Pvt. Harlan P. Martin, Co. E, 123rd New York Vols., datelined this letter to his mother from Raleigh, N. C. Saturday, April 15, 1865:
Raleigh, North Carolina
Saturday, April 18th 1865
As the mail goes out today, I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know where we were. We left Goldsboro the 10th inst. and reached here Thursday afternoon making the trip (53 miles) in four days. Johnston evacuated the place on our approach and retreated towards Hillsboro and Greensboro. Our regiment lead the advance from Goldsboro the first day and had some sharp work [known as the skirmish of Aiken’s Creek, April 10, 1865] with the rebel Wade Hampton’s Cavalry, losing one man killed and three wounded from the regiment. The one that was killed belonged to Co K from Granville. His name was William Tooley. ¹ None of our company was hurt. We met their videttes about 7 miles out from Goldsboro. Our regiment was immediately deployed as skirmishers and advanced, driving them back very easily till we came to a large swamp with a number of streams running through it. Here the rebs had tore the plank up from the bridge and we had to charge across on the stringers of the bridge and then plunge into the water waist deep and drive them out. Coming across the bridge, they had a raking fire on us and the only wonder was they did not kill more. We were about 2 hours in the water nearly waste deep but when we got them out on to dry land, we paid them off some, killing 2 and wounding 8 of them. After this, they made but little opposition to our advance. I suppose their infantry is at Hillsboro 40 miles west of here where they gave out they would make a stand, or at Greensboro 82 miles west.
We have heard of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to Gen. Grant and the talk is that Sherman, Sheridan, & Stanley are making their way to us and all predict the speedy destruction of Johnston’s Army, but the idea is whether they will fight us or not again. It would and does seem folly for them to try to do it, but they are soldiers and if ordered to fight, will do it. But with no chance of success, a great many think they will give up. But I believe we will [have] to fight them yet.
I suppose we will cut loose from communications here. Mounted foragers have been detailed again and we move in the morning, I believe.
Raleigh — the capitol of the State of North Carolina — is one of the finest of Southern cities and goes ahead of any I have seen yet. The Capitol is a large and splendid building. They also have many fine public buildings & splendid churches. 2 of them are almost equal in height to Trinity Church in New York City. Very few citizens left on our approach. All seem well satisfied and pleased with the change of rulers and take the Confederacy as a played out thing. The editor of the Raleigh Standard stayed here and are to continue the printing of their paper. They are Union men and their office has been mobbed by Confederate soldiers 2 or 3 times.
Near where we are encamped at the edge of the city is an Insane Asylum filled with insane patients. It is a splendid building built of stone. To the main building is attached 2 wings where the patients are kept. Each wing is 320 feet long and about 75 feet wide. The main building is 80 wide making an aggregate of 720 feet long. In one wing is kept male and the [other female] patients. The building is 4 story from the ground. We are not allowed to go inside but from the outside we can see them looking through the iron grates at us and we looking at them. Some are crazy as loons; others appear half rational and others quite rational. Anyhow, they are pitiable objects.
It may be some time before we get around to communications again and I don’t know for certain as we are to cut loose. It depends probably a good deal how things shape themselves. But I want you to write anyhow. On the South Carolina campaign, you never wrote till we had got through and by the time I got your letter we were ready to start again.
Give my love to Grandmother and the rest. So goodbye.
— H. Page Martin
Co. E, 123rd New York Volunteers
1st Brigade, 1st Division, 20th Army Corps
Army of Georgia
¹ “The spring of 1864 was unseasonably rainy and wet in the Carolinas and movement for the Union Army, both on and off-road, was extremely difficult. The campaign was made even more challenging by the fact that almost every bridge in their path had been destroyed by the Confederates, and each crossing was most often opposed by enemy forces. On the road between Goldsboro and Chesterfield, N.C., the crossing of Moccasin Creek was no different. The creek flowed in two branches at this point (as it does today) and the water reached far beyond its banks, covering the surrounding fields to knee-depth. While the 123rd NYV was successful in making this crossing, and brushing aside the Confederate forces in front of them, they suffered several wounded and one soldier killed in action. This unfortunate soul — the last to die in the war from the 123rd NYV and possibly from all of Sherman’s Army — was Granville’s William A. Tooley, 24 years old, survivor of capture at Chancellorsville, and brother of Horace, who was killed in 1864 at the battle of New Hope Church. Moccasin Creek/Swamp – Vicinity of the 10 April, 1865 skirmish, between the 123rd NY Volunteers and Confederate troops, where William Tooley became the last soldier killed from the “Washington County Regiment,” and possibly of Sherman’s entire Army. This location is within the current town limits of Princeton, NC, along what is now highway NC-1007 (Brogden Road).” [Source: Granville in the Civil War by Col. Edward Fish, Sr.]