Sherman’s March to the Sea would continue through November and December in 1865. In an ongoing battle near Waynesboro GA the Confederacy seemed successful. It was a minor irritant for the full force of the Union Army and quickly becomes debilitating for the south. It’s hard to call it a battle.
But let’s look at this from another point of view.
We all know the ‘plight’ of white women of the south. More specifically, we know of the plight of the white women in the slaveholding class of the south.
The poor white women of the south had become the first to be displaced during the war. They could not enlist in the Confederate Army, shelter was scarce, as was food. The newly formed government had no patience for these women and compared them to traitors. As they became desperate they protested. There was no general platform of beliefs that united them since the protests were really for food and shelter, not specifically against the war or the Confederacy.
There was a campaign to help women that lasted years. However, it was sporadic with the goal of silencing an embarrassment. After Gettysburg, the banks start to give up, money gets scare and hope for poor white women dwindled.
These women fled the oncoming Union Army.
Black women, free and enslaved, faced different problems. During the war, news spread throughout the enslaved about troop movements, and how the Confederates were fighting.
The enslaved watched the white men, of all social classes, leave for the war. They were the first to see the wounded and dead return. The Black Women had access to the households of slaveholders and thus access to the news of the Confederates.
News between plantations spread quick. Actually, faster between the Black communities than the official White communities. Keep in mind the slaveholders often intermingled, as did their slaves. It was good business. (Pause and think of that sentence) Every Sunday provided an opportunity to share. And plan. As the Confederates lost battles, the enslaved started fleeing in larger numbers.
And many followed Sherman’s army. The Union Army did not have a policy for helping the newly escaped, but individual Union soldiers did help. And the proximity to the Union Army provided some protection, if not actively protected by the army then just plain fear among Confederates.
Sherman himself was indignant that Black Women would want his help. Granted, Black Men could enlist in the Union when they reached a Union camp. But women were refugees.
Sherman was cruel by deciding not to provide even the minimal help of food or shelter to Black Women. Finally, northern officers enlightened Sherman that his treatment of Black Women would forever tarnish his accomplishments. Not that it helped.
The Confederate Army harassed Sherman’s March to the Sea, before the Confederates were slaughtered near Waynesboro, GA.
However, many Black Women following Sherman’s Army stopped in Waynesboro GA. They found a supportive community, albeit in the middle of a battle. The community was of freed Blacks seeking refuge that had settled in the area. It was still a hard life as the Confederacy crumbled. And after the war.
But they were free.