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Sherman's bummers foraging in South Carolina

Bummers was a nickname applied to foragers of Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's Union army during its March to the Sea and north through South Carolina and North Carolina during the American Civil War. The designation "bummers" was used, both by soldiers and civilians, to describe Sherman's soldiers, official and unofficial, who "requisitioned" food from Southern homes along the route of the Army's march. Often highly destructive in nature, bummers became notorious among Southerners for looting and vandalism, and they did much to shatter the illusion that the Confederate Army was successfully defending its territory on all fronts. The bummers' activities in Georgia and the Carolinas helped ensure that the South would be unable to sustain its war effort; additionally, bummers' destruction of industrial property rendered the garrisoning of southern cities largely unnecessary by destroying most, if not all, of those facilities in their path that replenished the Confederate war effort (such as cotton gins, farms, foundries, lumber mills, etc.).[1][2]

One southern family's encounter with bummers was recorded by North Carolina resident and Civil War diarist Jane Evans Elliot:[3]

This day two weeks since, 12 of March was a day of sorrow and confusion never to be forgotten. Sherman’s army reached Fayetteville the day before, and at 9 o’clock Sunday morning, a party of raiders rushed in upon our peaceful home. They pillaged and plundered the whole day and quartered upon that night and staid [sic] until 5 o’clock Monday evening. Some part of the time there were at least three different parties. The house was rifled from garret to cellar. Took all our blankets and all [my husband’s] clothes, all our silver and knives and forks, all our luxuries, leaving nothing but a little meat and corn. They threatened [my husband’s] life repeatedly and one ruffian galloped up to the door and pulled out his matches to fire the house. Oh! it was terrible beyond description. It seems ever present to my mind. One night they strung fire all around us and we took up the children and dressed them and watched all night fearing the fire might consume our dwelling.

— Jane Evans Elliot, March 25, 1865.


  1. ^ Adams, James Truslow (1940). Dictionary of American History. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  2. ^ Trudeau, Noah Andre (2009). Southern Storm: Sherman's March to the Sea. Harper. pp. 265–6.
  3. ^ Elliot, Jane Evans (1908). Diary of Mrs. Jane Evans Elliot, 1837-1882. Edwards & Broughton Print Company.

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