Humphreys’ Brigade had left Charlotte, North Carolina at 10 a.m., on Sept. 14, 1863, two hours after their arrival. They were bound for Columbia, South Carolina, on the South Carolina Rail Road.
Along the way on their trip of 110 miles, the famous, middleaged Confederate diarist Mary Boykin Chestnut saw them as their flat cars passed by.
“At Kingsville I caught a glimpse of our army,” she wrote in a letter apparently begun four days earlier. “Longstreet’s corps was going West. God bless the gallant fellows! Not one man was intoxicated; not one rude word did I hear. It was a strange sight one part of it.
“There were miles, apparently, of platform cars, soldiers rolled in their blankets, lying in rows, heads all covered, fast asleep. In their gray blankets, packed in regular order, they looked like swathed mummies.
“One man near where I sat was writing on his knee. He used his cap for a desk and he was seated on a rail. I watched him, wondering to whom that letter was to go home, no doubt. Sore hearts for him there….
“A feeling of awful depression laid hold of me. All these fine fellows were going to kill or be killed. Why? And a phrase got to beating about my head like an old song, The Unreturning Brave. When a knot of boyish, laughing, young creatures passed me, a queer thrill of sympathy shook me. Ah, I know how your home-folks feel, poor children!”
The brigade arrived in Columbia at 2 a.m. on Sept. 15, 1863. They stayed six hours, according to Spartan Band diarist William H. Hill, before the train rolled on at 8 a.m., in clear and warm weather, bound for Augusta, Georgia.
That was long enough for 17th Mississippi Regiment diarist Robert A. Moore, commanding the Confederate Guards of Company G, to be left behind.
“I with several friends proceeded from the depot to the City,” Moore recorded. “The train left us and we had to remain here all day. This is a pleasant and beautiful city. The State house when completed, will be a magnificent building. The city is handsomely laid off, the streets are wide and most beautifully shaded. Have spent the day quite agreeably.”