The story of THE BLACK EYED PEA being considered good luck relates directly back to Sherman's Bloody March to the Sea in late 1864. It was called The Savannah Campaign and was lead by Major General William T. Sherman. The Civil War campaign began on Nov. 15, 1864 when Sherman 's troops marched from the captured city of Atlanta, Georgia and ended at the port of Savannah on Dec. 22, 1864.
When the smoke cleared, the southerners who had survived the onslaught came out of hiding. They found that the Union aggressors had looted and stolen everything of value and everything you could eat including all livestock. Death and destruction were everywhere. While in hiding, few had enough to eat, and starvation was now upon the survivors.
There was no international aid and no Red Cross meal trucks. The Northern army had taken everything they could carry and eaten everything they could eat. The devastated people of the south found for some unknown reason that Sherman’s bloodthirsty troops had left silos full of black eyed peas.
At this time in the north, the lowly black eyed pea was only used to feed stock. The northern troops saw it as the thing of least value. Taking grain for their horses and livestock and other crops to feed themselves, they just couldn’t take everything. So they left the black eyed peas in great quantities assuming it would be of no use to the survivors since all the livestock it could feed had either been taken or eaten.
Southerners awoke to face a new year in this devastation and were facing massive starvation if not for the good luck of having the black eyed peas to eat. From New Years Day 1866 forward the tradition grew to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck.