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      Battle Of
       West Point
 Wilson's Raids

Sherman's heads to Atlanta

         At 6 p.m. on the 20th of April, the authorities of Macon, under protest, surrendered the city to the Seventeenth Indiana, Colonel Minty's advance regiment, claiming, under the provisions of an armistice then reported existing between the forces of Generals Sherman and Johnston, that the capture was contrary to the usages of war. General Wilson, not being at hand when the surrender was made, when the case was reported to him, with admirable good judgment declined to recognize the validity of the claim asserted, as the city had been taken possession of by one of his subordinates before he (General Wilson) could be advised of the existence of an armistice, and he therefore held, as prisoners of war, Maj. Gen. Howell Cobb and G. W. Smith, and Brigadier-Generals Mackall, Robertson, and Mercer. 

        On the 21st, General Wilson was notified by General Sherman, from Raleigh, N. C., over the enemy's telegraph wires and through the headquarters of General Joseph E. Johnston, that the reported armistice was a reality and that he was to cease further operations. Owing to the difficulty of procuring animals for his command and the bad condition of the roads, General Stoneman was only enabled to start from Knoxville about the 20th of March, simultaneously with General Wilson's departure from Chickasaw, Alabama. Sherman

        In the meantime General Sherman had captured Columbia, S.C., and was moving northward into North Carolina. About this period reports reached me of the possibility of the evacuation of Lee's army at Richmond and Petersburg, Va., and in that event of his forcing a passage through East Tennessee, via Lynchburg and Knoxville. To guard against that contingency, Stoneman was sent toward Lynchburg to destroy the railroad and military resources of that section and of Western North Carolina. The Fourth Army Corps was ordered to move from Huntsville, Ala., as far up into East Tennessee as it could supply itself, repairing the railroad as it advanced, forming, in conjunction with Tillson's division of infantry, a strong support for General Stoneman's cavalry column in case it should find more of the enemy than it could conveniently handle and be obliged to fall back. With three brigades, Brown's, Miller's, and Palmer's, commanded by General Gillem, General Stoneman moved, via Morristown, Bull's Gap, and thence eastward up the Watauga and across Iron Mountain, to Boone, N. C., which he entered on the 1st of April,(*) after killing or capturing about seventy-five home guards. From Boone he crossed the Blue Ridge and went to Wilkesborough, on the Yadkin, where supplies were obtained in abundance, after which he changed his course toward Southwestern Virginia. A detachment was sent to Wytheville and another to Salem to destroy the enemy's depots at those places and the railroad, whilst the main body marched on Christiansburg and captured the place. The railroad to the eastward and westward of the town was destroyed for a considerable distance. The party sent to Wytheville captured that place after some fighting and burned the railroad bridges over New River and several creeks, as well as the depots of supplies. The detachment sent to Salem did the same, and proceeded to within four miles of Lynchburg, destroying as they advanced. A railroad was never more thoroughly dismantled than was the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad from Wytheville to near Lynchburg. Concentrating his command, General Stoneman returned to North Carolina, via Jacksonville and Taylorsville, and went to Germantown, where Palmer's brigade was sent to Salem, N. C., to destroy the large cotton factories located there and burn the bridges on the railroad between Greensborough and Danville and between Greensborough and the Yadkin River, which was most thoroughly accomplished, after some fighting, by which we captured about 400 prisoners. 
Sherman's troops pulled up, heated, and bent sections of track - insuring they could not be reused.

        At Salem 7,000 bales of cotton were burned by our forces. From Germantown the main body moved south to Salisbury, where they found about 3,000 of the enemy defending the place, and drawn up in line of battle behind Grant's Creek to await Stoneman's attack. Without hesitation a general charge was made by our men, resulting in the capture of all the enemy's artillery--14 pieces--and 1,364 prisoners. The remainder scattered and were pursued. During the two days following, the troops were engaged destroying the immense depots of supplies of all kinds in Salisbury, and burning all the bridges for several miles on all the railroads leading out of the town.

        On the afternoon of April 13, the command moved westward to Statesville and Lenoir, at which latter point General Stoneman left the troops to be disposed of by General Gillem, and proceeded with the prisoners and captured artillery to East Tennessee, reporting his arrival, on the 19th, at Greeneville, and detailing the disposition of his troops, which was as follows: Palmer's brigade, with headquarters at Lincolnton, N. C., to scout down the Catawba River, toward Charlotte; Brown's brigade, with headquarters at Morganton, to connect with Palmer down the Catawba, and Miller's brigade, with General Gillem, was to take post at Asheville, with directions to open up communication through to Greeneville, East Tennessee, the object in leaving the cavalry on the other side of the mountains being to obstruct, intercept, or disperse any troops of the enemy going south, and to capture trains. General Gillem followed the directions given him, and marched on Asheville with Miller's brigade, but was opposed at Swannanoa Gap by a considerable force of the enemy. Leaving sufficient of his force to amuse them, with the balance he moved by way of Howard's Gap, gained the enemy's rear, and surprised and captured his artillery; after which he made his appearance in front of Asheville, where he was met by a flag of truce on the 23rd, with the intelligence of the truce existing between Generals Sherman and Johnston, and bearing an order from General Sherman to General Stoneman for the latter to go to the railroad station at Durham's, or Hillsborough, nearly 200 miles distant, whereas the distance to Greeneville, East Tennessee, was but sixty. Coming to the conclusion that the order was issued by General Sherman under the impression that the Cavalry Division was still at Salisbury or Statesville, General Gillem determined to move to Greeneville. The rebel General Martin, with whom he communicated under flag of truce, demanded the rendition of the artillery captured, which, of course, could not be granted, and in return General Gillem requested the rebel commander to furnish his troops with three days' rations, as by the terms of the armistice they were required to withdraw. Had it not been for this, Asheville and its garrison would have fallen into our hands. Up to that period I had not been officially notified of the existence of any armistice between the forces of Generals Sherman and Johnston, and the information only reached me through my sub-commanders, Generals Wilson and Stoneman, from Macon, Georgia, and Greeneville, East Tennessee, almost simultaneously. The question naturally arose in my mind, whether the troops acting under my direction by virtue of General Sherman's Special Field Orders, No. 105, series of 1864, directing me to assume control of all the forces of the Military Division of the Mississippi "not absolutely in the presence of the general-in-chief," were to be bound by an armistice or agreement made at a distance of several hundred miles from where those troops were operating, and of which they were advised through an enemy then in such straightened circumstances that any ruse, honorable at least in war, was likely to be practiced by him to relieve himself from his difficult position.

Confederate Volunteers
Confederate volunteers

 

Next Page    Chasing Davis

 

Source:

Reports for Wilson's raid to Selma 22 March - 22 April 65 plus Wilson's capture of Jefferson Davis 10 May 65, http://www.aotc.net/selma-rep.htm