Kilpatrick reports to Sherman that he has had considerable success against Wheeler’s cavalry, and that Columbia is not that strongly defended.
HEADQUARTERS CAVALRY COMMAND,
In the Field, Lexington, S. C., February 16, 1865.
GENERAL: I have the at my headquarters a discharged Confederate soldier, who left Richmond Saturday evening last at 6 p. m. He left Columbia yesterday evening. He reports R. E. Lee, and Longstreet stopping at the Plametto House. He thinks that, all told, militia and regular troops, the enemy has not over 20,000 effective, men.
Only a portion of S. D. Lee’s corps is in Columbia. Longstreet’s corps, or a portion of it, was expected but Grant’s attack on Burgess’ and Armstrong’s Mills, near Petersburg, delayed the departure. A large portion of Wheeler’s cavalry is now in and around Columbia; the remaining portion was in my rear at noon to-day, but is at this present moment crossing the river about fifteen miles above this point. Major-General Hampton is in Columbia, with two brigades of cavalry, Butler’s and Youngs, but not mounted. Their horses are now up in Fairfield District; have been sent for and are not expected before Sunday.
Seventeen hundred Federal officers were yesterday at noon still in Columbia, confined near the asylum. Nearly 20,000 of our prisoners he reports now in a large stockade on the Charlotte and Columbia Railroad ten miles from Columbia.
I don’t fear Wheeler and Hampton combined, even without supports. Wheeler’s men have thrown away and I have destroyed upward of 1,500 stand of arms in the various stampedes my people have given different portions of his command since leaving Sister’s Ferry. In the fight near Aiken in which one of my regiments (the Ninety-second Illinois), one company of the Ninth Michigan, and small detachments from the Ninth and Tenth Ohio and my staff and escort, were alone engaged against Humes’ and Allen’s divisions, commanded by Wheeler in person, I lost but 25 men killed and wounded and less than 20 taken prisoners. But was not a general fight, but simply a reconnaissance. This party fell slowly back from Aiken before these two divisions and at 11 a. m. Wheeler, with one brigade, feigned upon my left flank and charged me, mounted, with his entire command. I occupied a strong position, had no flanks, and he was most handsomely repulsed. His loss before he reached my barricades, in Allen’s division alone, according to his official report, was 31 killed and upward of 160 wounded. I took upward of 60 prisoners, and have in my possession 5 battle-flags as proof of our superiority over his cavalry.
I am now guarding the country from Wise’s Ferry across to and beyond the Two Notch road, and I am scouting the country farther south. I can hear of no force of the enemy in our rear. If I could be thrown across the Saluda I could capture a large number of horses, and should be only too happy to be thrown even across Broad river, when it will take more than Wheeler’s cavalry, assisted by Hampton, to keep me off of the Charlotte and Columbia Railroad.
I write you this in detail and fully, that you may have the facts in the case. Wheeler has, as usual, reported a victory over my people, whose backs he never yet has seen, and from all that I can learn a portion of our army seems only too willing to believe such reports. Unfortunately for me, Wheeler did not this time have the good fortune to meet and, rout, as at Waynesborough, one of our infantry corps.
I am ready, general, for any orders you may have to send me.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brevet Major-General, Commanding Cavalry.