Civil War Journal of Samuel Oliver Bereman, page 16
In the 4th Iowa Cavalry
Marched 25 miles and camped at Plantersville Station, on the Selma & Talledega RR, We burned over a thousand bales of confederate cotton at Randolph Station this forenoon which had been brought there for the purpose of shipping some manufacturing point. In the afternoon we found the rebels in considerable force at Ebenezer Church & disposed to dispute our further progress. The 2nd Brig. was in the advance & did most of the fighting which was pretty brisk for a while. They the 2nd Brig. took about 150 prisoners and two pieces of artillery. Our Brig. then took the lead and pushed them till night taking 200 more prisoners. A very good days work for the 1st of April, but we anticipate a better one tomorrow as we are within twenty miles of Selma, one of the greatest manufacturing towns in the South.
Lay by till nearly noon. A part of the Co. went out & picked up a lot more prisoners & horses &c. I was out with several men engaged in this pleasant occupation and where we returned found the regt. had gone off on an expedition we could not tell where, & so we were left. We rambled around the city awhile & then put up at a house - that is we slept on the porch. Had milk & mush for supper. Although we have not heard the official report yet of our captures yesterday and today, but it is reported to be not less than 2,000 prisoners, 150 pieces of artillery 1,000 horses & mules, besides a number of very valuable Iron works, founderies, cars, cotton, & an extensive arsenal filled with arms & amunition. We lost over 400 in killed & wounded, among the former was the Col. of the 3rd Ohio. We had four killed & twenty wounded in our regt.
Went to Gen. Winslow, who is commanding the Post, & reported for duty & was sent as safe guard to one Mr. Ware a very wealthy southerner. He is absent from home at present. He does not belong to the army but being engaged in manufacturing clothing supplis for the rebel army considered "discretion the better part of valor" & left. His wife & two interesting daughters are here, as also a cousin, Miss Mattie McLelland. I put my horse in the stable & went into the house and made myself at home.
Well I am having a gay time to be sure. Who would have thought it? The folks are very friendly to me although they are strong rebels. We have singing & playing on the Piano - play chess with the girls, read, & gossip. Mrs. Ware is a good woman if she is a rebel. She administers to the wounded on both sides all she can. She has given them mattresses & blankets to sleep on, and goes every day to see them with two baskets of provisions and delicacies, one for our men & one for theirs to eat.
I like this kind of soldiering first-rate. My own folks at home could not be more friendly to me than they are. I am especially interested in Miss Betty - the youngest daughter. She is really beautiful and accomplished, but not at all spoiled by affectation. The cousin Mattie McLelland is a rea1 talker, & the strongest rebel of them all. I was very much amused at her telling about how the rebels defended the city. She said, 'As our men were going by here on their way out to the fortifications they told us to go out on the balcony and see them whip the Yankees. So we went up there, but did'nt see them whip you'ens though, for they did'nt fight at all, but ran away as fast as they could. When I saw them running by here I was as mad as I could be & I asked them if that was the way they whipped Yankees I would be ashamed! I could do better than that myself. But they would'nt stop - they were too badly scared."
Mrs. Ware and I had a long talk on the slavery question last night. She conscientiously believes that it is not wrong of itself but admits that wrong may & does arise from it, abuse by bad men. She told me of a very sad incident that had happened in their family only a few years since. She had had a lovely boy of six years old named Jessie. One of their house servants had a child about the same age. The woman was very dealous of little Jessie and being very passionate, her wrath was roused when her own boy was punished for any thing. Her hatred for Jessie became so strong that she poisoned him. She did it by poisoning the wine at the table of which she knew the boy to be very fond. Mr. Ware also drank of the wine, but not enough to prove fatal in his case but Jessie died from the effects of it a short time. The woman was proved guilty, but her master had her reprieved & sold her to a slave dealer & she was never afterwards heard from.
I took three prisoners today. They had been hiding around in the garden since the fight hoping we would leave soon - but they got so hungry that they ventured into the kitchen to get something to eat, when I happened to go round that way & found them. "We'll surrender - we'll surrender" they cried as soon as they saw me at the door. I had no arms with me at all but I marched them off & delivered them over to the guard.
Gen. McCook commanding the 3rd Div. made his Hd. Qrs. at our house today. So my services will not be required here any longer. I wish McCook would attend to his own affairs & let others alone. Mrs. Ware insists that I should stay, but I guess I shall leave tomorrow.
Well my short "dream of bliss" is at an end. Our regt. has returned & I joined the co. today. We are camped three miles north. So I have bidden fare well to my Dixie friends. Mrs. Ware presented me a beautiful book of Poems which I had been reading - "Southeys Joan of Arc", and a testament. She seemed loth to see me go & it is easily imagined that I was very loth to go. I found the co. all right. They have been up towards Tallehasse after some rebels. Of course I was glad to see them all after so long an absence. It has been raining since last night.
April 9th 1865
We lay in camp all day yesterday, but about 9 oclock at night. Just as I was gently passing into the land of dreams "Boots & Saddles sounded & obedient to the call we saddled up & started towards Selma. We marched 2 miles & a half in three hours & camped inside the breastworks. This afternoon we came on down to the river over which a floating bridge of pontoon boats is laid. It broke in two today which delayed us in crossing. About sundown our regt. commenced crossing. The river is nearly a quarter of a mile wide & very swift. I was at the head of the Co. & was about half way across when the bridge again broke. It parted between me & the next man behind me so that I was the last man across. Of course we were in considerable danger as the loose ends of the bridge began to sink with our weight & to swing down stream by the force of the current, but fortunately no one was hurt, as those of us beyond the break by hurrying up were soon off the bridge & those on the other side immediately counter marched with out any disorder & so were soon out of danger. It took until about nine oclock to repair the bridge when they commenced crossing again. We then went a half a mile from the river & camped for the night.
April 10th 1865
Troops were crossing the river all night so that by this morning nearly all were over. Some of the nighboring houses set on fire furnished all necessary light for crossing besides several founderies rolling mills, the Depot & arsenal were burned. Our wounded were mostly left in Selma. Started out on the road to Mt. Gomery in a South East direction. Passed through Benton 16 miles from Selma. The advance had some skirmishing here saw one rebel laying by the side of the road shot through the head. Marched 20 miles & camped. The rebs. came in to Selma & fired on the men who were taking up the pontoons.
Started early, but had gone but two miles when we came to a big swamp which was almost impassible at first & by the time the 1st Div. (Gen. McCooks) got across it was wholly so, and we had to go to work and carry rails from the adjoining farms & make a corduroy road clear across it - nearly three miles - so it was sundown before we got started across & as we had to go very slow & in single file it was dark long before we got over it. It was pretty tolerably awful. It was common for the horses to fall - some times the men also. I had dismounted and was leading my horse over some very bad places when he stepped on the end of some floating rails the other ends flew up and striking me on the shins I fell over them into the mud & water! Just my luck. I am always getting into some scrape and I guess this will be a pretty big scrape before I get all this mud off! And then to make the matter worse, somebody stole my other shirt as it was hanging out to dry while at Mrs. Ware's. Went nine miles after crossing the "Dismal Swamp" & camped at Harrisons Mills. Passed through Brownsborough a few miles back which looked quite imposing in the moonlight, Some very nice country also.
Mt. Gomery is ours! We captured it today without a struggle. We expected to have some fighting here but nary fight. It is certainly the most beautiful city I have seen in the South, It goes ahead of Memphis & Natchez. It is not of as much importance however as Selma as there are few manufactories here. Some of the citizens brought out the "old Flag" that had not saw the light since the war began, & raised it over the State house. We were the first Yankees that have ever been in the place. As we were marching through the city I was very much amused at the comments of the citizens who thronged the streets. A little boy not more than six or seven years old with wide open eyes and mouth exclaimed "Law! I didnt know there was so many Yankees in the world!" Where did you'ens all come from?" Then looking both ways in vain for the end of the column, "Oh shaw! our side's gone up!"
We got some rebel papers here containing glorious news for us - Richmond and Petersburg taken by Gen. Grant! This is certainly the "early twilight of the glad morn" of Peace. The rebel capital & stronghold gone the rotten Confederacy will soon tremble down and be among the things that were. We are camped three miles east of Mt. Gomery on Spring creek. Some skirmishing here by the advance.
Lay in camp all day. Some of the boys in the mess went out foraging and got a lot of eggs hams sweet potatoes &c. We called this Easter & tried how many eggs we could eat. However we made a failure of it as we had so many other things to eat that we only ate fifty four egs - six apiece, so we have enough left for breakfast. We burned the R.R. bridge over the Ala. River today. Got my horse shod. Our Regt. captured three Rebel flags at Selma - one of them a most beautiful silk.
April 14th 1865
Started out this morning on the road running east to Columbus Georgia. Marched 30 miles and camped at 9 oclock at night. Crossed Sime creek ten miles back where we had a severe skirmish with the rebs. We lost six men - the rebels about the same. Three Cos. of our regt. made a detour up the Ala. River and captured three rebel steamboats & not finding it convenient to bring them along set fire to them & burned them. Passed some very nice country.
Marched 25 miles today. Passed through Tuskegee ten miles back. It is the most beautiful village I ever saw without any exceptions. It is composed principally of private residences of grandest sort, set off by beautiful shrubery & evergreens & choice and rare flowers. If I ever should come to the South to live I shall certainly come here.
Columbus Georgia, 12 oclock at night and all's well! We captured the place after several hours hard fighting. The city lies on the east side of the Chatahoocha River which is here the State line between Ala. & Ga. although the main defenses of the place were on the west side of the river. There were two bridges over the river & it was very important that we should save them from being burned, that we might cross with out delay. The 2nd Brigade of our Div. was in the advance and arrived at the outer works near the lower bridge which is two miles below the city at three oclock in the P.M. and after an hours fighting charged down to the river, but the rebels retreated and burned the bridge after them. Our Brigade then took the advance & made a detour to the left & came in sight of the other works at the upper bridge, but waited until dark before we began the attack.
This was much the most strongly fortified place of the two, having two lines of rifle pits filled with men and several strong forts on the hills. The 3rd Iowa being in the advance commenced the attack dismounted & the 10th Mo. charged them with sabres. The latter was to some extent a failure on account of the darkness. Both regts. lost beavily, but succeeded in taking the outer line with a large number of prisoners & silencing all but two forts. One of them was still firing away at us although it was entirely cut off by our taking the 1st line. Our Regt. was then dismounted and ordered to go for the bridge.
As I have said there was still another line of rifle pits & a fort of five guns between us & the bridge. As we were starting Col. Winslow's voice was heard - "Boys go for the bridge - dont stop to take prisoners they are all ours any how - they cant get away, but kill & criple & crush all opposition. Dont stop till you get to the bridge! They have a few guns up there in that fort yet but they might fire away till Hell freezes over & not hurt any body." Well we went for it. A long line of muskets blazed out in the darkness but we did not stop. On we went over ditches, logs, fences, firing yelling running and so the line was taken with nearly 1000 prisoners. They were afraid to run away - so they hid down in the rifle pits. On we went leaving a few men to watch the prisoners when we came to the fort which opened on us and kept firing until we had mounted the works. Several men were knocked down by the very nearness & force of the explosion. Luckily they fired over our heads, but the deafning roar - we were with in twenty feet of them the last time - was awful! Next came the bridge. We rushed on down & arrived just in time to save it, as it was all filled with cotton saturated with turpentine & a rebel had a brand of fire ready to fire it, but was prevented by being killed down with a carbine by Jacob I. Wolf of co. K. The bridge was saved! The 2nd Brigade now came up & crossed the river & completed the work. While our Regt. started back & gathered up our prisoners & artillery. We correlled them in the fort that we had captured & mounting our horses crossed the river & camped in the city.
Lay by all day. Our co. on provost duty. Lieuts. Van. & Hallowell, Charlie Swan Ford Nicholl & I are putting up at a rich old Jews house. His Name is Haiman. He is neutral on the war question, but has amassed quite a fortune by speculating in rebel Gov. Stock of all kinds. He owns fiften thousand acres of land besides other property.
There are three young Ladies here - his daughter and nieces. We are having a gay time of it - singing, playing on piano &c.
The captures yesterday exceed those at Selma, 2000 prisoners 175 pieces of artillery a very large amount of small arms, founderies, factorys arsenal full of new arms, amunition ware houses, &c. &c. all of which were burned today besides the R.R. bridge & the one we crossed on. The rebels lost several Colonels killed & 200 men killed & wounded. Our regt only lost fiften men owing to the darkness which shielded us. The 1st Div. Gen. McCooks left us on the other side of the river and went up to West Point 30 miles up the river. A part of the 2nd Div. left here today and went up the river on this side to meet the 1st at West Point.
April 18th 1865
Started out before noon on the road running N.E. to Macon. Marched 18 miles & camped close to Reynolds creek. Our friends the Jewesses gave us some beautiful boquet of flowers when we started, besides some thing more substantial in the shape of roast fowl, cakes & pies &c. The arsenal was burned last night containing several thousand shells ready filled, and of all the horrid noises - that was the horridest. I was returning home quite late from seeing some of the co. who were quartered in another part of the city, when I was accosted by a negro, who asked me if I didnt want to gobble some money. I asked him where it was. He replied that it was buried in the rear of the house opposite, which proved to be our friend the Jews. He informed me that he had formerly worked for Haiman & had seen him bury it & knew right where it was & said he, "He's got more than a mule can toat." He offered to go & help me get it. But I dismissed him telling him that the folks had treated us so well that I would not touch a thing of theirs without their consent. As we were passing out of Columbus, they were preparing to blow up the magazine. We had gone miles when it was exploded shaking the very earth beneath our feet at that distance.
Marched 25 miles, crossed Flint river five miles back where the advance captured a part of the rebels train three pieces of artillery and some prisoners. Passed through Bellview in the A.M. and Pleasant Hill in the P.M Gen. McCook's Div. joined us today. They had quite a fight at West Point. Took several hundred prisoners, alot of artillery, several trains of cars that had been run in there, burned a large amt. of Gov. Stoves, Iron works &c.
Traveled 30 miles. Our regt. left the main column this forenoon, taking a road to the left and struck the Atlanta & Macon R.R. at Barnesville and followed it up towards Macon tearing up the track burning Depots &c. The Citizens report the surrender of Gen. Lee's army to Grant! There is also a strange rumor of an armistice of 60 days! We havent heard a word from our forces in any direction - except what we hear from the citizens - since we left the Tenn. River the 16th of last month.
Followed on down the R R. 18 miles & camped. Gen. McCook's Div. came into this road. All day we have heard rumors of the armistice - of Lee's surrender, & of Peace! But then we hear so many rumors, there's no telling what to believe. The 3rd Div. have gone into Macon on the other road. The rebels stacked arms & wouldnt fight - so I suppose there must be something of the armistice.
Went on into Macon, crossed the Ocmulgee river, went half a mile and camped with our Brigade.
Macon is quite a city - not very pretty, but of considerable importance to the rebels. That is it has been - but I suppose will be no more. There are about three thousand Johnnys in camp a mile and a half from here. They have stacked arms and are waiting the result of the armistice. It seems so odd - when so short a time since we were armed against them in battle. Some of our men have been over there talking with them. The private soldiers seem as a general thing to fell glad over the prospect of going home soon, and are willing to quit, but the officers are rather surly over it. I notice a great many bright faces in our army also, although we know nothing except by hearsay and the reports are taken with a good degree of allowance. There are a lot of Gov. Stoves founderies &c. here, but as yet they are not destroyed.
Lay in camp all day. There is actually an armistice - it comes by rebel papers - but there can be no doubt of now. Drew some rations today confederate of course we havnt had any other kind for some time except coffee - they dont use that - so we have to supply ourselves.
Still in camp. It is rather dull laying here after such an active campaign as we have had, and not knowing whether there is to be any more war or not. It is generally believed that the war is ended, and of course we are anxious to know for certain.
It is rumored that President Lincoln has been assasinated! Well what next? Of course this last is nothing but a rumor and there is no attention paid to it. A lot of Lee's Paroled prisoners came through here today on their way home. They seem well pleased to be allowed to go home. The R.R. is being repaired between here and Atlanta so we will soon begin to get news from the north.
The rumor of the assassination of the President is confirmed today! It seems to horrible to believe - but there seems to be no doubt of it. A deep shade of sadness and gloom pervades the whole army, flags are at half mast. The late hopeful faces are now overshadowed by sorrow for the beloved President, mingled with deep and dark threatnings for the inhuman assassin, and his fate if left with the soldiers would be terrible indeed. We havnt heard any of the particulars yet.
Still in camp. It is awful dry and dusty, and is getting altogether too warm to be comfortable. Went swiming in the Ocmulgee river. It is very swift & deep and has alligators in it but we didnt see any. Heard that Mobile had been taken by our forces on the 8th inst. with 3000 prisoners. We have impressed a printing press and have a daily paper printed, but as we have no communication with the outside world, no mail route or rail-road, our news is rather slim. We get most of our news items from paroled prisoners on their way nome from Richmond & other northern Posts.
Revellie at 3 oclock. Started out on the road running north towards Millidge-ville. We supposed we were on the march to some other point, but had gone only six miles when we were correlled in an open field and had an inspection! Not one of the old sort however but an inspection of saddle-bags & pockets. "In the words & figures as follow - to wit!" We were not allowed to dismount until the inspecting officer came round when we were made to unsaddle, spread a blanket on the ground & shell out all our "worldly possessions" there on. They were searching for stolen property. A novel move of finding it to be sure. But it succeeded. Well they found a good many gold and silver watches, rings, silver ware, coin &c. To the honor of co. K. be it known nothing was found but a broad cloth over coat, which one of the boys had picket up in the road since the armistice - thinking that as he was likely to go home soon he would need it there. Thus it is that the innocent have to suffer with the guilty. A few low-lived, thieving house breakers. I suppose the whole army was searched in like manner, but went on different roads. After which we countermarched and got back to our camp about 2 oclock in the P.M.
Took an excursion down to the Depot and saw the cars come in. They run between here and Milledgeville now. There is a splendid Depot and engine house here containing about a dozzen engines. A part of the Depot has been burned down. Some cits. told us how it happened. It was when Sherman was"marching to the sea." Some of his cavalry on a raid in this direction captured a train of cars several miles out of the city and setting them on fire they started the train with a full head of steam towards Macon. It was in the night and as it came tearing down the track with the speed of the wind, firebrands flying in every direction - it presented a terrific sight, and every body fled in dismay from the Depot into which it ran & collapsed. Got news of Johns[t]on's surrender to Gen. Sherman and that peace had been declared east of the Chatahoocha River! There is considerable excitement over it in camp. Some are making calculations to be at home by the 4th of July, but I doubt it. I can hardly realize that it is so - that "There shall be war no more." Gen. Upton starts for Augusta tomorrow and will take one letter from each co. - the first chance we have had yet of sending any word home. By request of the co. I wrote to the "Home Journal", thinking more of our friends would hear from us in that way than in any other.