A “Soapy” Reunion in North Carolina for Sherman and Schofield

In late March 1865, following Jacob Cox’s defeat of Braxton Bragg at Wyse Forks and his completion of the rebuilding of the railroad from New Bern to Goldsboro, he and the other forces under John Schofield were reunited in Goldsboro with Sherman’s army, which had been moving north from South Carolina.

In his memoirs Cox, commanding the 23rd Corps, described the occasion,  which had moments not only of joy, but also of the kind of humor probably typical of men who had fought so long and so hard, and now had victory in sight.   He wrote:

“Sherman joined us in person, and we paraded the Twenty-Third Corps to honor the march-past of Slocum’s Army of Georgia, the Fourteenth and Twentieth Corps, as they came in from Bentonville.  Sherman took his place with us by the roadside, and the formal reunion with the comrades who had fought with us in the Atlanta campaign was an event to stir deep emotions in our hears…The men who had traversed the Carolinas were ragged and dirty, their faces were begrimed by the soot of their camp-fires of pine-knots in the forests, but their arms were in order, and they stepped out with the sturdy swing that marked all our Western troops.

“Our men were in new uniforms we had lately drawn from the quartermaster, amd the tatterdemalions who had made the march to the sea were disposed to chaff us as if we were new recruits or pampered garrison troops.  ‘Well, sonnies!~’ a regimental wag cried out, ‘do they issue butter to you regularly now?’  ‘Oh, yes to be sure!’ was the instant retort; ‘but we trade it off for soap!!’  The ironical emphasis on the ‘we’ was well understood and greeted with roars of laughter, and learning that our men were really those who had been with them in Georgia and who had fought at Franklin and Nashville before making the tour of the North to come by sea and rejoin them in North Carolina, they made the welkin ring again with their greeting.”


Author: geneofva

Author of "Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era," and of seven more Civil War books -- with more to come!!

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