The Fall of Goldsboro

March 22, 1865 – Federal forces began arriving at Goldsboro, North Carolina, which virtually ended their devastating Carolinas Campaign.

Federal Maj Gen W.T. Sherman | Image Credit: collaborationnation.wikispaces.com

Federal Maj Gen W.T. Sherman | Image Credit: collaborationnation.wikispaces.com

Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s withdrawal toward Smithfield after the Battle of Bentonville enabled Major General William T. Sherman to concentrate his Federal army at Goldsboro, the designated meeting point. This included the two corps led by Major General John M. Schofield (which had come east from Tennessee) and the four corps (which had come north from Georgia) led by Sherman himself, with the six corps totaling 88,948 men.[1]

Johnston had barely 20,000 men in comparison. In a message to Confederate General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee, he conceded: “Sherman’s course cannot be hindered by the small force I have. I can do no more than annoy him. I respectfully suggest that it is no longer a question whether you leave present position; you have only to decide where to meet Sherman. I will be near him.”[2]

Entering Goldsboro, Sherman issued congratulations to his troops: “After a march of the most extraordinary character, nearly 500 miles over swamps and rivers deemed impassable to others, at the most inclement season of the year, and drawing our chief supplies from a poor and wasted country, we reach our destination in good health and condition.”[3]

Sherman met up with Schofield in Goldsboro on the 23rd, just three days behind the schedule they had drafted in January. In the past 50 days, Sherman’s men had advanced 425 miles through harsh terrain and foul weather, crossed high rivers and deep swamps, and won battles at Kinston, Averasboro, and Bentonville. Federal forces now dominated North Carolina.[4]

Johnston’s Confederates crossed the Neuse River in retreat. Believing that Sherman would next advance into Virginia, Johnston positioned his army near Raleigh and Weldon, the two likeliest advance points. These were also solid linkage points with Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia if Lee fled south from Petersburg.[5]

As the Federals rested, Sherman quickly began planning his next move. He wrote to General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant on the 24th: “I think I see pretty clearly how, in one more move, we can checkmate Lee, forcing him to unite Johnston with him in defense of Richmond, or, by leaving Richmond, to abandon the cause. I feel certain if he leaves Richmond, Virginia leaves the Confederacy.”[6]

Meanwhile, Federals worked around the clock over two days to repair the railroad to New Bern, and by the 25th, supplies began arriving from the North. No more would the troops live off southern civilians. Over 500 bags of mail also arrived for the soldiers, some of whom had not received mail in months.[7]

Sherman became one of the first passengers on the first eastbound train from Goldsboro to New Bern. Leaving the Federals under Schofield’s command, he left on the 25th to meet with Grant in Virginia to discuss future military strategy. Both Sherman and Grant expressed confidence that the next big campaign could end the war.[8]

—–

  • [1] 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 17480-17510; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 656
  • [2] 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 17490-17500; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 75-76
  • [3] Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 454
  • [4] 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 17111-17121, 17490-17500; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 656
  • [5] 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 17490-17500; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 656
  • [6] 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 17539-17549
  • [7] 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 17529-17549; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 76
  • [8] 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 17529-17549; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 76
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One thought on “The Fall of Goldsboro

  1. […] Major General William T. Sherman met with Major General John M. Schofield at Goldsboro, North Carolina. This completed the junction of Federal forces in the state, as Sherman now had six […]

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