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William Tecumseh Sherman, 1820-1891


William Tecumseh Sherman, 1820-1891


William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891), was a major-general in the Union Army during the Civil War. He led many successful campaigns in the Western Theater during the Civil War. His final campaign came with the march through the Carolinas, in early 1865. His march through North Carolina was to continue his ultimate goal, to destroy the resources and morale of the South to wage war. Sherman’s final campaign ended at Bennett Place in Durham, North Carolina with the surrender of Confederate general Joseph Johnston in April of 1865.


Justice, Timothy


William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891) was a major-general in the Union Army during the Civil War. Sherman gained success in the Western Theater and oversaw the Military Division of the Mississippi after Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to the head of the Union Army. (Jones 2004, 206) Starting in the fall of 1864, Sherman started on a march to go through the heart of the Confederacy, to bring an end to the war (Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina). (Jones 2004, 207) Sherman planned to destroy the South’s resources to fight a war and destroy Confederate morale by marching right through the South’s home front. (Jones 2004, 207) The last state to experience Sherman’s and his men’s wrath was the state of North Carolina. On March 7, 1864 Sherman and roughly 60,000 of his men crossed into North Carolina. (Barrett 1956, 122) Sherman and his generals preached to their soldiers to treat North Carolina gentler than the state of South Carolina, as North Carolina had supposed strong Union support before it seceded and had only done seceded because of other states. (Barrett 1956, 120) Still, Sherman had a job to do, to destroy Confederate resources and demoralize the North Carolina’s willingness to fight. Sherman issued for the destruction of several key items within the state of North Carolina, such as the arsenal in Fayetteville, the burning of pro-Confederate newspapers throughout the state and the burning of factories. (Barrett 1956, 141) In other towns, like Goldsboro, Sherman continued to order the killing of surplus animals to hurt North Carolina’s economic standing. (Johnson and Norwood 1979, 156-157) Sherman, though, did deescalate his practices as he moved through the state and the prospect for peace came more likely. (Barrett 1956, 189) Eventually, on April 26, 1865, Sherman received an official surrender from General Joseph, Johnston, of the Confederate Army, essentially ending all fighting on the East Coast. (Barrett 1956, 271-272) Sherman’s campaign through the Carolinas, particularly North Carolina, disrupted much of the rail communications and destroyed large quantities of the South’s supplies. (Barrett 1956, 280) The march by Sherman unquestionably brought realities of war to North Carolina, and helped undermine the morale of the entire South. (Barrett 1956, 280) Although highly controversial because of the tactics used, to bring war to civilians, Sherman considered the campaign a great success. (Barrett 1956, 280-281)


Barrett, John. Sherman's March Through the Carolinas. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1956.

Hirshson, Stanley. The White Tecumseh: A Biography of General William T. Sherman. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997.

Johnson, Bob and Charles S. Norwood eds. History of Wayne County, North Carolina: A Collection of Historical Stories. Goldsboro: Wayne County Historical Association, 1979.


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William Sherman



Justice, Timothy, William Tecumseh Sherman, 1820-1891, Civil War Era NC, accessed December 6, 2023,