Note: One of my great grandfathers, Charles Sawyer, a forty-year-old father of four, volunteered as a musician and medical corpsman in the 141st New York Infantry, XXth Corps. He kept a daily record of his services from October 7, 1864 to June 13, 1865. In March 1865 his unit entered Sampson County. They followed highways U.S 301 and NC 13 from Fayetteville to Newton Grove.
March 13th: Reveille at half past six. March at 2PM to the city of Fayetteville. March through the city in review. Cross the Cape Fear River and go about 3.5 miles into camp. Marched seven miles (today). Weather warm and pleasant.
March 14th: Reveille at five AM. Remained where we camped last night. Weather warm.
March 15th: Play reveille at five AM. March at 9AM. March eleven miles. Weather warm. Thundershower.
March 16th: Reveille at five. March at eight. Marched until eleven o’clock, then Rebs met us and we formed into line of battle and went in. We steadily advanced on them for an hour, then they held us steady. The battle raged with great fury for two hours. Then it wound off with sharp skirmishes until dark, and a long time after. Then it dried up and the Rebs left sometime in the night. And thus ends the battle of Silver Creek. The battle was fought in the woods near Averasboro. Weather warm and rainy.
March 17th: Get up in the morning, get breakfast and await orders. Marched at half past nine. March out onto the road and halt for the 14th Corps to pass us, and then have to wait for our train to pass. Finally got started after dark. The road was very bad. March three miles all told, and go into camp at ten PM. Weather clear and pleasant, but chilly.
March 18th: Reveille at six. March at 9:15AM. Make but little headway as the road is very bad. Make about ten miles and go into camp at midnight. Weather warm and pleasant.
March 19th: Sunday. Reveille at half past five. March at eight. About ten o’clock we heard cannon in our front (start of the Battle of Bentonville). We marched on until somewhere around 3PM and we came where the battle was raging. We went on to the left, and commenced to throw up breastworks. We were not there but a few minutes when we were ordered farther to the right. Then we musicians limbered to the rear and let them go in, and from that time until dark there was a dreadful battle. The Rebs charged our works seven times and was repulsed each time with great loss. I have not yet heard the loss figures on either side.
Marched ten miles (today). Our rations for a long time has been sweet potatoes and pork enough to make any man sick. Weather pleasant and war. Saw peach trees in full bloom.
March 20th: Get up in the morning. Felt very bad. Felt very weak and am waiting to hear what the next move might be. Laid rather quiet and towards night began to feel better. After dark there came an order for two musicians of my regiment to report to the sergeant in charge of the first division hospital. I was one of the two detailed to go. Went over and reported and they told us we might camp for the night.
March 21st: In the morning we were ordered to help the poor wounded men into the ambulances. Well, I went in and done as well as I could, and after we got them loaded we started on. We had a very rough time of it. The road was swampy and corduroy a good share of the way. And it rained a good share of the day, but we kept jogging and finally stopped about eleven o’clock at night, fifteen miles from where we started. I was up the rest of the night attending to the wounded men.
March 22nd: Attended to the wounded in the morning. Ate our breakfast and helped to take down the tents. Started about half past six o’clock. And went seven miles. Stopped and commenced to put up tents, and then was ordered to the Neuse River, one mile further. So down goes the tents and away we go. Moved down there, put injured men in tents, and then at 10PM lay down for the night. Weather pleasant but chilly.
Note: The diary continues to describe a month at an army hospital in Goldsboro, then the transfer of the wounded to New York by sea at Morehead City. Expeditious rail service existed from New Bern to Raleigh where Sherman’s army was concentrated to follow General Joe Johnston’s army after General Lee’s surrender. Later, the Union troops were hurried to Washington for review and demobilization.