north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     In late 1864, Union General William T. Sherman began moving his forces, some 60,000 battle-hardened soldiers strong, northward from Atlanta to “divide the Confederacy in two.” The plan was to march the Union forces through Georgia South Carolina, and North Carolina in order to squeeze Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee in Virginia between Sherman’s men to the south and those of General Ulysses S. Grant to the north. Along the way, Sherman hoped to disrupt Confederate supply lines and break the will of southerners on the home front. This “total war” assault on civilians – women and children included – by Union forces was a break from traditional warfare that had, up until this time, focused largely on military targets.

     In Georgia and South Carolina Sherman’s men freely plundered their surroundings as they marched, leaving whole towns in ashes. As they approached North Carolina, Sherman’s forces were divided into separate divisions or corps. They traveled across the state to protect each other’s flanks, forage for supplies, and to spread their influence throughout the state. The forces were more restrained in North Carolina because many had grown uncomfortable with the wholesale destruction wrought upon South Carolina. Additionally, North Carolina had been the last state to secede and was home to many Unionists who fostered the largest peace movement in the Confederacy. Union forces under Sherman entered North Carolina in early March and slowly trekked northward through the state, engaging in skirmishes and battles, before exiting the state on May 4, 1865.

     Sherman’s army entered North Carolina in stages, with Sherman accompanying his 15th Corps. The 15th Corps crossed the Pee Dee River at Cheraw on March 6 and marched in a direct route for the town of Fayetteville, following the path of the 17th and 20th Corps. By March 7, all of his army was east of the Pee Dee and four columns of infantry covered a swath of the state forty miles wide as they headed northeastward. Sherman’s foraging parties reported an abundance of supplies as they raided nearby towns, homes, and businesses for food and equipment. In addition to the troops following Sherman’s march, a large contingent of refugees participated in the march. The refugees included a number of former slaves, mostly women and children.

Wilson Angley, Jerry Cross, and Michael Hill, Sherman’s March Through North Carolina: A Chronology (1995)
Charles Royster, The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans (1991)
John G. Barrett, Sherman’s March through the Carolinas (1956)
Joseph T. Glatthaar, The March to the Sea and Beyond: Sherman’s Troops in the Savannah and Carolinas Campaigns (1985)
William T. Sherman, Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman (1875)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

Gen. William T. Sherman

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources