Diary of Orrin Brown—
Third Part of Journal
We have made a long and tiresom march of 330 miles, the first 200 of which was very rough in regard to hills and rocky mountaneous country, but the last 100 was very level and sandy, the timber consists of Norway or Pitch pine with occationaly a scrubby Hickory and Oak, we have had good dry roads all the way with the exceptions of 2 or 3 days that it was a little muddy, the last 100 miles was rather hard marching on account of the sand. We also found pretty pleanty of forage after the 3rd or 4th day in the line of Beef Cattle, Hogs, Sheep, Geese, Turkeys, Chickens, Sweet Potatoes, Turnips, Molasses, Rice, Corn, and Corn Meal, and Flour, Salt, Beans, Peanuts, and any amount of feed for Horses Mules and Cattle. The army also burned an immense amount of property in the line of buildings Cotton, and Cotton Gins and Presses, & they have torne up all of the railroad that we came in contact with. Taking all things into consideration we have fared very well for soldiers.
The mail came in today for the first time since we left Atlanta but there was none for me. We had to go on Picket at 4 PM, the day has been very warm. The rebs threw several shell past the left of our regt. today cutting down trees from 8 to 12 inches through but doing no other damage.
Pvt. Brown provides a fine summary of the March to the Sea: 300+ miles on foot, over hill and dale, sand and swamp. The forage had been good, although he doesn’t mention the forage running lean the closer the army got to the ocean. And he does acknowledge the destruction of King Cotton and the railroad, although never in the preceding pages does he dwell on what we know were difficult and often deadly operations against both military and civil sites across Georgia. As the Washington Post wrote earlier this year:
The March to the Sea, which culminated with the fall of Savannah in December 1864, cut a swath of torn-up railroads, pillaged farms and burned-out plantations through the Georgia countryside… With the march, Sherman hoped to deprive troops of food and other material support. Guided by his view of Southern culpability for the war, Sherman had another objective as well — the demoralization of the Southern civilian population.
“It’s very much about saying, ‘Here’s the power of the Union army,’ ” said historian Anne Sarah Rubin, an associate professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Sherman’s purpose, she said, was to convey to the South that “you cannot stop us. You cannot resist us. You just need to give up.”
This way of war was about winning—leaving philosophical and chivalric ideals behind and picking up the very practical idea that if you’re going to go to war, then you Go To War. There is ample evidence that Sherman himself was a chivalrous commander who followed the rules of war as he understood them, and repeated records of his offering fair and forgiving terms to any enemy who yielded the field. Yet William Tecumseh Sherman will always be remembered for how he treated those who failed to yield.