Potter’s Raid, April 21, 1865: “The last shots loaded with hostile intent were fired as a salute”

With the destruction of trains at Middleton Depot on April 20, 1865, Brigadier-General Edward E. Potter turned his division to the Santee River Road on April 21, with the aim of marching back to Georgetown.

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Potter had his men on the march at dawn on the 21st.  In the rear was the 25th Ohio Infantry and Major Edward Culp:

While on Governor Manning’s plantation, and within sight of his mansion, the rebel cavalry made an attack on the two companies acting a rear guard, but were easily repulsed with some loss to them.  A swamp being in our front, General Potter ordered a halt.

The halt took place around Fulton Post-Office. This must have been a somewhat leisurely halt, but the men were still under arms, weapons loaded, and wary of Confederate attack.  Potter was still there at 1 p.m. when the Confederates approached again. This time the were under a flag of truce.  Potter reported:

… I received a communication from Major-General [Pierce M.B.] Young, commanding the force which had been opposed to us, stating that a truce had been agreed upon between Generals Johnston and Sherman, and that notice of forty-eight hours would be given prior to resumption of hostilities.  I answered that my command was moving toward Georgetown, and that it would no longer subsist on the country, except in the matter of forage for animals.

This was met with, as one would presume, much rejoicing by the men.  Culp wrote, “The joy that filled our hearts was supreme.”  In the 54th Massachusetts, Captain Luis Emilio observed:

This great news created the most intense joy and excitement, for it seemed to end the war, as the Rebels themselves acknowledged. Cheers without number were given, and congratulations exchanged.  Then the Fifty-fourth was brought to a field, where the last shots loaded with hostile intent were fired as a salute. Soon after, the march resumed in sultry weather with frequent showers.  Ten miles from the Santee the division bivouacked after completing a journey of twenty miles.

In distant Hilton Head, Major-General Quincy Gillmore also received word of the suspension of hostilities, by way of a staff officer just returned from a visit to Major-General William T. Sherman.  Gillmore ordered “a salute of 100 guns at noon to-day in honor of the success.”  Though within seventy-two hours the truce would be interrupted, at least by orders, and the forty-eight hour notice served.  The war was not quite over and some final details were being elusive… and beyond that there were several military operations in South Carolina to be marched out.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, pages 1029; Part III, Serial 100, page 1031;  Culp, Edward C., The 25th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry in the War for the Union, Topeka, Kansas, George W. Crane & Company: 1885, page 132-3;Emilio, Luis F.,  History of the Fifty-fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1863-1865, Boston: Boston Book, 1894, page 308.)

Potter’s Raid, April 20, 1865: “The explosions were terrific” – destruction of trains at Middleton

On April 20, 1865, having driven off the last Confederate forces between his forces and the trains on the Camden Branch Railroad the previous day, Brigadier-General Edward Potter sent detachments to Middleton Depot.  The destruction of those trains would mark the completion of Potter’s assigned mission – a hard earned completion of the task.

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At least three regiments “worked on the railroad” that morning.  Captain Luis Emilio of the 54th Massachusetts recalled:

The rolling-stock was ours, massed on the Camden Branch, whence it could not be taken, as the Fifty-forth had destroyed the trestle at Wateree Junction, on the 11th. General Potter devoted the 20th to its destruction. That day the Fifty-fourth marched to Middleton Depot and with other regiments assisted in the work. About this place for a distance of some two miles were sixteen locomotives and 245 cars containing railway supplies, ordnance, commissary and quartermaster’s stores. They were burned, those holding powder and shells during several hours blowing up with deafening explosions and scattering discharges, until property of immense value and quantity disappeared in smoke and flame.  Locomotives were rendered useless before the torch was applied. The Fifty-fourth alone destroyed fifteen locomotives, one passenger, two box and two platform cars with the railway supplies they held.

The 25th Ohio and 157th New York Infantry regiments from First Brigade were also detailed to assist the destruction of the trains.  Colonel Philip Brown recorded similar tallies as Emilio’s, indicating some overlap in the accounting by the participants.  Major Edward Culp, of the 25th, was closer to the scene:

The next morning, April 20th, the 25th Ohio was sent to the railroad, where for two miles the road was crowded with cars, including sixteen locomotives.  The cars were loaded with clothing, ammunition, provisions, and, in fact, everything imaginable. The Regiment was bivouacked some distance from the railroad, and men detailed to fire the train.  Several cars were loaded entirely with powder, and in other cars were thousands of loaded shells. The explosions were terrific, and for several hours it seemed as if a battle was being fought.  After completely destroying the train the Regiment returned to camp at Singleton’s.

Around noon the work on the trains was nearing completion. Potter’s official report stated the day was spent “thoroughly destroying locomotives, 18 in number, and in burning the cars, of which there were 176.”

While this was going on, Confederate cavalry continued to spar with Potter’s rear guard.  Lieutenant Edmund Clark reported, “one howitzer was engaged on the Statesburg road; fired four rounds.”  Culp mentioned, “The rebel cavalry still hovered about, and fired into camp continually, but without much damage.”  Thus, while no “battle” was taking place, the “fighting” in South Carolina continued, after the “last battle” in South Carolina was over.

Potter’s force returned to the Singleton Plantation, where it had camped from April 12-14.  Local residents throughout Sumter County were by that time huddling at various plantations, reeling from over a week of Federal foraging and fighting.  To the south of Potter’s camp that evening was Millford Plantation, the home of John Laurence Manning, former state governor.  Manning’s wife was Susan Hampton Manning, an aunt of Lieutenant-General Wade Hampton III.  Given the connections, one might have expected Millford to become one of many homes in the area to be set afire.  But it survived.

The story of how that happened is attributed to different dates, but most often to sometime on April 19 or 20th.  The story goes that Potter arrived at Millford and remarked of the beauty of the architecture.  Manning responded that the home was designed and built by Nathaniel F. Potter of Rhode Island, adding “and it will be destroyed by a Potter.”  With that Potter is said to have responded, “No, you are protected. Nathaniel Potter was my brother.”  And thus the Rhode Island granite structure was saved and survives to this day.

A standing representative of the Old South spared to be mixed with the New South as Potter’s raid drew to a close.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, pages 1029; Part III, Serial 100, pages 1031 and 1041;  Culp, Edward C., The 25th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry in the War for the Union, Topeka, Kansas, George W. Crane & Company: 1885, page 132 ;Emilio, Luis F.,  History of the Fifty-fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1863-1865, Boston: Boston Book, 1894, page 306.)

Potter’s Raid, April 19, 1865: Fighting at Dinkins’ Mill and Beech Creek

Having cleared the Confederate defenders from Boykin’s Mill on April 18, 1865, Brigadier-General Edward E. Potter continued marching south on April 19 in pursuit of Confederate trains on the Camden Branch Railroad.  Potter started the march that morning at 6 a.m.  The First Brigade, under Colonel Philip Brown, had the lead that morning.  The 107th Ohio Infantry marched by way of the railroad while the 157th New York and 25th Ohio lead the march on the main road to Manchester.  In the rear, the 54th Massachusetts formed the rear guard, supported by the iron 6-pdr and two field howitzers captured earlier in the campaign.

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Potter’s column was barely out of camp when they encountered the first Confederate resistance of the day.  Confederate cavalry were posted at a rail breastwork with artillery support.  Major Edward Culp later recalled:

The 157th New York took the left of the road and the 25th Ohio the right. We advanced in line of battle, driving the rebels before us, until they reached higher ground, where, supported by several pieces of artillery, they intended to make a stand.  The 25th advanced steadily under a galling artillery fire until within one hundred yards of the enemy’s position, when [Lieutenant-Colonel Nathaniel Haughton] ordered a charge, and the rebels retreated across Rafting Creek.

This was but the first round of the fighting of April 19. As the Federals passed through, they turned nearby Oakland Plantation into a field hospital.  Oakland had been Major-General Pierce M.B. Young’s headquarters the day before.  And the house had suffered damage from a stray cannon shot (either on April 18, as the marker says, or on April 19).

At Rafting Creek was a Confederate defense similar to that seen the day before at Boykin’s Mill.  The main road, on which the 157th New York and 25th Ohio advanced, crossed Rafting Creek near Dinkins’ Mill.  Potter recalled the position:

The mill dam had been opened and the swamp was not fordable, while in the road the water was waist-deep, and any force attempting to cross here was exposed to a fire from the enemy behind rifle-trenches and with two guns commanding the road.

Young’s force at Dinkins’ Mill consisted of the remainder of the Kentucky Orphan Brigade, 53rd Alabama Cavalry (or Partisan Rangers, as some prefer), 11th Georgia Cavalry, a couple sections of artillery, and South Carolina militia.

Potter had the two infantry regiments maintain a strong skirmish line along the creek, reinforced by the two Napoleon guns of Lieutenant Edmund Clark’s section from Battery F, 3rd New York Artillery. Clark’s gunners expended over thirty rounds that day including the fighting at the barricade earlier in the day.

Potter dispatched Colonel George Baird with four companies of the 32nd USCT to feel for a crossing downstream from the mill.  Meanwhile the 107th Ohio was pressing against the line at the railroad bridge a mile downstream from the main road.  But neither of those movements produced the desired effect for Potter. In the rear, the 54th Massachusetts reported sporadic fighting with Confederate cavalry, but was able to fend off the attacks.

Finally around mid-morning, Potter sent Colonel Henry Chipman with the 102nd USCT and four companies of the 32nd USCT upstream, about a mile to the left, to find a crossing.  Chipman accomplished this with the loss of one killed and two wounded.  Around noon, Chipman’s force engaged the right flank of the Confederate defenders on Rafting Creek.  With sound of that engagement, Potter ordered Brown’s brigade forward.  Within a short time, the Confederate position was carried.

With the position on Rafting Creek turned, Young withdrew most of his forces to the east toward Providence.  But the 53rd Alabama and 11th Georgia continued south towards Stateburg.  The Confederates formed another defensive line at the crossing of Beech Creek.

After breaking for lunch, Potter’s force continued the march south.  The march continued with the 157th New York on the right of the road, 25th Ohio on the left of the road, and the 107th Ohio still marching along the railroad line to the west.  Reaching Beech Creek, the Federals encountered the Confederate defense, as Brown reported:

Here quite a strong force of the enemy was encountered, but the determined men of the two regiments moved briskly forward and so completely routed the enemy that they made no further serious opposition to the march.

Culp was a little less complementary, stating, “In fact, it became hard work to keep up with them.”  Into the evening the Federals pursued the fleeing Confederates.  Under pressure from the 4th Massachusetts Cavalry, the Confederates finally scattered some four miles beyond Beech Creek and turned east.

Potter opted not to continue pursuit of the Confederate force, and remained focused on his objective – the trains on the Camden Branch Railroad.  However, he also decided since those trains were going nowhere further on the line, he would wait until the next morning to descend upon them at the end of the broken line at Middleton Depot.  Captain Luis Emilio of the 54th Massachusetts later wrote, “Beyond Statesburg the resistance was slight, the column proceeding until 10 p.m., when the Fifty-forth reached its former camp at Singleton’s, having marched eighteen miles.” The 107th Ohio continued its march down the railroad until 3 a.m. the next morning, reaching the large Singleton Plantation once again.

The day’s fighting had cost the Federals ten casualties.  Confederate losses were not recorded in detail.   I know there are a lot of points to quibble over when identifying the last of this or last of that.  Indeed, at 7 a.m. on April 19, somewhere upstream in the Wateree watershed, a detail from the 12th Ohio Cavalry, part of Major-General George Stoneman’s raid, captured, and burned, the Nations Ford bridge of the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad without a fight.  But these casualties care considered the last in a “named battle” in South Carolina during the Civil War.

However, that would not mean the fighting was done.  Potter still had some trains to destroy.  And after accomplishing that, he had to find his way back to the coast.   Although driven and scattered, the Confederate forces in the area were still around to contest Potter’s movements.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, pages 1029; Part III, Serial 100, pages 1030 and 1035;  Culp, Edward C., The 25th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry in the War for the Union, Topeka, Kansas, George W. Crane & Company: 1885, page 131 ;Emilio, Luis F.,  History of the Fifty-fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1863-1865, Boston: Boston Book, 1894, page 306.)

Potter’s Raid, April 17, 1865: “They broke and fled in disorder… we marched into Camden”

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.

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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.)

Potter’s Raid, April 15-16, 1865: “Charge Bayonet!” as Potter out-maneuvers the Confederates

By destroying locomotives and railroad facilities at Manchester, South Carolina on April 11, 1865, Brigadier-General Edward Potter accomplished a significant portion of his assigned tasks. But Potter learned the Confederates held additional locomotives and rolling stock up the railroad spur line to Camden.  To complete his mission, Potter needed to bag those trains.

But since April 5, the marching and fighting left Potter short on supplies.  This dictated a three and a half day pause, waiting on resupply from the boats staged on the Santee River.  This pause allowed Confederate forces in the area to build up defenses of the railroad lines.  A reconnaissance on April 13 brought back information that Major-General Pierce M.B. Young had two cavalry brigades entrenching around Boykin’s Mill.  Potter made plans to skirt around that force and march on Camden.

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On the morning of April 15, Potter sent the 25th Ohio Infantry forward to Stateburg.  The Federals had made several patrols in that direction, and knew well the dispositions.  But that morning, under a light rain, the infantry was to clear the road for the remainder of Potter’s division.  Major Edward Culp of the 25th Ohio recalled:

We met the enemy a mile from camp, and commenced a lively skirmish, driving them back about a mile to Red Hill, where they had erected works, and were prepared to make a good resistance.  Companies A and B were on the skirmish line, and the Regiment in the road, marching by the flank, advanced from the center.

Our skirmishers fell back, and Colonel [Nathaniel] Haughton gave the command, “By wing into line, march!” “Fix bayonet!” “Charge Bayonet!” The rebels were driven from their works, although they retired sullenly and in better order than usual.

Yes, even at the end of the war, cold steel could move an enemy out of position.  The Buckeye troops suffered one killed and seven wounded in their charge. A few miles further along, the 25th Ohio ran into a second Confederate line.  Haughton sent word back and waited for reinforcements.   Supporting this advance by the 25th Ohio was one of the cannons captured at Sumter on April 9 – an iron 6-pdr gun.  The Federals fired five rounds from the gun that morning.

With the wagon trains back from Wright’s Bluff, Potter moved the rest of his command forward at 3 p.m. on April 15, taking the road to Camden.  In the advance with First Brigade, Colonel Philip Brown sent the 107th Ohio Infantry and two 12-pdr Napoleons to reinforce Haughton.  Brown developed the position by first running out his artillery, then placing the 107th to the left of the 25th Ohio.  Brown then sent the 157th New York to the right of the line.  But while that last move was being made, the 107th Ohio charged the position, “driving the enemy, with the loss of 2 men wounded.”   The Napoleon guns fired 25 rounds while in support.

Though gaining ground, Potter could not afford to keep skirmishing all the way to Camden.  Instead, Potter ordered Brown to drive the Confederates back far enough to allow movement on a backroad around Stateburg.   Brown recorded:

The Twenty-fifth Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry was then sent forward, with skirmishers thrown out properly supported, and drove the enemy to Statesburg. As the column turned to the right on the Sumterville road, about two miles south of Statesburg, Lieutenant-Colonel Haughton was ordered to maintain a threatening position before the enemy at Statesburg until nightfall and then rejoin the column, covering the rear, which he accomplished without loss.

The 25th Ohio did not rejoin the main body until 3 a.m. that morning. The flank march placed Potter’s main body on the rear of the Confederate defenders, and closer to Camden.  The Federals camped that night about two miles out of Providence.

The march resumed at 7:30 a.m. on April 16, but with Colonel Edward Hallowell’s Second Brigade in the lead.  Captain Luis Emilio recorded the march:

April 16, the march was resumed, the colored brigade leading, and Providence Post-Office was left on the right hand. With good weather the route was through a hilly and rolling country sparsely settled with poor whites. A halt was made for dinner at Bradford Springs; and when the column again proceeded, the enemy’s skirmishers were encountered, who gave way readily, but kept up a running fight all the afternoon.

The 54th Massachusetts lost one killed and one wounded during the day.  But Potter’s force made sixteen miles and camped at Spring Hill, just twelve miles from Camden.

With two days march on side roads, Potter had bypassed the main Confederate defenses.  While Potter accomplished this, recall that Colonel Henry Chipman with the balance of the 102nd USCT marched up from Wright’s Bluff and reached Manning by the evening of the 16th.  Yes, a lot of moving parts in this section of South Carolina on those days.

A successful tactical maneuver placed Potter in striking distance of Camden, where he hoped to find the elusive Confederate trains.  The city, having already seen part of the Fifteenth Corps pass through in February, would host Potter’s raiders on April 17.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, pages 1029; Part III, Serial 100, page 1034;  Culp, Edward C., The 25th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry in the War for the Union, Topeka, Kansas, George W. Crane & Company: 1885, pages 127-8 ;Emilio, Luis F.,  History of the Fifty-fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1863-1865, Boston: Boston Book, 1894, pages 299-300.)

Potter’s Raid, April 9, 1865: “completely routing the entire force” at Dingle’s Mill

Overshadowed by events that took place elsewhere on April 9, 1865, Brigadier-General Edward E. Potter marched his division towards Sumter, South Carolina.  Potter had Colonel Edward Hallowell’s Second Brigade cross the Pocotaligo River on the repaired causeway over Pocotaligo River during the night of April 8-9.  With that bridgehead, Potter began the day’s march towards Sumter at dawn on April 9.

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On the north side of the Pocotaligo, the Federals found the country open and waiting for their arrival – in more ways than one.  Throughout the day, escaped slaves joined the column, often bringing their own transportation. Captain Luis Emilio, 54th Massachusetts, observed:

At daybreak on a rainy morning the troops moved toward Sumterville, through a fine region with numerous plantations, from which the negroes flocked to the force by hundreds. The train had grown to a formidable array of vehicles, augmented every hour.  During the morning the enemy’s light troops fell back readily after exchanging shots.

Facing Potters advance was a scratch Confederate defense.  Colonel George W. Lee mustered the 20th South Carolina Militia in Sumter, with a few hundred men.  Augmenting Lee, Colonel James F. Pressley brought mounted irregulars and a detachment of the 9th Kentucky Cavalry.  Adding to this force, convalescents and furloughed soldiers joined the defenses.  All told, the Confederate forces probably numbered less than 500.  But they did have benefit of three artillery pieces – two field howitzers and one 6-pdr field gun (which apparently was not in working order).  From the convalescents, artillery  Lieutenants William Alexander McQueen and Raphael Pampere volunteered to manage the howitzers.

While mounted Confederate detachments harassed Potter’s advance during the morning and mid-day, most of the Confederate force established a defensive line on Turkey Creek near Dingle’s Mill.  The two howitzers were in position to cover the causeway over the creek’s swamp.  Above that point, the millpond covered the Confederate left.  Dense swamps covered their right.  In all, a fair defensive position.

Potter received information, presumably from escaped slaves, of the Confederate dispositions.  “Before arriving at this point,” he recorded, “on the afternoon of the 9th I ordered Colonel Hallowell’s brigade to turn the enemy’s position on the left by taking a plantation road which led to the main road between Dingle’s Mill and Sumterville.”  However, Hallowell was unable to gain the flank, “owing to the incapacity of the guide” assigned to the column.

Meanwhile, at around 2:30 p.m., the lead of Colonel Philip Brown’s First Brigade ran up against the main Confederate line.  The 107th Ohio Infantry first encountered Confederate skirmishers just before Turkey Creek.  Brown feed in the 25th Ohio to extend the line.  This drove the Confederates over Turkey Creek. Major Edward Culp, 25th Ohio Infantry, later recorded:

Our skirmishers advanced to the edge of the swamp, and found the bridge burning and the enemy behind good earth-works on the opposite side of the swamp. The 25th Ohio moved to a natural embankment just at the edge of the swamp, which offered good protection, and with its left resting on the road, and near the burning bridge, awaited the orders to charge.

The two Confederate howitzers swept the approaches to the causeway and pinned down the Federal advance at that point.  To counter, Potter brought up Lieutenant Edmund Clark’s detachment of Battery F, 3rd New York Artillery, with their two Napoleons.  Clark placed one gun on the road and the other in an open field to the left of the Federal line.  While effective, to the point of disabling one howitzer and killing McQueen, the artillery did not clear the way.  A rush by the two Federal regiments failed to dislodge the defenders.

Then one of the escaped slaves (traditionally, it is said one of those who worked at the mill) approached the Federal officers offering a path to flank the Confederate right on the down stream side of the swamp.  Lieutenant-Colonel James Carmichael moved with the detachment of the 56th New York to find this path.  As Brown later reported, this was “an undertaking of great difficulty on account of the depth of the mud and water and the almost impenetrable growth of underbrush.”  But Carmichael managed to find a way through and get to dry ground on the opposite side of the swamp.

… but not waiting for his whole command to form, with the detachment of the Fifty-sixth New York Veteran Volunteers and one company of the One hundred and fifty-seventh New York Volunteers he charged on the enemy, killed the officer commanding the enemy’s artillery, completely routing the entire force, and captured 2 pieces of artillery and 1 battle-flag.

With the 20th South Carolina Militia in flight, the Federals advanced across Turkey Creek. The Confederates made one more stand before Sumter.  But Brown promptly dealt with this with a skirmish line and a few more rounds from Clark’s Napoleons.  Just before dark, Potter’s men entered Sumter.

Potter reported 26 casualties in the action at Dingle’s Mill – six killed or mortally wounded and twenty wounded.  Confederate figures were six killed, eight wounded, and two captured.

In addition to the two howitzers, the Federals later captured the 6-pdr gun (a cast iron type).  All three cannon, along with limbers and caissons, were assigned to Clark, who then formed an additional section of artillery with men of the 25th Ohio.  Clark’s Napoleons fired 57 rounds during the engagement, out of their original stock of 360 rounds.  The expenditure was not prohibitive on the expedition, but this did prompt considerations for resupply.

Culp, with the 25th Ohio, entered Sumter that evening.  Years later he recalled:

Sumter was a beautiful little city, with a wealth of shade, many elegant residences, and two female seminaries in full blast.

This was the first visitation of Yankee troops, and the inhabitants used much common sense in their intercourse with the soldiers.  The “Sumter Watchman” was nearly ready for the press, and our corps of printers were soon at work getting out another number of the “Banner of Freedom,” which had quite a circulation after we left.

As Potter and his men settled into camps at Sumter that spring evening, they had some rumors in the air about the fall of Richmond and other events in Virginia and North Carolina.  Hammer blows fell upon the Confederacy at all points.  Potter’s was, though small in comparison, hitting deep into the heart of secession.  Not aware of the evolving situation far to the north, Potter continued with his mission – destruction of the railroads.  Sumter being a railroad town, it would receive full attention over the days to follow.

A state marker interprets the location of the fighting at Dingle’s Mill.  A memorial lists the names of Confederates known to be killed, wounded, or captured in the afternoon engagement.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, pages 1028, 1033, and 1036; Culp, Edward C., The 25th Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry in the War for the Union, Topeka, Kansas, George W. Crane & Company: 1885, pages 123-5; Emilio, Luis F.,  History of the Fifty-fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1863-1865, Boston: Boston Book, 1894, page 294.)

Potter’s Raid, April 1-4, 1865: The last offensive in South Carolina gets organized

At the same time as the Confederate withdrawal from Richmond and Petersburg, a small expedition was organizing on the coast of South Carolina.  This effort, aimed at knocking out the few remaining rail lines in the state, would become the last Federal offensive in South Carolina and among the last of the war.

Recall that in mid-March, while idle at Fayetteville, North Carolina, Major-General William T. Sherman directed Major-General Quincy Gillmore to send a force of around 2,500 men against the railroad lines between Sumterville and Florence.  Specifically, Sherman wanted locomotives and rolling stock, which had escaped his columns during their passage through South Carolina, destroyed.  Gillmore was to scrape up, from his garrison forces, a force to march inland to wreck a section of the Wilmington & Manchester Railroad and chase down some trains.  Gillmore assigned this task to Brigadier-General Edward Potter. Much like Major-General George Stoneman’s Raid, Potter was to tie up one of the smaller loose ends.

Potter’s start point was Georgetown, South Carolina.  To catch up a bit, shortly after the fall of Charleston, Rear-Admiral John Dahlgren directed a naval force to seize Georgetown and close the last seaport in the state.  Though able to secure the port with just a naval landing force, Dahlgren lost his flagship, the USS Harvest Moon, to a torpedo in Winyah Bay.  This setback did not stop the Federals from establishing a base at Georgetown.

Potter’s force would consist of two brigades.  The First Brigade, under Colonel Philip P. Brown, included the 25th Ohio, 107th Ohio, 157th New York, and a detachment from the 56th New York.  Colonel Edward Hallowell commanded the Second Brigade with the 54th Massachusetts, 32nd USCT,  five companies of the 102nd USCT.  A section of Battery F, 3rd New York Artillery, under Lieutenant Edmund C. Clark, brought along two 12-pdr Napoleon guns, but with only 360 rounds of ammunition.  Detachments from the 1st New York Engineers and 4th Massachusetts Cavalry rounded out the force.  All tallied, Potter reported 2,700 men for his expedition.

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In addition to the main column, Potter had the Army transports Hooker and Planter move up the Santee River, supported by a Navy detachment under Commander Fabius Stanly, to Murray’s Ferry.  The water-born column brought ammunition and rations, but no additional troops.

Potter did not leave Charleston until April 1.  Even then, he took an additional four days to get the expedition fully organized and the supplies staged for movement to Murray’s Ferry.  Not until April 5 did Potter leave Georgetown. Sherman had wanted the expedition sent out by the last days of March.  But delays outfitting the ad-hoc formation determined much of the delay.

I’ll pick up the “line of march” following Potter at the appropriate sesquicentennial mark.  For the moment, consider some of the units involved with this expedition.  Many were veterans of the fighting on Morris Island – in particular the 54th Massachusetts.  Also consider the Planter moved in support.  Rather fitting that the last offensive operation in South Carolina would include troops and vessels which had served with prominence around Charleston.

(Source: OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, pages 1027-8.)