Raleigh: Union Accounts
In Goldsboro, Sherman and other generals showed that they were willing to adjust policies during the march. As peace came to Raleigh, the policies reflected the situation, demonstrating that actions taken were essentially war tactics and nothing else. Jacob Cox, a general in the Union Army, attempted to banned acts of property destruction in a circular written on April 12, as his men neared Raleigh. Just outside of Raleigh, near Johnston County, Cox was heavily concerned about “a constant succession of house burning in the rear” of his command. The burning of the houses with “the prospect of a speedy peace” made the actions “more than ever reprehensible.” Cox knew with the possibility of peace his men could not burn homes, as they once had done. Cox issued a strict order, as “Anyone found firing a dwelling-house, or any building in close proximity to one, should be summarily shot.” (Item 402)
As General Sherman and his army of over 60,000 men marched into Raleigh, they reduced the amount of destruction. Similar to the account from General Jacob Cox, Sherman knew the prospect of peace was close, so he shifted his hard war tactics, which were so famous from the start of his march in Georgia. Sherman announced in Special Field Orders No. 55, “No further destruction of railroads, mills, cotton, and produce . . . without the specific orders of an army commander.” In addition, Sherman made sure that “the inhabitants will be dealt with kindly, looking to an early reconciliation.” While Sherman still instituted some policies that represented a diluted version of his tactics, they were far less severe than what had occurred in Georgia, South Carolina, or Fayetteville. Similarly, as foraging continued “more care should be taken not to strip the poorer classes too closely.” (Item 404) Union officers realized the army still needed supplies like food, but it did not need to strip the poorest North Carolinians as peace neared.
When Sherman attempted to set the grounds of surrender for Confederate general Joseph Johnston, he demonstrated further that his once harsh tactics were just measures of war. Sherman offered very lenient terms of surrender to Johnston. Sherman’s leniency not only took place towards the Confederate soldiers, but also to Confederate civilians. Sherman wrote to the president of the University of North Carolina and former governor of North Carolina, David Swain, of how he preferred peace, in a letter from April 22, 1865. Once this peace occurred, Sherman declared, “all seizures of horses and private property will cease on our part, and . . . will be able to spare some animals for the use of the farmers.” (Item 406) In just a matter of weeks, the army had moved from the order of killing of surplus animals in Goldsboro to advocating a completely different philosophy with peace nearing. Eventually, though, those in Washington, particularly Secretary of War Edward Stanton, rejected the lenient policy Sherman proposed. Ultimately, the terms upon which Johnston surrendered on April 26 at Bennett Place in Durham, North Carolina, were harsher. (Barrett 1956, 271)
Although Union officials enacted harsher policies for the surrendered Confederate Army, Sherman and his men ended their notorious hard war tactics as they marched back to Washington, D.C. Sergeant Rice C. Bull of the Union Army noted, that he could “truly say” the march home represented “the happiest made by Sherman’s army.” What made the march home so great was how it differed from the other marches. Rice and other soldiers were to march “home in an orderly manner . . . no destruction of property of any kind would be permitted.” (Item 410) Soldiers preferred the notion of a peace march, rather than the war march that had occurred over the previous months. General C. R. Woods kept a closer watch over his men as they marched back to Washington from Raleigh. In Special Orders No. 76, he ordered “No foraging . . . excepting by the permission of Woods’ headquarters and the food foraged had to be paid for. Woods also ordered soldiers to respect all property from houses to mules and to “promptly arrest any offender who may violate these orders.” (Item 169) For these men and the rest of Sherman’s army, the war had ended. The previous tactics of foraging excessively, burning buildings, and killing animals were no longer necessary, as peace had come.