This minor cavalry raid through the South Carolina upstate occurred in the weeks following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the flight of Confederate president Jefferson Davis and his cabinet from Richmond, Virginia.
This minor cavalry raid through the South Carolina upstate occurred in the weeks following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the flight of Confederate president Jefferson Davis and his cabinet from Richmond, Virginia. In mid-April 1865 General William T. Sherman ordered two brigades of General George Stoneman’s federal cavalry, under the command of Colonels W. J. Palmer and S. B. Brown, into South Carolina to search for Davis and the fugitive Confederate government.
During the first week of May 1865, Palmer’s brigade entered South Carolina from Hendersonville, North Carolina, and moved toward Spartanburg, which fell without significant resistance or damage on May 2. Moving into Greenville, Palmer was joined by Brown’s brigade. Palmer then moved across the Tugaloo River into Georgia, while elements of Brown’s brigade occupied Greenville and seized Anderson. In each case the raid came almost as a complete surprise, as the upstate had been largely isolated from news of the conflict since the destruction of Columbia in February 1865. In Greenville physical damage and civilian casualties were minimal, but cavalrymen plundered shops and warehouses along Main Street throughout the day. The Soldier’s Rest Hospital, stripped of scarce medical supplies, served as a temporary headquarters for the raiders. However, apart from the plundering, it appears that the raiders did not inflict significant destruction or terror upon the town or its people.
In Anderson resistance to the raiders seems to have been sharper. Accounts indicate that Colonel Brown failed to maintain discipline among his soldiers, resulting in the harassment and beating of many citizens, the plundering of homes and businesses, and at least two casualties. As was the case in Greenville and Spartanburg, however, Anderson was spared burning.
Anderson was evacuated the day following its capture, and the federal units remaining in upper South Carolina were ordered back to Tennessee. Though Davis eluded capture in the Palmetto State, he eventually fell into Union hands on May 9, 1865, in Irwinville, Georgia.
Cooper, Nancy Vance Ashmore. Greenville: Woven from the Past. Sun Valley, Calif.: American Historical Press, 2000.
Huff, Archie Vernon, Jr. Greenville: The History of the City and County in the South Carolina Piedmont. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.
Keys, Thomas Bland. “The Federal Pillage of Anderson, South Carolina: Brown’s Raid.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 76 (April 1975): 80–86.
Mason, Frank H. “General Stoneman’s Last Campaign and the Pursuit of Jefferson Davis.” In Sketches of War History, 1861–1865: Papers Prepared for the Ohio Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, 1888–1890. Vol. 3 Cincinnati, Ohio: Robert Clarke, 1890.