William White
Unknown Company, 90th Illinois Volunteer Infantry
April 1865 Letter Home, page 3

The next day (25th) was fine, and the road good. We jogged along quite leisurely and camped early. Another days march brought us to Lynch's Creek. Two Regts. had pushed on this far the day before to hold the crossing. The stream was then flowing placidly within its banks but was not so swollen as to be waist deep two hundred yards each side the bridge. We had to wade across and the sooner we did so the better, as the water was still rising. We got over without difficulty. The crossing of this bore no comparison to our experience at the North Edisto. It was my turn to go on picket, but I had a good post and got along very well. The trains did not get over that night, and by morning the water was so high it took away part of the bridge so they had to go to work and bridge the whole space covered by water. It took three days to do it, during the most of which time it was raining. The foragers were out every day and once in a while there was a few of them captured. Wade Hampton's cavalry was around and most of them had uniforms very near like ours, so they could not always tell them from our men. They also had murdered some of our men after taking them, and labeling their bodies "Death to foragers" left them in a conspicuous place to be found by us. If they thought by this means to stop foraging, they were mistaken. A like number of their men in our hands were disposed of and labeled "Retaliation." A correspondence between Hampton and Gen. Sherman was held on this subject. We moved from the creek on the 1st of March and camped next at Kelly town which is no town at all but a group of planters of that name living near each other, all immensely rich and inveterate rebels. None of them were at home. From here until our arrival at Cheraw, nothing of note transpired. The weather was showery and the road very bad but it had been fixed by other troops ahead of us.

The 17th Corps entered town on the 4th of March. It cost them but a slight skirmish. The place of itself was of little value but large quantities of every kind had been shipped there for safety as they did not think we were going there. And when they found their mistake it was too late to correct it.

Sherman misled them by marching towards Charlotte, from Columbia, and when near there suddenly changing his direction to where his was least expected. Thus in getting from Columbia to Camden we marched twice as far as one place is from the other in a direct line, and for this, I have heard many a "mick" say Sherman was "a fool and didn't know where he was going" ­ forgetting the old adage that "the longest way round was the safest way home." Our corps came into Cheraw in the evening of the 5th. Guards were stationed everywhere and good order prevailed. We marched through town, camped beyond it and remained until next evening. And while there availed ourselves of the rest and the sun ­ which shone brilliantly ­ to air our blankets and clothes which from successive rains had grown damp and moldy. There was a large quantity of cotton, military stores, and an extensive turpentine mill, all of which were destroyed. I believe there was more ammunition destroyed here than at Columbia, and about twenty pieces of artillery fell into our hands which were consigned to the great Pedee (river) and the carriages burned. In hospital there was some three or four hundred rebel sick and wounded, which I suppose were paroled. This place was connected with the history of the Revolution. There is still standing in good repair the Church that General Greene used for a hospital after the battle of "Eutaw Springs."

In the yard there are the graves of several Revolutionary soldiers. Wandering about examining the headstones I came to the burial place of the Lynch family, relatives of Bishop Lynch of Charleston. His parents live here and he had a nice little church built for their benefit. One of this family was a member of the Constitutional convention, in the days when American patriotism was pure. Beneath my feet rested the earthly remains of a descendant, above his head stood a simple monument bearing the following inscription: "In Memorian, Conlaw C. P. Lynch born Mar. 20, 1830. Died May 3rd, 1856. R.I.P." On the opposite side written in pencil was the following reflection of a Yankee Bard:

I. Oh shades of patriots slumbering neath the sod
Know ye the woes of your unhappy state,
Know ye the turf has drank your children's blood
And your loved homes are spoiled and desolate.
Know ye the fare on which your fathers toiled,
And which you guarded as a sacred trust,
Your wayward sons have entered and despoiled
And cast its glorious idol in the dust.
Know ye that treason o'er your sunny clime,
Has blown its breath of perjury and strife,
Know ye, your sons espoused the hideous crime
and struck with madness at the nation's life.
Know you, the haughty and proud like slaves
Are fleeing to the woods, the cave, the swamp.
Know ye, your mountains, plains and your graves,
Are trembling neath an avenging Army's tramp.
How can ye rest, how can your ashes sleep,
While wars dread chariot rolls above your head,
Do not your bones in holy horror creep,
As falls the blood your perjured sons have shed?
Rise! slumbering patriots, view the ruin made,
And bid the traitor crew in shame disperse,
Bid them restore the union they've betrayed,
Or doubly damn them with a father's curse.
(Signed) H. B. Fitzpatrick Co. "D", 6th Mo.

The above was copied by a great many. I think it pretty good. A friend told me he called on the priest and Mr. Lynch. He found them stripped of everything but patient and resigned. The priest deplored the condition of the country, but did not blame us. He said "it was the just vengeance of Heaven on a wicked people, if" said he, "for no other crime than their treatment of our prisoners, they deserve it for that."

Shortly after dark we crossed the Great Pedee on a pontoon bridge and so left Cheraw.

A moonlight march of three miles brought us to Col. John Harington's plantation, where we encamped. There had been a commissary here but unable to get the stores away, they destroyed them. Next day our division did not move, but the regiment with a detail of wagons went out a few miles for corn. When we returned it was reported that Col. Harington had been captured. A good many Johnnies had been picked up by our foragers. Next day we had a pleasant march of about seven miles in the direction of Fayetteville. But next morning, March 8th, it was misting rain. We crossed the state line into North Carolina, and the Wilmington and Charlotte Railroad; and as we did so the appearance of the country improved. We encamped that night near "Laurel Hill." It rained all the afternoon and night. What we had seen of the old north state so far prepossessed us in its favor, and the conduct of the troops towards the inhabitants underwent a marked change. Moved early next day and pass Spring Hill Church, cross Lumber River. It then began to rain and continued to do so until 12 o'clock at night. We
got in camp about dark but before fixing up were ordered out to assist the train up, which was stuck in the mud, a few wagons in a place, four miles back along the road. We went, but after two or three hours of fruitless toil, in the dark, rain, and mud, we gave it up for a bad job and returned to camp. Gen. Sherman's headquarters train was in the mud among the rest, and in its absence he put up at Bethel Church, which on such a night was certainly preferable to a tent. The rain was so heavy that some places water was knee deep coming back, that were dry going out, and it raised in the floor of some of our tents so they had to be moved. Everything considered it was a miserable night, and we began to think the Rebel hope of our sticking in the mud of the old Tar State was about to be realized. But next morning heavy details were out pioneering and the trains worked along. To our right was heard a brisk artillery fire, which we afterwards learned was a sudden attack on Killpatrick's cavalry by Wade Hampton's. Both claimed the victory. The losses and prisoners on each side was about equal. It was said Killpatrick had been surprised and if that was the case he did well to sustain himself. Some also say he mounted and took the field in his night dress, but I do not believe it. Towards evening we moved on again fixing the road as we went. Our regiment camped in a pleasant place by itself, and corduroyed a piece of road by moonlight after supper. Next day a detail was left with regimental wagons to help them along if they needed it. I was on that duty. We got along very well. March about eighteen miles and reached camp on Rock Creek about 8 o'clock. The troops got in about dark. This was seven miles from Fayetteville and we had information that the 17th and 20th Corps had entered there early in the day. Next morning we moved on and camped again a mile or so from town. We expected to remain a day or two and were very glad to hear that boats had come up the Cape Fear River and there would be a chance to mail a letter. During our stay I visited the town, more on account of its Revolutionary fame than anything else. It was a very ancient looking place, not a house in it under twenty years old. There was a large seminary which had been converted into an arsenal, for which metamorphosis it was demolished by the Yanks. From here the refugees took their departure for Wilmington, some on boats and others in wagons. We were all anxious for the latest news from the United States and to get it, paid fifty cents for a New York Herald of March 6th. All the news we had lately came from rebel papers and if they were true the end of Yankeedom was near at hand. The news in the Herald was quite refreshing. On the 14th we crossed Cape Fear and camped two or three miles beyond.

It now became evident there would soon be some fighting to do. And our own judgment rightly promised the left wing would have to do the most of it. A guard was detailed to take charge of the trains, so the troops might move unencumbered, and if they met the enemy be in a condition to receive them. Our regiment was among those so detailed. During the afternoon it rained heavily but through the driving storm the boom of the cannon in the distance was distinctly heard. Next morning (16th) the train was moving. The roads for a while were pretty good but grew worse and rain again began to fall, which did not improve them. About dark we blocked up at a broken bridge, and were kept two or three hours in suspense not knowing whether to camp or not, but finally settled down for the night. The train was all night closing up. Morning brought us a fine day, an unusual thing you know for St. Patrick's, but all the more acceptable on that account. And for once on a remarkable day the 90th were all sober. The only wet to be had was what they got crossing the broken bridge. A friend invited me to a seat behind him on a horse, and I escaped even that. A short distance from the creek we halted and remained all day while the train was getting over. About dark we moved on a mile or two further, camped and after supper worked on the road until 12 o'clock. Thus we spent last St. Patrick's. Next day we were rear guard. The road for a while was miserable but grew better as we advanced. Towards evening the train blocked up again at a creek, and we did not get over until after dark, and then we had a sort of Blondin performance on a single log across the stream. All got over without accident and continued our way over a miserable road until 3 o'clock in the morning, and were then permitted but a few hours rest.

This day we were in rear again and again towards evening the train blocked up at a swamp, and the troops halted for supper. There was a house close by, the owner of which we have since designated as "the man who was not hung." It appears he had gained the confidence of one of our escaped prisoners by pretended unionism, and then betrayed him into Confederate hands. The prisoner escaped again and is now with us. There was in front of the house a new made grave, which our foragers opened, suspecting it was bogus, but finding it contained a corpse, they left without having the decency to replace the dirt. And thus it remained until some of our regiment closed it. The citizen said the deceased "belonged to the 17th Corps, that he was left sick at his house, died, and that he had buried him." This story did not seem worthy of belief, and the suspicion arose that the deceased had been foully dealt with, and the propriety of hanging the old fellow was suggested by many. He had in the house a son, or as some insisted, a daughter, who had been wounded recently at Wilmington, and revenge, it was thought, was his motive for the violence of which he was accused. Another circumstance against him was a negro boy laying on his porch in an insensible condition, poisoned it was suspected to prevent his giving information. Innocent or guilty circumstances were against him, and so narrow was his escape that I gave him the title of "the man who was not hung." About 8 o'clock we crossed the swamp and camped near Sashen Church.

Next morning (20th) about sunrise a brisk cannonade was heard to the front and lasted about an hour. We had heard firing occasionally for several days past but not so heavy as this, and we judged they had found the battleground and would soon be sending for us, which proved to be the case. About sundown we got the order, left the train and moved up to the 17th Corps train, where for some reason which I could not make out, we lay around loose until about twelve o'clock and then moved on, crossed a slue about knee deep in water, and marched until about half-past three o'clock in the morning, and then lay down for a short rest. At sunrise we were on the road again and did not halt until we had marched thirteen miles and joined the Brigade, and even then we hardly had time to get dinner before they had us out corduroying with the rest of the Brigade. We now learned there had been considerable fighting. The 14th Corps had done the most of it and at one time were in a critical situation but got out bravely. Our Division was sent to their support but did not become engaged. The fighting in front of the other corps might all be called skirmishes, though some of them were pretty severe. It rained all the afternoon, and just before dark our own brigade went into line in the left of the corps. The Rebel skirmishers were pretty active, but we got up a breastwork of logs without accident, except the falling of a log which slightly bruised one of Company F. The 70th Ohio were not so fortunate. They had a Captain killed. It was about 11 o'clock when we got the works completed, and putting out a strong skirmish line, we lay down to rest.

The skirmishers kept banging away, and a battery on our right at regular intervals put in its say. It was said that in the morning we were to charge the Rebel works, but when morning came they were gone. And from the number of traps left I should say they left in a hurry, for which we were much obliged to them. Gen. Sherman announced the close of the campaign in the following order, and we moved towards Goldsboro:

Headquarters, Military Div. of the Miss. In the field near Bentonville N.C. March 22, 1865.
The General commanding announces to this Army that yesterday it beat on its chosen ground the concentrated armies of our enemies, who have fled in disorder leaving his dead, wounded, and prisoners in our hands, and burning the bridges on his retreat. On the same day Maj. General Schofield from Newberne entered and occupied Goldsboro and Maj. Gen. Terry from Wilmington secured Cox's Bridge crossing and laid a pontoon bridge across Neuse River. So that our campaign has resulted in a glorious success, after a march of the most extraordinary character near five hundred miles, over swamps and rivers deemed impassable to others, at the most inclement season of the year, and drawing our chief supplies from a poor and war-torn country. I thank the army and assure it our Government and people honor them for the display of physical and moral qualities which brought honor upon the whole nation. You shall now have rest, and all the supplies that can be brought from the rich granaries and storehouses of our magnificent country, before again embarking on new and untried dangers.
(Signed) W. T. Sherman, Major General Commanding

Our march to Goldsboro was easy and pleasant, our first bivouack was in company with a part of Gen. Terry's command. The first of the cooperating column we had seen, and that night for the first time since leaving the coast, I slept out of my pants. Next day we crossed the Neuse River, marched in Review through Goldsboro and thense to our present camp. So ended the campaign.

Your husband,

Will. White

Many thanks to Marguerite Harris Main who submitted this information.

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