General Lee had dispatched Humphreys’ Brigade as part of two divisions of the First Corps to the Western Theater of war after Longstreet’s assertion that “the best opportunity for great results is in Tennessee…I think we could accomplish more than by an advance from here.”
President Davis preferred that Lee himself go West, according to Shelby Foote, but “Lee demurred.” Davis acquiesced and by Sept 8, 1863, “the designated troops were on the move” to Northwest Georgia.
Four days later, a Saturday, the 13th Regiment “arrived at Weldon North Carolina at sunrise this morning,” Spartan Band diarist William H. Hill recorded.
Weldon was a small village on the Roanoke River and though “nothing more than a few houses and a grocery or two,” according to 17th Regiment diarist Robert A. Moore, Hill wrote that it “is the junction of several railroads.” They had traveled 63 miles from Petersburg.
Humphreys’ “Brigade left Weldon at 2 p.m.,” Hill continued, “on the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad for Raleigh,” a distance of 97 miles. They made Raleigh about 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 13, where Moore said they were not allowed to leave the depot “owing to the little difficulty…a few days since” when some Georgia troops sacked the printing plant of the Raleigh Standard newspaper.
“The people of Raleigh & vicinity,” Moore continued, “are very disloyal.”
After a delay of two hours, they rolled on, passing through Hillsboro at noon, and Greensboro at 8 p.m.
“We met with a slight accident at the Yadkin River Bridge,” Hill wrote. “One of the cars ran off the track and several of the soldiers were bruised by the jolting, but none were seriously hurt.”
Most of the troops were riding on open flat cars, around the wheels of field pieces tied down in the center. Longstreet’s aide Moxley Sorrell marveled at it, recording that:
“Never before were so many troops moved over such worn-out railways. Never before were such crazy cars—passenger, baggage, mail, coal, box, platform, all and every sort wobbling on the jumping strap-iron—used for hauling good soldiers.”
Hill wrote that they arrived at Charlotte, North Carolina, in clear and warm weather, at 8 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 14, having covered 179 miles from Raleigh.
“The ladies are out to-night to welcome us,” Moore added. “They have nice viands [meats] which is very acceptable to the souldiers. God bless the ladies.”
Crossing into South Carolina, they were again rewarded with attentive citizens who “received us very kindly,” Hill wrote, “and at several depots the soldiers were provided with a bountiful supply of provisions, gratis.”