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TO "CURE HER OF HER PRIDE AND BOASTING":
THE GENDERED IMPLICATIONS OF SHERMAN'S MARCH
LISA TENDRICH FRANK
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Lisa Tendrich Frank
Although writing a dissertation is a lonely endeavor, it cannot be done alone. I feel
lucky to have had a tremendous amount of support along the way from a large group of
people. First and foremost, I would like to thank my doctoral committee. I am fortunate
to have a committee that all along has both encouraged my ideas and challenged me to
push them further. My work has benefited from their advice and insights. Bertram
Wyatt-Brown, my advisor, encouraged me to find a topic that I could get excited about
and supported me when I finally found it. His helpful comments and insights, generous
use of Milbauer funds, and introduction to a particular Brandeis graduate made my time in
graduate school far more enjoyable than I had anticipated. Louise Newman, in particular,
pushed me to expand my understandings and conceptions of gender, women, and
women's history. Fitz Brundage, Thomas Gallant, and David Leverenz all helped me at
different stages of my project, even when I moved 3,000 miles away.
Many other scholars have helped me refine my ideas and incorporate new ones
over the years. Kathleen Donohue, Laura Edwards, Michael Fellman, Gary Gallagher,
John Marszalek, Joan Waugh, and the members of the Tucker Society all read portions of
my work and offered helpful suggestions. Their insights proved invaluable. I have also
benefited from conversations over meals, drinks, and desserts with Ed Baptist, Jackie
Campbell, Clark Davis, Stan Deaton, Philip Goff, Marcus Harvey, Helen Kinsella, Cheryl
Koos, Susan Lewis, Karen Lystra, Andy Moore, Marcus Nenn, and Frankie White. I
hope I have been able to incorporate all of their ideas and answer all of their questions. In
junior high, Veda Mara Levin encouraged my love of writing and taught me how to
express myself Later in life, Stephen B. Oates revived my love of history and the Civil
War and encouraged me to pursue it into graduate school. I cannot thank them enough.
The staffs at several libraries helped me immensely by pointing out manuscript
collections that might prove useful and regaling me with family stories about Sherman's
March. I would especially like to thank Dick Shrader at the Southern Historical
Collection of the University of North Carolina, Henry Fulmer at the South Caroliniana
Library of the University of South Carolina, Elizabeth Dunn at the Rare Book,
Manuscript, and Special Collections Library of Duke University, Dale Couch at the
Georgia Department of Archives and History, as well as Roy Ritchie, Susi Krasnoo, and
Christopher Adde at the Henry E. Huntington Library. I would also like to thank the rest
of the staffs at these three institutions as well as those at the Atlanta History Center, the
Special Collections Department in the Robert W. Woodruff Library at Emory University,
the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia, the Georgia
Historical Society, the Library of Congress, the South Carolina Department of Archives
and History, the South Carolina Historical Society, and the University of Florida. In
addition, the members of the office staff of the University of Florida's History
Department have done whatever was in their power to make things easy for me. For that,
and their friendship, I thank Betty Corwine, Barbara Guynn, and Linda Opper.
I am grateful for financial support from an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
fellowship at the Henry E. Huntington Library, a Women's Studies Research Grant from
Duke University, and an Albert J. Beveridge Grant from the American Historical
Association. The University of Florida has also generously assisted me through a Gerson
Dissertation Fellowship, Grinter Fellowship, George Pozzetta Fellowship, and Richard J.
For giving me places to stay when I was on the road and making research trips a
lot less lonely than they could have been, special thanks go to Amy Cavanaugh, Stan and
Debbie Deaton, Donna and Mark Fleishman, Peter Hartog, Lynne and Roger Irvine,
Jennifer and Jay Langdale, Jim and Maxine Perlmutter, Sherry Seitlin, Pat Solley, and
Keith and Tara Spolan. All of these friends and family, Southern or not, have shown me
the best of Southern hospitality. Vanessa Guzzi, Brenda Rosen, and Deborah Roth do
not live in places where I needed to do research, but they each gave me moral support and
kept me smiling through the long process.
I feel fortunate to have both married into and been born into a wonderful family.
It would take too long to mention everyone who has loved and supported me over the
years, but a few deserve special mention. In addition to sharing Andrew with me, my in-
laws have offered me nothing but support and encouragement. My mother- and father in-
law, Judie and Paul Frank, as well as my brother- and sister-in-law, Gary and Gail Frank,
have happily incorporated me into the family and treated me as if I had been born a
Frank. My parents, Marilyn and Howard Tendrich, have gladly supported me in
everything I ever wanted to do. They taught me to believe in myself and cheered me on
whenever I lost my confidence. I can never thank them enough for being such wonderful
parents and friends to me. I especially appreciate all they did in their efforts to
understand what I have been doing for the past seven years. My mom deserves special
thanks for going far beyond the call of duty by accompanying me on research trips. Not
only was she good company, but she also turned out to be a great research assistant. My
brother, Jon, has always kept me on my toes and cheered me on and I love him for both.
My grandparents, Shirley and Jack Seitlin and Helen Tendrich, have all been unbelievably
supportive throughout this process. I wish I could have taken them up on their offers of
help. Their quiet prodding and their constant love and encouragement have helped me get
through everything. Savannah has been a great distraction and calming influence.
Andrew has been the best of everything since I met him seven years ago. He has
always believed in me and has helped me believe in myself The road to this point would
have been unbearably lonely and boring without him as my best friend, cheerleader, chef,
sounding board, psychologist, editor, research assistant, proofreader, traveling
companion, and husband. At this point, he probably knows more about Sherman,
Southern women, and the Civil War than he ever wanted to know, but he has been patient
and encouraging nonetheless. I know my work is better because of him. He's been a
wonderful tour guide through history and life. I love him everything.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKN OW LED GM EN TS........ .. ..................................... ....... ............ ....... .. ii
ABSTRACT ............. .............................. .. .. ....... vi
INTRODUCTION "FULL OF FIRE AND PATRIOTISM": SHERMAN'S
M ARCH AND SOUTHERN W OM EN ................................................. ........... ..... 1
1 "WAR MEANS RUIN AND MISERY": PUNISHING SOUTHERN
W O M E N .................. ......... .. ....... .......... .......... .............. ... ..... ......... 19
2 "THE FIENDS WILL DANCE AFTER HIM IN HIGH GLEE":
BECOM ING CONFEDERATES............................................. ........... 69
3 "WITH HEARTS NERVED BY THE NECESSITY FOR PROMPT
ACTION": CONFEDERATE W OM EN......................................... ............ 125
4 "NO PLACE, NO PERSON IS SACRED FROM THEIR
PROFANATION": SHERMAN'S MARCH................................... ........... 166
5 "A REBEL: AS LONG AS I LIVE": THE INTENSITY OF
CONFEDERATE WOMANHOOD. ..... ...................... ............. 214
EPILOGUE: "BETWEEN DEATH AND DISHONOR": SHAMING
SOUTHERN SOLDIERS............................... 258
B IB L IO G R A PH Y ........... .... .................. ...................................... .......... ........ 272
B IO G R A PH IC A L SK ETCH ................................. ...................................... .......... 313
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
TO "CURE HER OF HER PRIDE AND BOASTING":
THE GENDERED IMPLICATIONS OF SHERMAN'S MARCH
Lisa Tendrich Frank
Chair: Bertram Wyatt-Brown
Major Department: History
This dissertation explores the gendered aspects of Union General William
Tecumseh Sherman's Civil War campaign through Georgia, South Carolina, and North
Carolina homefront. It specifically addresses how Southern women adapted their gender
identities to encompass regional concerns during the 1864 and 1865 campaign. In
particular, it highlights the ways in which the march and its assault on domesticity
galvanized Southern women and prompted them to embrace "Confederate womanhood."
In their fight to protect themselves, their homes, their possessions, and their families from
Union troops, Confederate women physically and verbally attacked the invaders. Such
defiance, as well as women's continued support for the Confederacy, demonstrated their
pride in and support for their nation. Instead of crushing female support for the
Confederacy as planned, Sherman's March provoked women to an intense, unwavering
support for their country.
Elite white women were especially outraged by Sherman's direct assault on the
domestic sphere. Union troops focused their attack on slaveholding women, who they
believed instigated and promoted rebellion by urging Southern men to secede, enlist, and
remain on the battlefield. The recognition of women's wartime participation allowed
Northern soldiers to disregard gender conventions that traditionally shielded white women
from direct attacks. Consequently, Union troops attacked the trappings of domesticity--
women's wardrobes, fine china, silver candlesticks, glass vases, private journals, and
fancy linens. They deliberately ransacked spaces defined as domestic, not only the house
as a whole, but also women's bedrooms and private chambers and, subsequently, put the
fear of rape in the forefront of Southern women's minds. Destruction and terror on this
level struck at the heart of the feminine sphere. By directly threatening the feminine
sphere, the march reinforced the Rebel loyalty of its victims and provoked their
persistent hatred of the Northern invaders.
"FULL OF FIRE AND PATRIOTISM":
SHERMAN'S MARCH AND SOUTHERN WOMEN
In late 1864 and 1865, cries of "the Yankees are coming! The Yankees are
coming!" echoed throughout Georgia and the Carolinas.' Although alarmed by the news,
Confederate women in these states had prepared themselves for the possibility. From the
beginning of the Georgia campaign, they had carefully tracked United States General
William Tecumseh Sherman's 60,000 Northern soldiers as they burned a trail through the
lower South. In their pursuit of"hard war," the troops under Sherman's command left a
wide swath of destruction in their wake. The attack on the Southern homefront included
burning plantations and houses, stealing food and household items, destroying railroads
and unwanted food sources, as well as taunting and terrorizing civilians. These actions
demonstrated Sherman's determination to break the will of white Southerners by bringing
the harsh realities of war home. The campaign's success has often led scholars to
Caroline Howard Gilman to Eliza, 2 June 1865, "Letters of a Confederate
Mother: Charleston in the Sixties," Atlantic Monthly 137 (April 1926): 511, Mary
Jones Mallard, 14 December 1864, Yankees a'Coming: One Month's Experience during
the Invasion of Liberty County, Georgia, 1864-1865, ed. Haksell Monroe (Tuscaloosa,
Ala.: Confederate Publishing Company, Inc., 1959), 38.
overlook the strong resistance of Confederate women. Although Sherman's March has
been widely studied and documented as an event of great military importance in the Civil
War, the gendered implications of, and the experiences of women during, the campaign
"To 'Cure Her of Her Pride and Boasting': The Gendered Implications of
Sherman's March" treats the 1864-1865 campaign as Sherman understood it, as a direct
assault on the South's elite white women. This controversial tactic resulted from
Sherman's understanding of Southern society, and his conviction that slaveholding women
were essential to the Confederate war effort. Sherman made his appreciation of Southern
women clear early in the war, explaining to his brother, Ohio Senator John Sherman, that
"the entire South, man, woman, and child are against us, armed and determined."'2 With
this rationale, General Sherman justified a military assault that would strike at all
Southerners, and elite women in particular In the Georgia and Carolinas campaign
Sherman targeted slaveholding women, who he believed had instigated and promoted
rebellion by urging Southern men to secede, enlist, and remain on the battlefield His
recognition of women's wartime participation allowed Sherman to disregard gender
conventions that traditionally shielded white women from direct attacks. Sherman
2 William T. Sherman to John Sherman, 22 September 1862, The Sherman Letters:
Correspondence Between General and Senator Sherman from 1837-1891, ed. Rachel
Sherman Thorndike (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1894), 162, emphasis added.
conceived of white Southern women as Confederates, rebels, and enemies, and treated
As he planned the Georgia and Carolinas campaign, Sherman specified goals that
clearly targeted Southern women and their domestic worlds. Hoping to "make Georgia
howl" and the South as a whole submit, Sherman ordered his troops to wage "hard war."
In addition to "forag[ing] liberally" for food and destroying Confederate supply lines,
Sherman's men struck at domestic and female targets.3 Union troops attacked the
trappings of domesticity--women's wardrobes, fine china, silver candlesticks, glass vases,
private journals, and fancy linens. They also deliberately ransacked spaces defined as
domestic, not only the house as a whole, but also women's bedrooms and private
chambers. Destruction on this level extended to the breaking of those items that would
not necessarily directly assist the Confederate war effort, and instead struck at the heart
of the feminine sphere. As the focus of this Union campaign, the white women in
Georgia and the Carolinas could not help but participate as central actors in the Civil War.
A study of Sherman's March provides an ideal opportunity to take women and gender
3 William T. Sherman to Ulysses S. Grant, 6 November 1864, The War of the
Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,
130 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1881-1902), Ser. 1, Vol. 39,
Pt. 3: 660 [hereafter cited as Official Records]; Mark Grimsley The Hard Hand of War:
Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians, 1861-1865 (New York: Cambridge
University Press, 1995), 3-4; Special Field Orders No. 120, 9 November 1864, Official
Records, Ser. 1, Vol. 39, Pt. 3: 713.
out of the margins and place them within the narrative of Civil War history.4 The march,
and the Civil War as a whole, cannot be understood without an examination of women's
roles as civilian combatants.
Scholars of Sherman's March are not alone in marginalizing women's place in the
conflict. Until recently, most Civil War historians have focused primarily on the male
aspects of war. What happened on the battlefield and in the political realm has taken
precedence over all else. Consequently, they often leave women on the outskirts of Civil
War history, minimizing their roles in both experiencing and shaping the course of the
war. Historians have not yet integrated women into general studies of the war, but have
segregated them into the domain of "women's history."' Instead of synthesizing women
4 On the incorporation of gender into all topics of study, including military
history, see Joan Wallach Scott, Gender and the Politics of History (New York.
Columbia University Press, 1988); Kristin L. Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood:
How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998); John A. Lynn, "The Embattled Future of
Academic Military History," Journal of Military History 61 (October 1997): 777-789;
John Shy, "The Cultural Approach to the History of War," Journal of Military History
57 (October 1993): 13-26; Charles Royster, "Comments on John Shy: 'The Cultural
Approach to the History of War,'" Journal of Military History 57 (October 1993): 59-
62; Miriam Cooke and Angela Walcott, eds., Gendering War Talk (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1993); Rosemary Foot, "Where are the Women? The Gender
Dimension in the Study of International Relations," Diplomatic History 14 (Fall 1990):
615-622; Emily S. Rosenberg, "A Round Table: Explaining the History of American
Foreign Relations: Gender," Journal of American History 77 (June 1990): 116-124.
5 For a recent examples of this omission, see Russell F. Weigley, A Great Civil
War: A Military and Political History, 1861-1865 (Bloomington: Indiana University
Press, 2000). Also see James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
(New York: Ballantine Books, 1988); Paddy Griffith, Battle Tactics of the Civil War
into studies of the war, explorations of them during the Civil War era generally fall into
three discrete categories, all influenced by traditional views of women and gender roles. A
large number of studies emphasize organized female activities, especially nursing,
soldiers' aid, and fundraising'6 Other historical works focus on women's role in what
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989); Richard E. Beringer, Herman Hattaway,
Archer Jones, and William N. Still, Jr., Why the South Lost the Civil War (Athens:
University of Georgia Press, 1986). Although some scholars try to include women in
their Civil War studies, they often relegate them to a separate chapter or section of the
6 Mary Elizabeth Massey, Women in the Civil War (Lincoln: University of
Nebraska Press, 1994), 43-64; Julieanna Williams, "The Homefront: 'For Our Boys--The
Ladies' Aid Societies,'" in Valor and Lace: The Roles of Confederate Women 1861-1865
ed. Mauriel Phillips Joslyn (Murfreesboro, Tenn.: Southern Heritage Press, 1996), 16-
33; Ada W. Bacot, A Confederate Nurse: The Diary of Ada W. Bacot, 1860-1863, ed.
Jean V. Berlin (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1994); Kate Cumming,
Kate: The Journal of a Confederate Nurse, ed. Richard Barksdale Harwell (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 1959). Most of this work focuses on the Union
experience. See Jeanie Attie, Patriotic Toil: Northern Women and the American Civil
War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998); Judith Ann Giesberg, Civil War Sisterhood:
The U.S. Sanitary Commission and Women's Politics in Transition (Boston:
Northeastern University Press, 2000); Thomas J. Brown, Dorothea Dix: New England
Reformer (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998); Mary Denis Maher, To Bind
Up Their Wounds: Catholic Sister Nurses in the U.S. Civil War (New York: Greenwood
Press, 1989); Kristie Ross, "Refined Women as Union Nurses," in Divided Houses:
Gender and the Civil War, ed. Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1992), 97-113; Elizabeth D. Leonard, Yankee Women: Gender Battles
in the Civil War (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1994); Elizabeth D. Leonard,
"Civil War Nurse, Civil War Nursing: Rebecca Usher of Maine," Civil War History 41
(September 1995): 190-207; Lori D. Ginzberg, Women and the Work of Benevolence:
Morality, Politics, and Class in the Nineteenth-Century United States (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1990), 133-173; Jane E. Schultz, "The Inhospitable Hospital: Gender
and Professionalism in Civil War Medicine," Signs 17 (Winter 1992): 363-392; Jane E.
Schultz, "Race, Gender and Bureaucracy: Civil War Army Nurses and the Pension
Bureau," Journal of Women's History 6 (Summer 1994): 45-69; Marjorie Barstow
scholars consider the war's background--the homefront.7 Finally, in an effort to show
women's feats beyond the conventional female sphere, a few investigations highlight
women's extraordinary acts as spies or soldiers.8 In all of these instances, scholars have
Greenbie, Lincoln's Daughters of Mercy (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1944); Agnes
Brooks Young, The Women and the Crisis: Women of the North in the Civil War (New
York: McDowell, Oblensky, 1959); Ann Douglas Wood, "The War Within a War:
Women Nurses in the Union Army," Civil War History 18 (September 1972): 197-212.
7 Drew Gilpin Faust, Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in
the American Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); George
C. Rable, Civil Wars: Women and the Crisis of Southern Nationalism (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 1989); Mary Elizabeth Massey, Women in the Civil War
(Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994). Most studies of women emphasize how
the war affected women rather than how they affected each other. Clara Junker, "Behind
Confederate Lines: Sarah Morgan Dawson," Southern Quarterly 30 (Fall 1991): 7-18;
Daniel E. Sutherland, "Introduction to War: The Civilians of Culpepper County,
Virginia," Civil War History 37 (June 1991): 120-137; William Harris, "East Tennessee's
Civil War Refugees and the Impact of the War on Civilians," Journal of East Tennessee
History 64 (1992): 3-19. Many studies of the homefront prioritize the experiences of
men. See Wayne K Durrill, War of Another Kind: A Southern Community in the Great
Rebellion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990); Daniel E. Sutherland, Seasons of
War: The Ordeal of a Confederate Community, 1861-1865 (New York: The Free Press,
1995); Stephen V. Ash, When the Yankees Came: Conflict and Chaos in the Occupied
South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995); Stephen Ash, Middle
Tennessee Society Transformed, 1860-1870: War and Peace in the Upper South (Baton
Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988); Robert C. Kenzer, Kinship and
Neighborhood in a Southern Community: Orange County, North Carolina, 1849-1881
(Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1987)
8 Elizabeth Leonard, All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War
Armies (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1999); Lauren Cook Burgess, ed., A
Uncommon Soldier: The Civil War Letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1994); Richard Hall, Patriots in Disguise: Women Warriors of
the Civil War (New York: Paragon House, 1993); Ruth Scarborough, Belle Boyd: Siren
of the South (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1983); Oscar A. Kinchen, Women
Who Spied for the Blue and the Gray. Philadelphia: Dorrance & Company, 1972;
maintained long-standing ideas about women and womanhood, only allowing their
subjects to act in prototypically feminine or feminist ways. As a result, they have
confined women to their own separate sphere in Civil War history. This segregation does
not allow for a nuanced understanding of Sherman's March, the Southern homefront,
Confederate women, or the war.
Women's marginalization in Civil War history, and in Confederate history in
particular, reflects the contours of Southern women's history. Despite the general
consensus regarding the mythologized ideal of the Southern lady, scholars of slaveholding
women disagree over the extent to which their subjects embraced their society. Some, like
Catherine Clinton, assert that "the plantation mistress" lived between worlds, privileged
by her class and race while constrained by her gender. In the antebellum South, Clinton
argues, "white men ruled, and both white women and slaves served the same master."
This was not a comfortable position for slaveholding women to hold, but "women did not
resist as much as resent" this system. Elite white women, in this interpretation, found
DeAnne Blanton, "Women Soldiers of the Civil War," Prologue: The Journal of the
National Archives 25 (Spring 1993): 27-35; Lyde Cullen Sizer, "Acting Her Part:
Narratives of Union Women Spies," in Divided Houses, 114-133; Janet Kaufmann,
"Under the Petticoat Flag: Women Soldiers in the Confederate Army," Southern Studies
23 (Winter 1984): 24-31; Kay C. Larson, "Bonnie Yank and Ginnie Reb," Minerva 8
(Spring 1990): 33-48; Nancy Samuelson, "Employment of Female Spies in the American
Civil War," Minerva 7 (Spring 1989) 57-66.
slaveholding and plantation life a burden. 9 Others disagree. Instead, they argue,
"slaveholding women, who never figured as mere passive victims of male dominance,
benefited from the membership in a ruling class." Elite white women, in this view, served
as proponents rather than detractors of the South and its social order. Once again
debunking the myth of the "Southern lady," these scholars place elite white women at the
core of Southern slaveholding culture. Women not only benefited from slavery, but they
also embraced it. Slaveholding women, like their husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons,
often treated slaves cruelly, avidly supported secession, resented abolitionist
intervention, and adhered to the tenets of Southern honor.10
9 Catherine Clinton, The Plantation Mistress: Woman's World in the Old South
(New York: Pantheon Press, 1982), 35, 180-198. Also see Anne Firor Scott, The
Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830-1930, 48-53; Anne Firor Scott,
"Women's Perspective on the Patriarchy," Journal of American History 61 (June 1974):
52-64; Alexis Girardin Brown, "The Women Left Behind: The Transformation of the
Southern Belle, 1840-1880," The Historian 62 (2000): 759-778; Kent Anderson Leslie,
"A Myth of the Southern Lady: Antebellum Proslavery Rhetoric and the Proper Place of
Woman," Sociological Spectrum 6 (January 1986): 31-49; Maxine P. Atkinson and
Jacqueline Boles, "The Shaky Pedestal: Southern Ladies Yesterday and Today,"
Southern Studies 24 (Winter 1985): 398-406; Kathryn L. Seidel, "The Southern Belle as
an Antebellum Ideal," Southern Quarterly 15 (July 1977): 387-401; Margaret Ripley
Wolfe, "The Southern Lady Long Suffering Counterpart of the Good Ole' Boy," Journal
of Popular Culture 11 (Summer 1977): 18-27; Dewey W. Grantham, "History,
Mythology, and the Southern Lady," Southern Literary Journal 3 (Spring 1971): 98-108.
10 Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household: Black and White in
the Old South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 44, 197-198,
334-371; Jean E. Friedman, The Enclosed Garden: Women and Community in the
Evangelical South, 1830-1900 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985),
87-91; Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), esp. 232-233; Nell Irvin Painter, "The
The debate over the position of elite white women in Southern society extends
into the historiography of the Civil War. Those who believe that white women resented
the antebellum patriarchal society naturally argue that these women had few reasons to
support the Confederacy. Clearly not all elite white women, or men, supported the
Confederacy. Historians such as Thomas G. Dyer, Jane H. Pease, and William H. Pease,
have drawn attention to the "Secret Yankees," Unionist women, and families of mixed
loyalties across the South." Taking this emphasis a step further, others, especially Drew
Journal of Gertrude Clanton Thomas: An Educated White Woman in the Eras of Slavery,
War, and Reconstruction," introduction to The Secret Eye: The Journal of Gertrude
Clanton Thomas, 1848-1889, ed. Virginia Ingraham Burr (Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 1990), 63-65; Brenda E. Stevenson, Life in Black and White:
Family and Community in the Slave South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996),
199-205; Marli Weiner, Mistresses and Slaves: Plantation Women in South Carolina,
1830-1880 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 89-112; Marli Weiner,
"Mistresses, Morality, and the Dilemmas of Slaveholding: The Ideology and Behavior of
Elite Antebellum Women," in Discovering the Women in Slavery: Emancipating
Perspectives on the American Past, ed Patricia Morton (Athens: University of Georgia
Press, 1996): 278-298; Stephanie McCurry, "The Two Faces of Republicanism: Gender
and Proslavery Politics in Antebellum South Carolina," Journal of American History 78
(March 1992): 1245-1264.
Thomas G. Dyer, Secret Yankees: The Union Circle in Confederate Atlanta
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999); Thomas G. Dyer, "Vermont
Yankees in King Cotton's Court: The Case of Cyrena and Amherst Stone," Vermont
History 60 (Fall 1992): 205-229; Thomas G. Dyer, "Atlanta's Other Civil War Novel.
Fictional Unionists in a Confederate City," Georgia Historical Quarterly 79 (Spring
1995): 147-168. Jane H. Pease and William H. Pease acknowledge the mixed loyalties of
the Petigru family. See Pease and Pease, A Family of Women: The Carolina Petigrus in
Peace and War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999). Also see Daniel
W. Crofts, Reluctant Confederates: Upper South Unionists in the Secession Crisis
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989).
Gilpin Faust and George C. Rable, argue that women's conditional support for the
Confederacy was a natural outgrowth of their gender; white women's femininity would
not allow them to support a protracted war effort that required extended sacrifice and
self-abnegation. As a result, Faust and Rable present women whose femininity took
precedence over their regional loyalties. They were women in the South, not women of
the South.12 Few scholars would disagree with this assessment of women's strong gender
identity, and only recently have some begun to accept Southern women as ardent
12 Faust, Mothers of Invention; Drew Gilpin Faust, "Altars of Sacrifice:
Confederate Women and the Narratives of War," in Southern Stories: Slaveholders in
Peace and War (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1992), 113-140; Rable, Civil
Wars; Laura F. Edwards, Scarlett Doesn't Live Here Anymore: Southern Women in the
Civil War Era (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000); Catherine Clinton, Tara
Revisited: Women, War, and the Plantation Legend (New York: Abbeville Press, 1995);
Jean V. Berlin, "Did Confederate Women Lose the War?: Deprivation, Destruction, and
Despair on the Homefront," in The Collapse of the Confederacy, ed. Mark Grimsley and
Brooks D. Simpson (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001): 168-193.
13 Gary W. Gallagher, The Confederate War: How Popular Will, Nationalism, and
Military Strategy Could Not Stave Off Defeat (Cambridge: Harvard University Press,
1997); Jacqueline Glass Campbell, "'Terrible has Been the Storm': Sherman, the South
and the Cultural Politics of Invasion," (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 2000). Although
George C. Rable stresses women's conditional Confederate patriotism in Civil Wars, he
acknowledges their sustained loyalty in a more recent study. "Indeed, what remains most
remarkable about the Confederacy was not its internal weaknesses--political, social, or
economic--but its staying power and especially the ability of so many men and women to
endure and make sacrifices." George C. Rable, The Confederate Republic: A Revolution
Against Politics (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 300.
"To 'Cure Her of Her Pride and Boasting"' explores how the march and its assault
on domesticity galvanized Southern women and prompted them to embrace a Confederate
identity. It closely examines the white Southern women whose regional identities evolved
into a vehement Confederate patriotism. As Confederate women, they consistently
behaved in ways that encompassed both their regional and gender identities. Furthermore,
these female Rebels did not consider their loyalty to the Confederacy as unfeminine.
They saw adherence to the cause and their faith in the men engaged in warfare as a natural
extension of their Southernness. Activities that might have seemed unfeminine during
peacetime became appropriate during wartime. Confederate women physically and
verbally attacked the invading troops as they fought to protect themselves, their homes,
their possessions, and their families from "Satan Sherman and his imps."'4 Such defiance,
especially among elite women in Georgia and the Carolinas, as well as women's continued
support for the Confederacy, demonstrated their pride in and support for their nation.
As a result, instead of crushing female support for the Confederacy as planned,
Sherman's March provoked women to an intense, unwavering support for their country.
Confederate women supported their homeland while adhering to the ideals of Southern
ladyhood as they understood them.
14 Mary Rowe, 17 February 1865, "A Southern Girl's Diary," Confederate
Veteran 40 (July 1932): 265.
Chapter 1, "'War Means Ruin and Misery': Punishing Southern Women," places
the gendered motives and tactics of Union troops at the center of the campaign's basic
narrative. It contends that Sherman specifically designed his campaign through Georgia
and the Carolinas as a comprehensive assault on Southern domesticity. This, Sherman
believed, would eradicate white Southern women's support for their nation and the war.
In addition, it would "cure her of her pride and boasting."15 Consequently, during the
campaign Union troops purposefully ransacked homes and bedrooms, taunted and
threatened Southern women, as well as ravaged women's personal letters, journals, sheet
music, wedding dresses, and other sentimental treasures. Union soldiers primarily
justified the attack on these non-military items and areas as part of a campaign to destroy
the pride and punish the disloyalty of Confederate women.
Chapter 2, "'The Fiends Will Dance After Him in High Glee': Becoming
Confederates," argues that before Sherman's men arrived at their homes, white women in
Georgia and the Carolinas recognized that they had become domestic enemies and targets
of Union hostility. Union actions--especially the imprisonment of "Rebel" women in
Washington, Benjamin "Beast" Butler's Woman Order, Philip Sheridan's Shenandoah
campaign, and the early reports of Sherman's March--demonstrated to white Southern
women that they would no longer be shielded from the horrors of war by their gender or
15 William T. Sherman to Ellen Sherman, 12 March 1865, Home Letters of General
Sherman, ed. M. A. DeWolfe Howe (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1909), 332.
class. As the line between homefront and warfront disappeared, and Sherman's men
approached, Confederate women readied to battle Union troops. The anticipation of
imminent confrontations with Sherman's troops provoked Southern women's
consciousness as Confederates to grow stronger.
White Southern women did not confine their support for their nation to words or
individual actions. Chapter 3, "'With Hearts Nerved by the Necessity for Prompt
Action': Confederate Women," demonstrates that Confederate women in Georgia and the
Carolinas displayed their regional loyalty through increased work for their nation as
Sherman's troops approached. From the outset of the Civil War, white women actively
supported the Confederacy as they raised money, encouraged enlistment, sewed
uniforms, rolled bandages, nursed wounded, and performed many other tasks to
contribute to the war effort. These wartime roles both reflected their dedication to their
nation and further promoted a strengthening of Confederate womanhood through the
development of a shared sense of identity with others across the South. Consequently,
women's roles in the Confederacy did not force them to choose between their femininity
and regional identities. Instead, these actions demonstrated that slaveholding women's
intrinsic Southernness required them to move into roles that emphasized their loyalty to
their nation through their work as Confederate women.
In addition, Chapter 3 treats the Columbia Bazaar of early 1865 as the
quintessential display of Confederate womanhood. As Sherman and his soldiers closed in
on the capital of South Carolina, the Confederate women there flaunted their loyalty with
an elaborate fundraising bazaar for Southern soldiers. In particular, the bazaar
demonstrated to the invading soldiers that Confederate women would not easily be
subdued. The imminent approach of Union troops made it difficult to organize and stock
a fundraising bazaar, but instead of dampening women's enthusiasm, it inspired them to
redouble their efforts. Sherman's March gave Confederate women a sense of immediacy
that motivated them to increase their work for Southern soldiers. Their knowledge of the
impending attack allowed white women to support the war effort as the Union invasion
directly threatened their homes and personal safety.
When confronted with Union troops in their homes and neighborhoods,
Confederate women discovered that their gender and class provided even less protection
than they had anticipated. Chapter 4, '"No Place, No Person is Sacred From Their
Profanation': Sherman's March," asserts that Northern soldiers routinely and
purposefully violated the traditional norms that gave white women a protected status in
nineteenth-century America. This unprecedented attack on Southern domesticity and
homes forced white women to defend both their regional and gender identities.
Successfully adapting their femininity to one that included a defense of their homes and
their nation, Confederate women made clear their belief that Sherman and his troops were
inhuman, uncivilized, and capable of anything. These female Rebels responded to the
assault on domesticity and femininity by using it as an opportunity to intensify their
fight for their nation, their homes, and their loved ones. In doing this, they proudly
asserted their Confederate patriotism as they confronted the enemy soldiers invading their
Not only did Sherman and his men leave physical destruction and ruin in their
path, but they also left bitterness, hatred, and Confederate patriotism in their wake.
Chapter 5, '"A Rebel as Long as I Live': The Intensity of Confederate Womanhood,"
argues that white women's persistent belief in the Confederacy and continued animosity
toward the enemy resulted directly from their experiences as civilian targets during
Sherman's March. The invasion of the domestic sphere during Sherman's campaign failed
to force Georgia and Carolina women to yield. It also had some unanticipated
consequences; the march magnified women's Confederate patriotism while it reinvigorated
their sense of the irreconcilable differences between Confederates and Northerners. The
march created in Confederate women "a hatred that knows no change, and [a people who]
can never forget what they have done, even to the tenth generation."16 Sherman's March
helped ensure Union victory, but it could not "break the pride of the [women of the]
16 Loula Kendall Rogers, 11 May 1865, Loula Kendall Rogers Papers, Special
Collections Department, Robert W. Woodruff Library, Emory University, Atlanta,
17 William T. Sherman to Ellen Sherman, 23 March 1865, Home Letters of General
Sherman's March may not have destroyed women's war efforts or Confederate
patriotism, but it had far-reaching and ruinous effects on the South. The epilogue,
"'Between Death and Dishonor': Shaming Southern Soldiers" explores the consequences
of Sherman's March on white Southern men. The results of the campaign, specifically
designed to emasculate men and demoralize women, suggest that it may have been more
successful in its indirect attack on Confederate soldiers than it was in its direct assault on
the nation's women. Although physically removed from the violence on the homefront,
soldiers from Georgia and the Carolinas felt the psychological brunt of the attack. In
short, the campaign destroyed Southern men's confidence in their ability to protect their
homes and families. It consequently forced Confederate soldiers to come to grips with
the fact that they could not protect Southern womanhood from the onslaughts of war.
American Civil War historians have often depicted Southern white women in the
latter war years as a battered lot. Exhausted from wartime realities and their own
sacrifices, the argument runs, Southern women had decided that the costs of the conflict
were too high. Whatever pro-Confederate sympathies that may have remained by late
1864 should have quickly dissipated with the threat of a personal attack by Union
troops. However, as "To 'Cure Her of Her Pride and Boasting'" argues, by directly
threatening the feminine sphere, Sherman's March had the opposite effect on its targets.
Rather than crushing Southern women into demoralized submission, the march reinforced
the Rebel loyalty of its victims and provoked their persistent hatred of the Northern
invaders. As word of Sherman's devastation became known, the march confirmed long-
held prejudices against Yankees and resulted in a renewed and strengthened belief in the
Tom Taylor, a Union soldier who "witnessed a scene of destruction and woe,"
assessed Sherman's March as "a black page for American history!"'8 Sherman's March,
he believed, would long be understood as he saw it, as an attack on helpless civilian
women and children. This assessment proved accurate. Since 1865, most scholars of the
Civil War, and of Sherman's March in particular, have glossed over Confederate women's
experiences and active participation in the war. Assuming that Southern women
passively suffered through a horrible ordeal over which they had little control, scholars
have spent little time on female Rebels. However, a closer look at Sherman's March
reveals white Southern women as ardent and active Confederates. Their place at the heart
of the campaign allowed them to understand its implications in ways that most historians
have not. One woman noted the significance early in the campaign. "How that march
18 Thomas T. Taylor, 23 November 1864, Diary, Thomas T. Taylor Collection,
Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Taylor made this comments after watching foragers
"[enter] the premises and after robbing family of every thing to eat, deliberately [proceed]
to break jars, dishes, furniture &c. until not more than a dozen half sashes were left and
not a single piece of furniture left undamaged." They "then robbed the beds of their
bedding, wardrobes of their clothing and cut open mattresses even to the one on which the
little children slept on their crib. To complete their inhuman and fiendish act [they drove]
the lady big with child, her innocent, little children and her aged mother from the house."
They even took "the graduating diploma of Miss Bryan. tore the ribbon and seal from
it and cast it on the floor."
through those feminine foes in Georgia will read in History! The cry of those ruined
households will sound along the ages."19 As another Confederate woman noted, female
Rebels did not stand quietly by as non-combatants while Union soldiers ransacked their
homes. Instead, they began a campaign of their own, vowing that as Confederate women
they "[would] never submit to Yankee dominion."20
19 Caroline Gilman to Eliza, 25 December 1864, "Letters of a Confederate Mother:
Charleston in the Sixties," Atlantic Monthly 137 (April 1926): 510, emphasis added.
20 Louisa Jane Harllee Pearce to Ameilia, [March 1865], Benjamin H. Teague
Papers, 1846-1921, South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston.
"WAR MEANS RUIN AND MISERY":
PUNISHING SOUTHERN WOMEN
In late 1864, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, with 60,000 soldiers
under his command, set out on one of the most destructive campaigns in American
military history up to that point. After capturing and occupying Atlanta, Georgia, in
September 1864, the Union troops began marching east to Savannah in November. At the
end of the March to the Sea and after a short sojourn in Savannah, they continued their
campaign into the Carolinas at the beginning of 1865. By the time the march ended on
April 26, 1865, near Durham Station, North Carolina, Sherman had inflicted more than
$100,000,000 in physical damage as well as immeasurable psychological scars on the
Southern homefront.' Having secured the surrender of Confederate General Joseph
Johnston, the Union proclaimed the march a success. The campaign had fulfilled two
From Savannah, Sherman estimated that he had caused over $100,000,000 worth
of damage in the State of Georgia on the March to the Sea. William T. Sherman to Henry
Halleck, 1 January 1865, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official
Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 130 vols. (Washington, D.C.:
Government Printing Office, 1881-1902), Ser. 1, Vol. 44: 6-16, esp. 13. [hereafter cited
as Official Records].
interrelated goals: to break the will of Confederates and to destroy the material and
human resources supporting the rebel military.
This chapter, in addition to providing a basic narrative of the march as it relates to
civilians, explores the gendered motives and tactics of Sherman and his Union troops.
Although they generally avoided physical contact with the elite white women of the
South, Union soldiers found and employed countless ways to strike at their enemies'
femininity and livelihoods. This assault went far beyond the foraging and burning on
which prior historians have focused their attention. Union soldiers ravaged homes,
entered bedrooms, insulted women, threatened rape, destroyed personal items, and
otherwise unleashed an unprecedented domestic assault. In most instances, these actions
formed part of a premeditated plan that Sherman and his troops articulated prior to, and
justified throughout, the campaign.
Few historians acknowledge the centrality of women to Union tactics in the 1864-
1865 campaign. Instead, most focus on the official military objectives of the march to
destroy both the Confederacy's ability to provide supplies to its army and the morale of
its supporters. With few exceptions, scholars have conflated the two goals, assuming
that Union attempts to destroy material resources constituted the sole means of crushing
the spirits of the "rebels" who supported secession and the Confederacy. In addition,
their assessments have invariably defined the Confederate supporters in the path of
Sherman with an ungendered definition of"civilian." As a result, they treat the campaign
as a conflict between men on the battlefield, while ignoring the power of the largely female
civilian population. Because Union troops faced little sustained resistance from the
Confederate army, most analyses of the March focus on the ease with which Sherman
progressed through the South and asserted his military advantage.2 In addition, these
accounts prioritize what happened while the troops were between cities and towns rather
than when they were inside them. This approach neglects a discussion of the resistance
that the South's white women exhibited. In all of these ways, scholars have marginalized
white Southern women from the conflict and have treated them as passive victims.
2 Although he helped make war on the civilian enemy and faced the female
population's ire, Union officer Henry Hitchcock similarly minimized women's role as
enemy combatants in comparison to male troops. Despite experiences to the contrary, he
asserted that during the March to the Sea "we have met as yet no enemy, and no
opposition." Henry Hitchcock, 24 November 1864, Marching With Sherman: Passages
from the Letters and Campaign Diaries of Henry Hitchcock, Maior Assistant Adiutant
General of Volunteers, November 1864-May 1865, ed. M. A. DeWolfe Howe (Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 1995), 89.
3 Lee B. Kennett explores the first stage of Sherman's March in his Marching
Through Georgia. The Story of Soldiers and Civilians during Sherman's Campaign (New
York: HarperCollins, 1995). Despite its title, Kennett's book focuses primarily on the
military aspects and actions of the campaign. Only Chapter 14 offers a close look at the
interactions between soldiers and civilians. By turning women into passive victims,
Kennett and other scholars have left the impression that the North actually invaded a
quiescent South. In reality, the destruction of lives and property, which Sherman's
March exemplified, profoundly shaped Confederate women's and men's experiences.
The invasion itself cannot be understood without an understanding of who was invaded,
how Yankee soldiers viewed them, and how Confederate soldiers reacted to the despoiling
of their homeland. See John Bennett Walters, "General William T. Sherman and Total
Even as they ignore women, however, most studies of Sherman's March recognize
that the campaign had everything to do with power. 4 Sherman, himself, made this
War," Journal of Southern History 14 (November 1948): 447-480; John G. Barrett,
Sherman's March Through the Carolinas (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 1956); John Bennett Walters, Merchant of Terror: General Sherman and Total War
(New York: Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1973); Richard Wheeler, Sherman's March
(New York: Thomas Crowell, Publishers, 1978); Burke Davis, Sherman's March (New
York: Random House, 1980); James Lee McDonough and James Pickett Jones, War So
Terrible: Sherman and Atlanta (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1987); Mark A.
Smith, "Sherman's Unexpected Companions: Marching Through Georgia With Jomini
and Clausewitz," Georgia Historical Quarterly 81 (Spring 1997): 1-24; Anne J. Bailey,
The Chessboard of War: Sherman and Hood in the Autumn Campaigns of 1864 (Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 2000). Some recent studies of Sherman delve beneath the
political and military, but still focus more on military than civilian targets during the
March. For example, see Stanley P. Hirshson, The White Tecumseh: A Biography of
William T. Sherman (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997); Michael Fellman, Citizen
Sherman: A Life of William Tecumseh Sherman (New York: Random House, 1995);
John F. Marszalek, Sherman: A Soldier's Passion for Order (New York: Vintage Books,
1994); Lee B. Kennett, Sherman: A Soldier's Life (New York: HarperCollins, 2001). A
few scholars have recognized the importance of women to the design of the march. See
Jane E. Schultz, "Mute Fury: Southern Women's Diaries of Sherman's March to the
Sea," in Arms and the Woman: War, Gender, and Literary Representation, ed. Helen M.
Cooper, Adrienne Auslander Munich, and Susan Merrill Squier (Chapel Hill: University
of North Carolina Press, 1989): 59-79. Jacqueline Glass Campbell's recent dissertation
examine the centrality of women in the March through the Carolinas. See Campbell
"'Terrible Has Been the Storm': Sherman, the South and the Cultural Politics of
Invasion," (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 2000).
4 These explorations of power still emphasize a detached political and military
strategy. Historian Mark Grimsley exemplifies this approach as he argues that Sherman's
policy "suggests the continual working of political logic even in a circumstance as volatile
as the unleashing of armed men against a hostile population." To Grimsley, as well as to
others, political intentions define the March. Grimsley, The Hard Hand of War: Union
Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians, 1861-1865 (New York: Cambridge
University Press, 1995), 2. See also Kennett Marching Through Georgia, 1-14; Joseph T.
explicit when he acknowledged that despite the fact that he "[could] not change the hearts
of those people of the South," he would "make war so terrible ... [and] make them so
sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it." The
campaign, designed to demonstrate to the world ... that we have ... power," would,
Sherman asserted, be "proof positive that the North can prevail" and would no doubt end
the Southern war effort.5 In their focus on Sherman's March and his intentions, scholars
have overlooked the importance that Sherman placed on intimidating all Southerners, male
and female, with a forceful display of dominance. As a result, their studies focus on
Glatthaar, The March to the Sea and Beyond: Sherman's Troops in the Savannah and
Carolinas Campaigns (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985), 39-51.
In his exploration of Sherman's destructive policy, Charles Royster asserts that
the March was "[effective] in ending defiance." The Destructive War: William Tecumseh
Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans (New York: Vintage Books, 1993), 347,
also see 79-143, 321-404.
5 William T. Sherman to Ulysses S Grant, 6 November 1864, Official Records,
Ser. 1, Vol. 39, Pt. 3: 660. Samuel Augustus Duncan of New Hampshire made the issue
of power clear in a letter to his future wife. "This inhuman war will not cease until the
arrogant South is brought under the rod, and made to feel that the North is a power, to be
respected and feared." Samuel Augustus Duncan to Julia Jones, 15 March, 1865, Yankee
Correspondence: Civil War Letters between New England Soldiers and the Home Front,
ed. Nina Silber and Mary Beth Sievens (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia,
1996), 51. An aid-de-camp of Sherman shared these sentiments. "If you are defeated,"
he told a woman, "you will have thoroughly learned what your people have never before
the war, in the slightest degree understood--how to respect us." George Ward Nichols, 16
September 1864, The Story of the Great March from the Diary of a Staff Officer (New
York: Harper and Brothers, 1865), 23.
political and military strategy and minimize the attack on female civilians and their
However, the active presence of white Southern women during Sherman's March
must be acknowledged; the Union specifically designed a campaign aimed at female
civilians and the trappings of their domestic worlds.6 As Sherman himself acknowledged,
"this movement is not purely military or strategic, but it will illustrate the vulnerability of
the South."7 In its decision to attack the homefront, the Union could not avoid waging
war on white women. For various reasons, the Confederate homefront became women's
domain, both numerically and ideologically. With their husbands, brothers, fathers, and
sons away fighting the Yankees, white Southern women assumed most of the roles
traditionally assigned to men in the nineteenth century. As a result, during the Civil War
women controlled production, supplies, money matters, and day-to-day farm life. In this
manner, the entire Southern homefront became women's sphere. Consequently, any
6 According to historian Reid Mitchell, ultimately Northern soldiers could not, and
did not, see female Confederates as women because "making war on civilians required
a shift in attitudes toward women." Consequently, Union soldiers had to conceive of
Southern women solely as enemies, "and thinking of them as enemies transformed them
from neutrals to fit objects of war--people to be arrested, executed, burned out." Further,
"the northern soldiers' acceptance of the guilt of southern women helped to make the
transformation to a more destructive war possible." Reid Mitchell, The Vacant Chair:
The Northern Soldier Leaves Home (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 100-
7 William T. Sherman to Henry Halleck, 19 October 1864, Official Records, Ser. 1,
Vol. 39, Pt. 3: 357-358, emphasis added.
attack on the homefront became by definition an assault on white women.8 Soldiers took
the feminine nature of their enemy into consideration and used it to their advantage
Union officers and enlisted men alike implemented policies designed to assert their
power over Confederate women. Before and during the march, as part of a campaign to
destroy female support for the Confederacy, Sherman publicly warned elite white women
that they would not be spared the horrors of war. He intended to capitalize on the gender
of his female targets, in the hopes of overpowering and subjugating the Southern
homefront. Sherman further desired to "make Georgia howl" and show the South its
8 On women and their centrality to the home in the nineteenth-century South, see
Anne Firor Scott, The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830-1930(Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1970), 19, 28-44; Catherine Clinton, The Plantation
Mistress: Woman's World in the Old South (New York: Pantheon Books, 1982), 18-35;
Jean E. Friedman, The Enclosed Garden: Women and Community in the Evangelical
South, 1830-1900 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985); Orville
Vernon Burton, In My Father's House are Many Mansions: Family and Community in
Edgefield, South Carolina (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985), 123-
136; Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household: Black and White
Women of the Old South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 37-99,
192-241; Brenda E. Stevenson, Life in Black and White: Family and Community in the
Slave South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 38-42; Marli F. Weiner,
Mistresses and Slaves: Plantation Women in South Carolina, 1830-80 (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 1998), 53-71. Most scholarly work on the household
focuses on the region's plantations. For a few notable exceptions, see D. Harland Hagler,
"The Ideal Woman in the Antebellum South: Lady or Farmwife?" Journal of Southern
History 46 (August 1980): 405-418; Stephanie McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds:
Yeoman Households, Gender Relations, & the Political Culture of the Antebellum South
Carolina Low Country (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).
powerlessness 9 This, he assumed, would crush civilian and military confidence in
Southern troops and result in the surrender of the Confederacy. Consequently,
Sherman's March launched an attack on Southern domesticity akin to a sexual assault on
the South as a whole.
Once it began, Sherman's campaign specifically targeted the physical and
ideological manifestations of domesticity. To show mastery over the South and its female
civilians and, thereby "cure her of her pride and boasting," Union troops stole food, fine
clothing, silver, and jewelry, while they destroyed the houses that white women
governed. Official orders instructed soldiers to destroy or take only those things that
would assist the Confederate war effort, but in his orders to "forage liberally," Sherman
gave his men relatively free rein. As a result of this ambiguity, the indiscriminate
ransacking of Southern homes and property went far beyond the dictates of warfare.10
9 William T. Sherman to Ulysses S. Grant, 6 November 1864, Official Records,
Ser. 1, Vol. 39, Pt. 3: 660. James Reston, Jr., recognized the gendered meaning of
Sherman's use of the word "howl." "Sherman expressedly set out to make Georgia howl.
But neither states nor soldiers howl; civilians do, particularly women. His technique
was to demoralize the women back home and let that have its effect on the soldiers at the
front." James Reston, Jr., Sherman's March and Vietnam (New York: MacMillan
Publishing Company, 1984), 93.
'1 William T. Sherman to Ellen Sherman, 12 March 1865, Home Letters of General
Sherman, ed. M. A. DeWolfe Howe (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1909), 332,
emphasis added. Sherman required that "the army forage liberally on the country."
However, he ordered "soldiers must not enter the dwellings of the inhabitants, or commit
any trespass." Despite this seeming prohibition against pillage, Sherman gave wide
license to his commanders concerning the treatment of the Southern homefront and its
Although reports of physical rape of white women were rare, women across the South
feared for their property as well as their personal safety. By invading women's domain,
Sherman and his men crossed a line of propriety held sacred by Southerners.
Unlike some of his men, Sherman did not merely justify his assault on female
Confederates as punishment for their ardent support of the war. By aggressively
attacking women's domain, Sherman believed that he could eliminate this group's
participation in the war." Acting within nineteenth-century assumptions that women
civilians. To them he intrustedd the power to destroy mills, houses, cotton-gins &c."
Although Sherman asserted that "in districts and neighborhoods where the army is
unmolested no destruction of such property should be permitted," he gave exceptions to
the rules. "Should guerrillas or bushwhackers molest our march, or should the inhabitants
bum bridges, obstruct roads, or otherwise manifest local hostility, then army commanders
should order and enforce a devastation more or less relentless according to the measure of
such hostility." William T. Sherman, Special Field Orders No. 120, 9 November 1864,
Official Records, Ser. 1, Vol. 39, Pt. 3: 713, emphasis added.
Despite Colonel John Cobum's assertion to Atlanta officials that the Union "[did]
not come to make war upon non-combatants or private property; both shall be protected
a respected by us," the Union would evacuate the city of its civilians and burn many
private houses. John Coburn, as quoted in A. A. Hoehling, Last Train From Atlanta (New
York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1958), 417.
Before the campaign for Georgia and the Carolinas began, Sherman
acknowledged women and other civilians as vital participants in the Confederate war
effort. In his discussion of the treatment of presumed non-combatants in Alabama,
Sherman asserted that behavior determined their classification. "A question arises as to
[the treatment of] dwellings used by women, children, and non-combatants. So long as
non-combatants remain in their houses and keep to their accustomed business their
opinions and prejudices can in nowise influence the war, and therefore should not be
noticed; but if any one comes out into the public streets and creates disorder, he or she
behaved consistently within the "cult of domesticity," he assessed that if he brought the
war to female civilians, the South would inevitably crumble.12 According to such logic,
only the strongest of men could endure wartime horrors; women, by their nineteenth-
century definition, could not possibly survive them. In addition, an invasion of the
homefront would take from Confederate women their ability to exercise power in the
domestic sphere. Major Henry Hitchcock articulated this aspect of Sherman's plan,
noting that the march, "the mere fact of it, is bound to have a powerful influence of itself:
it shows the real hopelessness of their 'cause' first to those who suffer, and to the people
of 'The South,' and then to all the world."13 The march would demoralize its direct
victims, women, as well as the Southern soldiers fighting to protect their homes. Indeed,
should be punished, restrained, or banished." William T. Sherman to R. M. Sawyer, 31
January 1864, Official Records, Ser. 1, Vol. 32, Pt. 2: 279
12 Almost all nineteenth-century women and men recognized that women lived
circumscribed by particular gender expectations. On women's sphere, see Barbara
Welter, "The Cult of True Womanhood, 1820-1860," in Dimity Convictions: The
American Woman in the Nineteenth Century (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1976), 21-
41. Not all women subscribed to the "cult of true womanhood," see Frances Cogan, All-
American Girl: The Ideal of Real Womanhood in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America
(Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1989).
Sherman also viewed his own wife through this lens: "I notice that you propose
to take part in a Sanitary Fair at Chicago. I don't much approve of ladies selling things at
a table. So far as superintending the management of such things, I don't object, but it
merely looks unbecoming for a lady to stand behind a table to sell things." William T.
Sherman to Ellen Sherman, 23 March 1865, Home Letters of General Sherman, 335.
13 Henry Hitchcock, 24 November 1864, Marching With Sherman, 89.
Hitchcock explained, "the [march's] express purpose [is], in fact, of teaching [Southern]
people that war means ruin and misery, & that 'their Government' cannot protect
Sherman's offensive against Confederate women began prior to the March to the
Sea. After a four month campaign for Atlanta, Georgia, Confederate forces evacuated the
city on September 1, 1864. Sherman and his troops took control of it on September 2,
allowing the Southern troops to escape. In establishing Atlanta as a command post for
Union operations, Sherman issued Special Field Orders No. 67 on September 8, 1864, to
"[vacate] all except the armies of the United States." This order resulted in the forced
departure of Atlanta's more than 1,500 civilians. 5 Despite vehement protests from
Confederate officials and civilians, Sherman stressed the necessity of evacuation, insisting
that "the use of Atlanta for warlike purposes is inconsistent with its character as a home
for families."16 Furthermore, Sherman was "not willing to have Atlanta encumbered by
14 Henry Hitchcock to Francis Lieber, 15 January 1865, Lieber Papers, Henry E.
Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, California.
15 Special Field Orders No. 67, Official Records, Ser. 1, Vol. 38, Pt. 5: 837-838.
'6 William T. Sherman to James M. Calhoun, Mayor, E. E. Rawson and S. C.
Wells, representing the City Council of Atlanta, 12 September 1864, The Hero's Own
Story: General Sherman's Official Account of His Great March Through Georgia and the
Carolinas, From his Departure from Chattanooga to the Surrender of General Johnston,
and the Confederate Forces Under his Command, To Which are Added General Sherman's
Evidence before the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War, The
the families of [his] enemies."17 A hostile civilian population would not only impede
military activities, Sherman asserted, but it would also unnecessarily burden the Union
army, who would have to feed and shelter the "helpless" women and children.
Despite widespread agreement with, and support of, Sherman's evacuation policy
in Atlanta, Northern soldiers grappled with the moral implications of a direct assault on
white women. Some Union men struggled with ingrained conceptions of gender ideals and
the contradictions that arose as so-called necessities of war. For example, Ohio army
surgeon J. Dexter Cotton revealed to his wife his somewhat ambivalent support for the
order and justified it with out reference to military tactics. "It seems very hard," he
explained, "but serves them right for most of the women of the south are generally
stronger secess[ionists] than the men." In the end, Cotton decided that, despite their class
and gender and the protections that normally accompanied them, these Confederate
women deserved to be ousted from their homes and stripped of their property because
they helped initiate and continued to support the rebellion. 18 A Union chaplain came to a
Animadversions of Secretary Stanton and General Halleck; with a Defence of his
Proceedings, &c. (New York: Bunce & Huntington, Publishers, 1865), 60.
17 William T. Sherman to Henry W. Halleck, 9 September 1864, Official Records,
Ser. 1, Vol. 38, Pt. 5: 839.
18 J. Dexter Cotton to Wife, 17 September 1864, J. Dexter Cotton Papers, Library
of Congress, Washington, D.C. H. D. Chapman came to a similar conclusion. He "did
feel sorry for the women and innocent children. ... But our army is here and must be
similar conclusion. "The ladies, at some of the houses, are represented as intelligent,
beautiful, and rebellious," he wrote. This made no difference to him. "A pretty traitor is
no better than an ugly one--male or female. Many of the officers are boiling over with
sympathy for those pretty female rebels, but I have none."19 Female provocation of
secession became a justification for the harsh treatment of Southern civilians.
Soldiers may have used the idea of military necessity to justify the evacuation of
Atlanta's civilians, but many of them acknowledged that revenge also motivated it. In his
response to a letter protesting the order of evacuation, Sherman revealed his intertwined
war aims: he wanted to exact vengeance on the South as well as to end the Civil War.
Southerners protested that this policy wreaked havoc on families and turned gender ideals
upside down. It would not be proper, they insisted, to expel women and children from
their homes. Sherman did not agree. "War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those
who brought war on the country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour
fed." Horatio Dana Chapman, 20 September 1864, Civil War Diary: Diary of a Forty-
Niner (Hartford, Conn.: Allis, 1929), 95.
19 John J. Hight, 19 January 1865, History of the Fifty-Eighth Regiment of
Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Its Organization, Campaigns and Battles from 1861 to 1865.
From the Manuscript Prepared by the Late Chaplain John J. Hight During His Service
with the Regiment in the Field, ed. Gilbert R. Stormont (Princeton, N.J.: Press of the
Clarion, 1895), 416. Not all Union soldiers agreed with this policy. See Thomas T.
Taylor, 23 November 1864, Diary, Thomas T. Taylor Collection, Emory University,
Robert W. WoodruffLibrary, Special Collections, Atlanta, Georgia.
out." Sherman wanted female Southern civilians in particular to feel the consequences of
secession. He further asserted to the representatives of Atlanta that
you might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these
terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way
the people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet
at home is to stop this war, which can alone be done by admitting
that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride.20
Here and elsewhere, Sherman made clear that his wartime policies would not be adjusted
to accommodate contemporary gender prescriptions. Women could expect the harsh
treatment that soldiers directed at Southern men as long as they remained hostile to the
Once he had set up Atlanta as his command post, Sherman attempted to destroy
General John Bell Hood's Confederate forces. When this action proved unsuccessful, he
determined to march his troops across Georgia to demonstrate the power of the Federal
Army. Sherman further proposed that he cut off his supply and communication lines and
live off the countryside as he and his troops marched across the South. This tactic would
20 William T. Sherman to James M. Calhoun, Mayor, E. E. Rawson and S. C.
Wells, representing the City Council of Atlanta, 12 September 1864, The Hero's Own
21 Ellen Sherman supported her husband's actions in Atlanta. "I am charmed with
your order expelling the inhabitants of Atlanta as it has always seemed to me
preposterous to have our government feeding so many of their people--their insolent
women particularly for they are responsible for the war and should be made to feel that it
exists in sternest reality." Ellen Sherman to William T. Sherman, 17 September 1864, as
cited in Marszalek, Sherman, 286.
allow him to pursue the devastation of the Southern countryside without having to
protect railroads or supply trains. At the same time, it would separate the Confederacy
from its own supply lines. Specifically, he proposed to act in such a manner against
the material resources of the South as utterly to negat[e] Davis' boasted threat and
promises of protection."22
Before their departure from Atlanta on November 15, 1864, Sherman's troops
burned everything of military importance in the city--depots, shops, factories, foundries,
and machine shops. According to Union reports, only war-related businesses and
factories were destroyed by fire. However, Southern reports blamed widespread
destruction of homes and personal property on Sherman's troops. Several Union soldiers
concurred. "Many houses had been burned & all day long the fires kept increasing in
number," E. P. Burton noted. "The sight was magnificent & melancholy in the extreem, I
think by dark all the public buildings & stores with many of the residences must have
been destroyed."23 Another Union soldier recorded a similar scene. "The work of
destroying the city of Atlanta which our Gen has ordered, still continues. Directly North
of where we are I see a beautiful residence wrapped in flames." As the soldiers "advanced
22 William T. Sherman to Ulysses S. Grant, 6 November 1864, Official Records,
Ser. 1, Vol. 39, Pt. 3: 660.
23 E. P. Burton, 15 November 1864, Diary of E P. Burton, Surgeon 7th Reg. Ill.,
3rd Brig. 2nd Div. 16 A. C. (Des Moines: The Historical Records Survey, 1939), 41.
through the City the smouldering ruins of once beautiful homes met our gaze on every
hand."24 The white women of Atlanta, already insulted by their removal, watched their
domestic lives go up in smoke.
An aggressive assault on domesticity, similar to what Atlanta had experienced,
continued as Union troops made their way through Georgia and the Carolinas.25 Leaving
Union Generals George H. Thomas and John M. Schofield with 60,000 soldiers to deal
with Hood's Confederate troops in Tennessee, Sherman's men began their March to the
Sea on November 15, 1864. To effectively forage, destroy, and demoralize the Georgia
countryside, Sherman divided his troops into two wings, a left (northern) wing
commanded by Henry W. Slocum and a right (southern) wing under Oliver O. Howard's
command. Although the officers and soldiers began the 285 mile march toward Savannah
with little knowledge of the plan or their destination, they confidently moved forward at
Sherman's command. The troops marched from ten to fifteen miles each day, foraging and
destroying Confederate property all along the way. Reports describe a forty to sixty mile
wide swath of destruction strewn with evidence of their presence--railroad ties twisted
around trees in "Sherman neckties," houses almost entirely razed by fires with only "lone
24 Vail, 15 November 1864, Vail Diary typescript, Bell Irvin Wiley Files, Emory
25 For example, Rome, Georgia, suffered because "the soldiers want to see it
bum." E. P. Burton, 10 November 1864, Diary of E. P. Burton, 39.
chimney-stacks, 'Sherman's Sentinels,'" left standing, burned crops, and otherwise
trampled countryside.26 "The amt of property destroyed by the army is immense,"
Union soldier Edward Allen recorded. "Rail roads seemed to be our especial skill and the
way we tore up and burned the Georgia Central beats all." In addition, "Depots, public
buildings] and buildings] that were not so public shared the same fate of the RR. Each
Corps (4 of them) left a black streak to mark its way over the sacred soil."27 As this
report reveals, although the soldiers had official orders to target and destroy railroads,
mills, and other places or items that supported the Confederate war effort, they did not
hesitate to extend the assault to private property.
A lack of compassion for the female enemy existed throughout the ranks and
throughout the march. As the troops made their way through Georgia, James Leath
observed that "the people are left in a very destitute and suffering condition." The dire
26 William T. Sherman to Henry Halleck, 1 January 1865, Official Records, Ser. 1,
Vol. 34: 13. Eliza Frances Andrews, 24 December 1864, The War-Time Journal of a
Georgia Girl, 1864-65, ed. Spencer Bidwell King, Jr. (1908; reprint, Atlanta: Cherokee
Publishing Company, 1976), 32.
27 Edward W. Allen to Mollie, 17 December 1864, Edward W. Allen Papers,
Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Similarly, after
witnessing the destruction in Rome, Georgia, one soldier recorded that "the country is
light with the burning of Rome ... It seemed melancholy to see the property being
destroyed. It is against orders--but the soldiers want to see it burn." Another asserted
that "we are under command of General Sherman and will destroy all before us." As
quoted in Lee Kennett, Marching Through Georgia, 232 For a good description of the
March to the Sea, see Bailey, Chessboard of War.
straits in which he left Confederate civilians did not bother him, however. "If they all
starve to death I shall not be surprised, neither will I care." Leath's callousness, like that
of other Union soldiers, may be attributed to his views on the war. The Confederate
civilians, women included, deserved what they got because it was "a horrible state of
affairs [that] they had brought upon themselves."28 Union soldier Edward Allen gloried in
Sherman's orders and justifications for the evacuation. He encouraged his parents to
"read ... Sherman's letters to Hood in reference to the removal of the women & children
of Atlanta." These letters, he boasted, "are so good, just the sentiments of his whole
army." Because Sherman was "not afraid to treat ... [Confederate women] as they
deserve," the soldiers praised him as "the man we like to fight under." 29 Union troops
agreed that the attitudes and wartime roles of Confederate women warranted whatever
hardships the army brought to them.
Even when Northern men professed some compassion toward their female
victims, they rarely changed their destructive behavior. Union soldier Edwin Bowen
recorded an encounter with an elderly Southern woman who begged for mercy: "What
shall I do with all these girls on my hands to support, when you have taken all my corn?"
28 James Leath, 23 December 1864, A Journal of Movements & Incidents of the
3rd Brig, 4th Div, 15th A. C. During the March from Rome to Savannah Georgia,
Commencing November 10th 1864 and ending December 23 1864, Huntington Library
29 Edward W. Allen to James and Emily Allen, 25 September 1864, Edward W.
Although Bowen claimed to have felt a little pity for the woman's situation, his response
to her did not reflect it. Instead, he "remarked to her, that it was necessary for me to
obtain corn for my mules and further that 'God will not forsake the richeous.' She must
look to him."30 When recording a confrontation with the wife of a railroad agent in
Madison, Georgia, Horatio Chapman similarly noted that although he "almost always
[had] sympathy for the women," this particular one elicited no such response. Not only
did she have a "large and elegant mansion," but also "she was a regular secesh and spit out
her spite and venom against the dirty Yanks and mudsills of the north."31 Union soldiers
insisted that Confederate women, as vocal nationalists, deserved punishment for their
rebellious, secessionist natures.
The route through a rich agricultural area of Georgia offered fertile opportunity for
good eating and high spirits amongst the soldiers. Here, as they did throughout the march,
the soldiers "subsist[ed] almost entirely from the enimey's country."32 After feasting on
"plenty of sweet Potatoes and fresh Pork, Chickens Turkeys &c.," Delos Van Deusen
30 Edwin Anson Bowen, 2 March 1865, Edwin A. Bowen Diary, Bowen Papers,
31 Horatio Dana Chapman, 19 November 1864, Civil War Diary ... of a Forty-
32 R. B. Hoadley to Cousin, 8 April 1865, R. B. Hoadley Papers, Duke
University, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Durham, North
bragged, "we didn't leave plenty" for the civilians.33 Most Northern soldiers simply
rejoiced in the bounty shared during the campaign. Throughout the trip from Atlanta,
there was a constant influx of foragerss bringing in all manner or stuff and in all Shapes &
conditions." As a result, "all the Boys enjoyed the trip hugely"34 Another noted that
"we had a very nice time while on the march plenty to eat and did not march very hard."35
As they moved across the Southern countryside, Union soldiers ate what they could and
then killed or scattered whatever was left in order to keep excess supplies away from
Confederate soldiers and civilians. They gleefully "destroyed all we could not eat, stole
their niggers, burned their cotton & Gins, Spilled their Sorghum, Burned and twisted their
Rroads and raised Hell generally as you know an army can when 'turned loose."'
Furthermore, the soldiers "lived on the fat of the land finding endless supplies of Sweet
Potatoes, Poultry, Hogs, Sheep, Cattle, Sorghum, Syrup, Honey &c yes and plenty of
Peanuts to eat on the way."36 Although they "only had 4 days rations issued ... in the
"3 Delos Van Deusen to Henrietta Van Deusen, 28 December 1864, Delos Van
Deusen Papers, Huntington Library
34 Michael Dresbach to Wife, 14 December 1864, Bell Irvin Wiley Files.
35 Jo to Linda McNeill, 24 December 1864, Alexander A. Lawrence Papers,
Georgia Historical Society, Savannah.
36 Devine to Captain J. H. Everett, 19 December 1864, J. H. Everett Papers,
Georgia Historical Society. Also see Mrs. E. A. Steele to Tody, 15 February 1865, in
Katherine M. Jones, ed., When Sherman Came: Southern Women and the "Great March"
(New York: Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1964), 133; M. C. H. to Lou, 7 December
whole march" many soldiers reported that during the campaign they "lived better than
ever before" on "Sweet potatoes chickens, turkeys, fresh port, & beef, and mutton,
turnips four meal preserves pickles wines, beer, & everything that a rich planters place
could afford." The bounty of the land proved plentiful as "in some places as much as
3,000, bushels of sweet potatoes would be consumed in one night."37 The constant
foraging, "a continuous thanksgiving," fulfilled more than one of Sherman's campaign
aims.3" He had succeeded not only in supplying his own troops and limiting what was
1864, in The Alexander Letters: 1787-1900, ed., Marion Alexander Boggs (Savannah:
George J. Baldwin, 1910): 282.
37 Even the towns offered good fare. Charles Brown described the meal in
Milledgeville, Georgia. The troops "had 5 chickens 1 turkey (the largest I ever saw.) the
hind quarter of mutton a ham, about 25 lbs of cap honey 1/2 gal. of Syrum, all the pan
cakes we could eat. warm buiscuit & evry thing in proportion." Charles S. Brown to
Mother and Etta, 16 December 1864, Charles S. Brown Papers, Duke University. The
soldiers gloried in their foraging efforts. Another described "some of the nice things we
had to eat" including "plenty of sweet potatoes, which is very very good you know. the
next plenty was plenty of fresh meats that was good also fresh meat and sweet potatoes
aint to be laughed at sure well the next lots of Molasses very good the next is Honey very
sweet so you see we must be very sweet by this time don't you think so, lastly but not
the least, was Chickens." He then mocked "those Georgians" as "clever people to have
so many good things ready for us." Jo to Linda McNeill, 24 December 1864, Alexander
A. Lawrence Papers
38 George Ward Nichols, 27 November 1864, The Story of the Great March, 66.
Another soldier called the March to Sea "one big picnick." Charles Ewing to Thomas
Ewing, 15 December 1864, "Sherman's March Through Georgia: Letters from Charles
Ewing to his Father Thomas Ewing," ed. George C. Osborn, Georgia Historical Quarterly
42 (September 1958). 326. From Savannah, Sherman noted that because the troops
"came right along living on turkeys, chickens, pigs," not only did he not have to feed
them, but "Jeff Davis will now have to feed the people of Georgia instead of collecting
available to Confederate troops, but he had also brought suffering to the civilians in his
In another tactical measure, Sherman spread his troops across a forty to sixty
mile-wide path to give Confederate soldiers and civilians the sometimes false impression
that they were heading for multiple places in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
One soldier described the path as a "black streak behind us about 50 miles wide."39
Another asserted that "for forty miles in width, the country throughout our whole line of
march is a desert."" This tactic allowed the Union forces to keep the Confederate troops
spread thinly as they tried to protect a wide area, and consequently prevented high
casualties. It also increased anxiety within Southern homes. Although there were several
skirmishes with Confederate troops on the March to the Sea, Union casualties for the
entire campaign numbered only 2,200. Union forces easily captured Milledgeville,
Georgia's state capital, on November 23. There, in addition to general looting and
destruction, the Union soldiers held a mock legislature to "repeal" the state's secession
provisions of them to feed his armies." William T. Sherman to Ellen Sherman, 16
December 1864, Home Letters of General Sherman, 316. See also Thomas W. Osborn, 10
November 1864, The Fiery Trail: A Union Officer's Account of Sherman's Last
Campaigns, ed. Richard Harwell and Philip N. Racine (Knoxville: University of
Tennessee Press, 1986), 35.
39 Charles S. Brown to Mother and Etta, 16 December 1864, Charles S. Brown
40 Orlando M. Poe to Nell, 16 December 1864, Alexander A. Lawrence Papers.
ordinance.41 Once again, as part of Sherman's psychological tactics, they wanted to
humiliate Confederates to demonstrate the power of the Union army.
Although Sherman had designated a specific group of men as official foragers for
his Army and directed them to gather only food and supplies for the troops, "Sherman's
Bummers" as well as other soldiers often seized personal property as souvenirs of their
service.42 Women's clothes, letters, linens, jewelry, silver, household furnishings, sewing
supplies, baby clothes, and dishes often became the spoils of war. None of these items
would directly help the Union militarily, but an attack on them struck at the heart of
white Southern women's lives.43 According to some of Sherman's men, few homes
escaped the foraging. "House Robbing has become universal," Union Chaplain John J.
Hight wrote. "I do not mean all of the men rob houses, but all the houses are robbed."44
Union soldiers seized whatever they could get their hands on from Confederate
civilians. "The Boys [took] a great many things of value they went into Private houses
41 John C. Van Duzer, 22 November 1864, John C. Van Duzer Diary, Duke
University; James C. Bonner, "Sherman at Milledgeville in 1864," Journal of Southern
History 22 (January 1931): 41-54.
42 For a discussion of foraging and "bumming" during Sherman's March through
Georgia, see Lee Kennett, Marching Through Georgia, 263-287. Also see Marszalek,
43 Lee Kennett notes Union soldiers' fascination with women's "sweet little
notes" and letters. Kennett, Marching Through Georgia, 89.
44 John J. Hight, 22 February 1865, History of the Fifty-Eighth Regiment, 487.
and took what they wanted," Michael Dresbach observed.45 Edward Allen left a detailed
description of the spoils of war after the Union captured Columbia.
Every concurable article that one could imagine, must, was to be
found in our camp, clothing, bed clothing, such splendid coverlids,
qui[l]ts, & sheets, musical instruments violins guitars, music box &
had not pianos been quite so heavy you might have seen many of
them there Flour meal sugar, butter, all the yankee notions usually
fond in stores. Silver plate, plates knives forks. & spoons.
The soldiers had appropriated so many things that Allen realized "it would take too much
time, candle & paper to mention or even try to mention all that was there."46
Some soldiers sent the domestic treasures they confiscated to loved ones in the
North. However, they dropped much of the heavy booty along the roadside as the march
continued. An Illinois soldier commented on the waste. "Articles of silverware, that have
been carried along, are thrown into the road, where the heavy wagons crushed out all
semblance of anything useful, and the tired and thirsty soldier, relieved of his burden,
45 Michael Dresbach to Wife, 14 December 1864, Bell Irvin Wiley Files. Dresbach
continued with a description of what he had seen. "Some got Silver Pitchers and Plate of
considerable value One of the Boys dug up a Box that was Buried in the field containing
$60,000 Confederate money Another found one containing 2 gold watches and $260 in
coin there is a great deal found that we do not hear of"
46 Edward W. Allen to James and Emily Allen, 17 February 1865, Edward W.
Allen Papers. Also see Sylvester Daniels, 17 February 1865, Sylvester Daniels Diary,
passes on."47 Another regretted that he "got a lot of nice books but... had to give them
away for [he] could not carry them."48 Edward Allen similarly noted that "most all was
left--destroyed except small articles of value easily carried by one of the boys. I got a
nice vase which I will try & get home."49 Charles Brown alerted his family to the gifts he
would be sending home as well as the ones he had lost. As did most of the souvenir
hunters, Brown primarily took domestic items "I have some selections of Rebel music to
send," he wrote to his parents and sister. "I got them from a house about 18 miles above
Savanah ... there was considerable more but I brought a good selection & [you] shall have
the first best lot." In addition to the music, he took "some jewrlry from the house of Reb.
Gen Irwin. [whose] house was plundered from ground to Shingles & burnt."'5 Although
47 Charles F. Hubert, 20 February 1865, History of the Fiftieth Regiment Illinois
Volunteer Infantry (Kansas City, Mo. Western Veteran Publishing Company, 1894),
356. Also see William O. Wettleson to Parents and Sisters, 4 April 1865, Bell Irvin
Wiley Files, Emory University; Thomas J. Myers to Wife, 26 February 1865, Thomas J.
Myers Papers, Southern Historical Collection.
48 John H. Roberts to Brother, 7 January 1865, as quoted in Glatthaar, March to
the Sea and Beyond, 149. Also see Henry Orlando Marcy, 11 February 1865, Henry
Orlando Marcy Diary, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina,
49 Edward W. Allen to James and Emily Allen, 17 February 1865, Edward W.
50 Charles S. Brown to Mother and Etta, 16 December 1864, Charles S. Brown
Papers. John Herr planned to send home curiosities as well as treasures. "I will send you
a few heads of rice so you can see how it looks in the Straw[, and] I am going to send a
vest that I captured." John Herr to Sister, 18 December 1864, John Herr Papers, Duke
Sherman officially opposed the wholesale plunder of Southern property, he rarely
punished offenders and applauded the effects that the looting had on the Southern civilian
The small military opposition faced by the Union troops as they marched through
Georgia consisted of approximately 8,000 Confederate soldiers in Joseph Wheeler's
cavalry corps and Gustavus W. Smith's Georgia militia. William J. Hardee took control
of Confederate troops in Georgia on November 17, 1864, but could not stop Sherman's
progress through the state. Acknowledging his powerlessness, Hardee focused his energy
and forces on protecting the port of Savannah. He proved unsuccessful in this endeavor
as well. After Sherman and his troops cut through most of Georgia by December 10,
1864, the Union general demanded the surrender of Savannah a week later. When Hardee
refused, the Union forces began a siege of the city, but left Confederate troops free to
evacuate. Hardee and his men abandoned Savannah on December 21, escaping across the
University. See also Vett Noble to Mom, 14 March 1865, "Vett Noble ofYpsilanti: A
Clerk for General Sherman," ed. Donald W. Disbrow, Civil War History 14 (March
51 A lieutenant on the march insisted that Sherman intended the widespread
devastation. "William T. Sherman is the most relentless enemy the South has in the
Union Army, and when a word from his lips would have stopped the universal
devastation he would not speak that word, but said simply to the pleading fair ones of
Columbia 'It is your own fault."' George M. Wise to John Wise, 13 March 1865,
"Marching Through South Carolina: Another Civil War Letter of George M. Wise," ed.
Wilfred W. Black, Ohio Historical Quarterly 46 (April 1957): 193-194.
river into South Carolina. Subsequently, Sherman took control of the city and its two
hundred artillery pieces, ammunition, and approximately thirty thousand bales of cotton.
On December 22, 1864, Sherman sent President Abraham Lincoln a telegram announcing
the accomplishment: "I beg to present you as a Christmas Gift the City of Savannah
with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition: and also about twenty
five thousand bales of cotton."52 The soldiers proudly recalled their triumphant
campaign: "36 days ago we were standing near Atlanta Geo watching the angery flames
devouring Building after Building[.] [T]o day we stand here at Savannah Master of over a
Hundread fields which was bought and Paid with Freemans Blood." In addition to the
immediate consequences, this soldier also reflected on the larger significance of the march.
"Here we have ended what I think will go down in History and be told over and over
again as one of the greatest achievements on Record."53
Throughout their homefront attack, Union soldiers targeted wealthy slaveholding
families, whom they considered instrumental in Southern secession. Sherman provided
justification for this action when he commanded that soldiers should "discriminate
between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor and industrious, usually neutral or
52 William T. Sherman to Abraham Lincoln, 22 December 1864, Sherman File,
53 James G. Essington, 22 December 1864, James G. Essington Diary, Alexander
A. Lawrence Papers.
friendly."54 The troops complied with this wish. One Union soldier noted that "the poor
people are respected by the soldiers and their property protected." On the other hand,
"the rich are persecuted when caught and their barns, gins & houses fall victims to the
invaders match.""55 Another observed the specific punishment of elite Southerners and
wrote during the March that "the Army are renting their spite on everything destructible
& our line is marked each day by dense columns of black smoke curling up from the
former residences of the 'chivalry.'"56 In Georgia, soldiers devastated Howell Cobb's
plantation and did not "feel much troubled about the destruction of Howell] C[obb]'s
property" because he was "one of the head devils." As a result, the "General told all the
darkies to help themselves as well as the soldiers, to the supplies found here, and ordered
the balance burned Hitchcock justified the attack on Cobb by noting that he "has four
54 Special Field Orders No. 120, 9 November 1864, Official Records, Ser. 1, Vol.
39, Pt. 3: 713. Sherman made his antipathy toward the South's upper class before the
Georgia campaign. "No man will deny that the United States would be benefited by
dispossessing a rich, prejudiced, hard-headed, and disloyal planter." William T. Sherman
to R. M. Sawyer, 31 January 1864, Official Records, Ser. 1, Vol 32, Pt. 2: 279.
55 Charles Cox to Katie, 1 February 1865, "'Gone for a Soldier': The Civil War
Letters of Charles Harding Cox," ed. Lorna Lutes Sylvester, Indiana Magazine of History
68 (September 1972): 229.
56 Divine to J. H. Everett, 25 January 1865, J. H. Everett Papers.
or five other plantations, and 500 to 600 negroes in all."57 Sherman, too, relished the
attack on the elite slaveholding class.58
57 Henry Hitchcock, 22 November 1864, Marching With Sherman, 84-85. As
described by Hitchcock, Cobb's plantation was "about 6000 acres, and worked 100
hands" but was so run-down that Hitchcock proclaimed "No Northern farm owner would
allow his agent or farmer to have such. No thrift or neatness about the place: sundry
rude log cabins for storehouses, mean rail fences--everything shabby: old negroes
Union troops attacked elite households throughout the March. For example, in
Charleston they went in search of specific secessionists, "asking 'Is this the home of Mr.
Rhett?' and 'Is that the dwelling of Mr. Middleton?" In addition, "Charlestonians Arthur
P. Hayne and Alfred Huger, were pulled about and struck" by the invading soldiers.
They also specifically attacked the homes of Dr. John Cheves, Maxcy Gregg, and
Columbia Mayor Thomas Jefferson Goodwyn. See Royster, The Destructive War, 21.
Pauline Heyward describes a similar incident. "They said that they had to arrest and
shoot every influential citizen in S.C., every mover of secession, & from the accumulation
of wealth, the quantities of food, books & clothes in this house, the finest they had seen
in these parts, that they knew Father was wealthy, literary, & influential, & they had
heard enough of him, to make an example of him & catch him they would." Pauline
DeCaradeuc Heyward, 18 February 1865, A Confederate Lady Comes of Age: The
Journal of Pauline DeCaradeuc Heyward, 1863-1888, ed. Mary D. Robertson, (Columbia:
University of South Carolina Press, 1992), 67. See also E. P. Burton, 27 October 1864,
Diary of E. P. Burton, 37; Charles S. Brown to Mother and Etta, 16 December 1864,
Charles S. Brown Papers; Thomas T. Taylor, 23 November 1864, Diary, Thomas T.
Taylor Collection. See also Bonner, "Sherman at Milledgeville," 281.
58 Some scholars propose that Sherman designed his campaign with the intention
of striking hardest at the Southern elite. For example, Michael Fellman asserts that
"Sherman's men were urged to make class distinctions: Sparing the poor and
industrious ... [and] make a special effort to destroy the grand homes of those rich and
therefore especially resented traitors who had made secession." Fellman, Citizen
Soldiers left their mark on the South's domestic landscape. After ransacking
homes, many defaced the remaining buildings. "Almost every house in town is more or
less damaged," Andrew McBride observed. "The walls of most of them completely
covered with charcoal autographs of Yankee celebrities such for instance as this on the
door of your house 'Patrick Boyle 90 Ind Vol Infty.'" Other Union soldiers were more
personal in their epithets. "Just under Patricks name, I found 'Miss Ada is tha pritist girl
in town.'" Other walls displayed Union insults. The soldiers "volunteered or tendered a
good deal of advise to President Davis and Genl Hood and to rebels generally." McBride
included examples: "'Jeff,--relinquish your efforts to establish a new Confederation'
[signed] 'Abe'" or "'Genl Hood: you didn't expect us to come in at the back door, did
On multiple occasions, Union soldiers took advantage of the domestic luxuries
within the homes of the Southern elite. "Some of our soldiers are very reckless and smash
everything that comes in their way. One fellow played on the piano while his comrades
danced a jog on the top of the instrument and then he drove an axe through it."60 Soldiers
engaged in similar celebrations in many parlors of their enemies. When updating his sister
59 Andrew Jay McBride to Fannie, 11 September 1864, Andrew Jay McBride
Papers, Duke University.
60 Michael Dresbach to Wife, 15 December 1864, as quoted in Glatthaar, March to
the Sea and Beyond, 148.
on the state of affairs, Charles Brown highlighted the non-military items that soldiers
destroyed. "You might see all sorts of scenes" along the March, including
boys pounding Piano keys with their Hatchets to see who could
make the most noise or pile up a pile of plates & "order arms" on
them to all who could break the most or try & see who could shoot
the most cows or hogs. or see who could dress themselves in the
best suit of women clothes & then make the lady of the house
play for them to have a cotillion & if the music did not suit slash
their hatchet through the top of the piano to improve the time.61
In addition to the physical damage caused by the drunken festivities, the soldiers
specifically trampled on the markings of domesticity to strike at women's sphere.62
Once in control of Savannah, Sherman set about demonstrating to the city's
residents that a peaceful surrender and return to the Union would protect Southerners
from Union wrath To contrast his treatment of residents in Savannah to that of
rebellious Atlantans, Sherman opened his headquarters to whoever wanted to visit. He
also allowed the local government to continue functioning and made sure that food came
into the city to feed the residents. At the same time, however, Sherman justified the
61 Charles S. Brown to Etta, 26 April 1865, Charles S. Brown Papers.
62 Women corroborated such stories. For examples, see Ellen Devereux Hinsdale
to Child, 23 March 1865, Hinsdale Family Papers, Duke University; Pauline DeCaradeuc
Heyward, 18 February 1865, A Confederate Lady Comes of Age, 65; Annie Jones to
Cadwallader Jones, 6 March 1865, Cadwallader Jones Papers, Southern Historical
Collection; Grace Brown Elmore, 21 February 1865, A Heritage of Woe: The Civil War
Diary of Grace Brown Elmore, 1861-1868, ed. Marli F. Weiner (Athens: University of
Georgia Press, 1997), 101.
tactics that he had employed up to this point. "This may seem a hard species of warfare,
but it brings the sad realities of war home to those who have been directly or indirectly
instrumental in involving us in its attendant calamities."63 Henry Hitchcock agreed with
Sherman's intention to make war "horrible beyond endurance," hoping that an assault of
the homefront would subdue Confederate women and men. Both officers believed that
only a scorched-earth policy had the power to end the Civil War and bring about peace.
This destruction could be inflicted on the Southern homefront because war blurred the
gender boundaries. Hitchcock expressed his desire to retaliate against what he saw as the
South's intentional provocation of war in a letter to his wife. "Our enemies [male and
female] have shown themselves devils in the spirit which ever began this most
unprovoked and inexcusable rebellion there is nothing for it but 'to fight the devil with
fire."'64 Consequently, Union soldiers made the "the effects and ravages of war ...
noticeable everywhere." In Savannah, John Glidden described, "business is almost
entirely suspended and nearly every store is closed." Furthermore, "the houses are...
carefully closed and very few civilians and ladies are to be seen ... and Sherman's dead
horses are laying about the streets by the dozen .... Martial Law is supreme in
63 William T. Sherman to Henry Halleck, 1 January 1865, The Hero's Own Story,
64 Henry Hitchcock to Mary Hitchcock, 4 November 1864, Henry Hitchcock
Collection, Library of Congress. For examples of white Southern women expressing
similar feelings about their Northern invaders, see Chapter 4.
everything."65 If in 1864 the "devilish" Southerners insisted on continued support of
their misguided and malicious cause, Union troops remained equally determined to punish
them for their actions.
Sherman's soldiers freed thousands of the slaves that they encountered on Georgia
and Carolina plantations as they destroyed the trappings of slavery, such as cotton fields,
gin houses, plantation homes, and agricultural equipment. From Savannah, Sherman
issued Special Field Orders, No. 15 on January 16, 1865, granting freedpeople full control
of the sea islands as well as coastal land thirty miles inland from Charleston, South
Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida. Many Southern blacks followed the Union troops,
hoping to gain their freedom in the ranks of the Union. Some served as spies for
Sherman's army. Others cheered as the Union troops passed by. Although some officers
were kind to the escaped slaves who followed the army, others allowed racist attitudes to
govern their actions.66
65 John M. Glidden to William H. Gardiner, 29 January 1865, "A Yankee Views
the Agony of Savannah," ed. Frank Otto Gatell, Georgia Historical Quarterly 43
(December 1959): 429.
66 The impact of Sherman's March on slaves has been explored in Edmund L.
Drago, "How Sherman's March Through Georgia Affected the Slaves," Georgia
Historical Quarterly 57 (Fall 1973): 361-375; Willie Lee Rose, Rehearsal for
Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment (New York: Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc.,
1964); Leslie Schwalm, A Hard Fight for We: Women's Transition from Slavery to
Freedom in South Carolina (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997); Dylan
Penningroth, "Slavery, Freedom, and Social Claims to Property among African Americans
in Liberty County, Georgia, 1850-1880," Journal of American History 84 (September
As he left Savannah on February 1, 1865, Sherman again spread out his troops to
leave the Confederates guessing his destination. The army, still divided into two columns
and four corps under Slocum and Howard, spread as wide as forty miles across. Each
corps, continued its destructive journey following different routes, giving the impression
that the troops were headed toward either Augusta, Georgia or Charleston, South
Carolina. Still unsure of their final destination, Union soldiers assumed they headed
toward South Carolina and welcomed a sojourn in the Palmetto State. John Herr gloried
that "we will Show old South Carolina a trick that She never saw before we will make her
suffer wors[e] then she did the time of the Revolusionary war." Union troops would do
this to "let her know that ... it isened so sweet to seceds as she thought it would be."
Other soldiers agreed with Herr, who recorded that "nearly every man in Shermans army
say they are in for disstroying every thing ... in South Carolina I don't know but I think
Sherman will disstroy every thing that is of no value to us." As a result, he thought that
"ere long you will heare of Shermans Army sweeping through S.C. like a hericane."67
O. M. Poe realized that
it requires no sage prophet to divine [the campaign's] direction.
Wo to South Carolina! We are on her borders, ready to carry fire &
1997): 405-435; Campbell "'Terrible Has Been the Storm.'" For Field Order 15, see
Official Records, Ser. 1, Vol. 47: 60-62.
67 John Herr to Katy Herr, 5 February 1865, John Herr Papers.
Sword into every part of that State, and there is not one in all the
length & breadth of the land to stay our hands.68
Sherman's men began their assault on South Carolina before they even entered the state.69
Officially ordered or not, Union soldiers all knew that "poor South Carolina must
suffer now. None of the soldiers are storing up mercy for her. Her deluded people will
not reap the full reward for all their folly and crimes."'7 This attack on the Palmetto State
68 0. M. Poe to Nell, 26 December 1864, Alexander A. Lawrence Papers. See also
Samuel Mahon to Lizzie, 22 December 1864, "The Civil War Letters of Samuel Mahon,"
ed. John K. Mahon, Iowa Journal of History 51 (July 1953): 258.
69 The soldiers in Sherman's army and Sherman himself did not hide their desire to
wreak vengeance on the state of South Carolina. Sherman reportedly told a woman in
Savannah who wanted to return to her native South Carolina of his plans for the Palmetto
State. "You will be going, madam, out of the frying pan into the fire. My army is
composed of some of the most lawless ruffians upon earth. Here in Georgia, I can with
difficulty control them, but when I enter South Carolina I shall neither be able nor
desirous to do so. You have heard of the horrors of war; wait until my arm gets into
South Carolina and you will see the reality." As quoted in Hirshson, The White
Tecumseh, 275. Prior to his entering South Carolina, Sherman indicated what the
Palmetto State would endure. "The truth is, the whole army is burning with an insatiable
desire to wreak vengeance upon South Carolina. I almost tremble at her fate, but feel that
she deserves all that seems in store for her." William T. Sherman to Henry W. Halleck, 24
December 1864, Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman, ed. Michael Fellman (New York:
Penguin Books, 2000), 558.
70 John J. Hight, 19 January 1865, History of the Fifty-Eighth Regiment, 416.
Edward W. Allen noted that "in the evening orders were read to the Regt, Reminding us
that S.C. was the state where the seeds of rebellion were first sown & ripened into feint &
giving us to understand that we were not to be so closely restricted as through Ga. ie,
allowed more privileges ." Edward W. Allen to James and Emily Allen, 4 February
1865, Edward W. Allen Papers.
would show the South the consequence of her rebellious actions as well as the North's
superior power. The tactics in South Carolina targeted the seedbed of secession "to crush
the last particle of wind out of the Confederacy."71 Federal soldiers believed that these
rabid Rebels in South Carolina, most of them women, deserved whatever hardships they
experienced As a result, as they entered South Carolina, Union troops inflicted even
more damage than they had in Georgia. "The well-known site of columns of black smoke
meets our gaze again," Union officer George Ward Nichols observed. "This time houses
are burning, and South Carolina has commenced to pay an installment, long overdue, on
her debt to justice and humanity."72 Sebastian Duncan similarly wrote that it was
"almost as though there was a Secret organization among the men to burn Every thing in
the State for thus far ... houses, in Some way, get on fire & nearly all we have passed
Some soldiers believed the same while the army was in Georgia. For example,
Joseph Hoffhines reported that "this Government is now Entering upon a new policy.
We are ordered to burn Cities and Barns and Houses where Ever we go and lay waste the
Entire Country." Joseph Hoffhines to Wife, 11 November 1864, as quoted in Lee
Kennett, Marching Through Georgia, 232.
71 Thomas E. Smith to Brother, 27 December 1864, as quoted in Royster, The
Destructive War, 344. Also see William Scofield to Father, 2 February 1865, William
Scofield Papers, South Caroliniana Library.
72 George Ward Nichols, 30 January 1865, The Story of the Great March, 131.
Other soldiers also felt that justice had been served. "We bade the remains of the City of
Columbia the Capitol of S.C. farewell. No which had recd her Just reward for the evil
deeds she did in the great rebellion." Jesse S. Bean, 20 February 1865, Jesse S. Bean
Diary, Southern Historical Collection.
thus far are in ashes."3 As the soldiers made their way northward through South
Carolina, they burned at least a dozen towns. Parts of Gillisonville, Grahamville,
Hardeeville, McPhersonville, Springfield, Robertsville, Lawtonville, Barnwell, Blackville,
Midway, Orangeburg, and Lexington all went up in flames. The soldiers watched "South
Carolina .. getting badly scorched" with satisfaction.74 As men and Northerners, Union
troops put Rebels in their place.75
73 Sebastian Duncan to Mother, 1 February 1865, as cited in Glatthaar, March to
the Sea and Beyond, 140.
74 Sylvester Daniels, 18 February 1865, Sylvester Daniels Diary Typescript. The
Union desire to wreak vengeance on South Carolina was not a new one. A full year before
Sherman's March began, Isaac Jackson hoped for a chance to punish South Carolina
soldiers on the field of battle. "No man ever looked forward to any event with more joy
than did our boys to have a chance to meet the sons of the mothers of traitors, 'South
Carolina."' Isaac Jackson to Moses and Phebe Jackson, 13 July 1863, "Some of the
Boys .. ": The Civil War Letters of Isaac Jackson, 1862-1865, ed. Joseph Orville
Jackson (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1960), 111
75 Sherman's men left countless descriptions of the destruction, especially in
South Carolina, the home of secession's instigators. For examples, see Charles W. Wills,
Army Life of an Illinois Soldier Including a Day-by-Day Record of Sherman's March to
the Sea: Letters and Diary of Charles W. Wills, ed. Mary E. Kellogg, (Carbondale:
Southern Illinois University Press, 1996); C. C. Platter Journal, Hargrett Rare Book and
Manuscript Library, University of Georgia, Athens; Charles G. Ward Diary, South
Caroliniana Library; Thomas Ford to Mr. William, 28 March 1865, Tho[mas] R. Ford
Letter, South Caroliniana Library; David P. Conyngham, Sherman's March Through the
South with Sketches and Incidents of the Campaign (New York: Sheldon and Company,
1865); Samuel Augustus Duncan to Julia Jones, 15 March, 1865, in Yankee
The burning of the outlying areas of South Carolina would pale in significance to
what awaited Columbia and Charleston. Intent on destroying what they saw as the
"cradle of secession," the "hotbed of rebellion," and the home of "the authors of all the
calamities that have befallen this nation," Union soldiers displayed little mercy when they
entered the two cities on February 17 and 18, 1865. Sherman's troops let loose their
anger toward the Confederacy and Confederates, but believed that "their punishment is
light when compared with what justice demanded.'"76 A group of soldiers foreshadowed
the fate of South Carolina's capital as they entered the city singing, "Hail Columbia,
happy land,/ If I don't burn you, I'll be damned.""77 These soldiers were not
disappointed. By the time the Union troops left Columbia, "the Capital, where treason
was cradled and reared a mighty raving monster, [was] a blackened ruin."78 Another noted
76 John C. Gray to John C. Ropes, 24 February 1865, War Letters, 1862-1865 of
John Chipman Gray and John Codman Ropes, With Portraits (Cambridge, Mass.:
Riverside Press, 1927), 458; George M. Wise to John Wise, 13 March 1865, "Marching
Through South Carolina," 193. See also Captain E. J. Sherlock, 15 February 1865,
Memorabilia of the Marches and Battles in Which the One Hundredth Regiment of
Indiana Infantry Volunteers Took an Active Part: War of the Rebellion, 1861-5 (Kansas
City, Mo.: Gerard-Woody Printing Co., 1896), 195.
77 As quoted in Lloyd Lewis, Sherman: Fighting Prophet (New York: Harcourt,
Brace and Company, 1932), 503.
78 E. H. King, 18 February 1865, as cited in Glatthaar, March to the Sea and
Beyond, 146. According to some observers, even Union soldiers who were stationed
outside of the city helped plunder the city. Allen Morgan Geer was camped in the
"suburbs of Columbia" the night Columbia burned. "The troops ... break ranks and
make for the city. the most for forage many for plunders, some for whiskey &
that although "Columbia was once a beautiful & wealthy city--the pride of the South ...
when our army left it there was little left to mark the site except a blackened map of
smoking ruins."79 Many other reports mirrored this description. The troops left
"nothing but a pile of ruins, a warning to future generations to beware of treason.8"" In
the end, fire destroyed approximately one third of Columbia.81
excitement, a few to burn and destroy. & I & Capt. King for curiosity[,] As the flames
spread from street to street, soldiers running wild noisy and intoxicated[.] Citizens
hurrying to and fro[.] Women & children frightened and often weeping, the crash of
falling buildings all presented a grand but sad seen of desolating ruin." Allen Morgan
Geer, 17 February 1865, The Civil War Diary of Allen Morgan Geer, Twentieth
Regiment, Illinois Volunteers, ed. Mary Ann Anderson (Bloomington: Robert C.
Appleman, 1977), 197.
79 Robert Stuart Finley to Mary A. Cabeen, 30 March 1865, Robert Stuart Finley
Papers, Southern Historical Collection.
80 Anthony J. Baurdick, 19 February 1865, Diary, Anthony J. Baurdick Papers,
81 Nearly a century and a half later, scholars continue to debate whether Union or
Confederate troops initiated the blaze. The details of this debate have not changed much
since the controversy began immediately after the war. Although Sherman held that his
men had no role in the burning of the city, he acknowledged that "others [Union soldiers]
not on duty, including the officers who had long been imprisoned there, rescued by us,
may have assisted in spreading the fire after it had once begun, and may have indulged in
unconcealed joy to see the ruin of the capital of South Carolina." William T. Sherman to
Henry W. Halleck, 4 April 1865, The Hero's Own Story, 96. Union Colonel Oscar L.
Jackson recorded "I believe it was not done by order by there seems to be a general
acquiescence in the work as a fit example to be made of the capital of the State that boasts
of being the cradle of secession and starting the war." Oscar L. Jackson, February 18,
1865, The Colonel's Diary (Sharon, Penn.: n.p., 1922), 184. For a discussion of the
controversy, see Marion B. Lucas, Sherman and the Burning of Columbia (1976; reprint,
Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2000).
While in Columbia, Sherman and his troops recognized that they had unleashed an
unprecedented assault on its white civilians. Women, the soldiers reasoned, deserved
harsh treatment because of their culpability for the war. For example, Charles S. Brown
described an incident in which an individual soldier asserted his power by forcing
Southern women to beg. "We have men in our own Regt & in all others that would stand
& have a woman kneel to them & beg for Gods sake to leave enough for her children in the
house." Even women's humiliating entreaties, however, did not insure that the soldiers
would comply with their requests. After forcing the women to kneel, Brown remarked,
the soldiers would "turn from them with oaths & take the last morsel of food."82
Northern soldiers wanted to make Confederate women pay for their role in the
Confederate war effort. In Columbia, Union Lieutenant Colonel Jeremiah W. Jenkins,
provost marshall of the invaded city, declared "the women of the South kept the war
alive--and it is only by making them suffer that we can subdue the men."83 Jenkins saw
the utility in attacking Southern domesticity as a way to punish both contemptuous
civilians and soldiers. A Union army chaplain who marched with Sherman similarly
justified the assault on women.
82 Charles S. Brown to Etta, 26 April, 1865, Charles S. Brown Papers.
83 Lieutenant Colonel Jeremiah W. Jenkins as cited in Royster, The Destructive
So far as the women are concerned, we might as well spare our
pity, for they are the worst secessionists, and why should they not
suffer? ... Would you now spare them a proper amount of
suffering? We say no. Let them understand that secession means
something more than a holiday parade.84
The chaplain's statement reveals not only an animosity toward Southern women as
secessionists, but also as frivolous girls who, he assumed, saw secession and war as
nothing more than spectacle. Soldiers extended their hostility to white Southern children.
Men, who during peacetime served as fatherly protectors of all youngsters, considered
them enemies during the Civil War. As he took blankets away from children in Columbia,
one Union soldier said "let the d--d little rebels suffer as we have had to do for the past
84 Reverend G. S. Bradley, 28 December 1864, in The Star Corps; or, Notes of an
Army Chaplain, During Sherman's Famous 'March to the Sea' (Milwaukee: Jermain &
Brightman, Book & Job Printers, 1865), 225.
85 Lieutenant Colonel Jeremiah W. Jenkins as cited in Royster, The Destructive
War, 23. Also see William O. Wettleson to Father and Sisters, 27 November 1864, Bell
Irvin Wiley Papers; Harvey Reid to Homefolk, 14 December 1864, Bell Irvin Wiley
Papers, Samuel B. Crew to Brother and Sister, 15 December 1864, Bell Irvin Wiley
Papers; Mary Sharpe Jones and Mary Jones Mallard, 16 December 1864, Yankees
a'Coming: One Month's Experience during the Invasion of Liberty County, Georgia,
1864-1865, ed. Haskell Monroe (Tuscaloosa, Ala.: Confederate Publishing Company,
Inc., 1959); Mary Bull Maxcy Leverett to Caroline Pinckney Seabrook, 18 March 1865,
Mary Maxcy Leverett Letter, South Caroliniana Library.
Southerners denounced this policy. For example, Mollie Cunningham wrote from
Georgia, "I know our brave men could whip any fair fight but they are overwhelming us
with numbers and waging war upon the defenseless women and children, by marching
through our unprotected county destroying and taking every means of subsistence from
Charleston fared no better than Columbia, perhaps because of the concentration of
elite slaveholding families there. When Confederate General William J. Hardee
surrendered the city on February 18, he had already evacuated 10,000 soldiers from the
city and destroyed the military equipment. The removal of the military and its
equipment did not protect the city or its civilian population from a full-scale Union
assault. With the military provisions already destroyed, the soldiers focused their
vengeance on domestic targets. They ransacked homes, terrorized women, and otherwise
made their presence and power known. This assault fulfilled the long-standing wishes of
Union soldiers. Sherman, for example, had already received word from Halleck expressing
his hope that if Charleston were captured "by some accident the place may be destroyed,
and if a little salt should be sown upon its site it may prevent the growth of future crops
of nullification and secession."86 Sherman and his troops had no problem complying. As
one man noted, "the army burned everything it came near in the State of South Carolina"
because "the men 'had it in' for the State." As a result, the army's "track through the
the defenseless women and Innocent Children." Mollie Cunningham to George A.
Cunningham, 16 January 1865, Cunningham Family Papers, University of Georgia.
86 William T. Sherman to Henry Halleck, 24 December 1864, Official Records, Ser.
1, Vol. 44: 799.
State is a desert waste."87 Edward Allen showed no surprise or remorse for his
countrymen's treatment of the two cities. "The soldiers have had such a hatred for
Columbia & Charleston that it is no wonder they burned it."88
After leaving Charleston, Union soldiers burned Camden, Winnsboro, Lancaster,
Chesterfield, and Cheraw, "[leaving behind] ... a howling wilderness, an utter
desolation." They hoped this destruction would prevent South Carolina from "ever
[wanting] to seceed again.""89 James Stillwell noted that "there is scarcely anything left in
our rear or trac[k]s except pine forests and naked lands and Starving inhabitants. A
majority of the Cities, towns, villages and country houses have been burnt to the
ground."90 As they entered North Carolina, many Union troops rejoiced in their
accomplishments. One soldier, Jesse Bean of Minnesota, wrote a commemorative poem
as "we bid adieu to S. Carolina leaving our Marks of revenge behind us to Show the
Generations to come."
87 James A. Connolly to Wife, 12 March 1865, Three Years in the Army of the
Cumberland: The Letters and Diary of Major James A. Connolly (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1959), 384.
8 Edward Allen to James and Emily Allen, 18 February 1865, Edward W. Allen
89 J. Taylor Holmes, 10 February 1865, 52d Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Then and
Now (Columbus, Ohio: Berlin Print, 1898), 20. See also Thomas J. Myers to Wife, 26
February 1865, Thomas J. Myers Papers.
What was the fate
Of the first Rebel State
That Seceded from the Union.
And what was the desier
When we set Columbia on fier
And all that was consumed with it--
Far as we went we taken all the fenze--
The Sheep. hogs. and. Cattle for the rent--
To let them know where we went--
For this campaign as we had plenty of rain
And plenty to eat on the Journey.
Was all for the benefit of South Carolina--"91
Just after Union troops entered North Carolina on March 8, Sherman thought it
best to shape his military tactics to account for a civilian population that was poorer than
that in South Carolina and rumored to have Unionist tendencies. Acknowledging his
troops' wanton destruction in South Carolina, Sherman directed his officers to "instruct
your brigade commanders that we are now out of South Carolina and that a little
moderation may be of political consequence to us in North Carolina." Union soldiers
should now "deal as moderately and fairly by the North Carolinians as possible."92
Although most historical accounts hold that Sherman softened his tactics in the Tarheel
90 James Stillwell to Wife, 12 March 1865, as quoted in Grimsley, Hard Hand of
91 Jesse S. Bean, 8 March 1865, Jesse S. Bean Diary.
92 William T. Sherman to H. W. Slocum, 6 March 1865, Official Records, Ser. 1,
Vol. 47, Pt. 2: 704; William T. Sherman to Judson Kilpartrick, 7 March 1865, Official
Records, Ser. 1, Vol. 47, Pt. 2: 721.
State, his troops continued in their course of widespread destruction, despite claims that
"since entering North Carolina the wanton destruction has stopped."93 Their vandalism
began almost immediately upon the troops' entrance in to the state when soldiers began
to set fire to North Carolina's pine forests by lighting patches of congealed sap. They
also torched the turpentine, tar, and rosin factories that they encountered along the state's
streams. One Union soldier observed that North Carolina's pine forests "certainly made
the handsomest fire [he] ever saw, especially the smoke as it rolled up in huge back
volumes was splendid." As Union soldiers "blazed their way through" the state, North
Carolina stank of burning turpentine.94
93 James A. Connolly to Wife, 12 March 1865, Three Years in the Army of the
Cumberland, 384. John Marszalek argues that when Sherman's troops entered North
Carolina "the wholesale destruction they had practiced in South Carolina ceased."
However, he admits that "the soldiers did not stop all pillaging; they simply toned it
down." Marszalek, Sherman, 327. Mark Grimsley asserts that "the Tarheel State
received much the same treatment as Georgia-- possibly even a bit milder, since North
Carolina was not part of the Deep South, was known to harbor significant Unionist
sentiment, and had been one of the last states to secede." Grimsley, The Hard Hand of
War, 202. Also see John G. Barrett, The Civil War in North Carolina (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1963), 291-300, 311-317, 328-349; James M.
McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Ballantine Books,
1988), 826. However, Michael Fellman acknowledges that "the men still stripped the
countryside of food and livestock and burned public facilities. Some soldiers noted little
difference between the overall results in the two Carolinas." Fellman, Citizen Sherman,
94 Rufus Mead to Dear Folks Back Home, 7 March 1865, "With Sherman
Through Georgia and the Carolinas: Letters of a Federal Soldier," ed. James A. Padgett,
Georgia Historical Quarterly 33 (March 1949): 74.
Confederate troops, a makeshift force of approximately 21,000 soldiers, could do
little to impede Sherman's "hard war" policy in North Carolina. They were
outnumbered by Sherman's 60,000 battle-hardened veterans who would soon be joined
by 30,000 reinforcements. In North Carolina, Sherman continued his tactic of misleading
the enemy with his troops' movements. On March 9, Washington S. Chaffin, a
Methodist minister in Lumberton, anxiously noted that "the Yankees are said to be in two
different places near here. I am incredulous." Little did Chaffin know that minutes later
the elusive enemy would fill Lumberton's streets.95 Apparently, Sherman's orders to
moderate the destruction proved little solace to the citizens of North Carolina. When
Union troops captured Fayetteville on March 11, Sherman ordered the destruction of the
local arsenal and mills. In addition, his soldiers continued to tear up railroads and "forage
liberally." They also terrorized the civilian population and destroyed much personal
property, perhaps because they found "the city of Fayetteville ... offensively
95 Washington S. Chaffin, 9 March 1865, Washington S. Chaffin Diary, Duke
University. For examples of other Southerners expressing anxiety over Sherman's
uncertain path, see Mary Gayle Aiken, 10 February 1865, Aiken Family Papers, South
Caroliniana Library; Lucy Barrow Cobb to Mary McKinley, 1 December 1864, Cobb-
Erwin-Lamar Collection, University of Georgia; Edward McCrady to Wife, 9 December
1864, McCrady Family Papers, South Caroliniana Library; Cornelius Burckmyer to
Charlotte Burckmyer, 15 December 1864, The Burckmyer Letters, March, 1865 June,
1865 (Columbia, S.C.: The State Company, 1926), 448. George W. Nichols, aid-de-camp
of Sherman, believed "it is useless conjecture what will be the next move." George W.
Nichols, 10 February 1865, The Story of the Great March, 147.
rebellious.""96 After recounting all of her material losses, one woman in Fayetteville
complained that the Union soldiers "spared nothing but our lives."97 Several Union
officers had similar observations. From Fayetteville, Dexter Horton noted that "our
march over the country has been like the blighting pestilence, for we have taken or turned
upside down everything before us."98 Despite reports in several newspapers, "that our
treatment of citizens is good," one soldier warned "don't believe a word of it."99 Even
Sherman acknowledged the level of destruction in the Tarheel State. "Poor North
Carolina will have a hard time for we sweep the country like a swarm of locusts." His
troops' desolation of North Carolina did not trouble Sherman for a moment. Although
"thousands of people may perish," he believed that his march would succeed because
96 George W. Nichols, 14 March 1865, The Story of the Great March, 252-253
97 Anonymous Woman [Fayetteville, N.C.], 22 March 1865, Emma Mordecai
Diary, Mordecai Family Papers, Southern Historical Collection. This woman gives a
lengthy description of her losses to Sherman's troops: "At our house they killed every
chicken, goose, turkey, cow, calf and every living thing, even to our pet dog. They carried
off our wagons, carriage and horses, and broke up our buggy, wheelbarrow, garden
implements, axes, hatchets, hammers, saws, &c., and burned the fences. Our smokehouse
and pantry that a few days ago were well stored with bacon, lard, flour, dried fruit, meal,
pickles, preserves, etc., now contain nothing whatever except a few pounds of meal and
flour and five pounds of bacon. They took from old men, women and children alike."
98 Dexter Horton, 14 March 1865, "Dairy of an Officer in Sherman's Army
Marching Through the Carolinas," ed. Clement Eaton, Journal of Southern History 9
(May 1943): 248.
99 Charles W. Wills, 18 March 1865, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, 364.
"they now realise that war means something else than vain glory and boasting. If Peace
ever falls to their lot [Southerners] will never again invite War."'10
Sherman ordered the left wing under Slocum's command to leave Fayetteville on
March 15, 1865. Soon after, Union troops drove Hardy's Confederates back in a small
confrontation. Fighting continued in Averasboro on March 16 between Slocum and
11,000 Confederates, and again at Bentonville on March 19. Two days later, on March
21, a defeated Johnston ordered a retreat of his Confederate forces. In the absence of
military opposition, Sherman's troops continued to march and forage as they had in the
previous months. Within two weeks of Sherman's April 13 entrance into Raleigh, Joseph
Johnston surrendered his Confederate troops at Durham Station, North Carolina. The
assault on the southern homefront had come to an end. Sherman's men returned to what
Illinois soldier Charles W. Wills described as "our good behavior ... No foraging, no
bumming rails, or houses, and nothing naughty whatever."10' Indeed, once orders to cease
'0 William T. Sherman to Ellen Sherman, 9 April 1865, Home Letters of General
101 Charles W. Wills, 29 April 1865, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, 373. Such an
immediate change in behavior illuminates the ability of Sherman and his fellow officers to
govern their troops. This betrays many of the explanations historians have offered for
the non-essential items destroyed on the march. Southerners, perhaps not surprisingly,
believed that the widespread destruction was either a direct result of official directives or
an unofficial policy to turn a blind eye. For example, the morning after the burning of
Columbia, Mrs. E. L. L. watched as "the order to cease the terrible carnival was given, and
the immediate quiet which followed was passing strange, yet it showed the thorough
discipline of the mighty army; besides it proved most clearly that permission, if not
foraging were given, Sherman's troops immediately complied. One of the men on the
march, Allen Morgan Geer, observed the remarkable change after Johnston's surrender.
"Very striking is the difference between this march and all others previous. The people
remain contentedly at home, men are plenty, a safety guard is at each house and our
soldiers make no effort to forage or destroy."'02
Sherman designed and pursued his March through Georgia and the Carolinas as a
comprehensive assault on Southern domesticity. Intending to break the will of the
Confederacy by destroying it on both the psychological and physical levels, Union
soldiers ransacked Southern homes, paying special attention to the markers of domestic
life and femininity. They looted and burned homes, tore apart bedrooms, scattered
private letters across fields, danced on pianos, and destroyed women's fancy dresses and
undergarments. They also stole jewelry, china, silver, and candlesticks. Elite slaveholding
families, considered instrumental in Southern secession and the coming of war by their
enemies, bore the brunt of the attack. Those soldiers who felt initial twinges of pity for
their civilian targets, soon learned to downplay these feelings and concentrate on women
expressed command, had been given to bur and sack the town." Mrs. E. L. L., in
Charleston Weekly Courier, "Our Women in the War": The Lives they Lived, The
Deaths they Died (Charleston: The News and Courier Book Presses, 1885), 255.
10 Allen Morgan Geer, 29 April 1865, Civil War Diary of Allen Morgan Geer,
as the "strongest rebels." This adjusted mindset, as well as the tacit consent of their
officers, allowed Union soldiers license to ransack the homefront as they terrorized and
taunted their female targets.
Sherman and his soldiers assumed that their campaign against Southern women
would prove an easy success; surely, "the weaker sex" would quickly surrender to the
power of an invading army. Much to their surprise, an easy victory would not prove to
be the case. As later chapters demonstrate, many elite Southern women refused to take
the invasion of their domestic sphere quietly. Acknowledging that Northern troops had
adjusted their policies to allow for an attack on femininity, Confederate women
responded with a new mindset of their own. As rumors spread of the impending
invasion, Confederate women prepared themselves and their homes to weather the storm.
Having found a way to merge their gender and regional identities in ways that allowed
them to fight for their nation, they refused to submit. Sherman would not so easily "cure
[Confederate women] of [their] pride and boasting."
"THE FIENDS WILL DANCE AFTER HIM IN HIGH GLEE":
Most antebellum Southerners and Northerners would have agreed with Margaret
Mitchell's narrator in Gone With the Wind who asserted that war "is men's business, not
ladies."' War, they assumed, took place on the battlefield, far from the security of the
feminine domestic sphere. Men willingly went off to battle to protect their wives,
mothers, and sisters, and the glory earned on the battlefield became mythic on the
homefront. Death, the most common consequence of war to affect women and children,
became an honor instead of merely a hardship.2 Similarly, antebellum Americans often
Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind (1936; reprint, New York: Avon
Books, 1973), 8.
2 For discussions of Southern honor, see Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor:
Ethics and Behavior in the Old South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982);
Bertram Wyatt-Brown, The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War,
17602-1880s (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); Kenneth
Greenberg, Honor and Slavery: Lies, Duels, Noses, Masks, Dressing as a Woman, Gifts,
Strangers, Humanitarianism, Death, Slave Rebellions, the Proslavery Argument, Baseball,
Hunting, and Gambling in the Old South (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996);
Edward L. Ayers, Vengeance and Justice: Crime and Punishment in the Nineteenth-
Century American South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984). For Northern
attitudes about war, see Reid Mitchell, Civil War Soldiers (New York: Viking Press,
considered it worse to experience the shame of a relative who avoided military service
than the grief resulting from one who died in war. At the same time, the violence and gore
of war traditionally remained on the battlefront and did not often interrupt the peace of
the domestic household. During the Civil War, however, women's increasing
participation in the Confederate effort, in addition to the progression of Union military
policies, turned the idea of a separate homefront on its head and redefined the nineteenth-
century concept of warfare.3
White Southern women's domesticity did not prevent their active participation in
the secession crisis of 1860 and the ensuing war. As their states seceded, prepared for
war, and sent men off to fight the Yankees, many white women made the Civil War their
business. Their developing identities as Confederate women grew stronger when Union
1988); Reid Mitchell, The Vacant Chair: The Northern Soldier Leaves Home (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1993); James M. McPherson, What They Fought For, 1861-
1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana University Press, 1994); James M. McPherson, For
Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1997); Gerald Linderman, Embattled Courage. The Experience of Combat in the
Civil War (New York: The Free Press, 1987). Recent scholars of diplomatic history have
explored similar connections between masculinity and warfare. For example, see Kristin
Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-
American and Philippine-American Wars (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).
3 Steven Cushman argues that there was no homefront during the American Civil
War in Bloody Promenade: Reflections on a Civil War Battle (Charlottesville: University
Press of Virginia, 1999). Others have shown the interconnections between homefront and
warfront. See James L. Roark, Slaves Without Masters: Southern Planters in the Civil
War and Reconstruction (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1977); Clarence L.
Mohr, On the Threshold of Freedom: Masters and Slaves in Civil War Georgia (Athens:
University of Georgia Press, 1986).
General William Tecumseh Sherman's troops approached their homes and farms in 1864
and 1865. As white Southern women prepared for the homefront attack, they recognized
that they had become military targets and adapted themselves to deal with the enemy's
assault on domesticity and femininity. Although shocking, the Union advance on women
and the homefront did not come as a complete surprise. Through the progression of
Union policies over the past three years as well as Sherman's recent actions, white
Southern women anticipated that Federal troops would have little regard for the
distinctions between civilians and soldiers. Events leading up to the Georgia and
Carolinas campaign clearly demonstrated that the Civil War had eased and erased most of
the prohibitions that previously separated women and domestic life from the harshest
realities of battle. In addition, Confederate women realized that their participation in the
war as proponents of secession, suppliers of food and clothing, and defenders of the
homefront had made them enemies in their own rights in the eyes of Union soldiers. This
chapter explores the ways in which Confederate women, who were cognizant of the ways
in which Sherman's troops treated their domestic enemies, readied for a battle of their
War was not the only activity considered "men's business" in antebellum
America. Most economic, political, and public endeavors fell under this heading. During
the nineteenth century, women's lives grew more and more focused around and
circumscribed by the home. Within this context, women used assumptions about
femininity to their advantage in order to participate in the public domain.4 In the North,
the rise of the middle class and the separation of the workplace from the home gendered
people's conceptions of place and role. Women, who had previously taken an active, if
4 Many scholars have also shown that Southern women had an active role in
public life prior to the Civil War. See Elizabeth R. Varon, We Mean to Be Counted:
White Women and Politics in Antebellum Virginia (Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 1998); Elizabeth R. Varon, "Tippecanoe and the Ladies, Too: White
Women and Party Politics in Antebellum Virginia," Journal of American History 82
(September 1995): 494-521; Kirsten E. Wood, "'One Woman So Dangerous': Gender
and Power in the Eaton Affair," Journal of the Early Republic 17 (Summer 1997): 237-
275; Daniel Kilbride, "Cultivation, Conservatism, and the Early National Gentry: The
Manigault Family and Their Circle," Journal of the Early Republic 19 (Summer 1999).
221-256; Cynthia Kiemer, "Hospitality, Sociability, and Gender in the Southern
Colonies," Journal of Southern History 62 (August 1996): 449-480; Frederick A. Bode
"A Common Sphere: White Evangelicals and Gender in Antebellum Georgia, Georgia
Historical Quarterly 79 (Winter 1995): 775-809; Cynthia A. Kierner, "Women's Piety
Within Patriarchy: The Religious Life of Martha Hancock Wheat of Bedford County,"
Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 100 (January 1992): 79-98; Eugene D.
Genovese, "Toward a Kinder and Gentler America: The Southern Lady in the Greening
of the Politics of the Old South," in In Joy and In Sorrow: Women, Family, and Marriage
in the Victorian South, ed. Carol Bleser (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991):
125-134; Marli F. Weiner, Mistresses and Slaves: Plantation Women in South Carolina,
1830-80 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998); Jane H. Pease and William H.
Pease, A Family of Women: The Carolina Petigrus in Peace and War (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1999); Jane H. Pease and William H. Pease, Ladies
Women, and Wenches: Choice and Constraint in Antebellum Charleston and Boston
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990); Suzanne Lebsock, The Free
Women of Petersburg: Status and Culture in a Southern Town, 1784-1860 (New York:
W. W. Norton & Company, 1984). See also Paula Baker, "The Domestication of Politics:
Women and American Political Society, 1780-1900," American Historical Review 89
(June 1984): 620-647; Linda K. Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology
in Revolutionary America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980); Mary
Beth Norton, Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women,
1750-1800 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1980); Mary Ryan, Women in Public: Between
Banners and Ballots, 1825-1880 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990).
unrecognized, role in the support of their families, became relegated to the home and its
domestic chores as their husbands went off to work.5 As a result the "domestic" and
"public" spheres became increasingly separate and gendered. This separation of the sexes
fueled the ideals of "true womanhood" which stressed piety, purity, submissiveness, and
domesticity.6 Although the idea of separate spheres excluded women from "public"
5 Mary P. Ryan, Cradle of the Middle Class: The Family in Oneida County, New
York, 1790-1865 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981); Nancy F. Cott, The
Bonds of Womanhood: "Woman's Sphere" in New England, 1780-1835 (New Haven,
Conn.: Yale University Press, 1977); Caroll Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct:
Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985); Linda K,
Kerber, "Separate Spheres, Female Worlds, Women's Place: The Rhetoric of Women's
History," Journal of American History 75 (June 1988): 9-39.
For an exploration of the relationship between masculinity and domesticity in
Victorian England, see John Tosh, A Man's Place: Masculinity and the Middle-Class
Home in Victorian England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999).
6 On nineteenth-century expectations of women's character and behavior, see
Barbara Welter, "The Cult of True Womanhood, 1820-1860," in Dimity Convictions:
The American Woman in the Nineteenth Century (Athens: Ohio University Press,
1976), 21-41. Scholars used Welter's ideal of "true womanhood" to discuss social
relations in the antebellum South. The first, Anne Firor Scott, highlighted the myth of
"true womanhood" and Southern women's attempt to achieve this unattainable ideal.
Scott, The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830-1930 (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1970), esp. 3-102. Catherine Clinton argued that not only was the ideal of
the Southern lady a "fantasy," but it was also "a powerful coercive force within
plantation society" that reinforced women's inferior status. Clinton, The Plantation
Mistress: Woman's World in the Old South (New York: Pantheon Books, 1982),
quotation, 87. In addition, Joan Cashin argued that white women shared a "culture of
resignation" in the Old South. Cashin, Our Common Affairs (Baltimore.: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1996), 1-41. See also Jane Turner Censer, North Carolina Planters and
Their Children, 1800-1860 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987);
Steven M. Stowe, Intimacy and Power in the Old South: Ritual in the Lives of the
Planters (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987); Stephanie McCurry,
activities, it gave women control over the domestic aspects of their lives. They gained the
power to run the household and raise their children as they saw fit. This proved
especially true in the South. As the holders of the keys to all rooms, stores, pantries, and
bureaus, Southern women controlled the domestic activities of their households.7 Further,
scholars have shown that the so-called "separate spheres" were not always rigidly
defined. Men and women moved between both, often defining the arena by the work
Masters of Small Worlds: Yeomen Households, Gender Relations, and the Political
Culture of the South Carolina Lowcountry (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).
Other scholars see women's roles as less constrained than traditionally portrayed.
For example, Victoria E. Bynum and Suzanne Lebsock explore women who eschewed
gender boundaries and took matters into their own hands. Bynum illuminates North
Carolina lower-class women's violation of gender norms in Unruly Women: The Politics
of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 1992). Lebsock shows how women's focus on "personalism" allowed them to
exert their will in Petersburg, Virginia in The Free Women of Petersburg.
7Southern social relations were based on the status gained by race. White women
had power in their households over their slaves and children. In her study of plantation
women and their household relationships, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese showed that slave-
holding women were not necessarily subjugated by the ideals of the Southern lady.
Instead, they benefited from their roles as the heads of the domestic activities in the
household. Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of
the Old South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988). Others also
discuss white women's limited power in the Southern household. For examples, see
Brenda E. Stevenson, Life in Black and White: Family and Community in the Slave South
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1996); Weiner, Mistresses and Slaves; McCurry,
Masters of Small Worlds; Stephanie McCurry, "The Politics of Yeoman Households in
South Carolina," in Divided Houses, ed. Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1992), 22-38; Cynthia A. Kierner, Beyond the Household:
Women's Place in the Early South, 1700-1835 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998);
Laura F. Edwards, Scarlett Doesn't Live Here Anymore: Southern Women in the Civil
WarEra (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000), 15-31.
being done there at a specific time. Although not always in the public eye, white women
constantly participated in public life.8
The Civil War forced everyone to reevaluate white women's visible place in
society.9 As the war increasingly affected their lives through shortages and deaths,
8 For example, many white Southern women entered the public sphere as authors,
keeping their sex private by using pseudonyms. See Elizabeth Moss, Domestic Novelists
in the Old South: Defenders of Southern Culture (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State
University, 1992); Anne Goodwyn Jones, Tomorrow is Another Day: The Woman
Writer in the South, 1859-1936 (Baton Rogue: Louisiana State University Press, 1981);
Nina Baym, Woman's Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and about Women in America,
1820-70 (1978; reprint, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1993); Mary Kelley, "The
Literary Domestics: Private Women on a Public Stage," in Ideas in America's Cultures:
From Republic to Mass Society, ed. Hamilton Cravens (Ames: Iowa State University
Press, 1982); Mary Kelley, Private Woman, Public Stage: Literary Domesticity in
Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984). Eugene D.
Genovese discusses women's influence over their husbands in political matters.
Genovese, "Toward a Kinder and Gentler America," 125-134. Similarly, Lee Ann Whites
highlights "public domesticity" during the Civil War. Whites, The Civil War as a Crisis in
Gender, Augusta, Georgia, 1860-1890 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995), 50.
9 Although not engaged as military enemies, Northern women, like their Southern
counterparts, similarly restructured their roles in society to mobilize for the Union war
effort. They became nurses, fundraisers, spies, and sometimes soldiers. For discussions
of Northern women during the Civil War, see Lyde Cullen Sizer, The Political Work of
Northern Women Writers and the Civil War, 1850-1872 (Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 2000); Jeanie Attie, Patriotic Toil: Northern Women and the
American Civil War (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1998); Elizabeth D.
Leonard, All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies (New York:
W. W. Norton and Co., 1999); Elizabeth D. Leonard, Yankee Women: Gender Battles in
the Civil War (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1994); Kristie Ross, "Arranging a
Doll's House: Refined Women as Union Nurses," in Divided Houses, 97-113; Lyde
Cullen Sizer, "Acting Her Part: Narratives of Union Women Spies," in Divided Houses,
114-133; Jeanie Attie, "Warwork and the Crisis of Domesticity in the North," in Divided
Houses, 247-259; Mary Elizabeth Massey, Women in the Civil War (Lincoln: University
of Nebraska Press, 1994); Judith Ann Giesberg, Civil War Sisterhood: The U.S. Sanitary
women reshaped their roles in the South. They became active participants in the battle
for Southern nationhood and, as such, targets for enemy armies. As the war lengthened,
Southern women lost their protective status of civilians and increasingly became seen by
the Union as active rebels. This progression from civilian to combatant grew out of the
realities of life during the Civil War; Southern women could not avoid participation when
soldiers fought battles their backyards and even the wealthiest families faced shortages.
From the outset of the fighting Confederate women refused to accept a passive role, and
they demonstrated their political awareness through their words and actions. As they
personally encountered the hardships of wartime life, Southern women shouldered more
active roles in the fight for independence. As such, the Union increasingly engaged them
as enemy combatants throughout the Civil War.'i
Commission and Women's Politics in Transition (Boston: Northeastern University
Press, 2000); Jane Schultz, "The Inhospitable Hospital: Gender and Professionalism in
Civil War Medicine," Signs 17 (Winter 1992): 363-392; Megan J. McClintock, "Civil
War Pensions and the Reconstruction of Union Families," Journal of American History
83 (September 1996). 456-480.
10 Women helped develop and sustain Confederate nationalism. The most
prominent example of this is Augusta Jane Evans's novel Macaria; or, Altars of Sacrifice,
which offered Southern women two ideals to follow in their support of the Confederacy.
Evans' two main characters demonstrate how white women of privileged and poor
backgrounds could make the sacrifices necessary to support the Confederacy. Evans,
Macaria; or, Altars of Sacrifice (1864; reprint, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University
Few scholars acknowledge women's role in the creation and sustenance of
Confederate nationalism. Those who note women's role, tend to dismiss it as temporary.
Even historian Drew Gilpin Faust, who edited the most recent edition of Macaria,
White Southern women's active participation in the public sphere pre-dated the
war. Many women initially drew attention to themselves as "rebels" and Confederates
when they voiced their opinions on sectional issues and then on secession. Far from the
sheltered, politically ignorant ladies they have often been portrayed as, many Southern
women paid close attention to the events around them.1 They read the news and
minimizes women's role in nationalism and stresses the conditional nature of it. Faust,
Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); Drew Gilpin Faust, "Altars of
Sacrifice: Confederate Women and the Narratives of War," in Southern Stories:
Slaveholders in Peace and War (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1992), 113-140;
Drew Gilpin Faust, "Race, Gender, and Confederate Nationalism: William D.
Washington's Burial of Latane," Southern Review 25 (Spring 1989): 297-307. Also see
George C. Rable, Civil Wars: Women and the Crisis of Southern Nationalism (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 1989); Victoria E. Bynum, Unruly Women; Edwards, Scarlett
Doesn't Live Here Anymore; Catherine Clinton, Tara Revisited: Women, War, and the
Plantation Legend (New York: Abbeville Press, 1995).
In addition, many scholars argue that Confederate nationalism was either non-
existent, or too weak to have any effect. For examples, see Drew Gilpin Faust, The
Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War South
(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988); Paul D. Escott, After Secession:
Jefferson Davis and the Failure of Confederate Nationalism (Baton Rouge: Louisiana
State University, 1978), esp. 19-53; Richard E. Beringer, Herman Hattaway, Archer
Jones, William N. Still, Jr., "Southern Nationalism" and "Why the South Lost" in Why
the South Lost the Civil War (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986), 64-81, 424-
442; Paul D. Escott, "The Failure of Confederate Nationalism: The Old South's Class
System in the Crucible of War," in The Old South in the Crucible of War, ed. Harry P.
Owens and James J. Cooke (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1983), 16, 20;
Lawrence N. Powell and Michael S. Wayne, "Self-Interest and the Decline of Confederate
Nationalism," in The Old South in the Crucible of War, 32-33.
Women's close attention to political events around them can be seen most
clearly by the self-conscious desire of so many to begin keeping journals in the 1850s and
1860s. Almost all of these women comment on their desire to keep a record of the
discussed it in depth with friends and family of both sexes. When the secession crisis
came to a head in 1860, white Southern women had much to say on the issue. They
especially paid close attention to the contentious presidential election facing the nation.
"momentous events" taking place. The most prominent example is Mary Boykin
Chesnut, Mary Chesnut's Civil War, ed. C. Vann Woodward (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1981). See also Emma Holmes, The Diary of Miss Emma Holmes,
1861-1866, ed. John F. Marszalek (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,
1979); Anna Maria Cook Green, The Journal of a Milledgeville Girl, 1861-1867, ed.
James C. Bonner (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1964). In her journal, Gertrude
Thomas notes her fascination with the political and war-related events around her.
"Political events have absorbed so much of my Journal to the exclusion of domestic
matters that one might readily suppose that I was not the happy mother of our darling
children." Gertrude Thomas, 17 September 1864, The Secret Eye: The Journal of Ella
Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 1848-1889, ed. Virginia Ingraham Burr (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1990), 236.
Wealthy antebellum Southern women received extensive educations. On female
education in the South, see Christie Anne Farnham, The Education of the Southern Belle:
Higher Education and Student Socialization in the Antebellum South (New York: New
York University Press, 1994). Many Southern female academies offered girls a
curriculum that mirrored that taken by their male counterparts. Girls attending these
academies learned classic languages, higher mathematics, literature, philosophy, and other
subjects. See Augusta Chronicle & Georgia Gazette, 24 December 1821, Volume 36,
Number 21; Augusta Chronicle and Georgia Advertiser, 8 October 1823, Volume 38,
Number 144; Catalogue of the Instructors, Patrons and Pupils, of the LaGrange Collegiate
Seminary, For Young Ladies (Charleston: Printed at the Office of the Southern Quarterly
Review, 1850), 14; Catalogue of the Instructors, Pupils and Patrons, of the LaGrange
Female Seminary, With a Circular Annexed for 1846, LaGrange, Georgia (Hartford:
Brown and Parsons, 1846), 11-12; Catalogue of the Instructors, Patrons and Pupils of the
LaGrange Female Seminary, LaGrange Georgia, for the Academical Year, 1849 (Athens,
Ga.: Printed at the Office of the "Weekly Gazette," 1849), 14; Southern Recorder, 2
January 1830; Augusta Chronicle-Sentinel, 14 January 1840; Augusta Chronicle-Sentinel,
21 and 25 January 1840; Third Annual Catalogue of the Teachers & Pupils in the Female
Seminary. Washington, GA, November, 1841, (Washington, Ga.: M. J. Kappel, 1841);
Georgia Journal (Milledgeville), 7 November 1831.
For example, Dolly Lunt Burge assumed that the 1860 election "may be the last
presidential Election Our United Country will ever see." 12 Leora Sims rejoiced that she
lived in Columbia because she could "go to the Legislature and hear all the speeches."
Sims, who hoped that her friend Harriet Palmer's "southern blood is as fiery as mine,"
professed herself a "regular fire eater."13 As self-proclaimed patriotic Southerners, many
pushed their husbands toward secession after Lincoln won the electoral college. By
appealing to their husbands' sense of familial duty, elite Southern women encouraged men
to echo their political sentiments and vote for secession.14
After Southern legislatures voted for secession, many white women applauded
their states' decisions to leave the Union. For example, as other states began to follow
South Carolina's lead, Emma Holmes wrote that she was "doubly proud .. of [her]
native state, that she should be the first to arise and shake off the hated chain which
12 Dolly Lunt Burge, 6 November 1860, The Diary of Dolly Lunt Burge, 1848-
1879, ed. Christine Jacobson Carter (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1997), 111.
13 Leora Sims to Harriet R. Palmer, 10 December 1860, A World Turned Upside
Down: The Palmers of South Santee, 1818-1881, ed. Louis P. Towles (Columbia:
University of South Carolina Press, 1996), 278.
14 Stephen A. Channing, Crisis of Fear: Secession in South Carolina (New York:
W. W. Norton & Company, 1974), 178, 287. Eugene Genovese notes the influence and
role of what he labels "extremist" women in antebellum and Civil War times. He stresses
that in recognizing these Southern women, "the numbers do not matter"; the importance
lies in the reality of their existence. Genovese, "Toward a Kinder and Gentler America,"
133. Not all Southern women supported secession. For examples, see Thomas G. Dyer,
Secret Yankees: The Union Circle in Confederate Atlanta (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1999); Pease and Pease, A Family of Women, esp. 1-6, 140-141.
linked us with Black Republicans and Abolitionists"15 Holmes was not alone in her anti-
Union sentiments. Women across the South longed to join South Carolina and break free
from the United States. On January 3, 1861 Anna Maria Cook wrote, "I hope before
long Georgia will be with South Carolina seceded from the Union."16 When Georgia
finally seceded, another rejoiced: "the very name of Georgian is of itself a heritage to
boast of I have always been proud of my native state but never more so than now.
Nobly has she responded to the call for troops."17 Although the horrors of war would
dampen some of these women's initial enthusiasm, many took an active and educated part
in the movement to separate South from North. White women's political awareness gave
them the confidence to voice their opinions to the men of their family and the knowledge
that their husbands, fathers, and brothers would listen to these ideas."
15 Emma Holmes, 13 February 1861, The Diary of Miss Emma Holmes, 1.
16 Anna Maria Cook Green, 3 January 1861, The Journal of a Milledgeville Girl, 9.
17 Gertrude Thomas, 13 July 1861, The Secret Eye, 184.
18 Emma Mordecai wrote, "Our dear mother ... is satisfied that her anxious wish
for Virginia to secede has be gratified." Emma Mordecai to Alfred Mordecai, 21 April
1861, Alfred Mordecai Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Mary Boykin
Chesnut expressed her support of secession with a justification of it. "My father was a
South Carolina Nullifier .... So I was of necessity a rebel born." Mary Boykin Chesnut,
18 February 1861, The Private Mary Chesnut: The Unpublished Civil War Diaries, ed.
C. Vann Woodward and Elisabeth Muhlenfeld, (New York: Oxford University Press,
1984), 4. Judith McGuire longed for her state to separate from the Union: "I ... now
most earnestly hope that the voice of Virginia may give no uncertain sound; that she may
leave [the Union] with a shout." Judith White McGuire, 21 May 1861, Diary of a
Women's participation in secession may have been restricted to words and
symbolic acts, such as donating jewelry, but their roles in the public realm grew with the
onset of war. When the hostilities began, white Southern women made themselves
essential to the Confederate war effort by encouraging men to enlist. They appealed to
the manhood and honor of men and urged them to fill the ranks of the military. Men who
refused often found themselves snubbed by the ladies. Emma Edmonds, a Union spy
born in Canada, agreed with a soldier who told her that Southern women were "the best
recruiting officers," refusing "to tolerate, or admit to their society any young man who
refuses to enlist."19 Across the newly-formed Confederacy, Southern women's actions
confirmed this observation. A woman in Selma, Alabama, broke off her engagement to a
man who did not enlist. She sent him a petticoat, a skirt, and a note reading "wear these,
or volunteer."20 Those with family members on the front lines often supported the war
Southern Refugee, During the War (Richmond: J. W. Randolph & English, Publishers,
19 S. Emma E. Edmonds, Nurse and Spy in the Union Army: Comprising the
Adventures and Experiences of a Woman in Hospitals, Camps, and Battle-Fields
(Hartford: W. S. Williams & Co., 1865), 332; S. Emma E. Edmonds, Unsexed; or, The
Female Soldier: The Thrilling Adventures, Experiences and Escapes of a Woman, as
Nurse, Spy and Scout, in Hospitals, Camp and Battlefields (Philadelphia: Philadelphia
Publishing, 1864). During the Civil War, Edmonds served as a field nurse and a spy. She
also disguised herself as a man to enlist in the Union army. As Edmonds and other female
Union spies reveal, Northern women also found ways to take an active part in war and
other activities usually reserved for men. Leonard, All the Daring of the Soldier, 170.
20 William Stevenson, Thirteen Months in the Rebel Army: Being a Narrative of
Personal Adventures in the Infantry, Ordnance, Cavalry, Courier, and Hospital Services;
against the North. Georgian mother of three, Charlotte Branch, wrote a poem to her sons
urging them to fight:
Strike for the mother that gave you birth
Your native home and fires
Think of their watchword who assail
Press hard the savage foe
Nor pause until, its stars grow pale,
Their treacherous flag lies low.21
With an Exhibition of the Power, Purposes, Earnestness, Military Despotism, and
Demoralization of the South (New York: A. S. Barnes & Burr, 1862), 195.
Women taunted, cajoled, and shamed men into eventually joining the Confederate
forces. A published poem entitled "If You Love Me" created a conversation in which a
woman encouraged her sweetheart to enlist: "If you love me, do not ponder,/ .. Join
your country in the fray./ Go! your aid and right hand lend her,/ Breast the tyrant's angry
blast;/ Be her own and my defender--/ Strike for freedom to the last" J. Augustine
Signaigo, "If You Love Me," reprinted in William Gilmore Simms, War Poetry of the
South (1866; reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1972), 312.
In June 1861, Virginian Judith McGuire confided to her journal that "we could not
bear that one of them [the men of her family] should hesitate to give his life's blood to his
country." Judith White McGuire, 18 June 1861, Diary of a Southern Refugee, 33.
Similarly, Mrs. Allen S Izard of South Carolina asserted that "I sh[oul]d hate a man who
w[oul]d flinch, even f[ro]m martyrdom for his Country." Mrs. Allen S. Izard to Mrs.
William Mason Smith, 21 July 1864, Mason Smith Family Letters, 1860-1868, ed. Daniel
E. Huger Smith, Alice R. Huger Smith, and Arey R. Childs (Columbia: University of
South Carolina Press, 1950), 116. Other women made their support for the Confederacy
known through their rejoicing in Southern successes For example, Drucilla Wray
celebrated the capture of Ft. Sumter. "I have just heard that Fort Sumpter is in
possession of the Confederate States, Hurrah for Carolina!!! and her noble sons." Henry
and Drucilla Wray to Sister, 17 April 1861, Henry and Drucilla Wray Paper, Georgia
21 Charlotte S. Branch, 1861, Margaret Branch Sexton Collection, Hargrett Rare
Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia, Athens.
Protecting Branch's "native home" ultimately demanded that she sacrifice two of her sons
at the First Battle of Manassas in 1861, and that she write letters of support to her only
surviving son as he continued to fight the "savage foe." The deaths of her sons' did not
discourage Branch from her dream of Southern independence.22
White women's wartime involvement resulted from an intense patriotism as well
as a sense of difference between themselves and Northern "Yankees." Early in the war,
Confederate women recognized the antagonism of their Union foes and rumors of
exaggerated horrors spread throughout the region. "Every day," Emma Holmes wrote,
"brings fresh accounts of the demoniac fury & hatred of the Northerners toward the
Southerners & South Carolinians especially .... Men even suspected of sympathy with
the South are murdered in cold blood."23 Nothing seemed too horrible to attribute to the
North, especially since many Southerners increasingly saw themselves as racially,
ideologically, and culturally separate from the North. Southern women saw Union
soldiers as "Sumner-like reptiles of the North" and celebrated the complete separation of
North and South. These staunch female Confederates wanted no connection with the
22 Charlotte Branch continued to write to her remaining son throughout the war.
See Mauriel Phillips Joslyn, ed., Charlotte's Boys: Civil War Letters of the Branch
Family of Savannah (Berryville, Va.: Rockbridge Publishers, 1996).
23 Emma Holmes, 1 May 1861, The Diary of Miss Emma Holmes, 40.
"miserable fanatic set" of Yankees.24 As the war lengthened, this sense of difference and
celebration of Southern independence only strengthened.
The progression of Union tactics from a focus on the battlefield to direct assaults
on Southern civilians combined with unruly conduct toward white women led Southerners
increasingly to view Northern soldiers as "demons."25 The enemy presence in militarily
occupied areas could be tolerated as the consequences of war, but Southern women
frequently concluded that Union soldiers took things too far.26 When, in 1861, the Union
24 Susan Middleton to Harriott Middleton, 13 April 1862, "Middleton
Correspondence, 1861-1865," ed. Isabella Middleton Leland, South Carolina Historical
Magazine 63 (April 1962): 63.
25 A detailed study of the progression of Union tactics toward the Southern
homefront is Mark Grimsley, The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward
Southern Civilians, 1861-1865 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
Grimsley argues that Union policies went through roughly three stages: conciliation,
pragmatism, and hard war. Also see Charles Royster, The Destructive War: William
Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans (New York: Random House
1993). Reid Mitchell asserts that Northern soldiers considered Confederate women to be
"she-devils" and enemies. "And thinking of them as enemies transformed them from
neutrals to fit objects of war--people to be arrested, executed, burned out. In broader
terms, they became the people whose will to make war had to be broken." Mitchell, The
Vacant Chair, 100.
26 For studies on the occupied South, see Stephen V. Ash, When the Yankees
Came: Conflict and Chaos in the Occupied South, 1861-1865 (Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 1995); Stephen V. Ash, "White Virginians Under Federal
Occupation, 1861-1865," The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 98 (April
1990): 169-192; Chester G. Hearn, When the Devil Came Down to Dixie: Ben Butler in
New Orleans (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997); Gerald M. Capers,
Occupied City: New Orleans Under the Federals, 1862-1865 (Lexington: University of
Kentucky Press, 1965); Willie Lee Rose, Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal
imprisoned a group of Southern women and their young daughters in Washington, D.C.,
men and women across the Confederate states voiced their outrage.27 In November 1861,
Rose O'Neal Greenhow, a Southern spy and one of the arrested women, proclaimed in
the Richmond Whig that Union actions illuminated "the cruel and dastardly tyranny
which the Yankee government has established at Washington." Greenhow hoped that
"the incarceration and torture of helpless women, and the outrages heaped upon them ...
will shock manly natures and stamp the Lincoln dynasty everywhere with undying
infamy."28 Enraged by their arrest, but confident of their place in history, the women in
custody saw themselves as martyrs to the Confederate cause. As she prepared for her
internment, Eugenia Yates Levy Phillips wrote "this day has ushered in a new era in the
History of the Country, one which marks the arrest and imprisonment of women, for
Experiment (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1964); Bell I. Wiley, "Southern Reaction to
Federal Invasion," Journal of Southern History 16 (November 1950): 491-510.
27 Mary Elizabeth Massey notes that "Rose Greenhow's arrest was the first to
attract widespread attention." Massey, Women in the Civil War, 90.
28 Richmond Whig, November 1861, Leila [Elliott] Habersham Paper 1861-2,
Georgia Historical Society. In this "Letter From a Southern Lady in Prison to Seward--
The Cowardly Atrocities of the Washington Government," Rose O'Neal Greenhow
records her story because "my sufferings will afford a significant lesson to the women of
the South, that sex or condition is no bulwark against the surging billows of the
'irrepressible conflict.'" Also see Rose O'Neal Greenhow, My Imprisonment and the
First Year of Abolition Rule in Washington (London: Richard Bentley, 1863). Both
Greenhow and Eugenia Yates Levy Phillips demonstrate that despite their actions,
women assumed that their sex placed them beyond the scope of punishment. They
ascribed to the belief that women should always be protected.
political opinions!" The women's bravery and sacrifice became clearer, she continued, as
they "immediately prepared with courageous hearts, inspired with the thought that we
were suffering in a noble cause, and determined so to bear ourselves, as not to shame our
southern countrywomen."29 Union actions crossed over gender boundaries, and the
arrested women used this to their advantage. They played upon their imprisonment to
inflame further Southern patriotism and demonstrate the necessity of war and total
separation from the North.
Elite women in Georgia and the Carolinas confirmed Phillips' assessment of
female imprisonment and rallied against Federal tyranny. For Mary Boykin Chesnut,
wife of South Carolinian Confederate Senator James Chesnut, the incident clearly
demonstrated the inhumanity of Union soldiers. In her estimation, white Southern
women had been unfairly singled out by Northern men as easy victims. "I think these
times make all women feel their humiliation in the affairs of the world." This resulted
from the fact that "women can only stay at home, and every paper reminds us that
women are to be violated, ravished, and all manner of humiliation."30 Chesnut recognized
that women's vulnerability allowed them to be attacked in many ways. They could be
29 Eugenia Yates Levy Phillips, 28 August 1861, "Journal of Mrs. Eugenia Phillips
Wife of Philip Phillips of the City of Washington, Counselor at Law," 23 August 1861-
26 September 1861, Library of Congress.
30 Mary Boykin Chesnut, 29 August 1861, Mary Chesnut's Civil War, 172. Also
see Anna E. Kirtland to Harriet R. Palmer, 13 October 1861, A World Turned Upside
"ravished," even without physical rape.31 Accustomed to protection as a result of their
femininity and white privilege, slaveholding women across the Confederacy realized that
the change in military tactics increased their likelihood of being attacked. With their
husbands, brothers, and fathers at the battlefront, these women would have to protect
their purity through their own ingenuity. As the war progressed, they found more
reasons to fear for their safety as well as new ways to protect themselves and their
The imprisonment of Southern women in 1861 foreshadowed what women across
the South could expect in the future. In May 1862, reports of Major General Benjamin
Butler's actions in occupied New Orleans further excited Confederate tempers. After the
women of the city repeatedly avoided and attacked the Union soldiers there, Butler issued
his infamous General Order 28. Butler's attempt to subdue and control the Confederate
women in New Orleans, the "Woman Order" laid out the situation and the punishment:
As the officers and soldiers of the United States have been subject
to repeated insults from the women (calling themselves ladies) of
New Orleans ... it is ordered that hereafter when any female shall,
by word, gesture, or movement, insult or show contempt for any
officer or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded and
31 Throughout the Civil War, Southern women referred to Union attacks using the
rhetoric of rape. These women understood that they could be violated without physical
rape. They also feared that the change in Union tactics would ultimately result in
physical rape. See Chapter 4.
held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her
32 Benjamin Butler issued General Order 28 on May 15, 1862. War of the
Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,
130 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1881-1902), Ser. 1, Vol. 15:
426. [hereafter cited as Official Records]. In issuing such an order, Butler clearly
recognized the power and importance of women's roles as Confederates. Reid Mitchell
discusses the sexual implications of this order which "identified patriotic women as
prostitutes." Mitchell, The Vacant Chair, 103.
Southerners used Butler's General Order 28 to unite the Confederacy against a
common enemy. General P. G. T. Beauregard, for example, addressed a letter to the "men
of the South" calling on them to retaliate: "Shall our mothers, our wives, our daughters,
and our sisters be thus outraged by the ruffianly soldiers of the North, to whom is given
the right to treat at their pleasure the ladies of the South as common harlots? Arouse,
friends, and drive back from our soil those infamous invaders of our homes and disturbers
of our family ties." General Orders No. 44, Official Records, Ser. 1, Vol. 10, Pt. 2: 531.
Similarly, Louisiana Governor Thomas O. Moore, proclaimed that "the annals of warfare
between civilized nations afford no similar instance of infamy" to Butler's Woman Order.
He hoped that the unforgivable order would steel the men of Louisiana to drive the
Northern troops out of the state. Proclaiming "to the world that the exhibition of any
disgust or repulsiveness by the women of New Orleans to the hated invaders of their
home and the slayers of their fathers, brothers, and husbands shall constitute a
justification to a brutal soldiery of the indulgence of their lust," Moore justified women's
actions and called for Confederate men to support them. Butler's order, he continued
could not end female defiance in New Orleans because "what else than contempt and
abhorrence can the women of New Orleans feel or exhibit for these officers and soldiers of
the United States?" Further, "the spontaneous impulse of their hearts must appear
involuntary upon their countenances and thus constitute the crime for which the general
of those soldiers adjudges the punishment of rape and brutalized passion." Moore called
upon all Louisianians to fight for their women. They "must arm and strike, or the
insolent victors will offer this outrage to your wives, your sisters, and your daughters ...
It is your homes that you have to defend. It is the jewel of your hearths--the chastity of
your women--you have to guard." Proclamation, 24 May 1862, Official Records, Ser. 1,
Vol. 15: 743-744. See also, Bell Wiley, The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldiers
of the Confederacy (1943; reprint, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,
News of the order spread quickly across the South. White women and men denounced it.
For example, Mary Boykin Chesnut condemned Butler for "turning over the women of
New Orleans to his soldiers! ... This hideous cross-eyed beast orders his men to treat
the ladies of New Orleans as women of the town. To punish them, he says, for their
insolence."33 Butler's unforgivable actions, she later wrote, were uncivilized. "We hardly
expected from Massachusetts behavior to shame a Comanche."34 After reading Butler's
order, North Carolinian Catherine Edmondston similarly decried his actions. Although
she "cannot find words to express [her] horror and indignation," Edmondston adamantly
denounced Butler, and by association, all Northerners. "Was such cold blooded barbarity
ever before conceived?" Butler's actions were so horrible, she raged, that "we no longer
will hold any intercourse with you, ye puritanical, deceitful race, ye descendants of the
Pilgrims, of the hypocrites who came over in the Mayflower." Although Northerners
might "plume yourselves on your piety, your civilization. Wrap yourselves in your own
fancied superiority," Edmondston insisted that "we are none of you, desire naught from
you. We detest you!"35 Georgian Gertrude Thomas likewise denounced Butler as
33 Mary Boykin Chesnut, 21 May 1862, Mary Chesnut's Civil War, 343.
34 Mary Boykin Chesnut, 12 June 1862, Mary Chesnut's Civil War, 379.
35 Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston, 22 May 1862, "Journal of a Secesh
Lady": The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston, 1860-1866, ed. Beth G.
Crabtree and James W. Patton (Raleigh: North Carolina Division of Archives and
History, 1979), 180-182. Still fuming a month later, Edmondston wrote "The condition
of N Orleans is terrible. No people ever were more oppressed or insulted ... Humanity
someone whose name "th[r]ough all coming ages will be branded with the reputation of
being the most vile loathsome of all God's creation." She also remarked on the insulting
order's galvanizing effect on Confederate soldiers. "Had our brave men required an
additional incentive for valour they have it furnished in the appeal to protect the honour
of their women."36 The "Woman Order" produced shock and disapproval across the
South. Confederates viewed "Beast" Butler's improper treatment of white women as
both unforgivable and inexcusable.37
sickens at the thought of the barbarity, the groveling cowardly cruelty of the wretch
Butler!" Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston, 6 June 1862, "Journal of a Secesh Lady",
36 Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 2 June 1862, The Secret Eye, 206-207. In this
same entry, Thomas also voiced her personal outrage. "Ye Gods shall this man live ...
Is there not spirit enough left to the men of New Orleans to strike the dastard 'to the vile
dust from which he sprang?'"
37 Even during wartime, women expected that men, including the enemy, would
treat them with respect and protect them. White Southern women demonstrated their
assumption of protection in their appeals to the enemy for personal guards for their
homes during Sherman's march. For examples, see Minerva Leah Rowles McClatchey, 3
November 1864, McClatchey Family Papers, Georgia Department of Archives and
History, Atlanta; Dolly Lunt Burge, 19 November 1864, The Diary of Dolly Lunt Burge,
159; Peggy Mira Cox Berry to Amanda Berry Markham and William Markham, 14
December 1864, Confederate Miscellany I, Special Collections Department, Robert W.
Woodruff Library, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; Sarah Jane Sams to Randolph
Sams, 13 February 1865, Sarah Jane Sams Letter, South Caroliniana Library, University
of South Carolina, Columbia; E. V. Ravenel to Allan Macfarlan, 21 March 1865, Allan
Macfarlan Papers, South Caroliniana Library; "Extract from an old Letter, Found Among
the Papers of My Grandmother, Mrs. N. A. Bishop of Darlington, S.C.," United
Daughters of the Confederacy, South Carolina Division, Edgefield Chapter Papers, Rare
Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University, Durham, North
In 1864, Union policy shifted to one directly aimed at the Confederate homefront
and its civilian population as enemies of war. In September, United States General
Ulysses S. Grant ordered General Philip H. Sheridan to "do all the damage .. you can"
to turn "the Shenandoah Valley [into] a barren waste."38 In addition, Grant hoped that
the soldiers on this campaign would "eat out Virginia clear and clean as far as they go, so
that crows flying over it for the balance of this season will have to carry their provender
with them."39 Sheridan and his men took these orders to heart, seizing or destroying all
flour, grains, and livestock as well as burning civilians out of their homes. While carrying
out these orders, few soldiers sympathized with the plight of their female victims. "I do
not believe war to be simply that lines should engage each other in battle, and therefore do
Carolina; Marrie to Sallie Lawton, 15 April 1865, Willingham and Lawton Families
Papers, South Caroliniana Library.
Drew Gilpin Faust notes that "women across the South found comfort in the
expectation that, whatever their differences, northerners and southerners shared
fundamental cultural assumptions about the prerogatives of white womanhood.
Confederate ladies consoled themselves with the faith that the armor of gender would
protect them." Faust, Mothers of Invention, 198. Also see Jane E. Schultz, "Mute Fury:
Southern Women's Diaries of Sherman's March to the Sea, 1864-1865," in Arms and the
Woman: War, Gender, and Literary Representation, ed. Helen M. Cooper, Adrienne
Auslander Munich, and Susan Merrill Squier (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 1989), 59; Michael Fellman, "Women and Guerrilla Warfare," in Divided Houses,
ed. Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 147-
165; George Rable, "'Missing in Action': Women of the Confederacy," in Divided
38 Ulysses S. Grant to Philip Sheridan, 26 August 1864, Official Records, Ser. 1,
Vol. 43, Pt. 2: 202.
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