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      Battle Of
       West Point
 Wilson's Raids

Chasing Davis

         Then, again, General Sherman was operating with a movable column beyond the limits of his territorial command, viz, the Military Division of the Mississippi, and far away from all direct communication with it, whereas "the troops not absolutely in the presence of the general-in-chief" were operating under special instructions, and not even in co-operation with General Sherman against Johnston; but, on the contrary, General Stoneman was dismantling the country to obstruct Lee's retreat, and General Wilson was moving independently in Georgia or co-operating with General Canby. Before I could come to any conclusion how I should proceed under the circumstances and without disrespect to my superior officer, General Sherman, Mr. Secretary Stanton telegraphed to me from Washington on the 27th of April, and through me to my sub-commanders, to disregard all orders except those coming from General Grant or myself, and to resume hostilities at once, sparing no pains to press the enemy firmly, at the same time notifying me that General Sherman's negotiations with Johnston had been disapproved. Based on that notification the following dispositions were made with a view of capturing President Davis and party, who, on the cessation of the armistice, had started south from Charlotte, N. C., with an escort variously estimated at from 500 to 2,000 picked cavalry, to endeavor to make his way to the Trans-Mississippi. 

Davis Sworn In
The swearing in of President Jefferson Davis in Montgomery
Feb 18, 1861

        General Stoneman was directed to send the brigades of Miller, Brown, and Palmer, then in Western North Carolina, to concentrate at Anderson, S.C., and scout down the Savannah River to Augusta, Ga., if possible, in search of the fugitives. General Gillem being absent, Colonel Palmer, Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, took command of the expedition. By rapid marching they succeeded in reaching and crossing the Savannah River in advance of Davis, and so disposed the command as to effectually cut off his retreat toward Mississippi, and forced him to alter his route toward the Atlantic coast. General Wilson, at Macon, Ga., was also notified of the action taken at Washington on General Sherman's negotiations with Johnston, and he was directed to resume hostilities at once--especially to endeavor to intercept Davis.

        Scarcely were the above orders issued and in process of execution, when notification reached me of the surrender by Johnston of all the enemy's forces east of the Chattahoochee River. General Wilson received similar notification from General Sherman, direct through the enemy's territory, and immediately took measures to receive the surrender of the enemy's establishments at Atlanta and Augusta, and to occupy those points, detailing for that purpose Brevet Major-General Upton with his division. General McCook was sent with a force to occupy Tallahassee, Fla., and to receive the surrender of the troops in that vicinity. Thus a cordon of cavalry, more or less continuous, was extended across the State of Georgia from northwest to southeast, and communication established through the late so-called Southern Confederacy. With characteristic energy, Generals Wilson and Palmer had handbills printed and profusely circulated in all directions throughout the country, offering the President's reward for the apprehension of Davis, and nothing could exceed the watchfulness exhibited by their commands.Davis

        On the 3rd of May, Davis dismissed his escort at Washington, Ga., and accompanied by about half a dozen followers, set out to endeavor to pass our lines. Nothing definite was learned of the whereabouts of the fugitives until on the evening of the 7th of May, the First Wisconsin Cavalry, Lieut. Col. Henry Harnden commanding, with 150 men, ascertained at Dublin, on the Oconee River, fifty-five miles southeast from Macon, that Davis and party had crossed the river at that point during the day, and had moved out on the Jacksonville road. 

        At daylight on the 8th Colonel Harnden continued the pursuit, finding the camp occupied by Davis on the evening previous, between the forks of Alligator Creek, which was reached just four hours after it had been vacated. The trail was pursued as far as the ford over Gum Swamp Creek, Pulaski County, when darkness rendered it too indistinct to follow, and the command encamped for the night, having marched forty miles that day.

        On the 9th Colonel Harnden pushed on to the Ocmulgee River, crossed at Brown's Ferry, and went to Abbeville, where he ascertained Davis' train had left that place at 1 a.m. that same day, and had gone toward Irwinville, in Irwin County. With this information Colonel Harnden moved rapidly on toward the latter town, halting within a short distance of it to wait for daylight, in order to make certain of the capture. Before leaving Abbeville, Colonel Harnden, learning of the approach from the direction of Hawkinsville of the Fourth Michigan Cavalry, Colonel Pritchard commanding, went to meet that officer and informed him of his close pursuit of Davis; Colonel Pritchard stating in reply that he had been sent to Abbeville also to watch for Davis. After Colonel Harnden's departure, Colonel Pritchard, with part of his command, started for Irwinville by a more direct route than that used by the detachment of the First Wisconsin, arriving at Irwinville at 2 a.m. on the 10th, where, on inquiry, it was ascertained that there was a camp about a mile from town on the other road leading to Abbeville. 

        Approaching cautiously, for fear it might be our own men, Colonel Pritchard sent a dismounted party to interpose between it and Abbeville, and then waited for daylight to move forward and surprise the occupants. Daylight appearing, a rapid advance was made and the encampment surprised, resulting in the capture of Jefferson Davis and family, John H. Reagan, Postmaster-General of the so-called Confederacy, 2 aides-de-camp, the private secretary of Davis, 4 other officers, and 11 enlisted men. Almost immediately after the completion of the above movement, Colonel Harnden's men coming down the Abbeville road were hailed by the party sent out during the night by Colonel Pritchard to secure the capture of the camp, and on being challenged answered "friends," but fell back, under the impression they had come upon an enemy; whereupon shots were exchanged before the real position of affairs could be ascertained, resulting in the loss on one side of 2 men killed and 1 wounded, and of 3 wounded on the other. Considerable feeling was caused by the manner in which the Fourth Michigan effected the apprehension of Davis, to the detriment of Colonel Harnden's party, but great credit is justly due and should be given to the First Wisconsin Cavalry for the persistency of its pursuit, and it is only to be regretted they did not arrive on the ground in time to reap the benefit of their labors. For the full particulars of the operations of both detachments I have the pleasure of referring you to the reports of Lieutenant-Colonel Harnden, First Wisconsin, and Captain Hathaway, Fourth Michigan. With the surrender of Johnston's army to General Sherman all the detachments of the Confederate armies east of the Chattahoochee signified their willingness to surrender, except a few guerrilla bands who were outlawed, special directions being given to grant all such no quarter. 

        On the 7th of May notification was received by me via Eastport and Meridian, Miss., of the surrender of General Taylor's army to General Canby, at Citronelle, Ala., on the 4th.  No armed force of the enemy east of the Mississippi remaining to interfere, I gave orders for the occupation by my forces of such portions of the reclaimed territory as it was necessary to hold whilst telegraphic and railroad communication was being restored, to the accomplishment of which the people of the country zealously gave their assistance.

        May 16, General Grant, through his chief of staff, General Rawlins, directed me to order to some point north of the Tennessee River all of Wilson's cavalry except 4,000 veterans, who are to remain at Macon, Augusta, and Atlanta, Ga.; those returning to be concentrated at some convenient point in Tennessee or Kentucky, preparatory to being mustered out or otherwise disposed of. All convalescents and others about the hospitals throughout my command not requiring medical treatment have, by virtue of General Orders, No. 77, been mustered out of service. The quartermaster, commissary, and ordnance departments have all been reduced to the smallest scale consistent with the demands of the service. During the past three months the defenses of all the posts within my command have been thoroughly inspected by Brigadier-General Tower, inspector of fortifications Military Division of the Mississippi, whose reports, with drawings attached, I have the honor to forward herewith.(*) For detailed accounts of the operations of the commands of Generals Stoneman and Wilson I invite the attention of the lieutenant-general commanding to the reports of those officers, as well as to those of their subordinates, Generals Gillem, Palmer, and others. They have brought the cavalry arm of the service to a state of efficiency unequaled in any other army for long and difficult marches through the enemy's country, and particularly for self-reliance and fortitude in assaulting strong positions which might well cause hesitation in veteran infantry. Herewith I have the honor to forward the report of Bvt. Brig. Gen. J. G. Parkhurst, provost-marshal-general of my command, giving the number of prisoners and deserters registered at his office during the period of which the foregoing treats.

 

Source:

Reports for Wilson's raid to Selma 22 March - 22 April 65 plus Wilson's capture of Jefferson Davis 10 May 65, http://www.aotc.net/selma-rep.htm