HDQRS. CAVALRY DIV., DIST. OF EAST TENNESSEE,
Howell's Ford, near Warsaw, on the Chattahoochee,
May 12, 1865--5 p.m.
MAJOR: After my last dispatch to you from Athens via Ashville, I got reliable information from a scout, disguised as a Confederate soldier, who stated positively that he had traveled with him for a day, that Davis was one mile and a half from Willis' Ferry, on the Oconee River, a short distance above the mouth of the Appalachee, moving westward. This was at 4 o'clock on the morning of the 7th instant. The scout left him at that point to report to me at Athens, and, on the way, eight miles northwest of where he had left Davis' party, near Salem, he states that he met General Bragg with about 100 men, most of whom were without arms, and five wagons. He traveled with Bragg some distance toward Furlow's Bridge, over the Appalachee, and then came to Athens. A detachment of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry sent in pursuit succeeded in capturing General Bragg below Concord, west of Monticello, on the night of the 9th instant, with his wife, 3 staff officers, 1 ambulance, and 3 wagons. There was no specie in the wagons, but an assortment of provisions, horse equipments, papers, wines, &c. The lieutenant, in violation of orders, paroled Bragg to report to General Wilson, at Macon, he stating that he was not trying to escape, but was simply going to his home in Alabama. He had, however, passed around
detachment of my command at Madison, and had evaded another detachment at Covington, and I have no doubt whatever but that he was a candidate for the Trans-Mississippi Department, and that he had been with Davis but a very short time before. A detachment of the Twelfth Ohio Cavalry which I had stationed at Monroe, while pursuing a party which they took to be Davis, also captured at Conyer's Station, west of Yellow River, on the morning of the 9th instant, Major-General Wheeler, 3 of his staff, and 11 privates. Wheeler had a forged parole on his person, and tried to pass himself off as Lieutenant Sharp, stating that he had been paroled. When sent to me he made a very poor story, stating that he wanted to be paroled and go to his home in Augusta. As I had no doubt whatever but that he was a trans-Mississippi man, and had been very recently with Davis, I stripped him and his staff of their horses and side-arms and sent them to the commander of the U.S. forces at Augusta, with a statement of the facts. On the morning of the 8th instant, while searching for Davis near the fork of the Appalachee and Oconee Rivers, Colonel Betts, Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, captured seven wagons hid in the woods, which contained $188,000 in coin, $1,588,000 in bank notes, bonds, &c., of various Southern States, and about $4,000,000 of Confederate money, besides considerable specie, plate, and other valuables belonging to private citizens of Macon. The main portion of the above property comprised the assets of the Georgia Central Railroad and Banking Company which had been moved out of Macon at the approach of General Wilson. The wagons also contained the private baggage, maps, and official papers of General Beauregard and the same of General Pillow. Nothing was disturbed, and I sent the whole on by railroad to Augusta in charge of Captain Patterson, acting assistant adjutant-general, to be delivered to commanding officer of U.S. forces, to await the action of the Government. Colonel Miller, whom I had sent to Greensborough, reports that Davis had passed through there, but it is possible that he may not have crossed the Oconee River, but deflected south to cross it below Milledgeville. Colonel Stacy, however, who was sent in pursuit from Washington, and who marched by Crawfordsville and Sparta to a point opposite Milledgeville, reports that he could find no trace of him in that direction. I have had the whole country thoroughly searched from Washington west to the Chattahoochee River, and from Athens to Lawrenceville south to Milledgeville, Monticello, and McDonough. My belief is that Davis has not yet crossed the Chattahoochee River, but that he is lying by until search shall have ceased. This belt, however, is so thoroughly exhausted of corn that I have determined to send Brown's and Miller's brigades under General Brown to the line of the Savannah River from Dooley's Ferry, near Lincolnton, northward to Knox's Bridge, on the Tugalo, to feed there as long as practicable without starving the people, and to arrest stray parties of armed Confederates going westward. These orders were sent to General Brown yesterday, with instructions as soon as forage becomes scarce to move to Greenville, S.C., and vicinity to await orders from you.
With the First Brigade, which is as much as I can feed on this route, I have determined to march rapidly across the belt, exhausted by the campaign against Atlanta, and place it west of the Coosa River for the purpose of guarding that line, from Will's Valley south to Wilsonville, on the Talladega and Selma Railroad. The Tenth Michigan, now at McDonough, has been directed to cross the Chattahoochee at Franklin; thence to march via Talladega to cross the Coosa at Clannche's Ferry. The Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, now near Decatur, has been directed to march, via Atlanta and Campbellton, to Jacksonville, and from there to Ashville, west of the Coosa. With the Twelfth Ohio I shall start from here to-morrow morning and march by Van Wert and Cedartown to Bennettsville, on Will's Creek. Each of the three columns will carry along enough forage and rations from the Chattahoochee (the Fifteenth Pennsylvania from Atlanta) to take it across the exhausted belt, excepting the Tenth Michigan, which will scarcely find it necessary to do so. On arriving west of the Coosa all intersecting and crossroads will be guarded from Coxville, in Will's Valley, south to Wilsonville, on the Talladega Railroad. The Tenth Michigan will communicate with U.S. forces at Montgomery, and request that the line from Wilsonville to Montgomery be guarded by them. I have received no orders from you since the one to follow Davis, until I believed further search useless, and I am acting upon that. The shortest way to communicate with me at Bennettsville will be, probably, by telegraph to Huntsville, thence by courier, or if the gun-boats are running on the Tennessee River the shortest way will be by courier from Guntersville to Bennettsville. I shall endeavor to communicate by that route when I get west of the Coosa. In regard to the Confederate specie, I am satisfied that Davis has not now any considerable amount with him. Major Millsap, of Major-General Loring's staff, states that in the council of war held in General Johnston's army, General Johnston called on Secretary Breckinridge for specie to pay his army, they not having been paid for more than a year. In presence of the entire council Breckinridge replied that the Government had not more than $60,000 actually belonging to it. That $40,000 was on hand, that $20,000 was or would be transferred to the Commissary Department for the purchase of provisions. It is estimated that the Confederate Government may have had in its possession some $32,000,000, the property of different Southern banks, including those of New Orleans, removed from various points to avoid capture, it having been the original intention to return these funds when the danger of falling into our hands should have passed away. As Davis passed through North Carolina the funds belonging to the banks of that State were, it is said, left at Charlotte, at the instance of Governor Vance. That belonging to South Carolina banks was no doubt left at or near Abbeville, and that belonging to Georgia and New Orleans was either left and concealed at Washington or shipped by railroad from that point. The soldiers and people were impressed with the idea that Mr. Davis had a very large amount of Government specie with him, and they were becoming exasperated that it was not distributed in payment of the troops. It was probably as much to appease this feeling as anything else that prompted the payment of specie to Dibrell's cavalry, and at the time these were the only troops not formally surrendered or disbanded. This payment probably took most of the public funds. It seems probable that little specie crossed the Savannah River, for if Davis felt it necessary to have a division of cavalry to guard his train, he would not be apt to move that train without guard when he found it impracticable to take his cavalry escort across the Savannah River. General Bragg states that no specie came this side of Washington, Ga. I also have the honor to report that General Iverson was captured by a detachment of the Twelfth Ohio, near his home at Lawrenceville. As I had good reason to believe that he was not a trans-Mississippi man, and it being difficult to take him with us, I paroled him. A detachment of my command, which passed through Crawfordsville a few days ago, found Mr. Alexander H. Stephens at his home. Howell Cobb is at his home in Athens. The people all want peace and provisions, and appear strongly opposed to the trans-Mississippi scheme of Davis. There is a disposition everywhere on the part of the poor people and the poorer class of returned soldiers toward agrarian riots. I have a telegram of the 7th from Major-General Wilson at Macon stating that it is quite certain that Dick Taylor has capitulated. I had determined to parole Dibrell's division, taking from them their horses and arms, but found that General Wilson had already sent a paroling officer from Augusta to attend to their case.
I am, major, yours, respectfully,
WM. J. PALMER,
Colonel and Brevet Brigadier-General, Commanding.
P. S.--After waiting long enough along the Coosa to catch Davis, or become convinced that further search is useless by my command, I would propose to go to Huntsville, Ala. (if not required further in the cotton States), as being the nearest railroad point that I could march to and obtain forage en route.
W. J. P.