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Letter from William Sherman to Ellen Sherman, April 9, 1865


Letter from William Sherman to Ellen Sherman, April 9, 1865


General William Sherman of the Union Army wrote the letter to his wife Ellen, on April 9, 1865.  Just prior to leaving Goldsboro, Sherman discussed some of the recent war happenings.  Because of Union General Grant’s victories at Petersburg Sherman did not have a reason to move north right away, so Sherman turned his direction to Raleigh.  Sherman bragged to his wife of his men, as they had rested plenty in Goldsboro and were now ready for the, “toil and uncertainty of war.”  Importantly, Sherman told his wife, “Poor North Carolina will have a hard time, for we sweep the country like a swarm of locusts.  Thousands of people may perish, but they now realize that war means something else than vain glory and boasting.”  This writing from Sherman further demonstrated how he viewed his actions as legit war tactics.  He was forced to carry out the actions to show the South’s home front, in this case North Carolina, what war really meant.  In showing North Carolina war, Sherman hoped to destroy North Carolinians’ abilities to fight physically and mentally.  The main photo is of Ellen Sherman, General Sherman’s wife.


William T. Sherman


Letter from William Sherman to Ellen Sherman, April 9, 1865, Home Letters of General Sherman, M. A. DeWolfe Howe, ed. (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1909), 342-343.






Goldsboro, North Carolina
Wayne County, North Carolina

Original Format



In the Field, Goldsboro, N. C,
April 9, 1865.

. . .. Tomorrow we move straight against Joe Johnston wherever he may be. Grant's magnificent victories about Petersburg, and his rapid pursuit of Lee's army makes it unnecessary for me to move further north, and I expect my course will be to Raleigh and Greensboro. I will fix up the rail road to Raleigh, but then shall cast off as my custom has been and depend on the contents of our wagons and on the resources of the country. Poor North Carolina will have a hard time for we sweep the Country like a swarm of locusts. Thousands of people may perish, but they now realise that war means something else than vain glory and boasting. If Peace ever falls to their lot they will never again invite War. But there is a class of young men who will never live at peace. Long after Lee's and Johnston's armies are beaten and scattered they will band together as highwaymen and keep the country in a fever, begetting a Guerilla War. It may be that the Government may give us who have now been working four years a rest and Jet younger men follow up the sequel. I feel confident we can whip Joe Johnston quick if he stops, but he may travel back towards Georgia, and I don't want to follow him again over that long road. I wish Grant had been a few days later or I a few days sooner, but on the whole our campaigns have been good. The weather now seems settled and if I have good roads think I can travel pretty fast. The sun is warm, the leaves are coming out, and flowers are in bloom, about as you will have it a month hence. The entire army has new clothing, and with soap and water have made a wonderful change in our appearance. The fellows who passed in review before me with smoke-black faces, dirty and ragged, many with feet bare or wrapped in cloth, now strut about as proud as young chicken cocks, with their clean faces and bright blue clothes. All are ready to plunge again into the labor and toil and uncertainty of war. You doubtless have heard all you can stand of these matters. My health is good. ... I send to Tommy today a hundred dollars, and now enclose you $200,which is all I can raise and I got it of the Quarter Master. I think, however, you will not suffer, but as a rule don't borrow. 'Tis more honest to steal.


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Ellen Sherman.jpg


William T. Sherman, Letter from William Sherman to Ellen Sherman, April 9, 1865, Civil War Era NC, accessed April 17, 2024,