After a two day march to bypass Confederate defenses along the Camden Branch Railroad, Brigadier-General Edward E. Potter directed his division on to Camden, South Carolina on April 17, 1865. Colonel Philip P. Brown’s First Brigade had the honor of leading the march that day. And on point was, again, Lieutenant-Colonel Nathaniel Haughton and the 25th Ohio Infantry.
The advance met Confederate skirmishers almost from the start. But not until reaching Swift Creek, around 9 a.m., was resistance strong enough to cause Potter’s march to pause. There, a party of entrenched Confederates blocked passage. Haughton dispatched Major Edward Culp and four companies to outflank the Confederates:
Major Culp, with Companies E, K, G, and B, waded the swamp some distance to the left, and struck the enemy on the flank, Colonel Haughton at the same time charging the enemy in front with the balance of the Regiment; they broke and fled in disorder, and at 3 o’clock p.m. we marched into Camden.
While engaged at Swift Creek, Lieutenant Edmund Clark’s Battery F, 3rd New York Artillery “fired eight rounds from the Napoleons.” And the Federals recorded no casualties in the advance to Camden.
Few military targets remained untouched in Camden after the Fifteenth Corps’ visit earlier in February. Only the rail line received any great attention from Potter’s men. Culp later recorded his impression of the town:
The inhabitants were pretty thoroughly subjugated, and in favor of peace on any terms. They were not particularly in love with Sherman’s army, and had some pretty hard stories to tell, which were, most of them, true enough.
While Potter occupied Camden, to the south, at Stateburg, Colonel Henry Chipman and part of the 102nd USCT ventured alone through a swirl of Confederate skirmishers. Chipman arrived at Stateburg around noon on the 17th. Not finding Potter at the point designated for his juncture, Chipman took assessment of the situation. Information, presumably passed from civilians or escaped slaves, indicated the Confederates were fortifying Swift Creek and that Potter had marched around to Bradford Springs. “I marched in the same direction,” Chipman reported, “following his trail, camping for the night near the springs.” Chipman’s force was at that time isolated and unsupported behind the Confederate defenses, all unknown to Potter.
Establish contact with Potter, Chipman sent out First Lieutenant Charles L. Barrell and two orderlies.
Lieutenant Barrell, after leaving the camp, met a Confederate colonel and his orderly; by his coolness and bravery succeeded in capturing the orderly, whom he made a guide to conduct him past the Confederate forces into our lines.
Barrell was able to reach Potter and get word of Chipman’s position. Barrell’s actions that evening earned him the Medal of Honor.
Though able to occupy Camden without serious delay, Potter found the locomotives were shifted south along the railroad to a point below Boykin’s Mill. So Potter camped his division at Camden and prepared an advance to that point for the next day.
(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, pages 1041; Part III, Serial 100, pages 1040, and 1041; Culp, Edward C., The 25th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry in the War for the Union, Topeka, Kansas, George W. Crane & Company: 1885, pages 129-30.)