When the Union commander of what became known as the Civil War's 1865 Carolinas campaign needed to communicate with one of his subordinate generals, an unlikely team of U.S. Navy Sailors volunteered for the mission.
In mid-February 1865, Union Major General William Tecumseh Sherman departed the recently captured city of Columbia, South Carolina, to march north and link with Federal forces in North Carolina. While he was certainly accustomed to working independently behind Confederate lines, it was important that the general be informed of the capture of Wilmington and the possibility of an open supply line from that port to his divisions. By late February, Sherman was sending out scouts to find friendly forces in eastern North Carolina. Two such men—in the uniforms of Rebel officers—brought word to Wilmington that Sherman wished urgently to communicate with the Union commander there. Volunteers were called for to carry encrypted dispatches through enemy lines to locate Sherman's army somewhere near the border with South Carolina. The most unusual among these was a team of Sailors that set out on 4 March from Wilmington.