Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign

January 21, 1865 – Major General William T. Sherman left Savannah, Georgia to join his Federal forces moving north as part of Sherman’s planned invasion of the Carolinas.

After capturing Savannah on the Atlantic coast last month, Sherman rested and retooled his Federal Army of the West. Seeking to diminish his reputation as a vandal due to the Federal devastation in Georgia, Sherman imposed strict rules against looting Savannah. The Richmond Enquirer opined that Sherman “changed his character as completely as the serpent changes his skin with the approach of spring. His repose, however, is the repose of the tiger. Let him taste blood once more and he will be as brutal as ever.”[1]

In early January, Sherman began planning a northward invasion of South Carolina. Fearful that Sherman may take too long, President Abraham Lincoln dispatched Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to Savannah to hurry the general, writing, “While General Sherman’s ‘get a good ready’ is appreciated, and is not to be overlooked, time, now that the enemy is wavering, is more important than ever before. Being on the down-hill, & some what confused, keeping (keep) him going…”[2]

On the Confederate side, President Jefferson Davis worked with Generals Richard Taylor, John Bell Hood, and William Hardee to devise a plan to stop Sherman. To Taylor, Davis wrote, “Sherman’s campaign has produced bad effect on our people, success against his future operations is needful to reanimate public confidence. Hardee requires more aid… and Hood’s army is the only source to which we can now look.” Davis suggested that Taylor keep some troops to defend the western states, while the main part of Hood’s Army of Tennessee should be sent “to look after Sherman.”[3]

Davis wrote to Hardee in South Carolina, “I hope you will be able to check the advance of the enemy,” until Confederate reinforcements could arrive, then he wrote to Governor Joseph E. Brown of Georgia asking for all possible troops for defense.[4]

Maj Gen W.T. Sherman | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Maj Gen W.T. Sherman | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

From Savannah, Sherman sent a portion of his Federals under General Oliver O. Howard to Beaufort, South Carolina. Since Beaufort was on the Atlantic Coast, Sherman sought to deceive the Confederates into thinking he would target the coveted port city of Charleston. Sherman instead planned to feint toward that direction while actually moving to capture the South Carolina capital of Columbia. On January 19, Sherman issued orders for his army to begin moving.[5]

The Federals were especially anxious to invade South Carolina since it had been the first state to secede, and many predicted more devastation there than in Georgia. When South Carolina Governor A.G. Magrath expressed alarm, President Davis told him, “I am fully alive to the importance of successful resistance to Sherman’s advance, and have called on the Governor of Georgia to give all the aid he can furnish.”[6]

When Sherman left Savannah on January 21, he left a Federal occupation force in the city while ignoring War Department orders to force Confederate sympathizers out. Even so, the occupation force deported many families with Confederate ties after Sherman left, a bitterness compounded by the arrival of three black regiments to command the city. A week later, a large fire swept through Savannah, destroying about 200 homes and leaving Federals and Confederates blaming each other for the destruction.[7]

Sherman’s Federals advanced in two wings. The wing under General Howard advanced up the Atlantic Coast, then moved inland to capture Pocotaligo on the railroad between Savannah and Charleston. The wing under General Henry Slocum moved up the Savannah River’s west bank, feinting an advance on Augusta. With their goal being Goldsboro, North Carolina by March 15, the Federals were poised to enter South Carolina as January ended.[8]

—–

  • [1] Nevin, David, Sherman’s March: Atlanta to the Sea (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 160-61; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), Kindle Locations 15362-15372
  • [2] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 619; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), Kindle Locations 15336-15346
  • [3] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 622-23
  • [4] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 624-25
  • [5] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 619, 626-27; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 445
  • [6] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 626-27
  • [7] Nevin, David, Sherman’s March: Atlanta to the Sea (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 160-61
  • [8] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 626-27; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), Kindle Locations 15728-15738
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One thought on “Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign

  1. […] William T. Sherman left Savannah, leaving an occupation force behind. […]

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