushed forward to the edge of the pond, which was skirted with dense thickets, shutting out everything from view on either side. Lieutenant Clark's section of Napoleons returned the fire from the enemy's battery. Learning from a negro that the swamp could be crossed on the enemy's right, I directed Colonel Brown to order Lieutenant-Colonel Carmichael, with the One hundred and fifty-seventh New York Volunteers and the detachment of the Fifty-sixth New York Volunteers, to make the attempt. This he succeeded in doing, gained the enemy's rear, charged and routed him, capturing a battle-flag and two guns. Colonel Hallowell met a small force of the enemy's cavalry. In the skirmish his guide disappeared, and he was unable to gain the main road. This prevented the capture of the enemy's whole force. Colonel Hallowell was ordered to rejoin the main column, and the march was resumed toward Sumterville. The rebels attempted to make another stand, but were easily driven. Our loss in the affair at Dingle's Mill was twenty-six. That of the enemy was larger. A number of his dead and wounded were left on the field. Among the former were two artillery officers. Sumterville was occupied on the evening of the 9th. Here another gun was taken, which had been abandoned by the rebels in their flight.

On the 10th detachments were sent up and down the railroad to destroy the bridges and trestle-work. At Sumterville there were destroyed 4 locomotives, 8 cars, carpenter shops, car and blacksmith shops, machine-shop with the stationary engine, freight depot, and store-houses, together with offices and quarters for the employ�s, and 1,000,000 feet of lumber. On the same day Major Webster: with the cavalry detachment, destroyed the railroad buildings, with one locomotive and a small train of cars at Manchester. On the 11th the column moved to Manchester. Upon arriving there the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers was sent down the railroad to Wateree Junction, while the One hundred and seventh Ohio marched to Middleton Depot, and thence along the Camden railroad to the same point. Eight locomotives and forty cars were destroyed near the Wateree trestle-work, which is three miles in length. A mile of this was burned, as were also some bridges. As the rations of bread, sugar, and coffee were exhausted on the 12th, I sent the wagons and pack-mules to Wright's Bluff, on the Santee to obtain additional supplies. The wounded and the contrabands, of whom there were large numbers, were also ordered to the same point, to be embarked on the transports. These trains were under escort of the Thirty-second U.S. Colored Troops. The command remained encamped at Singleton's, three miles from Manchester: until the 15th, awaiting the return of the wagons and pack train. Reconnaissances were made to Statesburg and as far as Claremont Station on the road to Camden. Information was gained that the enemy had been re-enforced by two small brigades of cavalry under Major-General Young and was intrenching at Boykins' Mill.

On the afternoon of the 15th the column moved out on the direct road to Camden. The enemy was soon met and sharp skirmishing was kept up until he was driven back far enough to uncover a road leading to the main road between Sumterville and Camden. While the Twenty-fifth Ohio Volunteers pushed the enemy's skirmishers back to Statesburg, our main column took the former road, and by a night march reached the latter. On the following day the march was continued by the way of Bradford Springs and Spring Hill, with some attempt on the enemy's part to impede our progress. Camden was occupied without opposition on the evening of the 17th, and it was then learned that the locomotives and trains had been removed to Boykins' Mill, eight miles below. I moved from Camden on the morning of the 18th, sending five companies of the One hundred and second U.S. Colored Troops to follow the railroad and destroy it. No opposition was encountered until we reached Boykins' Mill on Swift Creek. The road here leads close by the mill, with mill-ponds and swamps on the left and swamp on the right extending to the Wateree. The rebels had cut the dam, flooding the road, and had taken up the bridge across the stream. The land on the opposite side was higher and the enemy had thrown up an epaulement for two guns and an infantry parapet. The railroad crossed the swamp 300 yards to the right of the highway, and here also were rifle trenches. Hallowell's brigade was in advance, and the skirmishers of the Thirty-second U. S. Colored Troops were pushed forward into the swamp, but the water was too deep for them to effect a crossing. The One hundred and seventh Ohio, of Brown's brigade, was ordered to try to turn the enemy's right, but the creek could not be forded. The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers was sent down to find a passage on the enemy's left. They discovered the remains of a bridge which had been burned, and in attempting to cross on a stringer, which was still standing, they received a sharp fire from the rebels posted behind intrenchments, and lost several men. The Twenty-fifth Ohio was placed on the edge of the swamp between the railroad and highway, ready to charge across the railroad. The detachment of the One hundred and second U.S. Colored Troops (Major Clark commanding) was ordered to get through on the left of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, and by the aid of a negro guide they succeeded in crossing on a log. The One hundred and seventh Ohio was at once ordered to their support. The other regiments were ordered to make a dash from their respective positions, which was done, and the enemy gave way. The train which had been standing on the railroad track also moved off A few platform-cars and one locomotive were found here. These, with the station buildings and some cotton, were destroyed. On the evening of this day Colonel Chipman, with the remaining wing of the One hundred and second U.S. Colored Troops, joined the column. Colonel Chipman had been ordered to march from Nelson's Ferry and join me at States-burg. Finding the enemy in considerable force he had been obliged to leave the direct road and follow our column around. The rebel cavalry had given him constant annoyance, and he had had skirmishing all the way. We bivouacked three miles beyond Boykins' Mill.

After marching a short distance on the 19th the enemy's skirmishers were met behind barricades in the road, from which they were driven by our skirmishers. A little farther on we met with some slight resistance, the enemy opening from two guns in the road. He soon withdrew and fell back to the other side of Rafting Creek, at Dingle's Mill. The position resembled that at Boykins' Mill. The mill dam had been opened and the swamp was not fordable, while in the road the water was waist-deep, and any force attempting to cross here was exposed to a fire from the enemy behind rifle-trenches and with two guns commanding the road. Colonel Baird, with tour companies of the Thirty-second U.S. Colored Troops, and the One hundred and seventh Ohio Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Cooper, was moving down the railroad, which at this point is a mile distant from the high road, and was threatening to cross. Colonel Hallowell was directed to order Colonel Chipman, with the One hundred and second U. S. Colored Troops and four companies of the Thirty-second U. S. Colored Troops, to make a detour of several miles to our left, which would turn the swamp and bring him in the enemy's rear. About noon musketry was heard on the other side, followed by the fire of the enemy's guns. Brown's brigade was at once pushed over and the enemy retreated in great haste, one of his brigades, with the wagon train and artillery, taking the road toward Providence, while the other brigade kept the road to Statesburg. This last brigade undertook to dispute the passage of Beech Creek, a small stream which had been swollen by the recent rains. The Twenty-fifth Ohio Volunteers and the One hundred and fifty-seventh New York Volunteers charged through the water waist-deep and drove the rebels through Statesburg. The detachment of the Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry took up the pursuit and followed them four or five miles, taking a number of prisoners and causing them to break and scatter in all directions. We then moved on to Middleton Depot, where the locomotives and trains were found; the railroad having been torn up below this place prevented their escape. The following day was spent in thoroughly destroying the locomotives, 18 in number, and in burning the cars, of which there were 176. A large portion of these cars were filled with ordnance stores and railway machinery, also subsistence, naval, and quartermaster's stores.

On the 21st the march was taken up for Georgetown by the way of the Santee River road. At 1 p.m., while the column was halted at Fulton Post-Office, I received a communication by flag of truce from Major-General Young, commanding the force which had been opposed to us, stating that a truce had been agreed upon between Generals Johnston and Sherman, and that notice of forty-eight hours would be given prior to the resumption of hostilities. I answered that my command was moving toward Georgetown, and that it would no longer subsist on the country, except in the matter of forage for animals. At Wright's Bluff I turned over the command to Colonel Brown, commanding First Brigade, and, taking a steamer down the Santee River, proceeded directly to Hilton Head to report to the major-general commanding.

The results of the expedition may be summed up in the capture of 1 battle-flag, 3 guns, and 65 prisoners, 100 horses and 150 mules, and the destruction of 32 locomotives, 250 cars, large portions of the railroad, and all the railroad buildings between Camden and Sumterville, 100 cotton gins and presses, 5,000 bales of cotton, and large quantities of government stores. Five thousand negroes joined the column and were brought within our lines. Our entire loss was 10 killed, 72 wounded, and 1 missing.

In conclusion I cannot too highly praise the conduct of officers and men during this expedition. They bore with cheerfulness the fatigue of a long and toilsome march, made more arduous by the constant skirmishing, and in our frequent encounters with the enemy displayed great dash and courage.

The brigade commanders, Colonel Brown and Colonel Hallowell, were at all times prompt and efficient in the discharge of their duties.

I desire to mention, in terms of especial commendation, the conduct of Lieutenant-Colonel Carmichael, commanding the One hundred and fifty-seventh New York Volunteers, and Lieutenant-Colonel Haughton, commanding Twenty-fifth Ohio Volunteers, and to recommend the promotion of these officers for their gallant and meritorious services. Colonel Chipman, of the One hundred and second U.S. Colored Troops, joined the column with five companies of his regiment after a march of considerable difficulty, and in the affair at Dingle's Mill rendered excellent service.

The officers of my staff, Major Place, First New York Volunteer Engineers; Lieutenant Baldwin, One hundred and fifty-seventh New York Volunteers, acting assistant adjutant-general; Captain Tracy, Twenty-sixth U.S. Colored Troops, aide-de-camp; Capt. Frank Goodwin, Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Volunteers, provost-marshal; Surgeon Walton, Twenty-fifth Ohio Volunteers, chief medical officer; Lieutenant Lichty, One hundred and seventh Ohio Volunteers, acting commissary of subsistence; Lieutenant Campbell, One hundred and fifty-seventh New York Volunteers, acting ordnance officer, and Lieutenant McGinley, Thirty-second U.S. Colored Troops; acting quartermaster, gave me invaluable aid in their several departments.

The section of Battery F, Third New York Artillery, Lieutenant Clark commanding, was efficient, and its guns well served.

I have the honor to forward herewith the reports of subordinate commanders, and also lists of the casualties.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

 EDWARD E. POTTER,

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

 Maj. W. L. M. BURGER,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

[Indorsement.]

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH,
Hilton Head, S.C., May 25, 1865.

Respectfully forwarded to the Adjutant-General U.S. Army, and attention asked to my accompanying letter of this date recommending that Brig. Gen. E. E. Potter, U.S. Volunteers, be promoted to be major-general by brevet, for his distinguished and valuable service in the command of this expedition.

The within recommendations of General Potter, that Lieutenant-Colonel Carmichael, One hundred and fifty-seventh New York Volunteers, and Lieutenant-Colonel Haughton, Twenty-fifth Ohio Volunteers, be promoted to be colonels by brevet, are heartily indorsed. These officers have always shown themselves brave, capable, and efficient, and deserve the promotion asked in their behalf.

 Q. A. GILLMORE,

Major-General, Commanding.

ADDENDA.

HDQRS. PROVISIONAL DIV., PROVOST-MARSHAL'S OFFICE,
Georgetown, S.C., April 29, 1865.

LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to make the following report as pro-vost-marshal, Provisional Division, during the late expedition:

 

Citizens who took the oath of allegiance to the United States of America .... 10
Prisoners of war taken in action .... (a)60
Citizens taken along with the column .... (b)3
Union prisoners liberated or escaped to our lines .... 14
Cotton destroyed
bales 5,000
Cotton gins and presses destroyed .... 100
Corn destroyed bushels 5,000

 

Upward of 6,000 contrabands joined our column; were rationed mostly from the country, and were brought within our lines.

I am, lieutenant, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

 FRANK GOODWIN,

Capt., Fifty-fifth Mass. Vol. Infantry, Asst. Provost-Marshal.

 Lieut. CHARLES J. BALDWIN,

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

 


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