Mission Statement:

"To advance through research, education and symposia, an increased public awareness of the Cape Fear region's unique history."

 

 

Colonel Thomas Jefferson Lipscomb

Second South Carolina Cavalry -- The Wilmington Campaign

 

Cape Fear Historical Institute Papers

 

 

Colonel Thomas Jefferson Lipscomb commanded a detachment

of the Second South Carolina Cavalry assigned to the support of

Gen. Robert F. Hoke’s division near Fort Fisher in late 1864.

With an enemy attack imminent on that fortress guarding the

Cape Fear River and Wilmington, Col. Lipscomb’s troopers

provided cavalry scouting and skirmishing that harassed

enemy movements once they had landed.

 

Early Life

He was born in Abbeville District, SC on 27 March 1833.

He was educated at the University of Virginia, and was a graduate

of the South Carolina and Jefferson (Philadelphia) Medical

Colleges, the latter in 1854. 

 

Lipscomb was involved in an 1857 masked ball incident at

the home of Arthur Simkins, editor of the Edgefield (South Carolina) Advertiser.  During a quadrille Lipscomb claimed a vacant position

which was also claimed by Matthew Calbraith Butler; a bitter

argument ensued with a challenge to a duel made and accepted. 

At a field of honor near Augusta, though at the last minute friends convinced both men to reconcile their differences and call off

the duel. They became fast friends and served together as colonels

of the Second South Carolina Cavalry during the War.

 

Medical Studies in France

After spending six months as a medical intern in New York and

eighteen months in Paris, France to complete his medical studies,

Thomas was called home due to his father’s illness; he purchased

a plantation in Laurens which he farmed for three years, then sold

it and acquired another near Newberry where he remained

until the outbreak of war in 1861.

Wartime Service

After the Fort Sumter hostilities he was elected lieutenant of

Company B, Third South Carolina Infantry on April 14, and

marched with it to the battle of First Manassas in July 1861.

His uncle, Brigadier-General Milledge Luke Bonham (1813-1890)

then took Lipscomb on as his aide-de-camp where he served

until late 1862 when Bonham was elected governor

of South Carolina. 

 

Lipscomb was transferred to the staff of General Joseph B.

Kershaw until early 1863; then raised a company of cavalry,

served as captain with rank as of 4 May 1862, and assigned to

Gen. Wade Hampton’s Legion.  With the reorganization of Lee’s

Army of Northern Virginia in mid-1863, Hampton’s cavalry and

the Fourth South Carolina Cavalry were consolidated and renamed

the Second South Carolina Cavalry, under the command of

Brigadier Matthew Calbraith Butler. At the battle of

Stevensburg, Lipscomb earned promotion to major on

22 August 1862; lieutenant-colonel on 10 June 1862;

colonel on 1 September 1863. 

 

The battles fought by the Second South Carolina Cavalry in

the Army of Northern Virginia  included Second Manassas,

Stone Mountain, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Brandy Station,

Second Winchester, Upperville, Gettysburg, Bristoe, Mine Run,

Todd’s Tavern, the Wilderness, Ground Squirrel Church, and

Brooks’ Church.  In May 1864 the infantry battalion of

Hampton’s South Carolina Legion was mounted and united

with the Second Cavalry.  It was then re-designated the

Hampton South Carolina Cavalry Legion.  

After Cold Harbor, it participated in numerous conflicts near

the James River and the Appomattox campaign. 

 

An online history of the Second South Carolina Cavalry

indicates Col. Lipscomb was detached to South Carolina

in 1864: a May 17, 1864 message from District of South Carolina commander Major-General Sam Jones in Charleston ordered

Lipscomb to “bring all his men” to Columbia without delay. 

Another source, Seigler's "South Carolina's Military Organizations

During the War Between the States," volume II, notes on page 295

that the First and Second SC Cavalry were ordered to South

Carolina to "recruit and remount . . . The 2nd left its camp on

March 20 [1864] bound for Columbia, the men by rail and

the horses traveling overland.  It arrived in Columbia about

April 2 and was sent to James Island via Charleston

in mid-April.  The [Official Records] notes that the regiment

was ordered to Charleston on May 17.  The regiment remained

on James Island only a day or two before it was ordered elsewhere. 

Its companies were seperated and sent to various locations

along the coast. Company G went to Pawley's Island . . ."

It is speculated that the latter company could have been sent further

north to provide Gen. Robert F. Hoke with a small cavalry arm led

by Col. Lipscomb as the former arrived in Wilmington in late

December, 1864 with his 4600-man division from Virginia. 

Intelligence reports indicated that Fort Fisher near Wilmington

was threatened with attack.  

The Wilmington Campaign

Col. Lipscomb's Second SC Cavalry detachment was present

at Fort Fisher near Wilmington from January 1 thru January 5,

1865 and listed under Harrison’s Brigade, McLaw’s Division;

afterward the “Carolina Campaign” in February 1865 under

Gen. Thomas M. Logan’s Brigade.  Lipscomb is then designated

as at Bentonville March 19 and 20, 1865 and still under Logan.

 

With the imminent threat of enemy attack on Fort Fisher below

Wilmington, General Robert F. Hoke’s division begins arriving

at Wilmington on 24 December 1864 to support the fort, and the

Second South Carolina cavalry appears in orders from

Col. Archer Anderson (Braxton Bragg’s AAG) on 12 January

1865, to report “to Gen. Hoke at Sugarloaf except for one

company” to remain at Masonborough (Sound) as pickets

to monitor an enemy landing.  The natural and large sand

dune called Sugarloaf is a little more than 4 miles

above Fort Fisher.

 

On January 17, two days after the fall of Fort Fisher,

Col. Lipscomb is at Gander Hall (today’s Carolina Beach,

an east bank landing on the Cape Fear River north of the

State Park) and ordered to send an officer and 25 troopers

to Major Reid of the commissary in Wilmington.

At Masonboro Sound above Fort Fisher, Hoke is using

Lipscomb’s cavalry with two pieces of artillery to thwart

enemy movements northward.

 

On February 18 two companies of Col. Lipscomb’s cavalry

of 152 troopers were ferried to the west side of the Cape Fear

River (to Gen. Louis Hebert) to oppose the enemy advance

from Smithville toward Fort Anderson, which is opposite

Sugarloaf.  Col. Lipscomb then has one of his squadrons in

Jacksonville and fifty with Major Reid, and his horses are

breaking down from overuse. 

He requests for his horses ten pounds of corn for ten days.

 

As well-described in Brigadier-General Johnson Hagood’s

“Memoir’s of the War of Secession,” Col. Lipscomb’s main

body of cavalry (about 100 troopers) provided Hagood with

reports of enemy strength and movements. After the evacuation

of Fort Anderson on February 19, Col. Lipscomb’s scouted

and harassed enemy movements, but his 100 men and a field

piece were no match for the 3,000-man enemy

force moving northward.

His cavalry then fell back to Hagood’s new Town Creek line of

defense across the Cape Fear River from Hoke’s new line at

Forks Road, several miles below Wilmington (the intersection

of today’s 17th Street and Independence Boulevard).    

 

With little time to establish his defensive position at Town Creek,

Hagood’s position was crushed by an enemy assault of ten times

his strength – in the subsequent rout Lipscomb’s cavalry covered

the retreat and guarded the pontoon bridge to Eagle Island (near

today’s Leland) and the ferry to Wilmington.  

After Hagood’s troops had crossed the river to Wilmington before

dawn on February 21, “Colonel Lipscomb’s cavalry torched the

Wilmington & Manchester Railroad trestle and dismantled

a pontoon bridge spanning the Brunswick River on the west

side of Eagles Island.”  This is an island west of the city with

the Brunswick River on its west side, and the Cape Fear River

between it and the city.

 

Lipscomb’s cavalry rode through the city as government supplies

and cotton were set afire, and awaited Hoke’s now-combined

force to pass ahead of the approaching enemy.  Hoke’s force

then marched northward along the Wilmington and Weldon tracks

to its destination at Rockfish Creek below the town of Duplin Roads.  

Col. Lipscomb’s cavalry was Hoke’s rear guard and screened

the retreat with devastating hit and run attacks on pursuing

enemy skirmishers.

 

Of note, Gen. Hoke had wisely taken all railroad rolling stock in

the city with him so as to leave the enemy with tracks but no

equipment with which to pursue him. 

As Hoke’s force rested and re-quipped, Lipscomb’s cavalry rode

scouting duty between enemy advanced units at Northeast Station

on the Cape Fear River (today’s county line between New Hanover

and Pender counties at Highway 117). The enemy did not pursue

as it consolidated its investment of Wilmington.

 

Gen. Hoke’s division rested and re-equipped on the north bank

of Rockfish Creek while administering a 10,000 man exchange

of prisoners to the enemy now occupying Wilmington, the cavalry

regularly patrolling the 30 miles between enemy lines above

Wilmington and Rockfish Creek. 

To Kinston and Bentonville

Hoke departed Rockfish Creek on March 5th to confront an enemy

thrust at Kinston, with Hagood writing that Col. Lipscomb

“was left to watch the enemy at Northeast River (above

Wilmington), which they had shown no disposition

to cross . . .” After a short engagement at Kinston,Hoke fell

back toward Smithfield.

 

Col. Lipscomb no doubt led his command toward Kinston and Goldsborough from the Northeast River, and it is reported that the

enemy captured Goldsboro with stiff resistance from the Second

South Carolina Cavalry (Bentonville, Moore, pg. 69)

 

At this time Gen. Thomas Logan’s cavalry, of which the Second

SC Cavalry was evidently now a part, was well west at Bentonville, securing Mills Creek Bridge; Gen. Joe Wheeler’s cavalry was

with Gen. Lafayette McLaw’s, and Col. Lipscomb was between

Hoke’s rearguard after coming to Bentonville from Kinston. 

After the Bentonville battle, Lipscomb – as part of Logan’s

command – screened Gen. Joe Johnston’s withdrawal toward

Raleigh and beyond.  

 

As part of Johnston’s Army of Tennessee, Col. Lipscomb’s

command would have been included in the surrender of late April,

1865 as part of that army, and then returned to South Carolina.   

The Postwar  

Col. Lipscomb returned to work his Newberry plantation.

Two years afterward he accompanied James Chappell to the latter’s nearby home which “was the target of arson or so rumored.”

For the active part Col. Lipscomb took “in compelling the black

citizens to disperse and as a reward for his efforts, a few nights

later, his home was burned to the ground by colored citizens,

his wife and himself barely escaping with their lives.”

(Laurensville Herald, 24 November 1871).

 

In 1870 he became a cotton broker in Newberry until 1878

and his election as Superintendent of the State Penitentiary –

remaining at that post until 1890.  He afterward moved to

Columbia where his popularity brought him election as

mayor of Columbia in 1898.

 

Lipscomb married Harriet Victoria “Hattie” Harrington (1832-1925), daughter of William H. Harrington and granddaughter of

Chief Justice O’Neal.  Six children were born of their union –

Moriat Harrington (1869-1869); Unnamed infant son (1872-1872); William Harrington (1874-1897); Sarah Bonham (1876-1882);

Thomas J. (1878-1916); and Hattie Harrington (1880-1881).

 

Colonel Lipscomb died at the age of 75 on November 4, 1908 in Columbia, South Carolina, and is buried in Rosemont Cemetery, Newberry, South Carolina.  

 

Col. John L. Black of the First South Carolina Cavalry said

of Lipscomb that “he would never learn “red tape.”

Complied by Bernhard Thuersam

 

Sources:

War for Independence in South Carolina: www.researchonline.net/sccw/unit70.htm

Confederate Colonels, B. Allardice, U of Missouri Press, 2008

Memoirs -War of Secession, Johnson Hagood, State Company, 1910

www.findagrave.com  

SC Military Organizations/WBTS, R.S. Seigler, Arcadia, 2008

Kincaid/Anderson Family Papers, www.library.sc.edu/socar/uscs/1995/kincd95.html

www.genealogytrails.com/scar/newberry/observer/1878-1905Li.htm

The Wilmington Campaign, Chris Fonvielle, Savas, 1997,