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American Civil War: Sherman's March through the Confederacy

American Civil War: Sherman's March through the Confederacy

American Civil War: Sherman's March through the Confederacy

Back: Tennessee and Kentucky

AtlantaTo the Sea South Carolina North Carolina In at the Kill


Until 1864, Georgia had been barely touched by the war. The Confederate victory at Chickamauga in 1863 had seen off a previous Union invasion, and forced the fighting back north into Tennessee. At the start of 1864, the new commander of the Division of the Mississippi was William Tecumseh Sherman. He was in the pleasant situation of being a friend and colleague of General Grant, now General in Chief. Grant appears to have modified his orders to Sherman to take into account his friend’s dislike of major battles. While Grant set out to destroy Lee’s army, Sherman was ordered to move against Johnston’s army and also to do as much damage as possible to the interior of Georgia.

Sherman interpreted his orders as allowing him to concentrate on the capture of Atlanta. While his attitude did allow him to capture the city with suffering heavily losses, it did mean that Johnston’s army survived and had to be defeated elsewhere. This does not mean that Atlanta was not a valid target. It was a key railroad junction, especially important as a connection to Richmond. It had also developed into a major centre of Confederate munitions production.

Sherman’s advance on Atlanta saw two generals with a similar attitude to the major fixed battle engage in one of the most skilful campaigns of the war. Joseph Johnston, the Confederate commander, had held the Virginia command before suffering serious wounds in 1862. In 1863 he had failed to prevent the loss of Vicksburg, partly because he was unwilling to throw away the lives of his men in what he rightly saw as a futile attack on superior Union forces.

Now he had the sort of situation in which he could thrive. Sherman had close to 100,000 men to launch his invasion, while Johnston could muster 75,000 men. If he could persuade Sherman to attack strong positions, then he would have enough men to inflict a heavy defeat on the attacking army. Northern Georgia was perfectly suited to his defensive strategy. Sherman would have to cross a series of rivers and mountain barriers between Chattanooga and Atlanta.

Johnston began his defence close to the Tennessee border. His first plan was to defend Dalton, where two railroads met. His defences ran along Rocky Face Ridge, to the west of the main railroad, before turning to block the line north. Sherman’s advance was still tied to the railroads. Even at the start of his campaign, he had to protect 150 miles of railroad across Tennessee back to Union territory.

The same single track railroad that Sherman was hoping to advance along was also Johnston’s main line of retreat. Faced with the Rocky Face Ridge defences, Sherman attempted to cut Johnston off. He send two thirds of his arm to launch a feint again Johnston’s right, and the remaining third was sent south through the mountains to cut the railway line at Resaca, fifteen miles further down the line. The plan almost succeeded. James McPherson’s flanking attack managed to get through the mountains, but failed to assault weak Confederate defences at Resaca (9 May).

Although Sherman had not cut Johnston off, he was now dangerously close to the railroad, and so Johnston was forced to withdraw from his strong position at Rocky Face Ridge to Resaca. The same pattern repeated itself at Resaca, from where Johnston withdrew to Cassville. There, Johnston had a chance to strike at part of Sherman’s force, isolated from the rest of his army in the search for faster routes through the mountains.

Unfortunately, the counterattack was never launched. Johnston’s strategy of trading space for time, only attacking when he had a chance to fall on an isolated part of the Union army, was probably the best one available to the Confederacy. Stonewall Jackson had certainly agreed with it. However, it was not popular with the Southern population, who expected their generals to fight the invader. As Johnston’s army got closer to Atlanta, the pressure on him to fight increased.

Ironically Sherman provided him with an opportunity to fight the sort of battle Johnston preferred. Johnston had prepared another defensive position at Allatoona, thirty miles from Atlanta. Sherman outflanked this position, and made for Dallas, twenty miles south of Allatoona. Johnston received news of the move just in time to get his men in place to block Sherman at New Hope Church (25-27 May). The weather now played a role. Heavy rain on clay roads meant that there was little chance of any fast flanking moves. Sherman was stuck in front of Johnston’s defensive positions on Kennesaw Mountain.

After a month of skirmishing, Sherman decided to attempt a frontal assault on the Confederate position, partly to encourage his men’s attacking spirit! The attack on 27 June was a total failure. Sherman suffered 1,999 killed and wounded, Johnston only 270. This was the sort of battle that Johnston needed to fight if he was to defeat Sherman’s invasion.

He was not to get another chance. The rain stopped, the roads dried out, and Sherman was finally able to outflank the Kennesaw Mountain position. Johnston was forced to fall back into the defences of Atlanta after Sherman forced him out of two final defensive positions. In Atlanta, Johnston now hoped to use the local militia to defend the city, leaving his army free to deal with Sherman, whose numerical advantage might be negated by the need to maintain a siege. However, President Davis had lost patience with Johnston, and on 18 July replaced him with General John Hood.

Hood was a much more aggressive commander. Sherman was later to say that he welcomed this appointment because Hood was likely to launch the sort of attack that would give Sherman’s men the chance to defeat the Confederate armies. Two days after his appointment, Hood launched his first attack. However, this was not a reckless assault, but an attempt to take advantage of a genuine opportunity, following a plan that was already in place when Hood was appointed.

Two of Sherman’s Armies were to the east of Atlanta, trying to move around the Confederate right. The third, Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland, was crossing over Peach Tree Creek, north of the city, and was at least two miles distant from the nearest reinforcements. Hood planned to fall on this isolated Union army as it was crossing the creek. If his plan had succeeded then he might have inflicted a heavy defeat on one part of Sherman’s army. In the event (battle of Peach Tree Creek, 20 July 1864), Hood’s attack came too late to catch the Union forces in the crossing, and was repulsed with heavy losses.

Undaunted, Hood launched another attack against a potentially isolated section of the Union line, this time McPherson’s army east of the city. Once again, this attack was repulsed (Battle of Atlanta, 22 July 1864), although McPherson was killed in the fighting.

Sherman’s attention now moved to the remaining rail links in Confederate hands, the Macon and Western Central Railroad, heading south, and the Montgomery and West Point Railroad, which split from the first line five miles outside Atlanta and headed south west. He sent McPherson’s army, under its new commander, Oliver O. Howard, on a long march around the back of the Union position to attack the railroad. On 28 July, Howard’s army defeated the Confederate force sent to stop him (Battle of Ezra Church), but the advance was still halted.

For the next month the fighting around Atlanta settled into a regular siege. Public opinion both North and South began to believe that Sherman’s expedition was about to end in failure. On 26 August the Confederates found all but one corps gone from the trenches, they celebrated victory, assuming that cavalry raids against the long Union supply line had worked and forced Sherman to withdraw.

They were wrong. Sherman had withdrawn from the siege lines in order to free his army for one final outflanking march. This time they swept around the Confederate left wing, quickly cutting the Montgomery and West Point railroad far beyond any Confederate defences. If Hood had reacted in time, he could have used the Macon Railroad to at least attempt block Sherman’s move, but he didn’t believe that Sherman’s attack was in earnest until 30 August, by which time it was too late.

Sherman’s men were only four miles from the Macon Railroad on 30 August. The next day they repelled a Confederate attack (Battle of Jonesboro, 31 August) and then seized control of the Railroad. Finally, on 1 September, Hood realised that his last railroad had been cut. Overnight, he withdrew from the city, and on 2 September the corps that Sherman had left in the trenches outside Atlanta was able to occupy the city.

The risks of concentrating on the capture of Atlanta rather than the destruction of the Confederate army were soon demonstrated. With Atlanta lost, Hood was now free to roam around northern Georgia attacking Sherman’s extended supply lines. Sherman spent two months after the fall of Atlanta fending off these attacks, without ever coming to grips with Hood.

Ironically, it was Hood who provided Sherman with the solution to this problem. In an attempt to force Sherman to pull back from Atlanta, Hood decided to invade Tennessee. Sherman’s response was to dispatch General Thomas back to Tennessee with enough men to deal with Hood. This left Sherman free to consider his next move. First, he decided to expel the civilian population of Atlanta. Across the second half of September an orderly evacuation took place. Many civilians had already fled from the city as Sherman’s siege tightened. Now most of those who had remained were shipped south across the Confederate lines. Sherman did this in part to send a message to the southern population and in part to reduce the need for a large garrison in Atlanta.

To the Sea

This was important because Sherman’s new plans would require all of his resources. From late September, Sherman became convinced that he could abandon his supply line, turn east and march across the heart of Georgia to the sea. His army would forage as it marched, living off the land in the same way that the Confederates had often done during the war. By the end of October he had convinced Grant of the wisdom of this plan. Once at the coast, Sherman could turn north into the Carolinas, the most substantial part of the Confederacy as yet to be significantly touched by the war, at least away from the coast.

Sherman saw his expedition as having several complementary aims. The areas he was planning to march through would be physically devastated so that they could neither support a Confederate army nor provide any more aid to the war effort. Civilian morale, crucial to the maintenance of the Confederate war effort, would be badly damaged. Finally, the image of a Union army able to march through the middle of the Confederacy would destroy what little credibility the rebels had internationally. It would be a clear sign that the end of the war was close.

Sherman and Grant were right. On 15 November Sherman’s army began their famous ‘march to the sea’. It was possible for a large Union army to survive by foraging in enemy territory. Sherman’s 60,000 soldiers became expert scavengers, leaving a trail of devastation behind them. They faced little or no military opposition. Hood marched north to Tennessee and defeat. Between Atlanta and the coast the Confederacy managed to gather no more that a few thousand Georgia militia, who at least attempted one attack on Sherman’s rearguard (22 November) and 3,500 cavalry under Joseph Wheeler, who gained nearly as bad a reputation as Sherman’s foragers. The Confederacy was already fully mobilised by 1864 – there were no more men to be found.

The devastation caused by Sherman’s men was almost entirely material. The people themselves were largely left alone. Even after Sherman’s men liberated a Confederate prisoner of war camp at Millen, the army remained remarkably restrained. On the other hand Sherman was able to report that the army had taken all of the food from a region ‘thirty miles on either side of a line from Atlanta to Savannah’ and inflicted some $100,000,000 worth of damage.

At Savannah Sherman finally found some opposition. General Hardee had managed to gather 18,000 men to defend the port, but when Sherman’s army appeared he decided not to stand and fight. On 20-21 December the Confederate garrison escaped over a bridge of boats. Sherman had reached the sea.

South Carolina

Now Sherman had reached the coast, he and Grant had to decide what his army should do next. Grant briefly considered shipping the army to Virginia, to help finish off Lee. This suggestion appears to have pleased no one – Sherman was furious, while the veterans of the Army of the Potomac felt that they didn’t need any help to finish the job.

Sherman and Grant did not have to look far to find a better use for Sherman’s army. Just over the Savannah River was South Carolina, the first state to secede and the site of the first fighting at Fort Sumter. Many in Sherman’s army felt that South Carolina had caused the war and should be punished. The foraging in South Carolina was to be markedly more severe than it had been in Georgia. The mood of the army was not improved by taunting messages they had been sent from South Carolina promising a sterner fight in that state.

In reality there was little resistance in South Carolina. General Beauregard, now commanding the resistance to Sherman, could field 22,500 men. Sherman still had his 60,000 men. On 1 February 1865 the offensive began.

Beauregard’s best hope was that the appallingly wet winter weather would combine with the dozens of rivers in his path to stop Sherman. This was to underestimate the skills of the Union army. Despite all the obstacles in their way, Sherman’s men moved north at ten miles per day across swamp and river. The very ease with which they overcame natural barriers that the Confederates had regarded as impassable played a major role in demoralising their opponents.

Sherman also out thought his opponents. The Confederates believed that Sherman would either move north west towards the munitions works at Augusta or north east towards Charleston. They split their forces between the two cities. Sherman took advantage of this, moving his armies in a way that threatened both places. However, neither was his target. He drove straight north between them and on 17 February captured Columbia, the state capital. This move isolated Augusta and Charleston, both of which had to be abandoned.

North Carolina

The final stage of Sherman’s march through the Confederacy finally saw the Confederates offer some significant resistance. Sherman once again faced Joseph Johnston, restored to high command at Lee’s insistence. Johnston had 20,000 men under his direct command at Fayetteville, while Braxton Bragg had another 5,500 to the north east at Goldsboro. Even at this late stage, the Confederate command structure left Bragg in independent command until 6 March.

Once again Sherman advanced along a wide front, threatening Goldsboro, where he would be able to meet up with yet another Union army heading inland from the coast, or Raleigh, from where he would threaten Lee’s last remaining supply line. Johnston decided to make use of this wide front to attack one isolated element of Sherman’s army.

This resulted in the two battles of Sherman’s march. On 16 March at Averasboro the Union left wing encountered a Confederate force, which was pushed back after heavy fighting. This told Johnston where Sherman’s left was, and on 19 March he launched his main attack at Bentonville. After some initial success, this last desperate move was repulsed. Over the next two days Sherman marched the rest of his army into place to deliver a decisive blow against Johnston, but on 21 March he held back, letting the Confederate army slip away. His reasons have been the subject of much debate ever since. The most likely explanation is that Sherman did not want to risk the lives of his men (or those of his enemies) when the war was obviously close to its end.

Sherman’s march through the heart of the Confederacy was greatly aided by the replacement of Johnston by Hood before the fall of Atlanta. Unopposed, Sherman was able to reach the sea in just over two weeks. He could do this because Hood had marched the 40,000 strong Confederate Army of the Tennessee north, hoping to cut Sherman’s supply lines and force him to withdraw north. It is hard to imagine Johnston doing the same thing. If that army had instead been used to skilfully slow Sherman’s advance, the entire basis of that move would have been destroyed. Sherman’s men needed to keep moving, to enter new areas for their foragers to find supplies. If Sherman had been slowed or stopped at any point between leaving Atlanta and reaching the sea, his army would have been in very great danger of running out of food.

In at the Kill

Sherman’s march through the Carolinas was far more significant than his march through Georgia. At the end of it, his army was on the southern border of Virginia. From being a distant threat to Lee, the march had transformed it into a real danger to the Army of Northern Virginia, by now the only effective army left to the Confederacy. On 25 March, Sherman temporarily left his army after a march of over 400 miles through enemy territory, to meet with Grant. On the same day, Lee launched the attack on Fort Stedman that marked the beginning of the end for his army of Northern Virginia.

Sherman returned from his meeting with orders to make sure that Johnston’s army did not escape him. His first movements were aimed at preventing a junction between Lee and Johnston, but news soon reached both Sherman and Johnston of Lee’s surrender. Sherman moved to occupy Raleigh in order to block Johnston’s path south.

Johnston now came under pressure from two directions. Jefferson Davis arrived from Richmond and ordered Johnston to keep fighting while he raised new armies further south. Local leaders, including Governor Vance of North Carolina, were clearer sighted and could see that the Confederacy cause was lost. They wanted Johnston to surrender to avoid unnecessary destruction in their state.

Johnston shared the latter view. He told Davis that he had to made peace and persuaded the Confederate President to give him to authority to meet with Sherman to arrange an armistice. This meeting was to lead to a great deal of controversy and two post-war feuds between Sherman and Secretary of War Stanton and General Halleck. On April 17 Sherman offered Johnston the same terms Lee had accepted at Appomattox. Johnston refused them. On the following day Sherman made a rather more generous offer that included provision (amongst other things) for the existing state governments to re-enter the Union intact. Sherman was motivated by a fear that harsh terms might provoke endless guerrilla warfare throughout the south, a belief encouraged by the assassination of President Lincoln on 14 April. This offer was accepted by Johnston, but was not acceptable to Stanton. Grant was sent to join Sherman, where he was able to calm the situation. On 26 April Johnston and Sherman met again. This time Johnston had no choice but to accept the Appomattox terms. Sherman’s great march through the Confederacy was over.

Next: The Blockade and the War at Sea

The American Civil War: Sherman's March to the Sea

THE MAKING OF A NATION -- a program in Special English.

I'm Kay Gallant. Today,Harry Monroe and I continue the story of America's Civil War.

By the autumn of eighteen-sixty-four, it appeared that the North would defeat the South in the war between the states. The southern army needed men and supplies. There was little hope of getting enough of either to win.

The northern army was stronger and better-equipped. But it, too, had suffered. Much of the death and destruction was the result of new military technology.

A new kind of bullet had been invented. It was called the minie ball. It made the gun a much more deadly weapon.

Before the minie ball, few soldiers could hit a target more than thirty meters away. With the new bullet, they could hit targets more than one hundred fifty meters away. Soldiers with such weapons could be put into position behind stone or earth walls. Then it was almost impossible to defeat them.

Most American generals, however, seemed unable to accept this. They continued to use the old methods of attack that had worked before the minie ball was invented.

Hundreds or thousands of men were put in long lines across the front of the enemy position. A signal was given. The men began to march forward. When they got close, they fired their guns. Then they ran at the enemy and struck with their knives or hands. The idea was to shock the enemy, frighten him, and make him run away.

As generals on both sides learned, this method no longer worked. The attackers were shot down before they could get close enough to hurt the defenders.

After three-and-a-half years of fighting, hundreds of thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers had been killed or wounded. Still the war continued.

In the East, Union armies were slowly pushing forward toward their main target. That was the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia. In the West, Union armies were slowly pushing deeper into Confederate territory. The western armies were led by General William Sherman.

Sherman had two goals. One was to capture the city of Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta was one of the few remaining industrial cities of the Confederacy. The other goal was to destroy the Confederate Army led by General Joe Johnston.

Sherman's army was stronger than Johnston's army. But the Confederates usually got into better defensive positions. Sherman refused to attack in such situations. It was easier to march around the Confederates and force them to withdraw. This happened again and again.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis began to believe that General Johnston was afraid to fight. He replaced him with another general. Within two days, that general attacked the Union Army. The attack began without enough planning. It was based on false information. It was a disaster.

In eleven days of fighting, one-third of the Confederate Army in Georgia was destroyed. The remaining force was too weak to defend Atlanta. The city fell.

After capturing Atlanta, General Sherman fought a series of small battles with a Confederate force across northern Georgia. Then he decided to march to Savannah, a city on the Atlantic coast.

Before leaving, his men set fire to the city. Almost all of Atlanta was destroyed. Sherman's army would continue to do this all the way to Savannah, Georgia, three hundred fifty kilometers away. It cut a path of destruction more than one hundred kilometers wide.

This campaign would be known as Sherman's "March to the Sea."

Sherman said he wanted to make the people of Georgia suffer. He said he wanted to show the people of the Confederacy that their government could not protect them.

Union soldiers stopped at every farm and village. They took food and clothing. They took horses, cows, and other farm animals. What they could not take, or did not want, they destroyed.

They set fire to houses and farm buildings. They burned crops. They destroyed stores and factories. They burned bridges and pulled up railroad tracks.

Day by day, the Union Army of General William Sherman cut and burned its way across Georgia.

The army faced little opposition. Small groups of Confederate horse soldiers struck at the edges of the army. But they did little damage. On December twenty-second, eighteen sixty-four, Sherman reached Savannah. He sent a message to President Abraham Lincoln in Washington. He said: "I beg to present you, as a Christmas holiday gift, the city of Savannah."

Sherman's campaign had cut a great wound in the heart of the Confederacy. All that remained were the states of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.

His "March to the Sea" had a great, destructive effect on the spirit of the south.

Sherman's army rested in Savannah for a month. Then, on February first, eighteen-sixty-five, it began to move north. The goal was to join General Ulysses Grant outside the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia.

As Sherman's army moved across South Carolina, it destroyed almost everything in sight.

The soldiers remembered that South Carolina had been the first state to rebel and leave the Union. They remembered that South Carolina had fired the first shots of the war. This time -- against orders -- they destroyed the land they left behind. Confederate forces could not stop them.

The same thing happened in the Shenandoah River Valley northwest of Richmond.

In the early years of the war, Confederate forces had moved through the valley to strike northern territory. They had invaded Maryland and Pennsylvania, and had threatened Washington, from there.

General Grant decided that the Confederates had used the Shenandoah Valley long enough. He sent some of his men into the valley. He ordered them to destroy everything that might be of use to the enemy. "Eat up Virginia," he said, "clear and clean as far as you can go."

Farms were burned. Crops were destroyed. Farm animals were taken away or killed. Nothing was left that could feed a man or animal. Nothing but blackened earth.

Then General Grant sent General Philip Sheridan into the Shenandoah Valley. Sheridan's army battled its way through the valley in the autumn of eighteen sixty-four. It gained victory after victory against a smaller, weaker Confederate force.

By the end of the year, Union troops had complete control of the valley. The only Confederate power that remained was the army of General Robert E. Lee.

With the Shenandoah Valley closed to the Confederates, food supplies fell very low. There was almost nothing to feed the soldiers in Lee's army. Wagons would go out each day in search of food. They returned almost empty.

More and more Confederate soldiers were running away. Some returned to their homes. Others surrendered to Union forces.

Confederate leaders no longer could find soldiers to take the places of those who left. Men would not answer the army's call. There was, however, a huge labor force in the south that the army had not called. Slaves.

Slaves had been used to do non-military work for the army. They had built roads and bridges. They had driven wagons. But they had not served as soldiers. In the north, thousands of free Negroes served in the Union army. But they received less pay
than white soldiers.

Confederate lawmakers finally began to discuss the idea of using slaves as soldiers. A bill was proposed that would free any slave who joined the army to fight.

Many southern leaders opposed the bill, even if it would save the Confederacy. Said one: "Do not arm the slaves. The day you make them soldiers is the beginning of the end of the revolution. If slaves make good soldiers, our whole idea of slavery is

General Robert E. Lee did not agree. He believed slaves could be made into good soldiers if they believed they had an interest in Confederate victory.

He proposed giving immediate freedom to any slave who joined the army. The Confederate Congress passed a bill in March of eighteen sixty-five to accept Negroes as soldiers. The bill did not promise to free them. By then, however, it was too late.
An army of freed slaves could not be trained in time to save the Confederacy.

You have been listening to the Special English program, THE MAKING OF A NATION. Your narrators were Kay Gallant and Harry Monroe. Our program was written by Frank Beardsley and Christine Johnson.

Editor's note: On an earlier version of this page, a picture that was supposed to show General William Sherman in fact was a picture of General Phillip Sheridan.

THE MAKING OF A NATION is an American history series written with English learners in mind. Developed as a radio show, each weekly program is 15 minutes long. The series begins in prehistoric times and currently ends with the presidential election of 2000.

Both the text and sound of each week's program can be downloaded from voaspecialenglish.com. Past shows can also be found on the site.

There are more than 200 programs in the complete series, which starts over again every five years. Most of the shows were produced a long time ago. This explains why a few words here and there may sound a little dated. In fact, the series has even outlived some of the announcers. But we know from our audience that THE MAKING OF A NATION is the most popular of the feature programs in VOA Special English.

VOA Special English is a radio, TV and Internet service of the Voice of America. Programs are written with a limited vocabulary and are read at a slower speed. The purpose is to help people improve their American English as they learn about news and other subjects.


After Sherman captured Savannah, the culmination of his 'March to the Sea', he was ordered by Union Army general-in-chief Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to embark his army on ships to reinforce the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James in Virginia, where Grant was bogged down in the Siege of Petersburg against Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Sherman had bigger things in mind. He predicted on January 5, 1865: "I do think that in the several grand epochs of this war, my name will have a prominent part." He persuaded Grant that he should march north through the Carolinas instead, destroying everything of military value along the way, similar to his 'March to the Sea' through Georgia. Sherman was particularly interested in targeting South Carolina, as the first state to secede from the Union, for the effect it would have on Southern morale.

Sherman's army commenced toward Columbia, South Carolina, in late January 1865. His 60,079 men were divided into two wings: the Army of the Tennessee, and two corps, the XIV and XX, under Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum, which was later formally designated the Army of Georgia. Reinforcements arrived regularly during his march north, and by April 1 he commanded 88,948 men after the Army of the Ohio under Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield joined up at Goldsboro, NC. [1]

Sherman's opponents on the Confederate side had considerably fewer men. The primary force in the Carolinas was the battered Army of Tennessee, again under the command of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston (who had been relieved of duty by Confederate President Jefferson Davis during the Atlanta campaign against Sherman and restored after John Bell Hood led a disastrous invasion of Tennessee). His strength was recorded in mid-March at 9,513 and 15,188 by mid-April. The army was organized into three corps, commanded by Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee, Lt. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart, and Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee. Also in the Carolinas were cavalry forces from the division of Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton and a small number in Wilmington, North Carolina, under Gen. Braxton Bragg.

Sherman's plan was to bypass the minor Confederate troop concentrations at Augusta, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, and reach Goldsboro, North Carolina, by March 15. As with his Georgia operations, Sherman marched his armies in multiple directions simultaneously, confusing the scattered Confederate defenders as to his first true objective, which was the state capital of Columbia, South Carolina.

Union Edit

Confederate Edit

The following battles were fought in the Carolinas campaign.

Rivers' Bridge (February 3, 1865) Edit

The Confederate division of Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws attempted to prevent the crossing of the Salkehatchie River by the right wing of Sherman's army. The Union division under Maj. Gen. Francis P. Blair (Howard's army) crossed the river and assaulted McLaws' flank. McLaws withdrew to Branchville, causing only one day's delay in the Union advance. [2]

On February 17, Columbia, SC, surrendered to Sherman, and Hampton's cavalry retreated from the city. Union forces were overwhelmed by throngs of liberated Federal prisoners and emancipated slaves. Many soldiers took advantage of ample supplies of liquor in the city and began to drink. Fires began in the city, and high winds spread the flames across a wide area. Most of the central city was destroyed, and the city's fire companies found it difficult to operate in conjunction with the invading Union army, many of whom were also trying to put out the fire. The burning of Columbia has engendered controversy ever since, with some claiming the fires were accidental, others stating they were a deliberate act of vengeance as in Atlanta, and others claiming that the fires were set by retreating Confederate soldiers who lit bales of cotton on their way out of town. On that same day, the Confederates evacuated Charleston. On February 18, Sherman's forces destroyed virtually anything of military value in Columbia, including railroad depots, warehouses, arsenals, and machine shops. On February 22, Wilmington, NC surrendered.

Aiken (February 11) Edit

This battle took place entirely in South Carolina.

Wyse Fork (March 7–10) Edit

Schofield planned to advance inland from Wilmington, NC, in February. At the same time, he assigned Maj. Gen. Jacob D. Cox to direct Union forces from New Bern toward Goldsboro. On March 7, Cox's advance was stopped by divisions under Gen. Braxton Bragg's command at Southwest Creek south of Kinston, North Carolina. On March 8, the Confederates attempted to seize the initiative by attacking the Union flanks. After initial success, their attacks stalled because of faulty communications. On March 9, the Union forces were reinforced and beat back Bragg's renewed attacks on March 10 after heavy fighting. Bragg withdrew across the Neuse River and was unable to prevent the fall of Kinston on March 14. [3]

Monroe's Cross Roads (March 10) Edit

As Sherman's army advanced into North Carolina, Maj. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick's Cavalry Division screened its left flank. On the evening of March 9, two of Kilpatrick's brigades encamped near the Charles Monroe House in Cumberland (now Hoke) County. Early on March 10, Hampton's Confederate cavalry surprised the Federals in their camps, driving them back in confusion and capturing wagons and artillery. The Federals regrouped and counterattacked, regaining their artillery and camps after a desperate fight. With Union reinforcements on the way, the Confederates withdrew. [4]

Averasborough (March 16) Edit

On the afternoon of March 15, Kilpatrick's cavalry came up against Hardee's corps deployed across the Raleigh Road near Smithville. After feeling out the Confederate defenses, Kilpatrick withdrew and called for infantry support. During the night, four divisions of the XX Corps arrived to confront the Confederates. At dawn, March 16, the Federals advanced on a division front, driving back skirmishers, but they were stopped by the main Confederate line and a counterattack. Mid-morning, the Federals renewed their advance with strong reinforcements and drove the Confederates from two lines of works, but they were repulsed at a third line. Late afternoon, the Union XIV Corps began to arrive on the field but was unable to deploy before dark because of the swampy ground. Hardee retreated during the night after holding up the Union advance for nearly two days. [5]

Bentonville (March 19–21) Edit

While Slocum's advance was stalled at Averasborough by Hardee's troops, the right wing of Sherman's army under Howard marched toward Goldsboro. On March 19, Slocum encountered the entrenched Confederates of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston who had concentrated to meet his advance at Bentonville. Johnston had increased his forces to about 21,000 men by absorbing the troops under Bragg, who had abandoned Wilmington. Late afternoon, Johnston attacked, crushing the line of the XIV Corps. Only strong counterattacks and desperate fighting south of the Goldsborough Road blunted the Confederate offensive. Elements of the XX Corps were thrown into the action as they arrived on the field. Five Confederate attacks failed to dislodge the Federal defenders, and darkness ended the first day's fighting. During the night, Johnston contracted his line into a "V" to protect his flanks, with Mill Creek to his rear. On March 20, Slocum was heavily reinforced, but fighting was sporadic. Sherman was inclined to let Johnston retreat. On March 21, however, Johnston remained in position while he removed his wounded. Skirmishing heated up along the entire front. In the afternoon, Maj. Gen. Joseph Mower led his Union division along a narrow trace that carried it across Mill Creek into Johnston's rear. Confederate counterattacks stopped Mower's advance, saving the army's only line of communication and retreat. Mower withdrew, ending fighting for the day. During the night, Johnston retreated across the bridge at Bentonville. Union forces pursued at first light, driving back Wheeler's rearguard and saving the bridge. Federal pursuit was halted at Hannah's Creek after a severe skirmish. Sherman, after regrouping at Goldsboro, pursued Johnston toward Raleigh. [6]

Sherman's Carolina campaign, in which his troops marched 425 miles (684 km) in 50 days, was similar to his march to the sea through Georgia, although physically more demanding. However, the Confederate forces opposing him were much smaller and more dispirited. When Joseph E. Johnston met with Jefferson Davis in Greensboro on April 12–13, he told the Confederate president:

Our people are tired of the war, feel themselves whipped, and will not fight. Our country is overrun, its military resources greatly diminished, while the enemy's military power and resources were never greater and may be increased to any extent desired. . My small force is melting away like snow before the sun.

On April 18, three days after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Johnston signed an armistice with Sherman at Bennett Place, a farmhouse near Durham Station. Sherman got himself into political hot water by offering terms of surrender to Johnston that encompassed political issues as well as military, without authorization from General Grant or the United States government. The confusion on this issue lasted until April 26, when Johnston agreed to purely military terms and formally surrendered his army and all Confederate forces in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. It was the second significant surrender that month. On April 9, Robert E. Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House. It was the virtual end for the Confederacy, although some smaller forces held out, particularly in the Trans-Mississippi region, into the summer.


Secession Edit

On January 8, 1861, Louisiana Governor Thomas Overton Moore ordered the Louisiana militia to occupy the U.S. arsenal at Baton Rouge and the U.S. forts guarding New Orleans, Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip. A wealthy planter and slave holder, Moore acted aggressively to engineer the secession of Louisiana from the Union by a convention on January 23. Only five percent of the public were represented in the convention, and the state's military actions were ordered before secession had been established—in defiance of the state constitution, which called for a popular referendum to establish a convention. Moore attempted to justify these actions, saying: "I do not think it comports with the honor and self-respect of Louisiana as a slave-holding state to live under the government of a Black Republican president", using an epithet for Republicans used by many Democrats at the time.

The strategies advanced to defend Louisiana and the other Gulf states of the Confederacy were first, the idea of King Cotton that an unofficial embargo of cotton to Europe would force Britain to use its navy to intervene in protecting the new Confederacy. The second was a privateer fleet established by the issue of letters of marque and reprisal by President Jefferson Davis, which would sweep the sea clear of U.S. naval and commercial ships, and at the same time sustain Louisiana's booming port economy. The third was a reliance on the ring of pre-war masonry forts of the Third System of American coastal defense, combined with a fleet of revolutionary new ironclads, to safeguard the mouth of the Mississippi from the U.S. Navy. All of these strategies were failures. [5]

In March 1861, George Williamson, the Louisianan state commissioner, addressed the Texan secession convention, where he called upon the slave states of the U.S. to declare secession from the Union in order to continue practicing slavery:

With the social balance wheel of slavery to regulate its machinery, we may fondly indulge the hope that our Southern government will be perpetual . Louisiana looks to the formation of a Southern confederacy to preserve the blessings of African slavery .

One Louisianan artillery soldier gave his reasons for fighting for the Confederacy, stating that "I never want to see the day when a negro is put on an equality with a white person. There is too many free niggers . now to suit me, let alone having four millions." [7]

Union plans Edit

The Union's response to Moore's leveraged secession was embodied in U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's realization that the Mississippi River was the "backbone of the Rebellion." If control of the river were accomplished, the largest city in the Confederacy would be taken back for the Union, and the Confederacy would be split in half. Lincoln moved rapidly to back Admiral David Dixon Porter's idea of a naval advance up the river to both capture New Orleans and maintain Lincoln's political support by supplying cotton to northern textile manufacturers and renewing trade and exports from the port of New Orleans. The U.S. Navy would become both a formidable invasion force and a means of transporting Union forces, along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. This strategic vision would prove victorious in Louisiana. [9] [10] : 10–78

A number of notable leaders were associated with Louisiana during the Civil War, including some of the Confederate army's senior ranking generals, as well as several men who led brigades and divisions. Antebellum Louisiana residents P.G.T. Beauregard, Braxton Bragg, and Richard Taylor all commanded significant independent armies during the war. Taylor's forces were among the last active Confederate armies in the field when the war closed. [11]

Henry Watkins Allen led a brigade during the middle of the war before becoming the Confederate Governor of Louisiana from 1864 to 1865. Randall L. Gibson, another competent brigade commander, became a postbellum U.S. Senator as a Democrat. Other brigadiers of note included Alfred Mouton (killed at the Battle of Mansfield), Harry T. Hays, Chatham Roberdeau Wheat (commander of the celebrated "Louisiana Tigers" of the Army of Northern Virginia), and Francis T. Nicholls (commander of the "Pelican Brigade" until he lost his left foot at Chancellorsville). St. John Lidell was a prominent brigade commander in the Army of Tennessee. [12] : 166 [13]

Henry Gray, a wealthy plantation owner from Bienville Parish, was a brigadier general under Richard Taylor before being elected to the Second Confederate Congress late in the war. Leroy A. Stafford was among a handful of Louisiana generals to be killed during the war. Albert Gallatin Blanchard was a rarity—a Confederate general born in Massachusetts.

Governor Thomas Overton Moore, came held office from 1860 through early 1864. When war erupted, he unsuccessfully lobbied the Confederate government in Richmond for a strong defense of New Orleans. Two days before the city surrendered in April 1862, Moore and the legislature abandoned Baton Rouge as the state capital, relocating to Opelousas in May. Thomas Moore organized military resistance at the state level, ordered the burning of cotton, cessation of trade with the Union forces, and heavily recruited troops for the state militia. [14]

How Hitler Used Sherman’s March to the Sea During the Civil War Against America

Berlin was losing the war and wanted to convince its subject populations that the Americans would be worse rulers.

Key point: Sherman was tough but he did not engage in the same kind of total war seen in World War II. But Hitler wanted everyone to think otherwise as he tried to get new recruits.

In the months before the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe, the Wehrmacht’s propagandists warned those living under German occupation that America’s armies would not be as forgiving.

In the pages of Signal, a bi-weekly magazine funded by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht and intended for foreign audiences, the Nazis invoked William Tecumseh Sherman’s march across the Confederacy during the American Civil War as a sign of what to expect.

This first appeared in 2018 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Sherman was, according to the Nazis, the quintessential American general. “The cruelties of the Marquis de Sade and the atrocities perpetrated by Jack the Ripper have never led to mass suggestion,” Signal editor Walther Kiaulehn wrote. “Sherman’s strategy, however, has been acclaimed as classical.”

The Nazis heavily invested in Signal. Ten to 15 editors and 120 translators produced articles in 20 languages with an annual budget in the tens of millions of dollars in today’s currency. Deliberately modeled on Life magazine, Signal emphasized visual stories aggregated from the German army’s combat photographers equipped with state-of-the-art color cameras.

Signal was, of course, heavily censored propaganda designed to present a sympathetic view of life under German military rule. At its peak circulation — some three million copies — in 1943, Nazi-controlled Europe stretched from the Atlantic coast in the west, deep into the Soviet Union in the east and north into the Arctic Circle.

But the war, at this late stage, had decidedly turned in favor of the Allies.

You wouldn’t have known it reading Signal. Battlefield reports emphasized victories and downplayed or ignored defeats. Other stories focused on cheerful fare about life in Vichy France, profiles of composers and travelogues — all to show that on the homefront, the situation was normal.

But by January 1944, more than 1.5 million German soldiers had died on the Eastern Front alone. In need of new recruits, the Wehrmacht saw the magazine as a critically important method to recruit non-German volunteers.

Racism and anti-Semitism, pervasive within Nazi propaganda intended for domestic consumption, rarely showed up in its pages. Instead, the editors presented Germany as the bulwark of European civilization. The Americans — represented by Sherman — were the enemy.

“[Sherman] had become a violent criminal who wished to confer victory on his country’s politics whatever it cost the enemy,” Kiaulehn added. “Never has anybody scorned noble feelings with more blasphemy.”

Sherman, one of the most successful Union generals during the American Civil War, devastated the Confederacy by leading more than 60,000 soldiers in a flanking march through Georgia and the Carolinas in 1863 and 1864. His tactics have remained controversial. Sherman’s troops lived off the land and directly targeted farms, factories and railroads — and more — as military targets.

Atlanta was devastated. Sherman’s army burned much of Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. “Sherman’s strategy is the art of war employed by the unsuccessful,” Signal declared. “He was unsuccessful but by no means untalented. It was his fate to have to fight against enemies better than himself.”

An illustration in the magazine compared a map of Sherman’s march with that of Belgium and the Netherlands — a deliberate message to potential recruits that this brand of “total war” would visit them as well. Around 40,000 Belgians and more than 50,000 Dutch volunteers served in the Waffen SS during World War II.

Signal, of course, presented a highly skewed account of Sherman’s campaigns.

Sherman did destroy cities, towns and farms. But Mark Grimsley, a Civil War historian and author of the book The Hard Hand of War, noted that Sherman never practiced the kind of “total war” which devastated Europe in the 20th century — which included the systematic targeting of civilians and practiced most of all by the Nazis.

“This no one in the Civil War did systematically,” Grimsley wrote.

Civil War historian James McPherson concurred in This Mighty Scourge, a collection of essays on the war. “The killing or rape of white civilians in the South by Union soldiers was extremely rare, in contrast to most invading and conquering armies throughout history,” McPherson wrote.

“Sherman’s soldiers destroyed a great deal of property, to be sure. But Axis and Allied bombers in World War II destroyed hundreds of thousands of civilian lives, as well. That was total war.”

Grimsley described Sherman’s strategy as “directed severity.” As the Union troops passed through the South, they selected buildings (such as factories and farms) and infrastructure (such as railroads) which could support an army on the move.

Slave-holding plantations were destroyed en masse. Private farms were pillaged, particularly in South Carolina (where the targeting became more indiscriminate), but less so than plantations or as much as Lost Cause historians would later — and erroneously — claim.

Even more curiously, Sherman enjoyed a reasonably good reputation in the South in the immediate years following the Civil War, according to historian Thom Bassett in the Spring 2012 edition of Civil War Monitor.

Long after the war Sherman was actually very much a persona grata throughout what had been the Confederacy. He was warmly received on several trips across the South and was on good terms with many ex-Confederates who had opposed him on the battlefield. In fact, for the first decade and a half after the Civil War, his most severe criticisms came from fellow unionists motivated by personal animus and professional jealousy. While southerners might have strongly disagreed with Sherman over the justifiability of secession or whether Robert E. Lee was a greater general than Ulysses S. Grant, virtually none of them publicly accused Sherman at that time of the crimes now associated with his campaigns.

Much of the reason is that former Confederates saw the destruction inflicted on the South as an outcome of the war more than because of any individual general.

On the contrary, Sherman developed a negative reputation within the “Lost Cause” mythology much later. Even as late as 1879, officials in New Orleans gave a visiting Sherman the honorary title of “Duke of Louisiana” during a Mardi Gras banquet.

“A favorite adopted son of New Orleans, the former Confederate John Bell Hood, shared a theater box with his fellow general and gave a speech that praised him in glowing terms,” Bassett wrote.

So what changed? And who was responsible? That person is Jefferson Davis, former Confederate president and author of the 1881 apologia The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. In the enormous tome, Davis took direct aim at Sherman as a war criminal and perpetrator of “barbarous cruelty.”

During the next several years, Sherman and Davis engaged in a war of words. Davis accused Sherman of being the leader of an “organized gang of plunders.” Sherman shot back that Davis was a “monomaniac,” a wannabe “Julius Caesar” and “the impersonation of treason and hate.”

These exchanges polarized opinion in the South and undermined Sherman’s formerly positive reputation, according to Bassett. As the Lost Cause developed in the decades ahead, “a demonic Sherman took his place and would live on in southern memory, conjured by Davis’ bitter incantations from the ashes of war fires long grown cold,” he wrote.

More than 80 years later, the Nazis resurrected that demonic image as a propaganda tool. That image never totally went away — and the Signal article has apparently circulated back into neo-Confederate groups in the United States.

One research website dedicated to the magazine linked to a copy of the Sherman article (since removed) hosted at a URL belonging to the League of the South, which describes itself as “Southern Nationalist organization whose ultimate goal is a free and independent Southern republic.”

But for the Nazis, the propaganda made little difference. During the final weeks of the war in Europe, hundreds of thousands of German troops — many seeking to avoid capture by the Soviets — threw down their weapons and streamed toward Allied armies along the Western Front.

Others joined them. In 1945, Signal’s editors and translators fled their offices in Berlin and headed south toward Wattendorf.

On April 13, they surrendered … to the U.S. Army.

This article by Robert Beckhusen originally appeared on War is Boring.

This first appeared in 2018 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

16 - The Georgia Campaign

In the last eight months of 1864 Union general William Tecumseh Sherman conducted some of the Civil War’s most significant military operations. When the general invaded Georgia in May, the Union war effort was in doubt, war weariness was ubiquitous in the North, the Lincoln administration’s days were seemingly numbered, and Confederate victory appeared a likely possibility. When the general captured Savannah at year’s end, Lincoln had secured reelection, the Empire State of the South had been gutted, and the Rebels had allowed their last viable chance at independence to slip through their grasp. Due to Sherman’s victories in Georgia, first during the Atlanta campaign (May 7–September 2, 1864) and then during his storied “March to the Sea” (November 15–December 21, 1864), the ultimate triumph of Union armies was all but guaranteed as the sun set on 1864.

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The march

Although clearly headed eastward, Sherman was determined to conceal his movements from Confederate eyes. For this reason, he divided his expeditionary force into two infantry groups. The Army of the Tennessee, headed by Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard, comprised the right wing. On the left, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum commanded the Army of Georgia. Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick led the force’s single cavalry division. With Kilpatrick as a mobile screen, Howard took the right wing southeast of Atlanta in the direction of Macon, while Slocum’s left wing marched east toward Augusta.

Sherman gave explicit instructions to his troops regarding their conduct while on the march. In Special Field Order No. 120 he encouraged foraging and the confiscation of livestock but forbade home invasions. However, if antagonized by Confederate soldiers, Union officers could destroy private and industrial property. The field order also permitted able-bodied Black labourers to join the march, but commanding officers were instructed to remain cognizant of supplies intended for their army group.

Most Union soldiers complied with Sherman’s orders. However, some men, called “bummers,” roamed the countryside to intentionally terrorize and loot Confederate civilians. Although bummers engaged in prohibited activity, the overall psychological impact on the local population was precisely the purpose of the march. This effect was likely compounded by the army’s continued railroad destruction. Railroads doubled as a conduit for industrial growth and transportation for the military. By ripping up and melting down tracks, Union soldiers slowly crippled the state’s industrial and military potential in full view of its civilians.

Confederate leadership was unable to discern the final destination of the two-pronged Union force. Observing the movements of Howard’s right wing, Confederate Lieut. Gen. William J. Hardee initially assumed that its goal was to capture Macon. However, a turn eastward convinced him that Augusta was the target. Accordingly, on November 19, he dispatched Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry corps and some local militiamen to slow the Union’s right flank. Sherman’s true objective, hidden from even his own rank and file, was to seize the state capital of Milledgeville.

Just before pivoting east past Macon, Howard’s right wing came upon the industrial town of Griswoldville. Union troops burned it to the ground. On November 22 three Confederate militia brigades (comprising some 4,500 men) from Macon discovered the carnage before chancing upon 1,500 Union soldiers. The Union defensive position was strong and Howard’s men were equipped with repeating rifles. Despite an overwhelming numerical advantage, the Confederate militiamen were thoroughly squashed, suffering more than 1,000 casualties to fewer than 100 for the Union. To the north of this action, Sherman advanced with the left wing into Milledgeville on November 23. His force faced little resistance. With the Georgia state legislature having quit the capital, Union troops held a mock legislative session and voted to repeal Georgia’s ordinance of secession.

On November 24 several Union prisoners of war caught up with the left wing, having escaped a Confederate camp at Andersonville. Many troops who heard of their arrival retaliated by burning civilian barns and slaughtering their livestock. Some bummers escalated their attacks on the local population. Wheeler’s Confederate cavalry responded by killing Union prisoners. The violence abated only after Sherman threatened to shoot an equal number of his own captives. However, news of brutal prisoner treatment at Camp Lawton would later prompt Sherman to order the destruction of several miles of track along the Augusta & Savannah Railroad.

Slocum’s left wing encountered some trouble once they broke camp to continue their eastward march. Wheeler’s horsemen descended on the Federal column at Sandersonville on November 25–26, and on November 28 they sprang an attack on Kilpatrick’s Union cavalry at Buckhead Creek. The Confederacy suffered only 70 losses to the Union’s 100, with Kilpatrick himself narrowly escaping capture. The two cavalry units clashed again at nearby Waynesboro on December 4. The intense battle that ensued saw 250 Confederate casualties and 190 Union losses.

Despite these impediments, the two wings of Sherman’s army began to converge on Savannah in early December. On December 9, however, tragedy struck Brig. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis’s XIV Corps. Davis’s men lagged behind the rest of the left wing, and Wheeler’s cavalry was hot on their heels. Field Order No. 120 had permitted Black labourers to accompany the column, despite being a potential drain on resources and slowing the army’s pace. Just 25 miles (40 km) north of Savannah, Davis’s men were crossing a bloated Ebenezer Creek when they were ordered to destroy their bridge. This would prevent the formerly enslaved people from crossing to safety. With Wheeler close behind, many of them attempted to swim the distance. Dozens drowned, and Wheeler captured many of those who lived. Their fates remain largely unknown. Sherman would later defend Davis’s actions at Ebenezer Creek as a necessary reality of war.

By December 12 Sherman’s force had neared Savannah’s outer defenses. Hardee had long since retreated to the coastal city and toiled away at its fortifications, which were effective at supplementing Savannah’s natural marsh and river defenses. Determined not to lay a siege unless absolutely necessary, Sherman ordered 4,000 men from the XV Corps to seize Fort McCallister, a crucial element of the city’s southern defense. Union troops arrived outside the fort on December 13. It boasted a garrison of 230 Confederates and more than 20 pieces of artillery. Federal troops sprinted the 600-yard stretch to the fort’s walls, and within 15 minutes they had captured the structure. The Union lost 130 men in this assault and the Confederacy 40.

Savannah was now surrounded on land. Sherman demanded a surrender on December 17, but his request was promptly rejected. Nevertheless, Hardee knew that his position was untenable. On the night of December 20–21 his Confederate garrison prepared to evacuate. They quietly abandoned their trenches and crossed the Savannah River into Confederate-held South Carolina. On December 21 Savannah’s mayor formally surrendered the city to the Union. For Sherman’s part, he made immediate contact with the U.S. Navy before sending the following telegram to Pres. Abraham Lincoln:

“I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.”


In December 1860, Georgia governor Joseph E. Brown, a passionate believer in slavery and southern states' rights, opined that the election of Abraham Lincoln, an anti-slavery Republican, to the U.S. presidency would result in the ending of slavery in the United States. Thus, Brown called upon Georgians to resist anti-slavery interventions, declaring that failure to do so would result in the emancipation of their slaves:

What will be the result to the institution of slavery, which will follow submission to the inauguration and administration of Mr. Lincoln as the President . it will be the total abolition of slavery . I do not doubt, therefore, that submission to the administration of Mr. Lincoln will result in the final abolition of slavery. If we fail to resist now, we will never again have the strength to resist.

Later that month, after South Carolina became the first state to issue an Ordinance of Secession, celebrations broke out in Savannah, Georgia. [3] The following month, in January 1861, the Georgia Secession Convention issued its own ordinance, in which it outlined the causes that motivated the state to declare its secession from the Union. The ordinance cited the views of U.S. president-elect Abraham Lincoln and that of the Republican Party against "the subject of African slavery", anti-slavery sentiment in northern free states, and perceived support among northerners for equality for African Americans as reasons for Georgia's declaring of secession:

The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present . the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slaveholding confederate States, with reference to the subject of African slavery. . The party of Lincoln, called the Republican party, under its present name and organization is of recent origin. It is admitted to be an anti-slavery party . anti-slavery is its mission and its purpose. . The prohibition of slavery in the territories, hostility to it everywhere, the equality of the black and white races . were boldly proclaimed by its leaders, and applauded by its followers. . The prohibition of slavery in the territories is the cardinal principle of this organization. . These are the men who say the Union shall be preserved. . Such are the opinions and such are the practices of the Republican Party . if we submit to them, it will be our fault and not theirs.

In a February 1861 speech to the Virginia secession convention, Georgian Henry Lewis Benning stated that the main reason as to why Georgia declared secession from the Union was due to "a deep conviction on the part of Georgia, that a separation from the North-was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of her slavery." [5] [6]

William L. Harris, one Mississippian secession commissioner, told a meeting of the Georgian general assembly that the Republicans wanted to implement "equality between the white and negro races" and thus secession was necessary for the slave states to resist their efforts. [7]

Contemporary Georgian religious leaders also supported slavery. One Georgian preacher condemned Republicans and abolitionists, stating that their anti-slavery views ran contrary to the teachings of the Christian religion, saying that such groups' views were "diametrically opposed to the letter and spirit of the Bible, and as subversive of all sound morality, as the worst ravings of infidelity." [5]

Governor Joseph E. Brown was a leading secessionist and led efforts to remove the state from the Union and into the Confederacy. A firm believer in state's rights, he defied the Confederate government's wartime policies. He resisted the Confederate military draft and tried to keep as many soldiers at home as possible to fight invading forces. [8] Brown challenged Confederate impressment of animals, goods, and slaves. Several other governors followed his lead. [9] During the war, Georgia sent nearly 100,000 men to battle for the Confederacy, mostly to the Virginian armies. Despite secession, many southerners in North Georgia remained loyal to the Union.

Unionism Edit

Approximately 5,000 Georgians served in the U.S. Army in units such as the 1st Georgia Infantry Battalion, [10] the 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment, and a number of East Tennessean regiments. [11]

Georgia's Rabun County in particular, which did not declare secession from the Union, [12] was highly Unionist, described by some as being "almost a unit against secession." One of the county's residents recalled in 1865 that "You cannot find a people who were more averse to secession than were the people of our county", stating that "I canvassed the county in 1860–61 myself and I know that there were not exceeding twenty men in this county who were in favor of secession." [13]

The dividing lines were often not as clear as they are sometimes viewed in Rabun county during this period. In A Separate Civil War: Communities in Conflict in the Mountain South, Jonathan Dean Sarris examines the wartime experiences of Fannin and Lumpkin counties. Within these two counties, Unionist and Confederate leaning factions fought brutally directly within the home front between 1861 and 1865. Sarris argues that there is a "complex web of local, regional, and national loyalties that connected pre-industrial mountain societies" and that these loyalties are among the major factors that determine the leanings of these mountain towns. [14] The Madden Branch Massacre in Fannin county was one of several atrocities that occurred as the mountain counties divided into pro and anti-Confederate factions. On November 29, 1864, six Georgians trying to enlist in the U.S. Army - Thomas Bell, Harvey Brewster, James T. Hughes, James B. Nelson, Elijah Robinson, and Samuel Lovell - were executed by the notorious Confederate guerilla John P. Gatewood, "the long-haired, red-bearded beast from Georgia" - but, Peter Parris, and Wyatt J. Parton escaped the execution. [15]

While concentrated in the mountains and large cities, Unionism in Georgia was not confined to those areas and could be found in areas across the state. [16]

Food shortages Edit

By summer 1861, the Union naval blockade virtually shut down the export of cotton and the import of manufactured items. Food that normally came by rail from the Northern states were halted. The governor and legislature pleaded with planters to grow less cotton and more food. The planters refused because at first, they thought the Union would not or could not fight. The planters then saw cotton prices in Europe soared and they expected Europe to soon intervene and break the blockade. The legislature imposed cotton quotas and made it a crime to grow an excess, but the food shortages continued to worsen, especially in the towns. [17] In more than a dozen instances across the state, poor white women raided stores and captured supply wagons to get such necessities as bacon, corn, flour, and cotton yarn. [18]

In some cases, Confederate armies forcibly seized food from Georgians and South Carolinians. The Georgian governor lamented that such seizures of food "have been ruinous to the people of the northeastern part of the State." [19]

As conditions at home worsened late in the war more and more soldiers deserted the army to attend to their suffering farms and families. [20]

Deserter and layout gangs Edit

During the course of the war, some Georgians banded together to resist Confederate authorities. Some were Unionists in their beliefs, but others were anti-Confederate due to Confederate government's policy of impressment and conscription. Deserter gangs were made up of those who had deserted from Confederate forces. Layout gangs consisted of those who had avoided conscription by hiding out. Pro-Confederate Georgians often derided these groups as Tories. Some groups consisted of both deserters and draft evaders. The mountains of north Georgia were one location where many such groups operated. Others operated in the swamps of the Alapaha River in Berrien, Coffee, Echols County, Georgia, and Irwin counties. The Okefenokee Swamp was another location that several anti-Confederate forces occupied during the course of the war. Black Jack Island and Soldiers Camp Island are two locations within the swamp where over 1,000 deserters were reported to have hidden. By 1864, the Wiregrass Region of Georgia was no longer fully controlled by the Confederate government due to layout and deserter gangs. [16]

During the same time, the backcountry of Pulaski, Montgomery, and Telfair counties in the area of Gum Swamp Creek in modern-day Dodge County had become home to similar groups. [21]

Debate over the use of slaves as soldiers Edit

Late in the war, when it was suggested that the Confederacy use its slaves as soldiers, many Confederate newspapers, such as the Atlanta Southern Confederacy in Macon, vehemently objected to the idea of armed black men in the Confederate army, saying that it was incongruous with the Confederacy's goals and views regarding African Americans and slavery. The newspaper said that using black men as soldiers would be an embarrassment to Confederates and their children, saying that although African Americans should be used for slave labor, they should not be used as armed soldiers, opining that:

Such an act on our part, would be a stigma on the imperishable pages of history, of which all future generations of Southrons would be ashamed. These are some of the additional considerations which have suggested themselves to us. Let us put the negro to work, but not to fight.

Georgian Confederates such as Democrat Howell Cobb supported the Macon newspaper's view, saying that the Confederates using black soldiers was "suicidal" and would run contrary to the Confederacy's ideology. Opposing such a move, Cobb stated that African Americans were untrustworthy and innately lacked the qualities to make good soldiers, and that using them would cause many Confederates to quit the army:

The proposition to make soldiers of our slaves is the most pernicious idea that has been suggested since the war began. It is to me a source of deep mortification . You cannot make soldiers of slaves, nor slaves of soldiers. The moment you resort to negro soldiers your white soldiers will be lost to you and one secret of the favor with which the proposition is received in portions of the army is the hope that when negroes go into the Army they will be permitted to retire . [Y]ou can't trust negroes . [D]on't arm them . If slaves make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong . [T]hey are wanting in every qualification of a soldier.

Despite these protests, a law to raise troops from the slave population was passed by the Confederate Congress on March 13, 1865. By mid-April, a few recruiting stations had been established in Macon, Georgia, but the results of these efforts are unknown. [28]

Georgia was relatively free from warfare until late 1863. A total of nearly 550 battles and skirmishes occurred within the state, with the majority occurring in the last two years of the conflict. The first major battle in Georgia was a Confederate victory at the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863, which was the last major Confederate victory in the west. In 1864 Union general William T. Sherman's armies invaded Georgia as part of the Atlanta Campaign. Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston fought a series of battles, the largest being the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, trying to delay Union armies for as long as possible as he retreated toward Atlanta. Johnston's replacement, Gen. John Bell Hood, attempted several unsuccessful counterattacks at the Battle of Peachtree Creek and the Battle of Atlanta, but Sherman captured Atlanta on September 2, 1864.

List of battles fought in Georgia Edit

Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman invaded Georgia from the vicinity of Chattanooga, Tennessee, beginning in May 1864, opposed by the Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston. Johnston's Army of Tennessee withdrew toward Atlanta in the face of successive flanking maneuvers by Sherman's group of armies. In July, Confederate president Jefferson Davis replaced Johnston with the more aggressive John Bell Hood, who began challenging the Union Army in a series of damaging frontal assaults. Hood's army was eventually besieged in Atlanta and the city fell on September 2, setting the stage for Sherman's March to the Sea and hastening the end of the war.

In November 1864, Sherman stripped his army of non-essentials, burned the city of Atlanta, and left it to the Confederates. He began his famous Sherman's March to the Sea, living off the land then burning plantations, wrecking railroads, killing livestock, and freeing slaves. Thousands of escaped slaves followed him as he entered Savannah on December 22. [29] After the loss of Atlanta, the governor withdrew the state's militia from the Confederate forces to harvest crops for the state and the army. The militia did not try to stop Sherman. [30]

Sherman's March was devastating to both Georgia and the Confederacy in terms of economics and psychology. Sherman himself estimated that the campaign had inflicted $100 million (about $1.4 billion in 2012 dollars) [31] in damages, about one fifth of which "inured to our advantage" while the "remainder is simple waste and destruction." [32] His army wrecked 300 miles (480 km) of railroad and numerous bridges and miles of telegraph lines. It seized 5,000 horses, 4,000 mules, and 13,000 head of cattle. It confiscated 9.5 million pounds of corn and 10.5 million pounds of fodder, and destroyed uncounted cotton gins and mills. [33]

Sherman's campaign of total war extended to Georgian civilians. In July 1864, during the Atlanta campaign, Sherman ordered approximately 400 Roswell mill workers, mostly women, arrested as traitors and shipped as prisoners to the North with their children. There is little evidence that more than a few of the women ever returned home. [34]

The memory of Sherman's March became iconic and central to the "Myth of the Lost Cause" and neo-Confederates. The crisis was the setting for Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel Gone with the Wind and the subsequent 1939 film. Most important were many "salvation stories" that tell not what Sherman's army destroyed, but what was saved by the quick thinking and crafty women on the home front, or by a Union soldier's appreciation of the beauty of homes and the charm of Southern women. [35]

During the war, twelve county courthouses were destroyed by the U.S. Army.

  • The courthouse of McIntosh County at Darien was destroyed in June 1863 when the U.S. Army burned most of the town.
  • The Dade County courthouse was destroyed in 1863 during the Chattanooga Campaign.
  • The courthouses of Cherokee County, Clayton County, Cobb County, Polk County, and Whitfield County were destroyed in 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign.
  • The courthouses of Bulloch County, Butts County, Screven County, Washington County, and Wilkinson County were destroyed during Sherman's March to the Sea in 1864.

The courthouse in Catoosa County at Ringgold was spared by U.S. General William T. Sherman when he learned it was also a Masonic lodge. [36]

In December 1864, Sherman captured Savannah before leaving Georgia in January 1865 to begin his Carolinas Campaign. However, there were still several small fights in Georgia after his departure. On April 16, 1865, the Battle of Columbus, was fought on the Georgia-Alabama border. In 1935, the state legislature officially declared this engagement as the "last battle of the War Between the States." [37]

The war left most of Georgia devastated, with many dead and wounded, and the state's economy in shambles. The slaves were emancipated in 1865, and Reconstruction started immediately after the hostilities ceased. Georgia did not re-enter the Union until July 15, 1870, as the last of the former Confederate states to be re-admitted.

The state remained poor well into the twentieth century.

Many of Georgia's Civil War battlefields, particularly those around Atlanta, have been lost to modern urban development. However, a number of sites have been well preserved, including Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park and Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. Other sites related to the Civil War include Stone Mountain, Fort Pulaski, and the Atlanta Cyclorama. [38]

A number of antebellum mansions and plantations in Georgia are preserved and open to the public, particularly around Atlanta and Savannah. Portions of the Civil War-era Western & Atlantic Railroad have historical markers commemorating events during the war, including several sites associated with the Andrews Raid. The Civil War Heartland Leaders Trail includes 46 sites from Gainesville to Millegeville. Another area near Atlanta with Civil War history is in the Sweetwater Creek State Park in Douglas County, Georgia. At this location is one of the last standing buildings burned by General Sherman's army, New Manchester Mill.

Sherman’s March through Georgia

After taking the city of Atlanta and driving Confederate General Hood from Georgia, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman made one of the most brilliant decisions of the American Civil War. As Hood and his army invaded Tennessee in order to draw Sherman out of Georgia, Sherman decided to cut loose from his base of supply and march his entire army from Atlanta to either Savannah or Augusta.

When planning this event, Sherman wrote to General Ulysses S. Grant on October 9th, 1864, informing Grant that he would "make Georgia howl." Grant agreed, and on November 16th, Sherman left Atlanta on way to Savannah. Like his mentor Grant did during the Vicksburg campaign, Sherman was to demonstrate that an army could move fast and independently, and supply itself on the march. Sherman divided his army into two wings &ndash the left under General Slocum and the right under General Howard. Each wing was to move on a separate route, responsible for its own sustainment, and to carry 900 feet of pontoon train. Throughout Georgia, these two wings supported themselves off the rich farmland as they advanced on Savannah. Food for Sherman&rsquos men was never a problem.

Sherman, indeed, made Georgia howl, as his army cut a path of destruction across the Georgia landscape. The march was leisurely, and as his wings advanced, they fanned out to a width of sixty-six miles. Veterans would later report that Sherman&rsquos flanking movements along the march would be so far away from his headquarters that he instructed Slocum and Howard to burn a few barns occasionally as they marched, since Sherman could not understand signal flags, but knew what smoke meant. In their zeal, Slocum and Howard burned barns, destroyed homes, and railroads. Bands of stragglers &ndash called "Bummers" &ndash consumed or destroyed anything left by the army.

In less than a month, Sherman reached the coast just south of Savannah on December 10th and captured Fort McAllister three days later. He then massed his army to take Savannah, which was defended by Confederate General William Hardee and his 10,000 men. Hardee succeeded in getting his men out, and Sherman captured the city on December 21st, 1864. On December 24th, Sherman then presented the Savannah to President Lincoln as a Christmas present.

Sherman&rsquos march to the sea was over. Sherman had completely uprooted his army and marched it unassisted through enemy territory. As foreseen by him, Sherman&rsquos march weakened considerably the will of many Southerners to continue the fight. Many Confederate soldiers deserted when they learned what Sherman had done. Sherman&rsquos march accomplished its goal: it had cut a path of destruction through the Confederacy and had brought the war to the people of the South.

The War Transforms Gender Roles

The Civil War impacted women in both the North and South in a multitude of ways. In Divided Houses, Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber have edited a collection of essays which provides many examples of these impacts on women. Two notable essays focus on how the war impacted Confederate women in very different ways. George Rable addressed the perspective of New Orleans women during the period of Union occupation in “Missing in Action: Women of the Confederacy.” Joan Cashin provided a very different perspective in “Since the War Broke Out: The Marriage of Kate and William McClure.” Cashin’s essay examined the radical transformation of Kate McClure as head of household of their family plantation.

Rable described the impact of the war on the women of New Orleans. He argued that in the absence of their men, many wartime women of New Orleans felt empowered as compared to their antebellum roles. Many women turned to inventive ways to resist the Union presence in their city. As their behavior became increasingly more disrespectful towards Union soldiers, General Butler took action. The most extreme example cited by Rable was that of Eugenia Phillips who General Butler exiled to a nearby island. Resistance through disobedience as demonstrated by the women of New Orleans was just one way in which traditional gender roles were changed by the war.

Joan Cashin described yet another change in traditional gender roles. Kate McClure of South Carolina assumed the role of head of household while her husband William was away serving in the Confederate army. Cashin demonstrated how William McClure attempted to manage their plantation through correspondence with his overseers and particular slaves. As time progressed, Kate wrestled control of the plantation away from her husband and the plantation overseer and managed the day to day operations of the plantation herself. Kate would have had no such opportunity prior to the outbreak of war. Cashin explained that at the conclusion of the war the McClure’s returned to their traditional gender roles, speaking to the true impact the war had on Kate McClure. These two essays included by Clinton and Silber provide just a small glimpse into the impact of the Civil War on women of this time period.

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