Numbers 65. Report of Colonel Robert F. Smith, Sixteenth Illinois Infantry, commanding First Brigade. HDQRS. FIRST Brigadier, SECOND DIV., 14TH ARMY CORPS, Near Savannah, Ga., January 3, 1865.
After having been furnished with clothing the command broke camp on the day following [November 16], and marched through Decatur, from there to Lithonia Station. Here the work of destroying the railroad was resumed. The track was torn up, the ties burnt, and the rails bent and twisted. From Lithonia to Conyers, and farther to Covington, the Georgia Central Railroad was most effectually destroyed. On the 23rd of November the command arrived at Milledgeville. On the following day passed through the town, crossed the Oconee River on the old bridge and the eastern branch on pontoons. On approaching Sandersville, November 26, in the morning, some rebel cavalry tried to oppose our march, but were dislodged and forced back by our advance guard and two companies of the Sixteenth Illinois and Seventeenth New York Infantry, who, having marched ahead of the column for forage, were ordered up on the skirmish line and did good service. The command remained at Sandersville over night, and resumed the march on the following morning. The Ogeechee River and its tributaries were crossed without any considerable difficulty, and in the evening, November 28, the troops passed through Louisville and went into camp. Here the command remained during the following two days. The rebel cavalry annoyed our pickets and came near capturing a foraging party of the Seventeenth Regiment New York Infantry, but for the prompt action of Lieutenant-Colonel Martin, who brought the whole regiment out in time to save the foraging party. Several rebels were killed and wounded by our pickets on November 30.
On the 1st of December the command left Louisville, and after crossing several creeks entered the pine country, passed Habersham and Jacksonborough, and on the 8th of December struck the Savannah River and crossed Ebenezer Creek. Here a rebel gun-boat threw a few shells at our column, doing no damage. In the afternoon, December 9, it was found that the enemy had erected a battery at the point where the Middle Ground and river roads meet. Some cannonading took place in the evening. This brigade was encamped near the rebel works over night. In the morning the position was found evacuated by the enemy, and the column moved on to Monteith Station, on the Charleston and Savannah Railroad and the Milledgeville road, and took up a position between the last-named road and the Ogeechee Canal. In this position the command remained until the evacuation of Savannah. The operations in front of Savannah were, from the nature of the ground, limited to some attempts to push forward sharpshooters to cover the guns of a rebel battery which commanded the Milledgeville road and the Georgia Central Railroad track. A deep swamp in our front was found impassable, and breast-works thrown up in the road proved of little use, as the caliber of their guns enabled the enemy to demolish them in short time. A breast-work for a battery and a rifle-pit constructed by Major J. H. McDonald would probably have had sufficient power to resist the rebel balls, but was not completed until the
*For portion of report (here omitted) relating to operations in North Georgia and North Alabama, see VOL. XXXIX, Part I, p. 636.