January 30, 1865: Sherman’s March Through South Carolina Begins

 

 

On this day Sherman began his march through the Carolinas, with his ultimate destination Lee’s army, trapping it between his army and Grant’s army.  Most Union troops had very little love for the Palmetto State, blaming it for starting the War, and Sherman’s boys were strictly on their worst behavior in South Carolina, as this diary entry by Lieutenant Colonel George Nichols, a Union staff officer, indicates:

January 30th-The actual invasion of South Carolina has begun. The 17th Corps and that portion of the 15th which came around by way of Thunderbolt Beaufort moved out this morning, on parallel roads, in the direction of McPhersonville. The 17th Corps took the road nearest the Salkahatchie River. We expect General Corse, with the 4th Division of the 15th Corps, to join us at a point higher up. The 14th and 20th Corps will take the road to Robertville, nearer the Savannah River. Since General Howard started with the 17th we have heard the sound of many guns in his direction. To-day is the first really fine weather we have had since starting, and the roads have improved. It was wise not to cut them up during the rains, for we can now move along comfortably. The well-known sight of columns of black smoke meets our gaze again; this time houses are burning, and South Carolina has commenced to pay an installment, long overdue, on her debt to justice and humanity. With the help of God, we will have principal and interest before we leave her borders. There is a terrible gladness in the realization of so many hopes and wishes. This cowardly traitor state, secure from harm, as she thought, in her central position, with hellish haste dragged her Southern sisters into the caldron of secession. Little did she dream that the hated flag would again wave over her soil; but this bright morning a thousand Union banners are floating in the breeze , and the ground trembles beneath the tramp of thousands of brave Northmen, who know their mission, and will perform it to the end.

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2 Comments

  1. And which houses were burning? Don, what was the “worst behavior”? Hopefully it was only the slave owner’s manors, and Sherman’s troops repeated their Georgian policy of avoiding damage to the commoners’ homes. Pray tell.

  2. Well Tom, I will say one thing for the Union troops that tramped through South Carolina. I doubt if they rounded up blacks and shipped them off to slavery, which is precisely what the Army of Northern Virginia did during the Gettysburg campaign.

    http://www.richmond.com/opinion/their-opinion/charles-f-bryan-jr/article_41fe942b-567d-5aaf-8564-2ba611cdf079.html

    If the Confederate Army had ever invaded Massachusetts, I suspect that the Bay State would have suffered as the Palmetto State did. Confederate troops tended to apportion as much blame for the War to Massachusetts and its abolitionists, as Northern troops did to South Carolina and its fire eaters.

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