SEAC: EXECUTION (continued)
8 March 1865
Having had to complete a slow, circuitous route around the invading Federal Army, Major General Hardee’s footsore infantrymen began arriving in Fayetteville.
Josephine Bryan Worth, Fayetteville schoolgirl (Oates 1981):
Confederate Lieutenant General Hampton, accompanied by Butler’s Cavalry Division, united with Wheeler’s Corps. Up to this time the two commands had been separate. However, by direction of the Confederate Government, Lieutenant General Hampton was to assume command of both. Lieutenant General Wheeler had outranked Lieutenant General Hampton. Hampton’s succession to command was undoubtedly uncomfortable for both. He feared that this slight toward their commander and his having come from the Army of Northern Virginia might adversely affect the morale of the Army of Tennessee Cavalrymen. In order to avoid dissension within the ranks, Lieutenant General Hampton dispensed with any show of authority over Lieutenant General Wheeler that was unnecessary and treated him with utmost consideration.
On the banks of the swollen Pee Dee River, Hampton’s Cavalry Command was established. Once the river somewhat subsided, the entire command crossed.
Lieutenant General Wheeler (OR 1885):
Evander McLeod, Confederate soldier furloughed home from Fort Fisher (Barrett 1956):
It took the rest of the day and late into the night for Kilpatrick’s Division to close up on the 3rd Brigade at the McLeod farm.
Evander McLeod (Barrett 1956) :
Brevet Major General Kilpatrick’s men had a difficult time crossing Drowning Creek in the dark. The 1st Brigade labored through the night to cross the creeks, flooded swamps, and deep channel.
Brevet Brigadier General Jordan, U.S.A., Commanding, 1st Brigade (OR 1885):
9 March 1865
On this morning, Brevet Major General Kilpatrick chose to ride in the carriage of Marie Boozer (More Information) of Columbia, South Carolina. Miss Boozer and her mother had been accompanying the General since the Federal Army departed Columbia, South Carolina. Captured the night before, Lieutenant H. Clay Reynolds, C.S.A., of Shannon’s Scouts, Wheeler’s Corps, was made to walk behind the carriage. While on the march, Lieutenant Reynolds observed the couple. He saw the Union officer’s head in Marie’s lap, his feet dangling over the side of the carriage. Lieutenant Reynolds had also been relieved of his high-top riding boots and provided with a pair of brogans that blistered the soles of his feet and wore off his big toenails.
Kilpatrick’s Brigades continued to have difficulty negotiating the treacherous roads and rain-swollen creeks. To avoid overtaxing these roads, they used parallel routes when they could find them. Using parallel routes extended the Division’s lines of communication, creating problems when a coordinated effort became necessary. Straying too far apart from possible help in the event of attack was a dread among the Federal Cavalry Commanders.
With the Confederate Cavalry close and also moving toward Fayetteville, the danger was real. The Federal commanders knew the opportunity to attack an isolated group of Yankee Cavalry would be difficult for Joe Wheeler to pass up. What the Federal Cavalrymen did not know was that Wheeler’s Corps had united with Major General Butler’s Division under the command of Lieutenant General Hampton, who was looking for just such an opportunity to attack.
The Federals made maximum use of their scouts and did all they could to stay within a supporting distance of one another. Brevet Major General Kilpatrick had taken a risk in executing these long marches. Often, his Division would not close up until going into camp. This resulted in units that might have had a particularly difficult route not getting into camp until the early morning hours, if at all.
Brevet Major General Kilpatrick feared falling behind the Federal Infantry to his south. While demonstrating toward Charlotte, he was well forward. When the Federal Army executed its right turn to the east, his scattered force on the outer edge of the arc had to move quickly back toward the main body. Brevet Major General Kilpatrick’s mission was to screen the left flank of the Army. To stay abreast of the Army, he had to cover ground quickly.
He also had the strong desire to be the first to enter Fayetteville.
Captain Theo F. Northrop, U.S.A., Commanding, Kilpatrick’s Scouts (Northrop 1912; 1913):
Federal scouts approached on the Morganton Road. They had been scouting north and east of Solemn Grove. On their arrival, they reported to Colonel Spencer that a large body of infantry had recently passed on the Morganton Road and another road, further north. They also told him that the Confederate Cavalry was still to the west, riding hard, in an apparent attempt to close on the rear of Confederate Lieutenant General Hardee’s Infantry Corps. Both Federal and Confederate forces had the same objective, Fayetteville; the closer they got, the more probable an encounter.
With Confederate Infantry in his front, and possibly Cavalry to his north and rear, Colonel Spencer set about establishing a defensive position. His regiments were positioned appropriately, with cannon placed on the hill south of the road, oriented on the stream crossing to guard the approach from the east.
Brevet Major General Kilpatrick, accompanied by his staff and escort, soon arrived. Colonel Spencer briefed him on the situation described by the scouts. Two options were available to Brevet Major General Kilpatrick. First, he could continue to move and risk being cut in half by the Confederate Cavalry, while strung out on the road. Worse still, the Confederate Cavalry could ride in behind him and into the exposed flank of the Federal XIV Corps. Second, he could stop and attempt to intercept the Confederate riders. Three main roads passed through the area; to be successful he had to block all three. This would require dividing his force, a risk in enemy territory. He chose the latter option, demonstrating the characteristics General Sherman desired in his officers—a grasp of the tactical situation, but a willingness to take a risk to gain victory. Selecting positions with lines of communication and mutual support in mind would decrease the risk.
It would also be better to have the Confederates reacting to his initiative than for him to be reacting to Confederate initiatives. The three roads which he would block were: Morganton Road, Chicken Road to the south, and Yadkin Road to the north.
A courier was sent to Brevet Brigadier General Jordan’s 1st Brigade, furthest back, instructing him to divert to Chicken Road. Colonel Spencer’s 3rd Brigade was organized with Lieutenant Colonel Way’s 4th Brigade (dismounted). A section of artillery from the 10th Wisconsin, Light Battery was attached.
Colonel Spencer was to continue down Morganton Road, past its junction with Yadkin Road, and establish camp, effectively blocking Yadkin Road. When Brevet Brigadier General Smith D. Atkins’, U.S.A., 2nd Brigade arrived, they would follow and block Morganton Road.
To the north, also moving over extremely bad roads, was the Confederate Cavalry urging their mounts toward Fayetteville. Reports to Lieutenant General Hampton from Confederate scouting parties indicated that the Federal Cavalry was now between him and Lieutenant General Hardee, leaving the rear of Hardee’s Corps exposed. If this was true, something had to be done, and done without delay.
Lieutenant General Hampton had promised General Johnston that he would "attack and punish any part of the Federal Army found separated from the main body." His opportunity to do so was fast developing.
With another downpour commencing, the 4th Brigade (dismounted) was sent forward, followed by the 3rd Brigade, with the artillery section bringing up the rear. As Colonel Spencer departed with his staff, Brevet Major General Kilpatrick told him to make camp at Green Springs, and he would join him there. Green Springs, located south of Charles Monroe’s home on Morganton Road, was a popular campsite among local farmers on their way to market in Fayetteville.
Brevet Major General Kilpatrick remained at Solemn Grove, waiting for Brevet Brigadier General Atkins and the 2nd Brigade to arrive.
Fifteen miles to the south, General Sherman, traveling with the Federal XV Army Corps, went into camp at Bethel Church.
Brevet Major General Kilpatrick was alerted to riders approaching from the west. The riders were Federal, and Brevet Major General Kilpatrick rode out to meet them. The first group to come in identified themselves as scouts. Close behind, riding forward at a gallop upon recognizing Brevet Major General Kilpatrick, were Brigadier General Atkins and staff. Anxious to be on his way, Brevet Major General Kilpatrick made short his instructions, briefing Brevet Brigadier General Atkins on his plan, the disposition of the other Brigades and what the 2nd Brigades’ responsibilities were. Brevet Major General Kilpatrick told Brevet Brigadier General Atkins to get underway as soon as his regiments had sufficiently closed up.
In the darkness, Lieutenant Colonel Way could see figures in the road ahead. The figures approached and identified themselves as a quartering party sent in advance. Lieutenant Colonel Way and his men were led to the intersection of a road running north and south. The command followed their guides onto the south road. The road, somewhat narrower than Morganton Road, led to and past a two-story farm house. Once past the house, the Brigade guided right off the road. Paralleling the road until the last men were off the road, Lieutenant Colonel Way commanded the Brigade to halt. The ordnance wagons and Division Headquarters that Lieutenant Colonel Way had been charged with during movement were positioned in and around the yard of the house.
Lieutenant Colonel Way, Commanding, 4th Brigade (dismounted) (OR 1885):
Spencer’s 3rd Brigade continued down the road, passing the 4th Brigade (dismounted) before turning off into an open field. The field was just large enough to accommodate the three regiments. It was a confined space for such a large body of men, but a fine campsite. The ground was high, sloping for good drainage. The site was the southern portion of a ridge that fell away to the south and west into the thick tangle of a swamp.
In the lead, the 1st Alabama (U.S.) continued down the slope to the west before halting. The 5th Kentucky (U.S.) turned south, continuing forward for a distance to allow the 5th Ohio to occupy the ground behind them. Bringing up the rear, the 10th Wisconsin parked their two ordnance rifles just off the road on a small rise. This was the highest point on the field and placed the guns north of the 3rd Brigade’s camp and approximately 50 yards (More Information) south of the main house.
The rain, never less than a drizzle, was once again coming down in torrents. The soldiers immediately set about constructing shelter. The fence surrounding the field quickly disappeared, the rails being used to support shelterhalfs and rubber blankets. When the fence rail supply was exhausted, pine saplings were bent over, tied off, and stripped of their limbs, with anything that might repel water thrown over them as cover.
The Division Headquarters troops and the artillerymen unloaded and erected what tents they had. The Monroe House was designated Division Headquarters and occupied by Division staff members not on the road with Brevet Major General Kilpatrick.
Provided with a room by the staff, Marie Boozer and her mother also enjoyed the dry accom- modations. Allowing the troops to use his large Headquarters tent, Colonel Spencer and staff also secured a portion of the house for their use. Colonel Spencer directed that pickets be sent out in the direction of Fayetteville.
Colonel Spencer, Commanding, 3rd Brigade (OR 1885):
Colonel Spencer’s description of the location of the 4th Brigade (dismounted) in camp suggests that Colonel Spencer was confused by the rain and darkness about the direction of Fayetteville. He may have thought the command was still headed in the direction of Fayetteville after they turned south onto Blue’s Rosin Road. If this was the case, Colonel Spencer’s pickets were placed approximately a half mile south of Morganton Road. This explains the Confederates’ ability to move along the north and west sides of the camp without being detected.