SEAC: Featured Project
  • 3D Rendering of Shiloh Mound

    Southeast Archeological Center

    Cultural Resources National Park Service

SEAC: EXECUTION (continued)

EXECUTION (continued)

8 March 1865
All of Sherman’s Army was now in North Carolina. General Sherman, traveling with his XV Army Corps, encamped at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church. In eastern North Carolina, the forces of Confederate General Braxton Bragg, C.S.A., and Federal Major General Jacob D. Cox, U.S.A., clashed at Kinston.

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):

On the 8th of March, 1865, the vanguard of Johnston’s Army consisting of part of Hardee’s Corps, entered Fayetteville. Only a few detachments and some officers with their staffs came in the first day and the greater part of the night the artillery and infantry of the Army of Tennessee and the defenders of Charleston poured through the place, making an incessant moving panorama of men, horses, cannons and wagons.

Lieutenant General Wade Hampton, C.S.A. (Source: U.S. Army).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):

We completed the crossing of the Pee Dee, and pursuant to orders moved by way of the Plank Road toward Fayetteville.

Colonel Spencer’s 3rd Cavalry Brigade, serving as Brevet Major General Kilpatrick’s advance guard, succeeded in crossing Drowning Creek. Hampered by incessant rains and harassed by Confederate Patrols, Kilpatrick’s Division was strung out and scattered. Colonel Spencer moved his Brigade up a ridge toward high ground, in search of a comfortable spot to rest his men and animals. As the Brigade reached the top, a farmhouse came into view. Seeing people around the farmhouse, the cavalrymen spurred their horses to gallop and headed toward the house.

Evander McLeod, Confederate soldier furloughed home from Fort Fisher (Barrett 1956):

About noon of the 8th of March a small squadron of Wade Hampton’s men galloped into the yard and mother and my sister Flora here got them up a good dinner.

They were splendid dashing young fellows, from Mississippi, who said our patrols were in touch with Yankee cavalry all through the Pee Dee country, and that they would be along directly. They said to mother, ‘Stand up to them, old lady. They will try to scare you, but they won’t kill you.’

Along after noon we began to hear the sound of shooting in the distance. I broke and ran just as hard as I could pelt for the horses, which my brother and another fellow were guarding down the creek. The Yankees rode into the yard, ran pelter into the house, drew their shining swords and demanded of mother ‘her gold, her sons and her horses.’ Mother stood up to them all right, and told them to wipe their feet before they came into the parlor.

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.

Brevet Major General Kilpatrick and his staff finally arrived.

Evander McLeod (Barrett 1956) :

For a little after dark a body of officers covered with mud and wet to the skin, dashed up to the house, and without ceremony took possession.

There were about twelve of them, led by a stocky bald headed man of medium height, who took instant charge of everything. He ordered dinner, but the girls wouldn’t cook it. A soldier came with a bushel of sweet potatoes, which he said were to be prepared for the General and his Staff. But the girls threw them in the pot and all got together with their mother in the east room.

It was Judson Kilpatrick, in command of all of Sherman’s cavalry. He was really very decent to the women. He left them unmolested in their room.

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):

I had to dismount my command to draw the artillery and wagons through the swamp, more than half a mile wide; the men were many times in mud and water up to their armpits.

Exhausted, the 400 dismounted men of the 4th Brigade went into camp near the headwaters of Drowning Creek.

9 March 1865
Having crossed Drowning Creek, the 1st Brigade went into camp to feed their horses and give the men a much needed rest.

After a four-hour break, the 1st Brigade was again in the saddle moving east.

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.

Kilpatrick’s Scouts, eight to ten miles in front of the Division, arrived at Monroe’s Crossroads. Guessing it would take the better part of the day for the main body to arrive, they dismounted and waited for the Division.

Captain Theo F. Northrop, U.S.A., Commanding, Kilpatrick’s Scouts (Northrop 1912; 1913):

We arrived before noon on the day before and remained there until dark, hourly expecting the arrival of the command. The house which afterwards became Brevet Major General Kilpatrick’s Headquarters would have been a very comfortable place for scouts to spend the night; but I considered it too much exposed and crossed the swamp to a quiet place.

Colonel Spencer’s 3rd Brigade reached the village of Solemn Grove, consisting of a store, post office, several homes and a mill. The last few miles had been difficult, the roads few and in poor condition, the ground more broken and the streams deeper. Colonel Spencer anticipated that the adverse conditions would delay the rest of the Division for some time. A house located on a hill south of the road provided excellent observation of the area. A stream crossing the road to the east afforded some protection. Colonel Spencer decided to halt, rest his men, and allow the rest of the Division to close up.

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.

Lieutenant Colonel Way with the 4th Brigade (dismounted) arrived at Solemn Grove. As his soldiers took a much needed break on the side of the road, Lieutenant Colonel Way was briefed on the plan. Much too soon for the weary dismounted men, they were ordered back on the road.

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.

Brevet Brigadier General Atkins indicated that he understood and Brevet Major General Kilpatrick turned and started down the road, preceded by a guard from the 5th Kentucky (U.S.) Cavalry Regiment, detailed from the 3rd Brigade.

Brevet Brigadier General Jordan had received the order to divert his command to Chicken Road. Before he could execute the order, his command first had to negotiate the Devil’s Gut, a steep banked stream five miles west of Solemn Grove. The 1st Brigade had struck the Gut at its most treacherous point. The first riders to cross the Gut’s rain-swollen waters had a difficult time scaling the slippery far bank. Knowing the condition of the banks would get much worse, Brevet Brigadier General Jordan gave the command to dismount.

Having sufficiently closed up, the 2nd Brigade departed Solemn Grove, moving east on Morganton Road in the direction of Monroe’s Crossroads.

Federal Cavalryman armed with a Sharps carbine and a Colt .44 revolver (Source: U.S. Army).The 1st Brigade, having spent the last two hours pulling their wagons and artillery through the mud by hand, succeeded in crossing Devil’s Gut. The command once again mounted and proceeded toward Bethesda Church.

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):

I took the advance to Monroe’s Crossroads, arriving there at 9 p.m., encamping my command in line of battle parallel with the main road and in front of the Division Headquarters, the 3rd Brigade encamping upon my right and rear. The night was dark and the rain fell in torrents, making it impossible to form a correct idea of the country.

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):

In obedience to instructions we picketed carefully the country in the direction of Fayetteville leaving Lieutenant Colonel Way, whose command was immediately in the rear of my brigade, to picket the rear.

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.

Execution (continued)

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