Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 2, 1864

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper - Building Corduroy

Diary of Orrin Brown, near Birdville, between Louisville and Millen, Georgia

Friday–Dec. 2nd

We had orders to march at 7 AM but we moved very slow, we have stoped three or four times to carry rails to fix the mud holes so the teams could cross. We did not at all for dinner today, we went into camp at 6 PM tired and hungry, got a good supper out of Corn meal Poark and sweet Potatoes, then pitched our tents and went to bed to rest. I read 5 Chap. in the Testament.

At the time of the Civil War, almost all roads were dirt with few constructed with an all-weather-surface.  Corduroy roads are built by placing logs (or fence rails if they’re handy) across the width of a muddy road.  This work on Sherman’s march primarily fell to the Pioneers—freed black slaves toiling between the advance infantry and the wagon trains.  While hazardous for horses’ footing, and a bumpy ride for wagons, its better then getting mucked down in a swamp.  A plank road (with hewn boards instead of logs) would have the same benefit with less hazard, should plank be available (say from nearby plantation buildings).

By the end of the war, the Union army had become quite accustomed to moving this way.  As Gen. Grant recalled in his memoirs (referring to conditions in Virginia, but equally applicable to Georgia and the Carolinas):

“It soon set in raining again however, and in a very short time the roads became practically impassable for teams, and almost so for cavalry. Sometimes a horse or mule would be standing apparently on firm ground, when all at once one foot would sink, and as he commenced scrambling to catch himself all his feet would sink and he would have to be drawn by hand out of the quicksands so common…southern States. It became necessary therefore to build corduroy roads every foot of the way as we advanced, to move our artillery upon. The army had become so accustomed to this kind of work, and were so well prepared for it, that it was done very rapidly.”




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