Bissell’s Engineer Regiment of the West and
The First Missouri Engineers Regiment
Compiled by Bob Werner – 2013
Many Thanks to Ira Woods Ancestor’s
Renee Jensen and Les and Sue Holmes
The following condensed history has been compiled from the two-unit’s general assignments and service records and then by inserting details found in the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, which you too can view at http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/m/moawar/ and An Illustrated History of the Missouri Engineer and the 25th written in 1889 by one of the regiments surgeons Dr. William A. Neal. This book is available free via http://books.google.com
As a matter of a short introduction; one of my great-grandfathers and one of my wife Donna’s great-grandfather’s fought in our country’s Civil War here in Tennessee. I recently came across a picture of a man named Ira Melanchton Woods on Facebook and noted that he also saw duty here in Tennessee. After a short search regarding his service I immediately became interested in the role of engineer regiments in the war and came to the conclusion that their story must be told. In so many obvious ways, our grandfathers would not have been able to fight their battles without the engineers, and as you will read, General William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea would have mired in mud; likely to fail.
Further to that last observation; not at all unlike our WWII engineers who cleared Pacific islands for air landing strips while Japanese troops camped on them, Bissell’s Engineers worked in a “foreign” land, one camped on and held onto as hard as they could by their enemy.
If you have a connection to the two regiments please feel free to copy and use it in any way you see fit to tell your family about their ancestor’s story. In a matter of editorial honesty, be aware that some of the reports submitted by commanders that are used herein are edited for clarity and more important, to keep them brief and to the point.
Bob Werner – 2013
First, this about Ira M. Woods; Ira and his twin brother Asa were born Feb. 28, 1835 in Madison County, NY. They were the sons of Asa Woods, also a twin, and Mary Wilford. Ira married Hannah Amanda Davey (b.1845) on Jan. 10, 1866. He was a farmer and he and Hannah had seven children; Fannie Caroline (’66), Mary Allena (’69), Alta Bell (’71), Walter Wellington (’73), Elda Grace (’76), Frank Ray (’78) and Emma E. (’81). The children were all born in Greenbush Twp., Warren County, IL. Ira died Oct. 10, 1925 and is buried at the Avon Cemetery in Avon, Fulton County, Illinois.
The regiment that would become known as Bissell’s Engineer Regiment of the West was originally organized in the summer of 1861. The first officers were Col., J. W. Bissell, Lt. Col., Charles E. Adams; Maj., M. S. Hasie. Ira Woods volunteered for the unit and mustered in 10/31/1861 and was assigned to Company C. Later, when this unit was reassigned as part of the First Missouri Engineers in February 1864, Ira was given an official rank fitting his skills formed with Bissell, that of Artificer. An Artificer is “a skilled worker or craftsperson.” In a consolidation of regiments on Oct. 31, 1864 at Atlanta, Georgia, Ira was re-assigned to Co. B. That consolidation formed a battalion of five regiments, each with roughly 135 members. It appears that Ira’s so called re-assignment was the Army’s way of keeping the old and new company records intact, since Artificer Woods was actually discharged on expiration of his time and mustered out 9/14/1864, before the date of consolidation, and close to his three year term. Ira left his regiment in Atlanta and headed home.
Ira Woods, age 90 Artificer Woods
Photos Courtesy of Renee Jensen
Bissell’s “Missouri” Engineers were, in reality, Bissell’s Missouri, Michigan, Iowa, and Illinois Engineers. Organized at St. Louis, Mo. Company “A” mustered in July 20, 1861. Company “B” was organized at Paris, Edgar County, Ill., and mustered in August 5, 1861. Company “C” was organized at Prairie City, Ill., and mustered in August 19. Company “D” was organized at St. Louis and mustered in October 31, 1861. Company “E” was organized at Adrian, Mich., and mustered in August 23, 1861. Company “F” was organized at Dubuque, Iowa, and mustered in October 31, 1861. Company “G” was organized at Cape Girardeau, Mo., and mustered in September 17, 1861. Company “H” was organized at Paris, Ill., and mustered in October 31, 1861. Company “I” was organized in Iowa and mustered in October 31, 1861, and finally Company “K” was organized at Burlington, Iowa, and mustered in, October 31, 1861.
Bissell’s Engineers Attached to Department of Missouri
The regiment was fully mustered in at St. Louis by October 31, 1861, but companies A, B, and G had already been assigned duty. A and B were ordered to East St. Louis, August 6, 1861 to load ordnance onto ships and then the next day to Cape Girardeau to build forts and defenses and to perform fatigue duty there until March, 1862 when they rejoined a full regiment at New Madrid, Missouri. Fatigue duty is not one of glory for anyone who volunteered for hard work or a fight. The duty would be construed as necessary to camp life, like digging sinks, gathering wood, or policing the camp.
In November Company G, still at East St. Louis, was assigned to Bird’s Point, near Cairo, Illinois to build military works until March, 1862.
The remaining portion of the regiment that was already mustered in, moved from St Louis, Mo. on Sept. 19, 1861 to Lamine Bridge on the Missouri Pacific Railroad. The Lamine Bridge on the river of the same name is located in central Missouri. The river is formed near Otterville and flows into the Missouri River. They built railroad bridges and fortifications until they were forced into winter camp.
Winter camp would be near Sedalia, Mo. and the regiment moved there on Oct. 26th and was soon joined there by the last regiments to muster in. On Dec. 11th the regiment moved to Otterville, Mo. and wintered there. However, Company I remained at Sedalia until Jan. 1862 helping construct government buildings before rejoining camp on Jan. 29th. Company F also remained in Sedalia until Feb. 7, 1862 building a saw mill.
While in winter camp more than a dozen men died from a measles outbreak.
The regiment left winter camp early in March, 1862. The full regiment arrived in New Madrid from their duties by Mar. 18th. They participated in siege operations against New Madrid on March 8-15 and then operations against Island No. 10 March 15 to April 8. During the travel to New Madrid Companies A and B were engaged by the enemy at Mt. Pleasant, Mo. on Mar. 3, 1862.
On the 16th of March Major General Pope received a dispatch directing him to ascertain if it were possible to construct a road through the swamps opposite Island #10 and erect batteries. Pope wrote that “I sent Col. Bissell and he reports the road impractical but a canal could cut through the swamps. At New Madrid the regiment constructed the New Madrid Canal, allowing passage of Gunboats through the swamps to rear of the of Island No. 10. In a report dated Apr. 9, 1862 Major General Pope wrote that “the canal across the peninsula opposite island #10 was completed by Col. Bissell’s Engineer Regiment and four steamers were brought through on the night of the 6th. Of Col. Bissell’s Engineers I can hardly say too much. Full of resource, untiring, and determined, they labored night and day, and completed work which will be a monument of enterprise and skill.”
On May 2nd in another report Major General Pope adds that the work performed by Col. Bissell and his regiment of engineers was beyond measure difficult and its completion much delayed beyond my expectations. The canal is 12 miles long, 6 miles of which is through heavy timber. An average 50 feet wide was made through it by sawing off trees as large as four and one-half feet and underwater. 19 days the work was prosecuted with untiring energy and determination under exposures and privatations very unusual even in the history of warfare. It was completed on the 4th of April, and will long remain a monument of enterprise and skill of Col. Bissell, Engineer Regt., and his regiment I can hardly say too much. Untiring and determined, no difficulties discouraged them and no labor was too much for their energy. They have conducted and completed a work which will be memorable in the history of this war.
In his detailed campaign report of activity Col. James Morgan 10th Ill. Infantry wrote “I hereby report the part taken by my brigade at the trenches before New Madrid on the night of the 12th and on the 13th. I received orders to march my brigade……then under the direction of Col. Bissell, chief of engineers, assist in erecting such works as they thought proper. We arrived at 9:00 p.m. when the 10th Illinois, by order of Col Bissell, was thrown forward as skirmishers to secure the line of proposed operations, in securing which we reached the outer line of the enemy pickets, who fired and withdrew. Six companies of the 16th Ill. And the remaining 8 companies of the 10th Ill were detailed as working parties under direction of Col. Bissell, serving the entire night, officers and men working with a will. By daylight four siege guns had been place and trenches and rifle pits constructed.”
With the Army of the Mississippi, Unattached, to June, 1862
From New Madrid the regiment traveled to Fort Pillow on the banks of the Mississippi River in Tennessee on April 12-14. The Union Army fought a battle there as the regiment was on its way. From there they traveled back north to the Ohio River, then south on the Tennessee River to Hamburg, TN north of Corinth, Alabama during April 14th to the 22nd of the month. By now newspapers across the country were writing about Col. Bissell’s accomplishments. He and his men were cheered from the banks of the Ohio.
Along the route Companies A and I was detached at New Madrid to build a magazine, take inventory of ordnances, and remove heavy guns from detached batteries. As the rest of regiment neared Hamburg Companies D and F were detailed to build a bridge across a deep creek, which they did over that night. On April 25, 1862 the regiment moved six miles inland from the river.
The regiment moved to Corinth, Miss. on May 8, 1862 and was there during the siege of Corinth April 26th – May 30th. As the siege was about over, Bissell, with 300 men, accompanied the Union’s advance, at one point being fired upon by fleeing troops. The engineers cut away the timber felled to obstruct the road and occupied the ground with sharpshooters that night. Soon after they took to repairing a damaged bridge so Union troops could cross a creek. Inn a report to Gen. Stanley on May 28 Pope said “if by waiting for the 30 pounder Parrott Cannons you can silence the battery, wait, and don’t attempt to storm.” Meantime he put Bissell to work preparing for the Parrotts. After the siege they went to Tuscumbia Creek in Alabama, near Corinth.
On May 27, 1862, while on a trip into Vicksburg, Col. Bissell resigned his command and while waiting for action on his papers he obtained a leave of absence from the regiment. His resignation was officially accepted on July 10th.
Attached to Engineer Brigade, District of West Tennessee, Dept.
of the Tennessee and the District of Columbus,
Kentucky June, 1862 to October, 1862
For a short period of time, the regiment was under the command of the District of West Tennessee and then rather seamlessly moved to the command of the District of Columbus, Kentucky. It is either that, or parts of the regiment were with the two depending upon their duties.
On May 30, 1862 the enemy evacuated Corinth and the Union Army was sent in pursuit. The Engineer Regiment was first ordered to march with them. About dark of the first night the Tuscumbia River was reached where the bridge was destroyed by the fleeing enemy. They had placed a battery on the opposite side and as the engineers approached there was a brief confrontation. After the enemy fled doctors attended to several wounded men while the others began to rebuild the bridge.
After the bridge was completed the regiment was ordered to Jackson, Mississippi to open the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. They headquarter at Jackson on June 6th and began work. They engaged in clearing obstructions and building bridges and trestles over the many rivers and swamps along the line. The regiment remained there through October and among their duties they were in charge of the Saw Mill, built government buildings, and even built a rail car.
On July 21st a detail of 65 men from various companies was sent on a wreaking operation on the Mississippi River to the north. They dismantled a confederate battery on a small island, took ammunition and guns to Memphis and then moved further north back to Island #10 to remove confederate guns. They remained there until Oct. 20th and their last duty was to take apart a wreaked steamer. During their time at Island #10 they saw a familiar face. After his resignation from the regiment Col. Bissell was sent to chart the river in that area. The detachment was even assigned to do some work with their old commander.
In early October there was another battle at Corinth, Alabama. The whole of the regiment was sent by rail to assist the army there. They did not arrive in time to participate, but about one-hundred of the regiment was detached under Captain Tweeddale to join in the pursuit of the enemy. They accompanied the army as far as Ripley, Ms., building a few bridges along the way. The rest of the regiment started their return to Jackson.
With District of Columbus, Ky., 13th Army Corps (Old), Dept. of the
Tennessee, to January, 1863 and Unattached, Engineers’
Dept. of the Tennessee, to February, 1864
Beginning in November the regiment would participate in General Grant’s Central Mississippi Campaign. On November 8th the regiment was issued marching orders to accompany General Grant’s expedition to Grenada, Ms. and then further north to Moscow and Grand Junction, Tennessee, just east of Memphis. Their duties were repairing, finishing, and building bridges in addition to repairing rail lines. On Nov. 17, 1862 Col. Bissell returned to the regiment as commander.
On Jan. 10, 1863 Grant sent the following to Rear-Admiral David Porter, commanding Mississippi Fleet; “I send Col. Bissell of the Engineer Regiment of the West to report to you for the purpose of surveying the ground and determining the practicability of reopening the canal across the tongue of land opposite Vicksburg.” In a message on Feb. 5th to Maj. Gen C.S. Hamilton District of West Tennessee, General Asboth reported that “the rebels were handsomely whipped at fort Donelson” and that Bissell, then in Memphis, was sent back to Island #10 to collect 72 guns with carriages and other ordnances to be shipped to Memphis.
In general, the duties continued in and around Memphis, Tennessee until February 11, 1863. At that time 632 of 804 men were on active duty.
Unattached, Engineers’ Dept. of the Tennessee, to February, 1864.
On Feb. 8, 1863 Gen. McPherson sent Grant a message that read “Bissell has just shown me an order requiring him to move, with Logan’s Div., with his regiment, pontoon train, train, tools, etc., and I have given Graham orders to assign him to a boat, which is now landing.” They would now become part of Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign.
During February 11 to 14, 1863 the regiment moved down river to Young’s Point, La. General McPherson wrote Brig. Gen I.F. Quinby commanding 7th Division “You will disembark your command at Grand Lake and push rapidly out to the westward across Bayou Macon and then down the western side of the bayou 6 or 8 miles. Col. Bissell will deliver this to you, will indicate the road you are to take, and will throw pontoon bridges across the bayous or streams. There is a regiment of rebel cavalry scattered along the west side of Bayou Macon and an organization of home guards, which you will have to look out for.
Further repots tell exactly what Bissell and his men were tasked to do. On Mar. 5th “Bissell is at work cutting a levee near Arkansas line and I will know in two or three days whether we can get boats through to Bayou Macon at that point.”
“On Mar. 10th “Col. Bissell came down to Lake Providence last night and reported that he could take boats in from the Mississippi River to Bayou Macon. I accordingly went up to see and do not think the route is practical yet, though there is no doubt that in five or six days, when the back country gets filled with water it can be done. The water is now rushing like a torrent through several crevasses he has made……” During their time at Bayou Macon the “home guard” had indeed found some of Bissell’s men, wounding one of Co. H’s men. During March various regiments, working alone or in pairs, also performed duties nearby at Baxter Bayou and Lake Providence. On Mar. 31st Grant’s campaign report states 12 officers and 278 men were on duty; total present 641 of 800.
Early in April, 1863 Companies B,C,E,G,H,K were ordered to Memphis, Tennessee and were engaged in opening Memphis & Charleston Railroad to Corinth. Before departing though the whole regiment made an expedition to retrieve commissary supplies. During their trip aboard a large coal barge they were once again engaged by the enemy.
At Memphis Bissell encounter trouble opening and keeping the rail lines open. Local men working in groups caused trouble whenever they could. Bissell would gather the residents of towns and warn them that he would respond to such activity by destroying their properties. He would tell them that if they wanted to fight they could and he would fight back, but that they must not touch the rail or telegraph lines.
In early May this partial regiment moved east to Pocahontas, Tennessee and settled in at that place until late August. There they rebuilt destroyed bridges and, after an accident on the rail line, they were detailed to inspect and repair all the small bridges and trestles in that vicinity.
In late August they moved back to Memphis until Oct. 3, 1863. In a report submitted to Major John Rawlins back in Corinth about their duty in Memphis it said “engineers constructing four magazines in connection with the fort. Bissell has brought down an immense amount of shot and shell, but a smaller amount of gun powder. He delivered heavy guns and carriages suited to the work. ……Bissell is now operating along the river with the 52nd Indiana Engineers. He is so energetic and full of zeal that I have not checked him, though I fear he may cause the very thing we fear, viz, firing on boats. We must be careful not to render ourselves too harsh or they will naturally seek revenge. He has just destroyed some houses at Hochelrode’s, below, and as soon as he gets back up I will make a report and I’ll send it to you. He brought up on his last trip some Negro woman and children. I doubt the policy of burdening ourselves with such as we can give them no employment and idle Negroes are of no use to us in war. We had over 1300 Negros in the fort, now down to 800.”
Another report to Grant mentions Bissell’s activity; “Fort Pillow is now occupied by Federal troops, and there is no gunboat there. You ordered all ordnance stores to be moved, and I suppose that by today that it has been done under the direction of Col. Bissell. I am informed that there are still at the fort several guns spiked – I know not how well – and gun carriages. There are many guerrillas in that section of Tennessee; they probably will take possession of the fort….”
Later in October, 1863 they returned to Corinth, Mississippi, remaining in that area until December 26th. The primary object of the expedition was to open the Memphis & Charleston Railroad east from Corinth in advance of Sherman’s march over that line to assist Grant at Chattanooga. On Oct. 28th they had proceeded as far to the east as Sherman required and they returned to Corinth where they quartered until late December.
During all their recent assignments beginning in April they were confronted by guerilla activities. Bissell said “the worst class of people with whom we came in contact was the stay at homes in Northern Mississippi along the border of Tennessee. They had been small slave owners before the war and took their loss more at heart than did the large planters further south.”
On December 26th they left Memphis on the Steamer America and reported for orders at Cairo, Illinois. Ordered to Nashville the travelled the Cumberland River is harsh winter weather. When they arrived at their destination it was -4 degrees and it had been colder as they came down river.
Meanwhile Companies A, D, F, and I were headquartered near Vicksburg, Mississippi. They engaged in fatigue duty in that vicinity until April 30, 1863. They built a bayou drain at Richmond, Louisiana in May and continued similar duties in the area until May 25th when they moved to Haines’ Bluff to build fortifications until July 1st.
In May Lt. Col. Tweeddale received a letter that read “ General Sullivan directs me to say that the energy and perseverance manifested by the engineer regiment in the construction of the road from Sherman’s Landing to Bower’s Landing deserves highest commendation and should not be allowed to pass unnoticed.
Vicksburg was surrendered to the Union on July 4,1863and they held duty there until January 15, 1864 building fortifications. On Oct. 4, 1863 General Thomas wrote to Grant “the time is approaching when the plantations on this side of the river held by the government will have to be released. It is important that the cuts (drains), including the one known as the Bissell Cut be re-filled” (rewritten for clarification purposes). So, it appears some of their duties there would be to undo what had been done by them upon arrival, many months earlier.
On the 15th of January they were ordered to Nashville, Tennessee to rejoin the regiment, which they did on February 2, 1864.
First Missouri Engineers Assignments and Service
On February 2, 1864 the regiment was consolidated with the 25th Missouri Infantry to form the First Missouri Engineers and they moved into camp together. The new regiment was led by Col. Henry Flad and among his staff was Lt. Col. Tweeddale. The organization had 939 veterans plus 192 new recruits, a total of 1187 men.
They were assigned duty on the Nashville & Northwestern Railroad from Nashville to the Tennessee River. They left Nashville on Feb. 18th and marched about seventy miles west to Waverly and Johnsonville, the latter on the Tennessee River. Their march was in “very disagreeable weather” which was cold and snowing. In camp limbs fell from the trees on and among their tents. Because of constant snow their rations were cut to one-quarter of their allowance as a precaution.
There they built railroad, warehouses, and side tracks and on May 7, 1864 they completed the rail line. On May 10, 1864, they were attached to the defenses of Nashville & Northwestern Railroad, Dept. of the Cumberland. During the months of July and August they were broken up into squads and engaged in building blockhouses along the rail-line and protect it from guerrilla activity.
About this same time three-year terms were beginning to expire and some veterans were leaving for home.
In his campaign report Orlando M. Poe, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army Chief Engineer, regarding operations July,1 to Oct. 1, 1864…….”The operations connected with the march of Gen. Sherman’s army extends over a great portion of the Southern States…On the 1st of July, I was on duty as chief and there were in the military division the following; First Michigan and First Missouri engineers, the latter along the important rail line from Nashville to Johnsonville on the Tennessee River, engaged in completing that work . On Aug. 31st it was reported to me by Capt. Reese that the First Missouri Engineers, which were transferred at my request from the Army of the Cumberland to the Army of the Tennessee, had just joined forces in the field.
On Aug. 15th the regiment was ordered to go to the front reaching the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta on Aug. 25th. The consolidated regiment was broken into two battalions. The First Battalion traveled by rail and the Second marched overland. A couple assumptions can be made, but I would have assumed that there were parts of the two old regiments in each battalion. However, the fact the one travelled overland tends to lead us to think that most of the old Bissell’s Regiment, with its cumbersome equipment, was now the Second Battalion.
As they neared Atlanta it was apparent that it was in the midst of a heavy battle. They made a hasty march, at one point marching for 48 hours without sleep and camped near Jonesboro just south of Atlanta. On the 3rd of September they heard heavy explosions and soon realized that the Confederate Army had abandoned the city and that their ordnance stores were being destroyed.
Ira Woods was discharged on September 14th having served his three year enlistment. He departed Atlanta and headed home to Illinois.
After the battle and through the months of Sept. and Oct. the regiment engaged in destroying rail track and building earthworks. These would be difficult weeks as the only rations were hard bread and fresh beef. In addition there was no feed for the horses and cattle. In general it was unsafe to venture out of camp.
In a report dated 10/24/1864 it does make mention that at some point the First Missouri, led by Lieutenant John Murphy, with 10 wagons, was sent out from Atlanta with over five-hundred other wagons to collect corn and other food stores. The wagon train traveled for three days.
Late in October some five-hundred terms expired and the regiment was reduced to about 650 men. It was consolidated into five companies and was no longer those two battalions and well over one-thousand men. On November 15, 1864 the new regiment, under Lt. Col. Tweeddale, left Atlanta with Sherman’s Army and the March to the Sea and Sherman’s Carolina Campaign.
The Army of the Tennessee,
Sherman’s March to the Sea
In a report from the Military Division, Chief Engineer’s Office in Savannah “early in November the preparations for the march to Savannah were completed. Under directions from the Major-General commanding, engineer orders were issued making proper assignment of engineer troops and bridge trains. Meanwhile damaged trestle bridges were re-laid from the pontoon trains. The engineer organization was as follows….First Missouri Engineers Lt. Col. Wm. Tweeddale in charge of the pontoon train with the right wing of the Army of Tennessee with five companies, about 500 men. The Missouri Engineers had a much smaller tool train which was somewhat mixed up with the pontoon train of which they had charge. They carried 500 shovels, 500 axes, also an assortment of carpenters and blacksmith tools. For pontoon trains and the pontonniers of the Right Wing the First Missouri’s strength is 530 men, 28 canvas covered pontoon boats, 28 boat wagons, 600 chesses, 15 chess wagons, 196 claw balks, 1 forge, 1 battery wagon, 2 tool wagons, 7 forage wagon, and the length of bridge 580 feet.”
If you are at all confused as I; it appears the regiment was about 120 men with the tool train and 530 with the pontoon train, both part of the right wing. As we’ll later see Sherman’s Army was grouped in three wings. The writer’s great-grandfather was with the Center Wing. Incidentally, the name Pontonnies dates to Napoleon’s France and means bridge-builders.
Sherman’s Army marched 300 miles to Savannah; 60,000 men, 2500 wagons, and 600 ambulances crossed rivers and swamps where there had been no bridges or roads. The First Missouri Engineers built two 275 foot-long bridges over the Ocmulgee River east of Atlanta; a 236 foot-long bridge over the Oconee; a 231 foot-long bridge over the Ogeechee. The enemy had destroyed the bridge over the 700 foot-long Ogeechee, on the Darian road, commonly known as the King’s Bridge. It was rebuilt by the Engineers under direction of Capt. Reece. These were just a few of their accomplishments, many done in cold and snow – so cold that the wagon wheels froze into the mud during the nights.
The 15th Corps crossed King’s Bridge on the 15th of December and moved to Fort McAllister where it silenced the guns that had disrupted Union attempts from the sea. On the 22nd the engineers entered Savannah and found that the enemy had abandoned it. At Savannah they built fortifications until new orders came on Jan. 25, 1865.
The Army of Tennessee and the Campaign of the
Carolinas January to April, 1865.
On Jan. 25, 1865 the engineers left Savannah behind and moved with the army, first to Columbia, SC then toward Raleigh, North Carolina. Many, or most, ended this war in Washington, D.C. marching in front of their Commander, William Sherman.
On the 25th they traveled by water to Beaufort, South Carolina and began their march north from there. Writing a detailed story about the march and their duties along the way would simply be to repeat events and change the locations as they moved.
They built bridges; they corduroyed roads (road made by placing sand covered logs perpendicular to the direction of the road over a swampy area); they ferried troops across rivers; they laid pontoon bridges and took them up after men had crossed; they repaired rail lines; they destroyed rail lines. First they went through the Salkehatchie River Swamps, S.C., February 2-5. Then they crossed the South Edisto River February 9th and the North Edisto River February 12-13th. They marched through Columbia as it burned around them and then crossed Lynch’s Creek February 26-27th. In a report; “Feb. 27, 1865, by this time the cavalry had passed through Lancaster, SC and the Right Wing was at Tillersville, in the vicinity of which it crossed Lynch’s Creek, after almost incredible labor in building bridges and corduroying roads.”
On Mar. 12th, near Fayetteville, North Carolina they ferried troops across the Cape Fear River and laid bridges. A short time later, camped at Deadfield, seven miles from Bentonville, they heard the cannon during the Battle of Bentonville, NC, Mar. 19 to Mar. 21, which was one of the last significant battles of the war.
From Bennett’s House on April 26th Bvt. Brig. Gen. Orlando Poe, Corps of Engineers, Chief Engineer wrote his campaign report to headquarters in Washington D.C. – “The campaign from Savannah to Goldsborough, NC from Jan. 25, 1865 to Mar. 22, 1865: Engineer troops on duty included the First Missouri Engineers, Right Wing, pontoniers and pontoon trains: Troops and trains were transported by water to Beaufort, South Carolina and moved thence by land. Owing to the season and the nature of the country demand for labor was constant. The heavy rains which fell just as the movement commenced greatly impeded the march of the column, which crossed the Savannah at Sister’s Ferry. A pontoon was thrown across Whale Branch, and fully one-quarter of the road thence to Pocotaligo, SC was corduroyed. The pontoon train of the Right Wing was pushed forward toward, and all the infantry of the entire army were put to work destroying the railroad. This was effectively done, all wood-work was burnt, every rail was twisted…to include the Edisto Bridge and Williston, and partially destroyed between Williston, SC and Johnson’s.
The Right Wing moved direct upon Orangeburg, SC and three pontoon bridges built, one on the main Orangeburg road. The 17th corps occupied Orangeburg and destroyed the railroad. The Right Wing now directed its march toward Columbia and arrived opposite the city after meeting resistance on their march. On February 17th a pontoon bridge was built three miles above the Columbia and the Right Wing crossed to the north bank and occupied the city, the greater part of which was burned during the night. Many reasons are given for the flagrant violation of Gen. Sherman’s orders, but, as far as I could judge it was principally due to the fact that the citizens gave liquor to the troops until they were crazily drunk and beyond control of their officers. One thing for certain, the burning houses, lighting up the faces of shrieking woman, terrified children, and frantic, raving, drunken men, formed a scene which no man of the slightest sensibility wants to witness again.”
In a report by Col. Geo. Stone, 25th Iowa Infantry – “On February 16th I received orders from Brevet Major-Gen. Woods to have my command in readiness to cross the Broad River in the boats of the pontoon train at a point designated by Col. Tweeddale of the First Missouri Engineer, the point of crossing about half a mile above the wreak of the bridge and about two miles above the city of Columbia. We expected by daylight, but the current of the river was so strong the engineers did not succeed in getting the lines across until 3:00 in the morning. At 3:50 I sent over two loads of sharpshooters.”
The First Missouri Engineers laid bridges across the Neuse River on Mar. 21st and were present for the occupation of Goldsboro from March 24th to April 10th, and they participated in the advance on Raleigh April 10, 1865. “During the march from Savannah to Goldsboro the Right Wing built 15 pontoon bridges, full length of 3720 feet.”
The Army of Tennessee
Final Orders, Final March
After the surrender of Johnston and his army, while camped at Raleigh, time was taken to repair damages. Beginning April 29, 1865 about 3000 men began the war’s final march; this one to Washington, D.C., via Richmond, VA. Gen. Sherman held a grand review in Washington May 24, 1865 and most certainly some of “Bissell’s” Engineers were among them. After all, the trains with equipment were moved there and who else would command their trains?
The regiments final orders read; “To Lieutenant Colonel Tweeddale, commanding First Missouri Engineers near Washington, D.C., you will at once move your command to the cars on Maryland Ave. near Seventh St. embarking them under the direction of Capt. Howell and proceeding to Louisville, KY. What baggage you are to take will at once be dispatched to the Government depot near H St. Your men will be supplied six days rations – by order of Bvt. Gen. John Corse. The engineers mustered out July 22, 1865 at Louisville, Kentucky and for most they likely took ships to St. Louis. During their service, both as Bissell’s Engineers and as the First Missouri Engineers, 16 enlisted men were died or were mortally wounded. They also lost one officer and 146 Enlisted men to disease. A total of 163 men did not muster out.