From Savannah, the army marched north through swamps, to Sister’s Ferry, where they crossed into South Carolina. “As yet we have met no enemy, but have heard some cannon at a distance.” At this point they waited to build a bridge to take the troops across.
By March 21, they were camped near Goldsboro, North Carolina. There were few real battles, just skirmishes. Now even the men in the field could see that the end was drawing near. The only strong Rebel force left was General Lee’s in Virginia, and Grant and Sherman were drawing the net about that one. The news of the fall of Charleston & Wilmington brought wild rejoicing. David writes, “The people of the North must be jubilant, that is the Union loving ones, but it must have lowered the jaws of many a Copperhead. How do Henry and Sarah feel about the aspect of the War?” (Henry was David’s cousin Sarah’s husband and was suspected of being a Copperhead, or Southern sympathizer).
“Camp 17th O.V.I. Mar. 26/65 – In the field about 20 miles from Goldsboro, N.C. – My dear Wife, We had a little fight here yesterday, in which our Major was wounded quite badly. They are at it again now out in our front. It sounds as if the Rebels had attacked us. It is growing more brisk and may result in a general engagement if they have much force. It will take a pretty large one, as we are well fortified and will dispute every inch of the ground. I think now the skirmishing is going the other direction. We have been fighting more or less since day before yesterday. We did not have any wounded, none killed, and only went out yesterday to keep them busy while the rest of the Army was busy doing something else. We were on the front line all day and enjoyed the singing of bullets to our hearts’ content. I was at the Hospital about 3 P.M. and they had only three wounded in. I wrote you from Sister’s Ferry, also once from So. Carolina, and once from Fayetteville, N. Car.. The enclosed fern is from Hanging Rock, S.C..”
“Goldsboro, N.C. Mar. 29/65 — I can’t help what the papers say about the Rebs being on the point of giving up. I know it is not so. They are no doubt discouraged, they have met defeats, but of all that we have got to whip them in a big battle before the final end comes, and a defeat on our part would prolong the war yet another year or more. This rebellion is a big thing, and no one can realize its extent until they have followed the army as I have. At least I don’t think I shall locate in Norwalk, but it is a long time before I get to the place where I want to begin to think of looking for a place to practice in.”
“Collins Cross Roads, N.C., Apr. 19, 1865
My dear Wife, I got two letters from you this morning. We are indeed having glorious news, and many expect to be home soon. I guess you had better defer your visit to Mt. Vernon, (Ohio) (Hattie’s sister lived there) and if I come home we can go up the Lakes on a trip. I shall want a little rest myself. I suppose we will know before many days what is to be done.
We got the sad news last night that Lincoln had been killed in Washington. It cast a great gloom over the Army. The report seems to be doubted this morning. I hope so much that it is not true.
I have not time to write more. We are about 20 miles southwest of Raleigh, holding the bag for Johnston, if he tries to run out we will whip him in pieces. Lee’s surrender, I suppose, was good news to you all. Kiss the babies. Good bye, my dear wife.”
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© 1961 by Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton. All rights reserved.