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Cornelia Spencer, "The Last Ninety Days of the War In North Carolina" (1866)


Cornelia Spencer, "The Last Ninety Days of the War In North Carolina" (1866)


Spencer discussed in this entry her account of when General Sherman marched into Goldsboro. The description is very grim, but at the same time quite grand with her account of how many soldiers marched into the city. She also described Sherman's actions upon his arrival into the city.


Spencer, Cornelia


Cornelia Spencer. The Last Ninety Days of the War in North Carolina. (New York: Watchman Publishing Company, 1866), in UNC-Chapel Hill, Documenting the American South, accessed March 25, 2013,




Stafford, Scott




Goldsboro, North Carolina

Original Format




The town of Goldsboro was occupied by General Schofield's army on the twenty-first of March. No resistance was offered by the Confederates, who had withdrawn in the direction of Smithfield, with the exception of one regiment of cavalry, which had a slight skirmish with Schofield's advance near the town. General Schofield's conduct toward the citizens of the town was conciliatory. No plundering was allowed by him; efficient guards were stationed, and beyond the loss of fences and outhouses torn down for firing, etc., depredations on poultry-yards, etc., and a few smoke-houses, there was but little damage done. But in the surrounding country the outrages were innumerable, and in many places the desolation complete. On the twenty-third of March General Sherman's grand army made its appearance, heralded by the columns of smoke which rose from burning farm-houses on the south side of the Neuse. For thirty-six hours they poured in, in one continuous stream.

Every available spot in the town, and for miles around it, was covered with the two armies, estimated at one hundred and twenty-five thousand men. General Sherman's reputation had preceded him, and the horror and dismay with which his approach was anticipated in the country were fully warranted. The town itself was in a measure defended, so to speak, by General Schofield's preoccupation; but in the vicinity and for twenty miles round, the country was most thoroughly plundered and stripped of food, forage, and private property of every description. One of the first of General Sherman's own acts, after his arrival, was of peculiar hardship. One of the oldest and most venerable citizens of the place, with a family of sixteen or eighteen children and grandchildren, most of them females, was ordered, on a notice of a few hours, to vacate his house, for the convenience of the General himself, which of course was done. The gentleman was nearly eighty years of age, and in very feeble health. The out-houses, fences, grounds, etc., were destroyed, and the property greatly damaged during its occupation by the General. Not a farm-house in the country but was visited and wantonly robbed. Many were burned, and very many, together with out-houses, were pulled down and hauled into camps for use.

Generally not a live animal, not a morsel of food of any description was left, and in many instances not a bed or sheet or change of clothing for man, woman, or child. It was most heart-rending to see daily crowds of country people, from three-score and ten years of age, down to the unconscious infant carried in its mother's arms, coming into the town to beg food and shelter, to ask alms from those who had despoiled them. Many of these families lived for days on parched corn, on peas boiled in water without salt, on scraps picked up about the camps. The number of carriages, buggies, and wagons brought in is almost incredible. They kept for their own use what they wished, and burned or broke up the rest. General Logan and staff took possession of seven rooms in the house of John C. Slocumb, Esq., the gentleman of whose statements I avail myself. Every assurance of protection was given to the family by the quartermaster; but many indignities were offered to the inmates, while the house was as effectually stripped as any other of silver plate, watches, wearing apparel, and money. Trunks and bureaus were broken open and the contents abstracted. Not a plank or rail or post or paling was left anywhere upon the grounds, while fruit-trees, vines, and shrubbery were wantonly destroyed. These officers remained nearly three weeks, occupying the family beds, and when they left the bed-clothes also departed.


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Spencer, Cornelia , Cornelia Spencer, "The Last Ninety Days of the War In North Carolina" (1866), Civil War Era NC, accessed July 14, 2024,