Goldsboro: Confederate Accounts
As Sherman’s army fought at the Battle of Averasboro on March 16, 1865, George Nichols believed “The Rebels have shown more pluck than we have seen in them since Atlanta.” (399) The renewed vigor shown by Confederate troops mirrored that of Confederate women, as they witnessed one of the few battles in the interior of North Carolina.
Janie Smith, a seventeen-year-old from Averasboro, assisted the wounded when the Confederate Army used her family’s plantation home, Lebanon, as a makeshift hospital during the battle. In a letter to her friend Smith wrote, “Sherman . . . is pursuing the wrong policy to accomplish his designs,” as the he treated the “negroes. . . worse than the white folks.” The poor treatment extended to the whites in the town. While in Averasboro, “Every nook and corner of the premises was searched, the things they didn’t use were burned or torn into strings.”. The actions caused Smith to solidify her resentment against the Yankee cause. Smith promised that if she ever saw a Yankee woman she intended “to whip her and take the clothes off her very back.” (Item 177)
The horrors for Janie Smith did not end with thievery by Union soldiers. The ghastly sight of amputations was so terrible for Smith that “The painful impression has seared my very heart.” Doctors and others threw out amputated limbs from the windows as if they were trash. Even after this gruesome experience her Confederate pride grew. Smith knew the war might be over, but she wanted retaliation against the North. Smith hoped when her “army invades the North I want them to carry the torch in one hand and the sword in the other. I want desolation carried to the heart of their country, the widows and orphans left naked and starving just as ours were left.” (Item 177) Sherman’s March and the horrors of war did nothing to break Smith’s loyalty to the Confederacy. Smith believed strongly in taking the fight to the North, even though the war was nearing an end.
Catherine Edmondston, an elite member of North Carolina society who resided in Halifax County, wrote passionately of the likely success for the Confederate Army in North Carolina. Edmondston had no reason to believe that Confederate General Joseph Johnston and his men could stop Sherman, as Sherman and his army had marched unopposed for the past four months. However, Edmondston needed to believe that Averasboro and Bentonville would be successes as she wrote her journal entry on March 21. She wrote without complete information on what actually happened at Averasboro or Bentonville. Edmondston could not imagine “the treatment they will receive from these murderous scoundrels,” Sherman’s men. Edmondston had complete faith that, “Johnston will defeat Sherman, perhaps kill him . . . and be saved from the miseries of having our whole country overrun by these bloodthirsty harpies.” Although not directly affected by Sherman yet, the word of his actions caused her to support the Confederate Army even more, to avoid a country overrun by “bloodthirsty harpies.” Edmonston’s desire for Confederate victory was a little shocking as she had been very critical of the Confederacy’s central government. The actions taken by Sherman were so horrid to Edmondston that she could not stand the thought of living under Yankee authority. (Item 176)
By the time Sherman reached Goldsboro after battles at Averasboro and Bentonville, he and his army had restricted the policy of foraging. Despite those policy changes, Union soldiers often stole other belongings like personal items. Still, Sherman carried out other policies that he saw directly linked to the war effort, such as burning factories or the killing of unserviceable animals as they contributed the North Carolina’s economic success. For farmers like Mr. Sutton, who asked Sherman in vain for horses and mules to work his land, these actions aimed at North Carolina’s economy threatened his ability to make a living. (Item 166) Even though the actions by Sherman and his men continued to deescalate when they left Goldsboro and headed to Raleigh, a growth of Rebel support continued for some North Carolinians on the home front.