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In Their Own Words

January 05, 1865

Union Soldier near Savannah River

Union Maj. Fredrick Winkler of the 26th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry wrote in his diary from the South Carolina side of the Savannah River:

“We left our camp in Savannah on Monday morning and crossed the river on a steamer, the Planter. We landed in the rice fields. The first trip brought over three regiments, including mine. I was put in command, and our brigade commander went back. We had to repair, or rather rebuild, a bridge on the dike, and that took us until late in the afternoon; then we marched forward four miles, where our first brigade was camped. Here I found General Ward, who told me to camp there for the present.

“Evening: I was interrupted this morning by an order to go out reconnoitering. Tuesday I sent out a party early and they had not been gone long before we heard quite heavy firing, so I concluded to go out and see what it was myself. Our horses had not then come across the river and I had to go on foot. I found that our party had met a rebel cavalry force, who had fallen back to an entrenchment commanding the road, on each side of which there was an impassable swamp. I sent parties to the right and left to try to get through the swamp, but they could not accomplish it and I finally found, on personal examination, it was just about impracticable. I was bound to get them out, so I took a few of my men and made a wide detour. We went over a rice field dike as far as we could and then worked our way inch by inch through a canebrake on very swampy bottom, and finally came out on a road which would lead me to their rear. Here I came upon a cavalry picket post, who gave the alarm, and they all ran off. To-day I went over the same road and met no enemy, but found immense quantities of rice and sent a scow load down the river. We moved forward about a mile and went into camp on good dry ground yesterday. To-day our wagon came up and brought us a few boards. I have a floor in my tent, but no chimney. There are no bricks here, the soil is all sandy. It is reported that a portion of the 17th Corps has embarked on board of transports, bound for some more northerly port. I hinted to a staff officer of the division that I wanted to resign, a few days ago; he thought I could not possibly get my resignation approved.”

Source: Civil War Letters of Major Fredrick C. Winkler, 1864 in 26th Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers Home.