March 12, 1865: Letter From Sherman to Grant

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Sherman2

 

 

With his invasion of North Carolina underway, Sherman took time after the capture of Fayetteville, North Carolina to bring Grant up to speed with his immediate plans:

HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, IN THE FIELD,
FAYETTVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA, Sunday, March. 12, 1865.

Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, commanding United States Army, City Point, Virginia.

DEAR GENERAL: We reached this place yesterday at noon; Hardee, as usual, retreating across the Cape Fear, burning his bridges; but our pontoons will be up to-day, and, with as little delay as possible, I will be after him toward Goldsboro. A tug has just come up from Wilmington, and before I get off from here, I hope to get from Wilmington some shoes and stockings, sugar, coffee, and flour. We are abundantly supplied with all else, having in a measure lived off the country.

The army is in splendid health, condition, and spirits, though we have had foul weather, and roads that would have stopped travel to almost any other body of men I ever heard of.

Our march, was substantially what I designed–straight on Columbia, feigning on Branchville and Augusta. We destroyed, in passing, the railroad from the Edisto nearly up to Aiken; again, from Orangeburg to the Congaree; again, from Colombia down to Kingsville on the Wateree, and up toward Charlotte as far as the Chester line; thence we turned east on Cheraw and Fayetteville. At Colombia we destroyed immense arsenals and railroad establishments, among which wore forty-three cannon. At Cheraw we found also machinery and material of war sent from Charleston, among which were twenty-five guns and thirty-six hundred barrels of powder; and here we find about twenty guns and a magnificent United States’ arsenal.

We cannot afford to leave detachments, and I shall therefore destroy this valuable arsenal, so the enemy shall not have its use; and the United States should never again confide such valuable property to a people who have betrayed a trust.

I could leave here to-morrow, but want to clear my columns of the vast crowd of refugees and negroes that encumber us. Some I will send down the river in boats, and the rest to Wilmington by land, under small escort, as soon as we are across Cape Fear River.

I hope you have not been uneasy about us, and that the fruits of this march will be appreciated. It had to be made not only to destroy the valuable depots by the way, but for its incidents in the necessary fall of Charleston, Georgetown, and Wilmington. If I can now add Goldsboro’ without too much cost, I will be in a position to aid you materially in the spring campaign. Jos. Johnston may try to interpose between me here and Schofield about Newbern; but I think he will not try that, but concentrate his scattered armies at Raleigh, and I will go straight at him as soon as I get our men reclothed and our wagons reloaded. Keep everybody busy, and let Stoneman push toward Greensboro’ or Charlotte from Knoxville; even a feint in that quarter will be most important. The railroad from Charlotte to Danville is all that is left to the enemy, and it will not do for me to go there, on account of the red-clay hills which are impassable to wheels in wet weather.  I expect to make a junction with General Schofield in ten days.

Yours truly,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.

Grant was now free to initiate his campaign in Virginia with the assurance that North Carolina would offer no refuge to Lee’s army if he could force it to abandon Petersburg and Richmond.

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16 Comments

  1. Since Fayetteville is my hometown and I have relatives in Charleston and other parts of the Carolinas, I felt a need to offer a few remarks. My Scottish ancestors came to Fayetteville in 1753.

    Sherman didn’t put in his letter than his men stole everything in sight from non-combatants, leaving them to starve to death. He stole their livestock, their vegetables, their clothes, their guns, and would have poisoned their wells if he had thought about it. Any black man that resisted him and didn’t want to leave their homes were taken in chains. The South didn’t lose the war due to lack of courage and stupidity on the part of generals; they lost it because they ran out of men to fight it. They didn’t have the never-ending supply of immigrants coming into Boston and NY that immediately became soldiers. Almost always out-numbered the Southerner won battle after battle against Federal forces. The country that the Founding Fathers envisioned ended when Lee had to surrender to Grant. The dying institution of slavery in the South was finally “over”, and now every state government and every citizen of every state are slaves to the centralized government in Washington, DC. The union of “free and independent states” over for good. Welcome to the Socialist States of America, courtesy of Lincoln, who Karl Marx greatly admired and for good reason.

  2. “Any black man that resisted him and didn’t want to leave their homes were taken in chains.”

    Actually Sherman’s army was frequently impeded by black slaves desperate to escape to freedom. Sherman viewed them as a nuisance and that is why he issued Special Field Order #15 to settle them on land as farmers.

    https://almostchosenpeople.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/january-16-1865-special-field-order-no-15/

    The idea that the Union army was kidnapping blacks in chains is fanciful to say the least. The Confederate army on the other hand did precisely that on occasion:

    https://cwemancipation.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/enslaving-the-free-the-gettysburg-campaign/

  3. Not a neo-confederate, just an ancestor of many Confederate soldiers, and not a one of them owned slaves. They fought because their State was invaded. Back then you an an alligiance to your state, not Washington politicians. In the case of NC it only reluctantly left the Union after Lincoln asked them to take up arms against their brother states, which was a gross violation of the Constitution. Slavery didn’t have one thing to do with the state severing ties with the Union.

  4. “They fought because their State was invaded.”

    They fought because the states making up the Confederacy seceded in order to protect slavery. There was no other reason for secession. As for taking up arms against brother states, South Carolina had determined that was going to occur by firing on Fort Sumter.

  5. The Southern states wanted slavery preserved as an institution. This cannot be debated, argued or ignored. They started the war, financed the war, waged war and lost the war. The South was plunged into an economic depression that lasted for decades. Freed slaves got freed from servitude but received none of their God given rights after the war.

    How many times must it be said that war is an ugly thing, one of the ugliest of things, but in the end, it is what Clausewitz said – an extension of politics? South Carolina started it and they are damned lucky Sherman did not turn all of South Carolina into a smoldering, burned down abandoned wasteland.

    I find it interesting that WWII ended 80 years after the Civil War. Eighty years ago this month, Stalin’s troops had rolled through Poland and were in Germany proper, seeking to crush Berlin. The Allies had crossed the Rhine and were on their way in Germany as well. Preparations for the Okinawa invasion were under way and the Bomb was nearing completion.

  6. We have had this discussion before ad nauseum. For the average soldier in the field on either side, the war was not about slavery.

    Don your saying that was their motivation for fighting does not make it so. I would fight right now to keep my friends & loved ones safe. And you would as well most likely.

  7. PS. Many were “drafted” in the war & had little choice but to fight. Regardless of the reason. And while I understand the reasoning & reality of why Serman did what he did in re: to the noncombatants in the South, as I had a great grandma with 10 children to feed who had everything of use taken from her by the Union army, I don’t like it one bit.

  8. I would not fight Barbara either to preserve slavery or to destroy the Union and that was what the War was all about. Take slavery out of the equation and there would have been no Civil War.

  9. Mr. McClarey, in a previous post you made this argument. At the time of the American Revolution, the British government closed down the port of Boston. You argued such action was sufficient justification for the thirteen colonies to declare independence from Britain. During the Civil War, the Lincoln administration blockaded every coastal state from Virginia to Texas. Would this have been sufficient justification for the Southern states to secede?

  10. “At the time of the American Revolution, the British government closed down the port of Boston. You argued such action was sufficient justification for the thirteen colonies to declare independence from Britain.”

    Britain took its actions during a time of peace. President Lincoln imposed the blockade during a time of War. No secession, no War and no blockade.

  11. Barbara and Don are both right. Most soldiers did not fight over slavery, though some did — likely more on the north than south I believe. And but for slavery, there would not have been a war. But Don, you know quite well what a weak causal link the “but for” test is. Now to be clear, the case for slavery as proximate cause is not exactly weak — it is just not quite a slam dunk either.

  12. Most of the Southern soldiers were not slaveowners. I get that. I accept that.

    The men who started the Confederacy, itched for the war, financed it and started it were slaveowners. They wanted to spread slavery all the way to the Pacific and south to Panama. Ken Burns’ documentary claimed the Confederacy wanted to go as far south as Brazil.

  13. “Barbara and Don are both right. Most soldiers did not fight over slavery, though some did — likely more on the north than south I believe.”

    An interesting story about a New York town that seceded at the lInk below.

    http://southernnationalist.com/blog/2011/06/15/new-york-town-that-seceded-supported-the-confederacy/

    “I would not fight Barbara either to preserve slavery or to destroy the Union and that was what the War was all about.”

    That is an easy arm chair quarterback comment after the fact. Being in the middle of your home town being shelled with homes being bombed & onfire & death/destruction–including your own property and those of your loved ones–could give a slightly different perspective. Also, if you had been drafted, Don, you would have either fought or risked being shot/hung. By the way, there are confederate soldiers graves all over some of the hills in southern Illinois because I have seen them.

  14. Mr. McClarey, Britain’s blockade of Boston and the Lincoln administration’s blockade of coastal Southern states have the same effect – killing civilians. Civilians will die of famine because food can’t reach them. Sick people will die for lack of medicine. That was the whole point of the Declaration of Independence. When the British government showed that it preferred to have its subjects die instead of seeing them become independent, it lost its legitimacy.

  15. “Britain’s blockade of Boston and the Lincoln administration’s blockade of coastal Southern states have the same effect – killing civilians.”

    Please. Massachusetts had quite a few other ports and none of the other ports in the colonies were blockaded. No one died of starvation due to the British blockade of Boston. Likewise no one died of starvation as a result of the blockade of the Confederate ports. The Confederacy was self-sufficient in food, and if there had been no Union blockade no food, other than luxury items, would have been imported in any case.

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