This Week in the American Civil War: February 15-21, 1865

MN150Logo_OL_FNLInformation courtesy of the

Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force

(www.mncivilwar150.com and “Minnesota Civil War 150” on Facebook)

 

Major Highlights for the Week

Wednesday February 15, 1865

Fairly heavy skirmishing occurred at Congaree Creek, Savannah Creek, Bates’s Ferry, Red Bank Creek and Two League Cross Roads, South Carolina as the Federal army marched toward Columbia. They made rapid progress despite opposition from Confederates, difficult swamps, mud, rivers, burned bridges and blocked roads.

Thursday February 16, 1865

Federal Major General William T. Sherman’s army arrived on the south bank of the Congaree River opposite Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. Some Federal shells were fired into the city towards the railroad depot, and Federal troops could see people, including a few Confederate cavalry, running through the streets in confusion. Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard sent a telegram to General Robert E. Lee notifying the general-in-chief that Beauregard had to abandon the city because he did not have enough troop strength to hold it. By late afternoon, Beauregard and his troops evacuated the city.

Skirmishing took place at Bennett’s Bayou and Tolbert’s Mill, Arkansas; Gurley’s Tank, Alabama; and Cedar Keys, Florida. Confederates attacked the garrison at Athens and Sweet Water, Tennessee.

Friday February 17, 1865

The mayor of Columbia, South Carolina and a delegation of officials rode out in carriages to meet the Federal troops and surrender the city. As Federal Major General William T. Sherman’s army entered the capital, remnants of Confederate cavalry fled. The blue-clad troops were met by jubilant Federal prisoners and Negroes. In the new state Capitol building, boisterous Federal soldiers held a mock session of the “state legislature” after imbibing in confiscated liquor supplies. While Sherman and his officers took up headquarters in some of the elegant mansions of the tree-shaded rural capital, much of the city burned. The Federals blamed newly promoted Confederate Lieutenant General Wade Hampton and his cavalry for the destruction. Hampton’s troops set fire to cotton bales before evacuating the city. However, Confederates called it barbaric and blamed Sherman, making the burning of Columbia a symbol of the Federal invasion. Historians still have not discovered the true cause of the burning of Columbia a century-and-a-half later.      

Saturday February 18, 1865

As the city of Columbia, South Carolina was burning itself out, Federal Major General William T. Sherman added to its toll by ordering the destruction of railroad depots, supply houses and other public buildings that he deemed to be of military significance.

Federal naval units bombarded Fort Anderson on the Cape Fear River as the combined land and sea forces began their campaign for Wilmington, North Carolina. There was also skirmishing at Fort Anderson and Orton Pond, as Federals probed the land defenses below Wilmington.

A scheduled vote on the recognition and admission of the restored state of Louisiana to Congress was postponed in the U.S. Senate.

Sunday February 19, 1865

    Federal Major General Jacob D. Cox’s army was on its way to outflank Fort Anderson and the Confederate defense line on the west side of the Cape Fear River near Wilmington, North Carolina. By evening, the Federals had marched about fifteen miles in a detour around the enemy works and fought off several skirmishes, including one at Town Creek. In front of Fort Anderson, the infantry had demonstrated while the Federal navy cannonaded the fort. During the night, the Confederates pulled out towards Wilmington and on the east side of the Cape Fear River.

At Columbia, South Carolina, Federal Major General William T. Sherman’s men continued to destroy the arsenal, railroad installations, machine shops, foundries, and railroad lines.

Monday February 20, 1865

Federal troops marched rapidly towards Wilmington, North Carolina. They had outflanked the defenders on the west bank of the Cape Fear River, but still faced opposition on the east bank.

Skirmishing occurred at Fort Myers, Florida and at Centre Creek, Missouri.

The Confederate House of Representatives authorized the use of slaves as soldiers after a lengthy debate.

Tuesday February 21, 1865

The Federal forces in North Carolina were close to Wilmington, with shaky resistance in front of them. Columns of smoke rose in the city as the Confederates destroyed their stores. Confederate General Braxton Bragg arrived and ordered the evacuation in order to preserve what force he had left in the city.

Federal Major General William T. Sherman’s advance forces were on the march from Columbia through the northern part of South Carolina.

The Confederate Senate postponed debate on the House bill authorizing the use of slaves as soldiers.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered General Joseph E. Johnston to report for duty to replace General P.G.T. Beauregard in the Carolinas.

Where Minnesota Regiments were the week of February 15-21, 1865 

Active units:

1st Battalion Minnesota Infantry – Participated the Battle of Hatcher’s Run and were in the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia until April 2, 1865.       

2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On the march through the Carolinas until March 11, 1865.

3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Duvall’s Bluff, Arkansas until May 13, 1865.

4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On the march through the Carolinas until March 3, 1865.

5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in New Orleans, Louisiana until March 7, 1865.

6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in New Orleans, Louisiana until March 5, 1865.

7th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in New Orleans, Louisiana until March 17, 1865.

8th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in Washington, D.C. until February 21, 1865.

9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in New Orleans, Louisiana until March 17, 1865.

10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in New Orleans, Louisiana until March 17, 1865.

11th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Assigned to duty guarding the line of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad from Nashville to the Kentucky line. Companies E, G, and I were at Gallatin, Tennessee. Company A was at Buck Lodge. Company B at Edgefield Junction. Company C at Richland. Company D at Sandersville. Company H was at Mitchellsville. The location of companies F and K are unknown at this time. The regiment remained on duty at these locations until June 25, 1865.

2nd Regiment Minnesota Cavalry – Engaged in frontier and patrol duty between Forts Wadsworth, Abercrombie, Ripley and Ridgely with headquarters at Fort Snelling, until November 17, 1865.

Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry – Engaged in frontier and patrol duty between Forts Wadsworth, Abercrombie, Ripley and Ridgely with headquarters at Fort Snelling until May 1866.

Hatch’s Independent Battalion of Cavalry – Companies A, B, C and D moved to Fort Abercrombie. Companies A and B assigned to garrison at Fort Abercrombie.  Company C assigned to garrison at Alexandria and Pomme de Terre. Company D on patrol duty from Fort Abercrombie to Pembina.  Companies E and F on frontier duty. The battalion would remain in these duty locations for the duration of the war – until April 26, 1866.

1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Battery – On garrison duty at Chattanooga, Tennessee until September 27, 1865.

1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery – On the march through the Carolinas until March 3, 1865.

2nd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – On duty as infantry at Fort Irwin, Defenses of Chattanooga until March 30, 1865.

3rd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – Various sections on duty at Fort Ridgely, Fort Ripley and Fort Sisseton until May 1865.

1st United States Sharpshooters Company I – Attached to the 1st Battalion, Minnesota Infantry at Petersburg, Virginia until February 20, 1865. 

2nd United States Sharpshooters, Company A – Participated in the Siege of Petersburg until February 20, 1865.

Inactive units: 

1st Regiment Minnesota Cavalry “Mounted Rangers” – Formally mustered out of service on December 7, 1863. Inactive.  

1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Mustered out of Federal service on April 29, 1864. Inactive.

About civilwarweek

Member - Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, Civil War reenactor and historian since 1993, holds Bachelor's Degree in History from Concordia University-St. Paul, currently pursuing Master's Degree in History at St. Cloud State University and is author of the forthcoming book, "Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man's Journey through the Civil War."
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