Sherman's March through the Carolinas

Sherman's March through the Carolinas

Sherman's March through the Carolinas

Sherman's March through the Carolinas


In retrospect, General William Tecumseh Sherman considered his march through the Carolinas the greatest of his military feats, greater even than the Georgia campaign. When he set out northward from Savannah with 60,000 veteran soldiers in January 1865, he was more convinced than ever that the bold application of his ideas of total war could speedily end the conflict. Before him lay South Carolina, the birthplace of secession. Beyond were North Carolina and Virginia, where Grant and Lee stood deadlocked. John Barrett's story of what happened in the three months that followed is based on printed memoirs and documentary records of those who fought and of the civilians who lived in the path of Sherman's onslaught. The burning of Columbia, the battle of Bentonville, and Joseph E. Johnston's surrender nine days after Appomattox are at the center of the story, but Barrett also focuses on other aspects of the campaign, such as the undisciplined pillaging of the "bummers", and on its effects on local populations. Sherman himself, at the culmination of his military career, emerges here in an appealing portrait. His prewar sympathy for the South and its cause were in conflict with his love of the union and his theory of the least painful way of bringing the war to a conclusion. His unsuccessful attempt to offer the South a peace treaty that would restore the region to its prewar status is masterfully told and invokes a new and sympathetic understanding of the man.


General William Tecumseh Sherman always maintained that the Carolinas campaign of 1865 was his greatest military achievement. Writing after the war he said: "No one ever has and may not agree with me as to the very great importance of the march north from Savannah. the march to the sea seems to have captured everybody, whereas it was child's play compared with the other." the Georgia campaign, as Sherman suspected, has through the years caught the interest of both the public and the historian. the story of this march has been often and well told. Little has been written of Sherman's important operations in North and South Carolina. This omission has left incomplete the story of the end of the war on the Eastern front. the author has attempted both to correct the omission and to assess the validity of Sherman's personal judgment.

This book was prepared under the immediate direction of Professor Fletcher M. Green, head of the history department of the University of North Carolina. Without his advice, encouragement, and understanding this volume would not have been possible.

Sincere thanks are also due to Professors Hugh T. Lefler and James W. Patton of the University of North Carolina, and Richard E. Welch, Jr. of the Virginia Military Institute. These three historians read the manuscript in its entirety and made invaluable criticisms.

In addition I am indebted to the University of North Carolina Press, to Mrs. John B. Graham, my sister, and to Mrs. Marion Smith of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, whose careful examination of the manuscript prevented many literary errors.

Special thanks go to Mr. Jay Luvaas of Duke University who made available to me much valuable material on the battle of Bentonville.

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