To find all of the detail of Civil War action,
including all dispatches, official orders, reports, etc., one turns to the
"Official Records of the War of the Rebellion" published by the U.S. government.
It is not easy reading nor is theindex always indicative of what is to be
found in the small print. However, whatever its faults, the "O.R." is invaluable.
From these records we can find exactly what was happening in York County
at the end of the Civil War.
During the last nine weeks of the Civil War, there were considerable troop movements through this area. After burning Columbia on 2/17/1865, various units of Sherman's army turned northward and westward.
Gen. Wade Hampton's Confederate Cavalry moved up to Chesteville (now Chester), an important rail station.
Gen. Robert E. Lee sent Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard to meet Hampton and to report back on the South Carolina situation. By February 21 Beauregard was reporting from Rock Hill. Beauregard realized that the Charlotte, Columbia & Augusta Railroad bridge across the Catawba river at Nation Ford (behind the Celanese plant at Rock Hill) was a key point. He wired General Lee that there was considerable rolling stock at Chesterville but due to North Carolina railroads having a different gauge from South Carolina's there would be difficulty in getting the cars to Danville, Virginia where they were needed.
From Rock Hill Beauregard issued orders for the arrest of any Confederate army deserters and stragglers.
By February 22, Union troops were in Winnsborough and Beauregard had crossed to Charlotte, upper Lancaster County, Fort Mill and Rock Hill in York County to block the enemy using "all available labor, with axes, spades, and mattocks to destroy and obstruct roads leading toward Charlotte from the south." Negroes were to be assembled by their owners and givensix days provisions, cooking utensils and blankets and set to work tearing up all roads that might be used by the invading Union forces.
The work crews made little progress, if any. Within a few days there were great downpours. Dispatches from various units speak of impassable roads and swollen creeks. While Sherman was stalled at Rocky Mount (present-day Great Falls), Confederate Brig. Gen. William W. Allen on Februrary 25th reported that his troops were trapped between two prongs of Fishing Creek. Allen lost much valuable ammunition in his effort to get to the Nation Ford Road.
While Allen was trying to find a route across the Catawba river (apparently he went via Brattonsville), Gen. Wade Hampton was at "Massey House near Cureton's Ferry" pleading with General Beauregard to send him Blakely guns and ammunition to Fort Mill along with all the cavalry equipment available in Charlotte. Hampton's intention was to move southward to confront Union troops in Lancaster but incessant rains stopped all military action for nearly a week.
On March 3, General Beauregard's assistant adjutant-general in Charlotte informed Col. G.G. Dibrell in Fort Mill that General Wheeler was east of Lancaster Courthouse (Wheeler will save the courthouse from burning just in the nick of tim). Dibrell was instructed to locate and arrest a party of 50 mounted men (Confederate "bummers") who were pillaging the countryside between Charlotte and Fort Mill along the railroad.
By March 5, the direction of the war shifted to the east as the Union troops pulledout and headedin the direction of Fayetteville, NC.
On April 19th, ten days after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox and seven days before Gen. J.E. Johnston surrendered, a group of Union cavalry under Maj. E.C. Moderell surprised a 60-man Confederate guard at the Nation Ford rail trestle between Fort Mill and Rock Hill. Moderill's men, using gunpowder and lamp oil as fuel, set fire to the bridge.
A small battle resulted with the Yankees mounting the two captured cannon on the southside of the river and the Confederates forded the river and the Union men retreated. About that time, a locomotive carrying a white flag arrived from Charlotte with the news that Johnston had surrendered to Sherman.
-Courtesy of Louise Pettus, Editor The Quarterly, York County Genealogical & Historical Society, Post Office Box 3061CRS, Rock Hill SC 29732
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