North Carolina Civil War Documentary

By W. Buck Yearns; John G. Barret | Go to book overview
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In January 1865, General William Tecumseh Sherman's 60,000 veterans began crossing the Savannah River for their march through the Carolinas. Sherman's plan of campaign called for a march directly on Columbia, South Carolina, and then to Goldsboro, North Carolina, by way of Fayetteville on the Cape Fear. Goldsboro was important to Sherman because it was connected to the Carolina coast by two railroads running respectively from Morehead City (via New Bern) and Wilmington.

Between Savannah and Goldsboro the general planned, however, to destroy all rail lines in his path and live off the land. This would not only provide the army with food and forage but also give it considerable mobility. At the same time Sherman's plan of total war called for the devastation of the heart of the two Carolinas. Factories and public property were to be burned. Furthermore, since Sherman considered all of the people of the South technically as enemies of the Union, he planned to use his military forces against the civilian population as well as the troops opposing him. He believed this phase of his total war concept would demoralize not only the noncombatants at home but also the men under arms.

BY 3 March Sherman's army had reached Cheraw, its last stop in South Carolina. Here the general learned that Joseph E. Johnston had replaced P. G. T. Beauregard as commander of the Confederate forces in the Carolinas. He now correctly surmised that his able opponent would unite his various small bands, which were scattered from Mississippi to the Carolinas, and at a place of his own choosing strike one of the Union columns on the move.

Five days later Sherman had his entire army on North Carolina soil in the vicinity of Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church (in present-day Scotland County). The most formidable obstacle ahead was the treacherous water of the Lumber River and its adjacent swamps. "It was the damnest marching I ever saw," remarked Sherman.1 "Such a wild scene of splash

William W. Calkins, The History of the One Hundred and Fourth Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 294.


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North Carolina Civil War Documentary


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