After General Sherman captured Savannah, General Grant initially ordered him to embark his army on ships and join Grant’s army at Richmond, Virginia. However, Sherman disagreed, and with the capture of Fort Fisher near Wilmington, North Carolina, on January 15, convinced General Grant that Sherman and his army should march north through the Carolinas destroying everything of military value on the way. Sherman specifically targeted South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union.
On February 1, 1865, Sherman headed north toward Columbia, South Carolina, with 60,000 soldiers divided into two columns. On February 17, Sherman’s army captured Columbia, and forced the evacuation of Charleston, South Carolina, on February 17 and 18. Sherman then headed north, virtually unopposed, crossing into North Carolina on March 8, occupying Fayetteville, North Carolina, on March 11.
From Fayetteville, Sherman’s next target was Goldsboro, North Carolina. Recognizing this, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, with a Confederate force of about 21,000, attacked the Union army at Bentonville, North Carolina. This is the last major battle of the Civil War, involving about 80,000 troops, and was the climax of Sherman’s highly successful Carolinas campaign. The Union army heavily out-numbered the Confederates. Estimated casualties from the battle are 1,527 for the Union and 2,606 for the Confederates. Of note is that Robert Patterson was severely wounded during this battle.
Sherman’s Carolina campaign was highly successful. His army laid waste to a 45-mile wide swath of countryside from Savannah, Georgia to Goldsboro, North Carolina, and forced the Confederate army into one last battle at Bentonville.