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

 
 
 

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     In late 1864, Union General William T. Sherman began moving his forces, some 60,000 battle-hardened soldiers strong, northward from Atlanta 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 this time, 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 to 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 slowly trekked northward through the state, engaging in skirmishes and battles, before exiting the state on May 4, 1865.

     An advance party of Sherman’s cavalry under the command of General Judson Kilpatrick entered the state west of the main army in a tactic designed to draw attention from Sherman’s main objective — Goldsboro. Kilpatrick’s men began their foray on March 3 and their raid in the region lasted for two more days before they fell back to the rear of the main army to protect supply trains. Kilpatrick’s men raided several towns outside of Charlotte, killing some civilians and destroying homes and businesses. Wadesboro and rural Anson County bore the brunt of Kilpatrick’s attacks.     


References:
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)


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Gen. William T. Sherman

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