General Sherman and about 60,000 Federal troops were on their way to Fayetteville, North Carolina.
In another three days, they would arrive, and the Confederate city would surrender to Sherman. But, 150 years ago tonight, some of the troops, and possibly Sherman himself, camped out by the Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church.
Some of the soldiers, perhaps a little bored, decided to climb into the church steeple and write their names, divisions, and hometowns on the walls of the church
The graffiti is still there today.
We think about the young men, hundreds of miles from home. These men from Illinois, Ohio, and even New York, did they ever dream, while growing up, about how, one day, they would end up sleeping in a small church in rural North Carolina?
I am not sure that the "home" infantry regiment of my county in upstate New York, the 137th NY Infantry, was in that church, although they were part of Sherman's campaign through the Carolinas.
But it wasn't unusual for soldiers during the Civil War to leave graffiti where they camped.
It was their way of saying - I'm here - and I'm alive.
Although those soldiers had no way of knowing, they were on their way to a battle later that month, near Four Oaks, North Carolina, that would eventually (several weeks later) lead to the largest Confederate troop surrender of the Civil War. Along with the more famous surrender of General Robert E. Lee, that North Carolina surrender would more or less end the Civil War.