Battle of Boykin's Mill

Site of the last Union officer killed in action during the American Civil War, Boykin’s Mill also hosted the final battle on South Carolina soil. Brigadier General Edward A. Potter took command of the two Northern brigades—2700 men—recently landed at Georgetown. Colonel Edward N. Hallowell, former second-in-command of the famed 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment and wounded at Fort Wagner, led one of the brigades including his former unit now consisting of over 700 men. Under orders to disable railroads in South Carolina, Potter’s brigades were forced to contend with Kentucky’s "Orphan Brigade" of mounted infantry from April 9 at Dingle’s Mill through the 18th.

On April 18, 1865, Potter’s troops met again with the Kentuckians in the quiet town of Boykin, South Carolina. The Confederates held a strong defensive position in an abandoned fort which required an assault in single file. The 54th Massachusetts was given the job and sustained two killed and thirteen wounded before Confederate troops, heavily outnumbered, ran from the field. The dead men were Corporal James P. Johnson and Lieutenant E. L. Stevens, the latter being the last Federal officer killed in action during the war.

Union troops pursued the fleeing Southerners unsuccessfully, and the mill was burned to the ground according to Major General William T. Sherman’s “Scorched Earth” policy. The engagement proved to be the bloodiest battle of the campaign for the 54th which had had the highest casualty rate of the operation. The two opposing units, however, (Potter’s and the Kentuckians) continued to skirmish through April 19 at Dinkin’s Mill where they fought the last major conflict of the Eastern Theater. The preliminary cessation of hostilities was announced to both sides two days later though Confederate General Johnston did not officially surrender until the 29th.

First Hand Accounts

Joseph T. Wilson of Company C of the 54th: “The heroes of Wagner and Olustee did not shrink from the trial, but actually charged in single file. The first to step upon the fatal path, went down like grass before the scythe, but over their prostrate bodies came their comrades, until the enemy panic-stricken by such determined daring, abandoned their position and fled.” [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3837/is_200207/ai_n9087402/pg_7 role of the 54th Massachusetts regimen on Potter's raid, The | Historical Journal of Massachusetts | Find Articles at BNET ] ]

Burwell Boykin, the 15 year old son of Confederate Colonel Alexander Hamilton Boykin fought there, defending his home:"After Sherman's departure, a small home guard, boys and old men, mixed with a few furloughed veterans, gathered in the vicinity of Camden in an effort to embarrass a greatly superior Federal force again threatening the town. Among the officers directing these defenders were General Stephen Elliot, Colonel W.M. Shannon, Captain Kennedy, Captain Conner and Captain Colcough. The Federals under General Potter entered Camden from the south about twenty-five hundred strong, Tuesday evening, April 18, 1865. They broke into the banks and safes, but were restrained from general pillage of the residences. They departed hurriedly the next morning because of the above mentioned home guards, who had been joined by some 500 Kentucky cavalry of Generals Lewis and Hannon, and who occupied the roads and crossings over Swift Creek along their lines of communications. This little force contested the ground at Boykin's Mill, nine miles south of Camden; but, after considerable firing, being outnumbered and outflanked, fell back to Dinkin's Mill, and on to Statesburg, where they dispersed." [http://www.angelfire.com/sc2/diary/boykinsmillsSC/boykinmill.html]

References


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