This week in Civil War history, the New York Times reported that General Sherman “entered Columbia yesterday morning (February 17th), and its fall necessitates, it presumes, the fall of Charleston, which it thinks has already been evacuated.”
A day later, on February 19th, the Times had the following report:
“GLORIOUS NEWS; Triumphant March of Gen. Sherman. Columbia, S.C., Occupied on Friday Morning. Beauregard’s Forces Retreat as Our Troops Enter the Town. Large Quantities of Medical Stores Destroyed by the Rebels. The “Cradle of Secession” Violently Rocked. The Evacuation of Charleston a Military Necessity.Speculations as to where Sherman will Next Strike. He Lives on the Country and is Unopposed in His Advance.”
From here, we pick up with on our own Civil War soldier, David Nelson of the 117th New York State Volunteers, whose diary entries give us insight into the life during the war as it came to an end.
24th entry 9 February This is a morning of excitement to us. The Transport Mississippi lies just off the Wharf and is to be loaded today for the Army of the James. The squad from our Barrack goes on board at dark. We are among a rough set and are likely to have rough voyage. A Co of the 61st Marine are guard of the Transport. A Provost Marshall goes with us from the Island. We bid adieu to the Isle of Gallop.
25th entry 10 February Early this morning the anchor is up and we are out to sea. The sea is quite rough and I am feeling sea sick. There are no bunks made for our accommodation some have to rough it on the floor…a nasty pen it is for us. We have on board a rough set of cut throats who are getting rather bold robbing and plundering who they like.
26th entry 11 February Last night was stormy one, this morning the waves run high and the ship rolls and pitches at terrible rate. Today a man falls overboard, is saved by a small boat. He is a good swimmer or would have been lost. The wind blows a gale this PM. We expect to get to Ft. Monroe tomorrow. Am sick all the time since starting. This is the most shameful usage I ever saw soldiers get. This Vessel is not to be compared to a pig pen.
27th entry 12 February Am feeling better this morning. The air feels as though we were nearing land again. I eat a little breakfast, the first since we started. We (run) all day but no land in sight. I shall be very glad when this voyage is over. This has been the most stormy of any of my sea travels. I think land is near by the soundings the land has been east a no. of times.
28th entry 13 February This morning we arrive off Ft. Monroe. After a few horses, we go on board of a City Point boat, and move up the James, just at night. Wilmington Troops are all sent up, it better cold and many of the men have to lie out on sick. I am in Co with a man of the 142nd NY. We propose going to our Regt together. There is some ice in the river, which will stop us before we get up.
29th entry 14 February Our boat has to halt below City Point last night on account of the ice. This morn a breaker came down after which we (….) up. Arrived at the Ft. at 7AM, laid at the Wharf a while, then (…..) over to Bermuda Hundreds, where we were landed and then went into a sort of a pen, used as a camp of distribution. At the Wharf, I came across several of the Boys of the Regiment.
30th entry 15 February We are in one of the most filthy, ill conducted things here that ever went by the name of a camp. A large No of those who came here with us are sent off today. Nearby all but those going to Ft Fisher. I found a sergeant of Co D today who is also here waiting for transportation. There is some firing up to the front which sounds quite natural.
31st entry 16 February No transportation for the Regt. yet. today came across 2 men of our Regt. We have rain and its (…..), Another fact we are having a most disagreeable time, Sgt Edward of Co D, Was of the 142nd and are in tent
32nd entry 17 February This is a wet disagreeable day. There is no getting out for the mud. It is rather dull here, without news and but a few that I know for company.. quite a no. of Reb deserters are daily passing here. It is said we go South on the morrow. Our Regt., I hear is doing duty at the Landing near Ft. Fisher. Rain tonight.
33rd entry 18 February The weather is clear this morning, the mud drying up through the day. Still we are penned up on this place. I did think to get away to the Regiment today, but my name was overlooked and I am left behind. Watson and Evans are gone while I am left here alone. Sent a letter to Father today.
34th entry 19 February Weather is very pleasant and warm. There is no prospect of getting away from here yet. This is not in appearance a Sabbath day. Noise & confusion are the prevailing elements. If I were with the Regt, I should feel quite contented. It is doubtful if I get back to muster at the close of the month.