Will Fisher to his mother
Goldsboro, North Carolina
March 30, 1865

My own dear Mother

How glad I am to be able once more to address you twice from the same place & how gratified I have been to read 3 good old letters right from my dear Mother’s pen. I never was so anxious before to hear from home as I was this time. The first one I got bearing Laura’s handwriting & C. post mark, so I knew it was you & upon tearing it found date of Jan. 24th & 25th, & a “carte de visite” of my little name sake W. J. Fisher Esq. I think him to be a very fine appearing young fellow & am highly pleased with his picture. The next letter was dated Feb. 16th & the 3rd March 6. Now I propose to answer these by detail so as to be sure & answer all the questions.
Speaking of questions puts me in mind of your asking me when The Instructor run out. The 6th of Feb. was the time, but they continue to come yet for I have rec’d 5 at this place, some of them March numbers.
When you commenced your letter of Jan. 24th you were under the impression that I was sick or something the matter. Do not give yourself so much uneasiness or I fear you will have grown older under anxiety than I under exposure.
You speak of Clark Darrow. Poor Clark suffered a good deal & I am dreadfully mistaken or some of these army Dr.’s will have a heavy load to answer for some day although Clark was much to blame himself for his non-complaining disposition. He hated to be complaining. Speaking of doctors, I have reference to Dr. Connelly of Easton, a poor curse on the profession who holds the office of assistant surg. in this regt. Bravery is his only good quality, but I have always made it a point not to write detrimental of anybody & will stop. You speak of his being well through the day & expired at night, but this was not the case for he had not seen a well day in a year. It was the horrid, slow-but-sure deadly fatal disease chronic diarrhea. It feeds on a person’s very vitals, causes him to have the most fearfully ravenous appetite, destroys the intellectual powers & makes him as simple as a child, but all such things I can tell you about some other time if I live.
The donations you speak of, are all very nice I presume, but will wait another winter for them. You speak of the extreme changes of the weather during the month of Jan., but what do you think of me? 30th of March & haven’t seen a flake of snow yet, some cold weather however. I am sorry you have to cut wood to burn this winter. Be sure & have wood enough for another winter.
Here you leave off until the next day Jan. 25th, during which time you got my letter & your mind relieved of its fears for the time being. I was gratified for you to think my letter interesting for I was afraid you would have so much difficulty in making it out that it would hurt the interest. You spoke of friends saying it should be published, but it is so imperfectly written that I should not want that looked at as a specimen for I could do much better or try, & in fact, I intended it for you & John alone. If Uncle Zina was interested with it, I can give him some yarns when I get home, true ones too, that will be more so.
In regard to Mr. Hunt I see by one of your other letters that a good pure minded patriot has relieved him in the responsible trust of supervisor. The fact is such men have got so hardened & accustomed to the old story “4000 killed & 15,00 wounded," that they begin to think there is some fun in “dying for one’s country.” Oh! how mistaken they are.
You did right in regard to the box, if its lost let it go. Soldiers get disappointed too often by the uncertainty of army movements to cry for spilt milk. I thought I certainly should get it before leaving Savannah, but could not. I think we will soon get it however. There is a rumor that the express is at Kingston & that one of the corps quartermasters had gone after it so we may get it in a day or two. I shall let you know immediately after getting it.
You speak of the visitors (the Harshas) laughing at the idea of my changing my clothes in Milledgeville. I don’t know but it is all right, but I am afraid that strangers might think it a little course not exactly knowing the circumstances of the case. Still I have confidence in your judgment relative to any such thing.
In your letter of Feb. 16th you lament my having to trail all winter with shoes & then get my boots after all was over. It is too bad & I trailed a good deal of the winter without any shoes. But never mind, it is all over now, all suffered and passed & I shall know better how to appreciate the good things when they come.
I see by this letter you still have to cut wood for the fire. Tell Uncle Zina I shall do as much for him, if I live to come back, for cutting wood for you. The wood is indeed very high.
I am sorry Lemuel gets no better. I have a good deal to tell you about him when I get home, but now I will only say that he has been misused during his absence.
I hope the seminary will not break up on account of the smallpox. I used to fear the smallpox, but I have learned to look at it with indifference. There were several ambulances loaded with this disease following in the rear of the army all the way through on this march. No one caught it that I know of nor did it prove fatal. Modern physicians have got the disease so completely under control that it rarely proves any more fatal than measles.
You said the southern news had Sherman stuck in the mud, but I failed to see it in that light & you were right in supposing that he could not be stuck in the mud. It would have been ruinous for us to have got stuck in one place more than one day, for we could not subsist.
It makes me feel like a young man or “child under fifteen” to hear of academy scholars going so strong to parties &c. I don’t feel any inclination for such things & reflections about it only produce sad feelings. I find now that I bid adieu to childhood or youth’s happy days, unconsciously, for if I live, I emerge from the service a man, & to find the companions of my boyhood scattered hither & thither. Some of them will be no loss others were valuable acquaintances. I shall have new acquaintances to form & will be too old to live for sport. Mr. Beales leaving & the thoughts I have of the old school & companions, to think they are all things of the past, these are what produces the sad reveries, not any desire to engage in the excitements of pleasure again. Oh! How I would like to spend just one more day in the old “C.W.A.” with all the old faces there again.
Children that were my pets will have grown too old to sit upon my knees any more, & even you will have grown older. But such an indulgence of sad thoughts are not too profitable to a sensitive soldier, it makes no difference to some that are mere machines, it tends to despondency, & I am not the one to get despondent in such a cause as this.
Tell Courtie S. to kiss that girl for me notwithstanding, but I intend relieving him of all such onerous duties about 5 months from now.
We will go on now to your’s of March 6th. I think I have rec’d all up to that date, but hereafter, in order to determine if the letters are all rec’d, I propose this plan. Each of us can number our letters on the upper left corner of the envelope – this one being no. 1 for me. You can keep the number on the wood box with chalk or any way you please, only be sure & not make any mistakes about it.
Now, to the last one dated March 6th, you speak of a report in which Slocum’s Corps was fired on by the citizens of Columbia. This is not so, for we did not pass through the city & you must remember that Slocum does not command a corps, but two corps, or a “Wing of the army.” The whole wing concentrated in front of Columbia on the 16th & during that night the enemy evacuated & the right wing of the army crossed the Congaree River just front of the city while we went up some 4 miles to another crossing.
I want you to be sure & have a “carte de visite” of Mr. Beales secured for me. I should like to have seen Uncle S., & am glad he thinks of coming again another winter & hope John & I can be there to visit him at that time.
Give my love to Aunt Eliza Taggart, whenever you write. I shall write her a letter soon.
You asked if it was 35 or 75 miles from Savannah to Sister’s Ferry, it was 35.
I was quite surprised to hear of the death of Mrs. Weir & also Ann Shiland. I had not heard of it before.
I must close for tonight as it is getting dark. I will begin & give you a description of the march & the campaign generally. A sweet nights rest to my own dear Mother & Aunt Sarah.

April 3rd, Monday, 1865
Dear Mother,
I will go again resume my letter, I have so little time to devote to my own writing that I shall be some time writing this, for I am “head over heels” in the capt.’s business, & by the way, I guess he will be home soon & will call upon you personally & deliver this to you. It is now 4 days since I commenced this to you & I guess it will not be out of place to give you a little insight into our situation. We have got clothed pretty well again & got good quarters, rations &c. Enjoying ourselves first rate. You cannot imagine how grateful I feel for this glorious rest. I am so busy as I can live though now yet it is an employment of the mind instead of the limbs.
I will now proceed to a description of the campaign. We left Savannah the 17th of Jan., us & the 3rd Div., crossing the river at the city & marched up the river on the S. C. side to Hardeeville, a little ville on or near the river about 15 miles from the city. Here we lay about a week & then went on up the river a few miles to Perrysburg & stayed two or three days & then went on to Sister’s Ferry. At this place the steamboats brought the supplies for the left wing (our wing), the rest of the wings having left Savannah in the meantime & marched up on the Ga. side of the river. We lay in this place about 10 days, just our brigade, guarding the landing while Gen. Williams took the 3rd Div. & the other two brigades of our div. & started on, feeling his way, off in the direction of Branchville. As soon as the rest of the wing came up, they laid pontoons to cross on & we went on to join the div., they loading their trains & coming on as fast as possible.
We marched through a very dull uninteresting country for 4 or 5 days till at last we struck the railroad leading from Branchville to Augusta at a small place called Blackville. Here we found the rest of the div. in camp waiting for us. It was the 5th of Feb. that we left the Ferry.
When we reached Blackville. The Grand Army was “on line” the right wing having come out from Beaufort & Pocotaligo whither they went from Savannah on transports & struck the railroad east & west of Branchville & also the one leading north there to Columbia, thus cutting off all rail communication with Charleston except by Wilmington.
We were now facing the Edisto River only 5 miles ahead, which it was supposed the Rebs would try & hold, but the after-events show they did not. Our brig. was sent out from Blackville the same day we arrived to make a demonstration while the right wing forced a passage below, but neither they nor we had any difficulty whatever. After crossing, we lay there the remainder of the day & the next Sabbath day.
We had a glorious time while here for a blockade runner lived close by & of all the foraging I ever saw done on one plantation it was here. The boys got hundreds of the nicest silk dress patterns & dealt it out to the negroes far and near. There was some 2 or 3000 smoked hams & shoulders buried on the premises, also boots, shoes, dry goods, jewelry & everything you can think of. This was the south fork of the Edisto river.
The next day the rest had closed up & the 2nd Div. took the lead. At the north fork of the Edisto, 12 miles from the south the Rebs made a little stand but the 2nd Div. put them to flight without our assistance with only 5 or 6 casualties.
The country which had been so sandy & barren is now literally flooded with forage. It beats all I ever saw. Little bits of wood colored houses not so large as our tenement houses at home have more provisions laid away than I ever saw on any ten farms of the largest kind at home & every bit of it buried in the ground. But the “Yanks” are so cunning that they can’t be deceived. You could see them all around every house sticking their ramrods in the ground to find the buried stuff.
We lived rather different on this march from the other. On that we lived on fresh pork & sweet potatoes & on this it has been flour & meal & salt meat & nothing but hams & shoulders at that. Nearly every plantation had 2 or 300 hams & shoulders on it & any quantity of everything to eat, but marching night & day through the mud we can’t tend to eating much.
Well, after crossing the North Edisto we now expected to soon be in Columbia or else trying to find out by whose authority we were debarred from entering. We reached Lexington the 15th of Feb or near there & the next day the whole army came “caslap” right in from the city with old Beauregard disputing the entrance (saucy rascal).
There is something admirable in marching along on a road, just the Corps alone, approaching a place where trouble is anticipated, not knowing where the rest of the army is & then just as you get on to the place to have the whole army emerge, as it were, from the bushes all right & in the right place.
I was particularly struck with the promptness which was displayed at Columbia. We camped here for the night with two corps in the front. During the night the enemy left & were followed by the 17th Corps.
The Rebels themselves are as much to blame for burning that place as the 17th Corps for they threw immense quantities of cotton in the streets & set fire to it & there being a good deal of the “ardent” in town, some of the “Yanks” got boozy & while others were working the fire engines to stop the fire, they would cut the hose. It was intended to destroy the city however, except those houses containing inhabitants, but as it was they made a clean sweep of it. I did not see the city but I have been told that it was a splendid place & that there was a heap of the very wealthiest people lives there & that they were the hottest kind of Secessia so “let um want.” I am sorry the fellows got drunk, not that the city was burned.
Columbia is on the north bank of the Congaree River. The Congaree is formed by the confluence of the Broad & Saluda Rivers about a mile or two above the city. We went some 4 miles above the city to Young’s Ferry & crossed the Saluda on the pontoons the 17th of Feb. The 18th we marched to the south bank of the Broad River & camped. Today is the first time I have seen a hill since about the 1st of Dec. in Ga. & this was no larger than the knoll in Uncle Zina’s meadow.
The 19th Sabbath we had preaching, before starting in the morning, giving some of them a rubbing on intemperance. This is a sure sign there has been some of the “ardent” captured & someone has made too free with it. The chaplain always lights on them heavy for this offense. We had the big band for music. Our singers are about all gone. We used to have a choir. Among the singers was Jim L. Cummings, who was killed at Dallas last summer. Lem was one of them too, but there is none here now of all of them but me.
Well, we started about 11 AM and marched to the banks of the Broad River & camped for the night. The next morning we crossed and made about 9 miles. The 21st, we marched to Winnsboro which you can find on the map directly north of Columbia some 30 miles on the great Northern RR route to Charlotte. Along here we passed within a few miles of the old battle field of the Revolution, to wit Eutaw Springs & Camden. I have seen a great many traces of the operations of old Gens. Merriam & Greene through the state of S.C. I could not help but hold the very ground in reverence & it came to my mind that:

“The old Continentals
With their ragged regimentals
Faltered not.”

We passed some two miles beyond Winnsboro and camped. It was a “right smart” town, but suffered badly from the effects of fire. The RR all along of course is torn up by the blue bellied “Yanks.” The 22nd we celebrated the birthday of the immortal Washington by right down snap marching, rushed ahead today to get a crossing on the Wateree River. It was expected they would give us some little trouble here, but not a shot was fired that I could hear of. We crossed the 23rd and the 24th we actually were stuck in the mud. After we got about 4 miles we had to lay over entirely for the day, but were off again the 25th, hold on, I mistake, we lay the 25th also, but started the 26th.
It was a fine beautiful day, Sabbath, too, but moving we could not have any service. The 27th we passed a place known as Hanging Rock on Linch Creek, an immense rock larger than our house, hung directly over the bed of the stream at the top of a perpendicular precipice some two or three hundred feet high. It was fearful to look down from, some were so timid that they crept to the edge to look off. I was induced to straggle a little to look at this wonderful phenomena of nature.
Feb. 28 marched in a drenching rain again, my diary says at the time “it beats all how much it rains on this campaign.”
Today was muster day, were mustered for Jan. & Feb. for pay.
The 1st of March we were in such a pine & fir forrest that I could not tell where we were. We marched 17 miles in the day. The 2nd we made 20 miles & drove the Reb cavalry 6 of it on a double quick. We met them 4 miles from Chesterfield C.H. & drove them through the town and across a stream 2 miles beyond, where they held us till the next morning when they left. And we had to build a bridge the 3rd and crossed the stream.
Chesterfield was a small town of only a few houses (I forgot to tell you that since the 25th of Feb. where we were stuck in the mud we have been coming almost directly east & before had been going straight north. We were within 6 miles of N.C. the 25th.)
During the 3rd the right wing got into Cheraw at the terminus of the Cheraw & Darlington RR. They did not have much of a fight to get it. The 4th we marched on 5 or 6 miles & camped near the Great Pee Dee River. I thought of the fact today that old “Father Abraham” was probably being inaugurated for 4 years more. “Laus Deo.”
The 5th, Sabbath we lay still again today, had service. Mr. White preached. The 6th we marched down the river to Cheraw 10 miles & crossed the Great Pee Dee on pontoons at that place. The place was burned so I could not give you any idea of it, but should judge it was quite important at some time or other. From this to the 11th we were wallowing over swamps, creeks, and a perfect wilderness, seeing the toughest part of the campaign thus far. We did not have anything to eat scarcely. The night of the 11th we camped 3 miles from Fayetteville & the 12th I wrote you a letter.
We lay in camp all day. You will notice we have not moved hardly a Sabbath on the campaign. The 13th Gen. Sherman reviewed us in town.
Fayetteville was a splendid place, quite antiquated however & is the 3rd town in importance and size in the state.
The 15th we started on again and the 16th had the fight in Black River Swamp or the Battle of Averasborough. There was nothing particularly interesting in this battle. They were driven back some & in the morning left us the field as well as their dead to bury.
The 19th we came on to them at Bentonville. They flanked one div. of the 14th Corps and had like to raise the wind with them, but we came up and a new line was formed, which the Rebs assaulted most furiously 5 times, but they don’t fight with the spirit of former days.
The 21st the enemy left & we marched undisturbed into Goldsboro where we were reviewed, by Gen. Sherman as we entered the town. Here we found the 23rd Corps the heroes of Nashville, also one div. of the 24th & one of the 25th Corps.
On the campaign we have had 3 men out of a company mounted to forage. There has been no end to horses & mules but they don’t last long here in the army. All the foragers in each regt. go in a squad together in charge of an officer. Most all the skirmishing has been done by these “bummers” as they are called. We have had good times and hard ones, but it was certainly a master move in every sense of the word.
I have rec’d a letter today from you, date of March 24, that is the latest I have seen in the regt. You had received mine of Feb. 12. I was glad to hear you had, knowing the great anxiety you would have for my safety.
The corps has got a new general. Mower is his name. I believe he is from the 17th Corps. He outranked Gen. Williams & therefore had to take a command above him. We don’t like it a bit.

April 9th, 1865
Thinking that we was going to move soon, I have had to work night & day to get the capt.’s work done before we should go, therefore I have been delayed again with your letter, but I must write today as the last mail goes to night at 5. Tomorrow at 6 AM we go for those Rebs again all sorts.
Thank God Richmond and Petersburg are ours. Oh what glorious news. I know how your heart leaped for joy upon the receipt of the intelligence. But do not be too sanguine for they may give us a good deal of chasing yet. But I think the hard fighting is over. It will be more marching. This victory is worth everything and be of good cheer for the day draws near when we shall see peace, glorious peace prevail again. I have no idea where we are going, but I expect we will go out towards Raleigh & see where the Rebs are. There are ten thousand rumors afloat.
Give my very best love to Aunt Sarah and all the folks generally. Give my love to John also. I will write a short note to him now. I have written but to you since here. With much love to you, and gratitude to the Great Giver of all things.

I remain your darling boy,