north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     In late 1864, Union General William T. Sherman began moving his forces, some 60,000 battle-hardened soldiers strong, northward from Atlanta, Georgia to “divide the Confederacy in two.” The plan was to march the Union forces through Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina in order to squeeze Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee in Virginia between Sherman’s men to the south and those of General Ulysses S. Grant to the north. Along the way, Sherman hoped to disrupt Confederate supply lines and break the will of southerners on the home front. This “total war” assault on civilians – women and children included – by Union forces was a break from traditional warfare that had, up until 1865, focused largely on military targets.

     In Georgia and South Carolina Sherman’s men freely plundered their surroundings as they marched, leaving whole towns in ashes. As they approached North Carolina, Sherman’s forces were divided into separate divisions or corps. They traveled across the state to protect each other’s flanks, forage for supplies, and spread their influence throughout the state. The forces were more restrained in North Carolina because many had grown uncomfortable with the wholesale destruction wrought upon South Carolina. Additionally, North Carolina had been the last state to secede and was home to many Unionists who fostered the largest peace movement in the Confederacy. Union forces under Sherman entered North Carolina in early March and trekked northward through the state, engaging in skirmishes and battles, before exiting the state on May 4, 1865.

     Following battles at Averasboro and Bentonville, Sherman moved toward Goldsboro where, on March 21, 1865, he united with forces from General J. M. Schofield’s army from New Bern and General A. H. Terry’s troops from Wilmington. Sherman’s army had covered 425 miles from Savannah, Georgia, to Goldsboro in 50 days. Capture of his objective in Goldsboro gave Sherman rail connections to New Bern and shipping lanes for supplies. The combined armies remained in Goldsboro for two weeks as they gathered supplies. Sherman left Schofield in command while he traveled to City Point, Virginia, for a conference with General Grant and President Lincoln. Sherman returned to the state and moved his army toward Raleigh, occupying the capital city on April 14th.

Wilson Angley, Jerry Cross, and Michael Hill, Sherman’s March Through North Carolina: A Chronology (1995)
Charles Royster, The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans (1991)
John G. Barrett, Sherman’s March through the Carolinas (1956)
Joseph T. Glatthaar, The March to the Sea and Beyond: Sherman’s Troops in the Savannah and Carolinas Campaigns (1985)
William T. Sherman, Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman (1875)
Location: County:

Original Date Cast:




north carolina highway historical marker program

Gen. William T. Sherman

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources