Because of the total destruction of the
Southern railroads, many ex-Confederate soldiers had no choice but to walk
home from Virginia after the war. Many of
them had no idea what or whom they
would find when they returned to their
farms and homes in the Deep South.
While they had been away fighting the
war's battles, many of their homes and
towns had been burned, and the entire
populations of some towns and even whole
counties had been uprooted and evacuated
to unknown locations. Many an exhausted
veteran, penniless and sick, arrived at his
homestead to find only a blackened chimney, with no sign of family to welcome him
or offer him comfort after his long ordeal.
Sherman always maintained that the
destruction he waged upon unarmed
and defenseless civilians shortened the war
and saved soldiers' lives. His good intentions were unappreciated, however, by the
victims of his ruthlessness. After Sherman's
troops departed, there would be nothing left
to support a family. Houses were looted and
pillaged, farm animals not taken by the
troops were killed, and any item that could
be useful for farming or manufacturing was destroyed. Southern journalist Charles H.
Smith wrote: "It wer in the ded of winter,
thru snow and thru sleet, over creeks without bridges and bridges without floors, thru
a deserted and deserlate land wher no
rooster was left to krow, no pig to squeel,
no dog to bark, wher the rooins of happy
hoams adorned the way, and ghostly
chimniz stood up like Sherman's sentinels a
gardin the rooins he had made."
Successive generations of Southerners
learned to vilify Sherman and loathe all
Yankees. Said one North Carolinian
about the war in which his sons were
killed, his house burned, and his slaves set
free, "I git up at half-past four in the moming, and sit up till twelve at night, to hate
'em." Southern children would reach the
age of 16 or more before understanding
that "damyankee" was really two words.
Fascinating Fact: The dollar value of the destruction in the South was staggering. The emancipation
of slaves represented about $2 billion. Twenty-five
years would pass before the number of livestock in
the South returned to pre-war levels.
Photo courtesy The South Caroliniana Library
Written by Stephen T. Foster Printed in USA
C MCMXCIII Atlas Editions, USA D3 602 01-20