The infamous “Wilson Raid” into Alabama and the burning of Tuscaloosa in early April 1865 had no impact whatsoever on the outcome of the war, as by March the Southern Confederacy had been all but overrun and Lee was exhausted in Virginia. Opposing Wilson’s 14,000 well-armed and equipped troopers were Nathan Bedford Forrest’s ill-equipped and scattered cavalry numbering 5,000.
Chaplain Basil Manly of Alabama was the brother of Charles Manly, the last Whig governor of North Carolina and serving 1849 to 1851. The cruel act of destroying barns and farm implements as well as killing or carrying away livestock was intended to hasten the onset of starvation among Southern civilians.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
The Twilight of the Confederacy
“In the spring of 1865, the Yankees returned to Alabama. By this point, not even the South’s most feared cavalryman, Nathan Bedford Forrest, could stop the 14,000 Federal horsemen under Major General James H. Wilson. As Forrest tried to stay between the Yankees and Selma, Wilson ordered one of his subordinates . . . to take the city of Tuscaloosa, to divert some of the Confederates 6,000 troops.
[The enemy’s] 2,000 cavalrymen swept aside the few militiamen who tried to stop them, captured the town and, while pillaging the area “burned the buildings used for public purposes at the university,” including the library, from which only a few items were saved.
The Yankees also “took away all the horse and mules they could find. They camped in our streets, that night, and next morning they proceeded to burn the foundry and factory, the miter sheds, and the bridge across the river.”
The Federals left the city just ahead of the Confederate cavalry sent to intercept them, having successfully diverted Forrest, who was soon defeated by the twenty-seven-year-old Wilson. Wilson’s victory over the notorious Forrest would have made him a hero two years earlier, but was simply a mop-up operation in the spring of 1865.
On May 23, a “body of Yankees under Col. Marsh, which have been here about a week, took their departure. The soldiers “took all the good horses and mules they could get; without compensation. Corn, meat, etc., they took from private parties, at pleasure . . .” The Northern troops were said “to be from Illinois,” and [Basil] Manly had heard that “they took a Negro out, just before they left, who had stolen a [Northern] captain’s horse, etc., and shot him.”
In the spring of 1866, [North Carolina] Governor [Charles] Manly [1795-1871] wrote to a family friend, describing what had happened the year before. His plantation, Ingleside, [near Raleigh], to which he retired in the late 1850s, was destroyed by “Sherman’s Devils.” Coming onto the property, the Yankee troops “tore the House all to pieces, broke down the plastering and ceiling, all the doors and windows, stole all the furniture, all my books and papers and the old grain omnibus with all its contents – took every mule, horse, cow, sheep and poultry, all my corn fodder and hay, burnt up fences and destroyed [my] farming tools.”
Worse still, “a great part of this villainy was perpetrated after the surrender” of the Confederacy, but, as Governor Manly complained, “no redress could be obtained.”
(Chaplain of the Confederacy, Basil Manly and Baptist Life in the Old South, A. James Fuller, LSU Press, 2000, excerpts, pp. 304-306)