In the fall of 1864, Sherman and his army marched across Georgia and destroyed nearly everything in their path. Sherman reasoned that the war would end sooner if the conflict were taken to the civilian South, a view shared by President Abraham Lincoln and General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant. Sherman’s men tore up railroads, burned grain stores, carried away livestock, and left plantations in ruins. The Yankees captured the port city of Savannah just before Christmas, and Sherman paused for three weeks to rest and resupply his troops.
After this rest, Sherman planned to move into the Carolinas and subject those states to the same brutal treatment that Georgia received. His 60,000 troops were divided into two wings. General Oliver O. Howard was to take two corps and move northeast to Charleston, South Carolina, while General Henry Slocum was to move northwest toward Augusta, Georgia. These were just diversions to the main target: Columbia, South Carolina.
As Sherman was preparing to move, the rains began. On January 17, the Yankees waited while heavy rains pelted the region. The downpour lasted for 10 days, the heaviest rainfall in 20 years. Some of Sherman’s aides thought a winter campaign in the Carolinas would be difficult with such wet weather, but Sherman had spent four years in Charleston as a young lieutenant in the army, and believed that the march was possible. He also possessed an army that was ready to continue its assault on the Confederacy. Sherman wrote to his wife that he “…never saw a more confident army…The soldiers think I know everything and that they can do anything.”
Sherman’s army did not begin moving until the end of January 1865. When the army finally did move, it conducted a campaign against South Carolina that was worse than the one against Georgia. Sherman wanted to exact revenge on the state that had led secession and started the war by firing on Fort Sumter.
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