April 9-13, 1865: Hartwell’s Expedition complete; Missed opportunity to aid Potter

At this time (April 13) 150 years ago, Brigadier-General Edward Potter was waiting the return of his supply trains from Wright’s Bluff.  Downstream from that point on the Santee River, Brigadier-General Alfred Hartwell continued his expedition out of Charleston.  As of April 8, Hartwell had made no contact with Potter, and apparently had made no effort to do so despite the close proximity of forces at that time.


On April 9, Hartwell moved his force, consisting of the 54th New York Infantry, the 55th Massachusetts Infantry, and a section of artillery, to Eutaw Creek, near Eutaw Springs (a site of significance, if you know your Revolutionary War history).  “Some skirmishing occurred; but dispersed the enemy with a few shells.” At that point, Hartwell sent two companies to Nelson’s Ferry in an attempt to reach Potter.  Aside from burning fifty bales of cotton, the detachment found that Potter was past that point and on the way to Sumter.

While waiting the return of the detachment, Hartwell held a parlay with a Confederate cavalry officer:

A certain Lieutenant Pettus, commanding some rebel cavalry in our vicinity, came in on a flag of truce at my request.  I told this officer that he would not quarter in or near houses, or fire from houses, if he cared to save them from destruction. I also sent this officer a note to General Ferguson, suggesting the propriety of his recalling his scouts from attempting to coerce the slaves to labor.

Again, we see the damage wrought on South Carolina is not as clear cut to say the Federals just burned everything.  Furthermore, emancipation was, even at its arrival, not translated to complete freedom.

Hartwell remained at Eutaw Creek on the morning of the 10th, sending a party to Vance’s Ferry to gather corn and rice.  At 5 p.m., he resumed the march.  Along the way to the State Road, the column encountered a party of Confederate cavalry, dispersing them with no casualties.  Hartwell camped at midnight on the State Road.

The next day, Hartwell took up the march back to Charleston.  After a pause to repair the causeway over Cypress Swamp, the column reached Twenty-Five Mile House on the evening of the 11th.  On the 12th, Hartwell marched to Goose Creek.  There he left two companies with the refugees trailing the column.  The rest of the force marched to Four-Mile Tavern to close the expedition.

But there was another Federal column operating out of Charleston at the same time.  And remarkably, this column, ordered to link up with Hartwell and direct the whole on to support Potter, completely missed contact with Hartwell’s force. This was a column commanded by Colonel Henry Chipman and consisting of the right wing from the 102nd USCT.  Recall a detachment of that regiment was already with Potter.

Chipman came up from Savannah with the rest of the regiment and received orders on April 8 to proceed out of Charleston.  His orders were to reach Hartwell.  From there, Chipman was to communicate with Potter as to further movement.  Specifically, the orders, as communicated through Brigadier-General John Hatch, stressed that Major-General Quincy Gillmore, “thinks it desirable that General Potter’s force be increased by this addition, and desires to impress upon you the necessity of a prompt and hearty cooperation by General Hartwell with General Potter, in case the latter is pressed and compelled to fall back toward the Santee.”  This intent nearly led to a disaster for Chipman.

Chipman departed Charleston on April 11 and took the road towards Monk’s Corner, reaching that point on April 12. Let me overlay the general route taken by Chipman (in light blue) onto the map of Hartwell’s movements to illustrate just how close these columns would have been on April 12:


Chipman continued his march towards Nelson’s Ferry, presuming the boats supporting Potter’s column were there.  After skirmishing sharply throughout April 13th, Chipman arrived at the ferry that afternoon only to learn Hartwell had returned to Charleston.  Keeping with the intent of his mission. Chipman sent a messenger to Potter then in Manchester.  Potter called for Chipman to join his force “without delay at Statesburg or beyond.”

This sent Chipman and his portion of the 102nd USCT, unsupported, on a trip up the Santee:


The first order of business was to cross the Santee.  By chance, the long-serving tug USS Daffodil, under Lieutenant James O’Kane, appeared coming down the Santee at just the right time.  O’Kane transported Chipman’s force to Wright’s Bluff, where they arrived at 8:30 p.m. on April 15. Along the way, Chipman reported Confederate “guerrilla parties” fired on the tug.

Chipman marched the 102nd USCT to Manning on April 16 and thence to Stateburg on April 17. But he arrived behind Potter’s advance to Camden and was all alone, deep in Confederate territory.  I’ll pick up that part of the story in relation to Potter’s movements and the Battle of Boykin’s Mill.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, pages 1040 and 1043; Part III, Serial 100, page 138.)

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

2 thoughts on “April 9-13, 1865: Hartwell’s Expedition complete; Missed opportunity to aid Potter

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