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The American Civil War
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Westport, Conn.:Greenwood Press, 1972). Grant had decided that the only way to win and finish the war would be to crunch with numbers. He knew that the Federal forces held more than a modest advantage in terms of men and supplies. This in mind, Grant directed Sherman to turn around now and start heading back toward Virginia. He immediately started making preparations to provide assistance to Sherman on the journey. General John M. Schofield and his men were to detach from the Army of the Cumberland, which had just embarrassingly defeated the Confederates at Nashville, and proceed toward North Carolina. His final destination was to be Goldsboro, which was roughly half the distance between Savannah and Richmond. This is where he and his 20,000 troops would meet Sherman and his 50,000 troops. Sherman began the move north in mid-January of 1865. The only hope of Confederate resistance would be supplied by General P.G.T. Beauregard. He was scraping together an army with every resource he could lay his hands on, but at best would only be able to muster about 30,000 men. This by obvious mathematics would be no challenge to the combined forces of Schofield and Sherman, let alone Sherman. Sherman's plan was to march through South Carolina all the while confusing the enemy. His men would march in two ranks: One would travel northwest to give the impression of a press against Augusta and the other would march northeast toward Charleston. However the one true objective would be Columbia.
Sherman's force arrived in Columbia on February 16. The city was burned to the ground and great controversy was to arise. The Confederates claimed that Sherman's men set the fires "deliberately, systematically, and atrociously". However, Sherman claimed that the fires were burning when they arrived. The fires had been set to cotton bales by Confederate Calvary to prevent the Federal Army from getting them and the high winds quickly spread the fire. The controversy would be short lived as no proof would ever be presented. So with Columbia, Charleston, and Augusta all fallen, Sherman would continue his drive north toward Goldsboro. On the way, his progress would be stalled not by the Confederate army but by runaway slaves. The slaves were attaching themselves to the Union columns and by the time the force entered North Carolina, they numbered in the thousands (Barrett, John G., Sherman's March through the Carolinas. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1956).