The Union Comes Knocking
When the Carolinas Campaign began in the late stages of 1864, General Sherman had two main objectives: to destroy morale in the South and to meet up with General Terry and General Schofield in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Sherman and his army marched through the treacherous terrain of South Carolina causing destruction wherever is set foot, causing significant harm to the Confederate homefront there. According to historian Jerry L. Cross in his chapter of Sherman's March Through North Carolina: A Chronology, he discussed that Sherman intended on capturing the Wilmington Weldon Railroad that would not only cut off a major supply line to General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, but allow for his Union army to have access to import its own supplies into Goldsboro via the railroad. (Cross 1995, 35) Months before his arrival in Goldsboro, Sherman’s forces captured the port city of Wilmington, thus shutting down the major Confederate supply line, and therefore being able to have it at his own disposal when he arrived in Goldsboro in March. Sherman believed that in order for this to be efficient he needed to move his waning supply train in another route other than the route his forces were taking to secure the supplies. He ordered General Judson Kilpatrick’s forces to protect the supply train in a separate route from his army to prevent Confederate General Johnston from striking any isolated cavalry Sherman may have. This was used to make it more viable for this supply train to meet up with General Schofield and his cavalry of 40,000 men in Goldsboro.
This strategy by General Sherman proved to be quite risk according to Joseph Glatthaar, as it put the Left Wing a full day's march ahead of Sherman’s massive army. (Glatthaar 1985, 12) This move by Sherman broke parts of his army up, which favored the hopeful General Johnston of the Confederate forces. He planned to attack the Left Wing of the Union troops since they were isolated. However, Johnston ran into the force in Bentonville, NC, and the Battle of Bentonville took place. A diary entry written by General Geary of the 154th New York described his orders given to him when the fighting at Bentonville started. He received orders to begin a new, more direct route to Goldsboro. It put him and his battalion twenty-five miles outside of the fighting in Bentonville. With this move Sherman was able to have this group and his supply train evade General Johnston and his looming army that wished to isolate a single part of the Union forces.
After Union soldiers progressed through South Carolina and the constant struggle of the state's geography and its inhabitants, they were hopeful of an easier campaign in North Carolina. They had encountered much resistance in South Carolina, the first state to secede, and Confederate loyalty was a problem for much of the trail through South Carolina. The anticipation for such a difference in the way the soldiers expected to be welcomed were based mainly off of what they knew about North Carolina. Glass-Campbell adds her insight to the fact that Union soldiers expected more Union sympathetic inhabitants than the past two states. She states that Sherman reminded troops that North Carolina had been a strong Union state since the beginning of the war and citizens were to be treated as such. (Glass-Campbell 2003, 75) The state was one of the last to secede from the Union in 1861, and had been believed to be one of the more Union sympathetic states in the Confederacy. This can be proven be looking at an entry by Colonel Lewis D. Warner upon crossing the state line of North Carolina. In his entry he stated that: "North Carolina has shown considerable Union sentiment during the war and I believe a proper course by our army would cause a slumbering fire to burst into a flame which cannot be quenched." (Item 837) Warner was a major general for Sherman during the Carolinas Campaign. He was a believer that if Sherman's words would match his actions that the forces would get more support from the North Carolina citizens than they had gotten from South Carolina and Georgia. His quote gives the belief that there was larger support for the Union than was known publicly. If Sherman were to act accordingly then the war may be able to end quicker and with less death in North Carolina and more support, which the Sherman's army needed at this point in their march.