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Diary of Alice Campbell, ca. 1865


Diary of Alice Campbell, ca. 1865


Alice Campbell, a local citizen of Fayetteville and more than likely an affluent member of the community because of her generosity in giving away knitted clothing, wrote her account of Union General William Sherman and his men when they occupied Fayetteville in March 1865. The account described the damage that Sherman and his bummers caused, as they took everything from food to jewelry. The most horrific sight to Campbell was the burning of Fayetteville’s, “beautiful and grandly magnificent Arsenal, which was our pride, and the showplace of our town.” While the arsenal had a clear importance militarily, it was also important to the local citizens, as it was one of the most beautiful buildings in the town, and had a personal meaning to them. But the destruction and stealing by Sherman and his men could not stop Campbell’s Confederate support. When visiting Confederate prisoners, Campbell urged her, “dear boys to be brave, and fight on, that we would win at last.” Although Campbell had experienced Sherman’s wrath first hand, she did not let him dampen her Confederate spirit, as she urged her men to continue fighting. The images are of a map of the arsenal and the ruins of the arsenal that exist today.


Alice Campbell


Diary of Alice Campbell, ca. 1865, When Sherman Came: Southern Women and the "Great March," Katharine Jones ed., (Indianapolis, Indiana: Bobbs-Merrill, Inc., 1964), 274-275.




Tim Justice




Fayetteville, North Carolina
Cumberland County, North Carolina

Original Format



Sherman, with his hordes of depraved and lawless men, came upon us like swarms of bees, bringing sorrow and desolation in their pathway.  For days, we had been expecting them, and our loved boys in grey had been passing through in squads looking ragged and hungry. We gave them food and clothing, especially shoes and socks, for many of them were bare-footed. The enemy seemed to be pouring in by every road that led to our doomed little town. Our Cavalry were contending every step, firing and falling back, covering the retreat of our gallant little bang, Hardee’s forces, with General
Wade Hampton, Butler, and others-the scene in our town baffled description, all was consternation and dismay. In lesstime than I can write this, Sherman’s army was in possession of our once peaceful, quiet homes. Every yard and every house was teeming with the bummers, who went into our homes-no place was sacred; they even went into our trunks and bureau drawers, stealing everything they could find; our entire premises were ransacked and plundered, so there was nothing left for us to eat, but perhaps a little meat and peas. Chickens, and in fact all poultry was shot down and take off with all else. We all knew our silver, jewelry and all valuables would fall into their hands, so many women hid them in such places as they thought would never be found, but alas for their miscalculation! One of my friends had a hen setting, and she took her watch and other valued jewels and hid them in the nest, under the hen-they did not remain long concealed, for
they soon found them and enjoyed the joke.

They went into homes that were beautiful, rolled elegant pianos into the yard with valuable furniture, china, cut glass, and everything that was dear to the heart, even old family portraits, and chopped them up with axes-rolled barrels of flour and molasses into the parlors and poured out their contents on beautiful velvet carpets, in may cases set fire to lovely homes and burned them to theground, and even took some of our old citizens and hanged them until life was nearly extinct, to force them to tell where their money was hidden; when alas! They had none to hide. They burned our factories, and we had a number of them, also many large warehouses, filled with homespun, and dwellings, banks, stores and other buildings, so that the nights were made hideous with dense smoke and firelight in every direction. The crowning point of this terrible nightmare of destruction was the burning and battering down of our beautiful and grandly magnificent Arsenal, which was our pride, and the showplace of our town.

On our vacant lot behind our home on Dick street, were a number of Confederate prisoners who had been captured by Sherman’s army, and placed there under guard. They numbered about one hundred, I think. They were hatless and shoeless and ragged. I asked Col. A.H. Hickenlooper, the officer who had quarters at our house, if I might go down to see them.  He most kindly consented, and said he would go with me for protection. So myself and sister, with a few neighbors and friends, went down. As I was President of our Knitting Society at the time, we had a large box of socks and gloves on hand, which we were just ready to send away, we took them with us; also all the hats and caps we could find, and distributed them to the prisoners.  Notwithstanding our Yankee officers, with us as a protector, we urged our dear boys to be brave, and fight, that we would win at last.  Oh! What a delusion, as it proved.

They took all of the horses in town that they could not take away with them and put them in an enclosure on Cool Spring street, and shot them; so they left hundreds of dead horses lying there, there being no way to get rid of them. They were burned, and you may try to imagine the odor, if you can.

After they left, our hospitals, which had not been very full, were filled to overflowing. They came in with various diseases, and wounds innumerable. Typhoid fever seemed to prevail. . . .


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Arsenal Ruins.jpg


Alice Campbell, Diary of Alice Campbell, ca. 1865, Civil War Era NC, accessed July 12, 2024,