Sherman's March Through South Carolina

66 Days of Hell

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Gen. Sherman's march through South Carolina began in late December, 1864. By 9 MAR 1865, his troops had passed out of the state into North Carolina - leaving behind a path of total destruction 100 miles wide and extending the entire length of the state.The campaign began in late November 1864 even before the surrender of Savannah, but due to the strong resistance by Gen. Wheeler's Cavalry, Sherman's first troops did not cross the river into South Carolina until 15 January 1865. He had reported to his superiors that he expected the Carolina march to last 4 to 5 weeks, but in fact it was late March before his troops passed out of South Carolina into North Carolina. He later reported that his march had not begun until the end of January.

"We marched backwards all the way to Goldsboro" was how one of the old men who were a part of the SC Militia remembered the period. The remnant of the Army of Tennessee, once again under the command of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, Gen. Wheeler's Cavalry, State Militia units of boys and older men, and various SC commands relieved from duty in Virginia in order to protect their own farms, opposed and hindered Gen. Sherman's march at every step.

Gen. Sherman's troops generally regarded the people of South Carolina with contempt. In his journal, dated 26 FEB 1865, Thomas Osborn of the Federal Artillery gave this account:

"These men are the most contemptible crowd I have ever seen used as soldiers. Most of them are old, gray headed men, from fifty to sixty-five years of age, many of them have heads as white as snow, and nearly all of them are infirm; there are a few small boys among them. We shall be compelled to parole most of them as they will be unable to march with the Army, and we have not transportation for them. Humanity would demand that these old cripples and little children be all carried in ambulances."1

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