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Letter of William Sherman to Hugh Kilpatrick, March 7, 1865


Letter of William Sherman to Hugh Kilpatrick, March 7, 1865


General William Sherman, of the Union Army, wrote the letter on March 7, 1865 from Rockingham, North Carolina, to fellow Union Army general Hugh Kilpatrick, who was in charge of the 3rd Division of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Cumberland. In the letter, General Sherman described to Kilpatrick a broad outline of the campaign in North Carolina. Sherman particularly described the taking of Fayetteville first, with the goal ultimately being to secure the railroads from Wilmington and New Bern, in Goldsboro. Sherman eventually wanted to head towards Goldsboro and end in Raleigh. Sherman briefly mentioned prominent Confederate Generals William Hardee and Joe Johnston and the directions they were heading. The importance of the letter came towards the middle of the end, where Sherman discussed how to deal with North Carolinians, as they were encountered. Sherman particularly mentioned for soldiers to treat them “moderately and fairly.” Sherman made it known that they were different from South Carolinians and therefore should be treated differently. While Sherman’s men continued foraging techniques and destruction of key centers, like arsenals, the men were told to essentially be better behaved than they were in South Carolina because North Carolina was different from its cousin. The main photo above is of a mile marker in Rockingham, marking where Sherman passed in 1865.


William T. Sherman


The War of Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; Series I, Vol. XLVII, Part II (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1895), 721.






Rockingham County, North Carolina

Original Format



HDQRS. Military Division of the Mississippi,
Camp on Fayetteville Road, Thirteen Miles from Cheraw,
In the Field, March 7, 1865.

General Kilpatrick,
Commanding Cavalry, Rockingham:

GENERAL: Yours of this date, 11 a.m., is just received. I am well pleased to learn that Hardee is making well north. Though willing now to fight Joe Johnston, who commands in chief, I would prefer to work over to the new base to clear our columns of the impedimenta and make junction with Scholfield, who is doubtless working up toward Goldsborough. If I can get that point secure, with both railroads down to Wilmington and New Berne, you will perceive what a base I will have. Raleigh will be easy of conquest and we can drive all Carolina nor of the Roanoke, where the concentrated armies of the Confederacy will have contracted foraging ground. But of that hereafter. Now I will make for Fayetteville, and only ask you to keep up the seeming appearance of pushing after Hardee, but really keep your command well in hand, and the horses and men in the best possible order as to food and forage. To-morrow night I will send messengers with my orders for Schofiled, but shall aim to reach Goldsborough. I don’t want to make “Southing.” Our infantry columns are doing well. I will let Davis enter Fayetteville first, and if the people will spare the bridge, I want all to be easy on the citizens, but if they burn bridges or bother us we must go the whole figure. In conversation with people evince a determination to maintain the Union, but treat all other matters a beneath a soldier’s notice. Give us a whole country with a Government and leave details to the lawyers. Deal as moderately and fairly by the North Carolinians as possible, and fan the flame of discord already subsisting between them and their proud cousins of South Carolina. There never was much love between them. Touch upon the chivalry of running away, always, leaving the families for us to feed and protect, and then on purpose accusing us of all sorts of rudeness. I expect to reach Fayetteville by Saturday, and will determine as quick as possible what is next for you, but I don’t see as you can do better than hold on that flank. There is a body of infantry and cavalry left down in the pocket about Florence that might be caught, but it won’t pay to chase them-horse flesh is too precious. Keep your horses in the best order for the day when we must have a big fight-not, however, on this turn.

W.T. Sherman,
Major-General, Commanding.


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William T. Sherman, Letter of William Sherman to Hugh Kilpatrick, March 7, 1865, Civil War Era NC, accessed May 27, 2024,