Diary of Orrin Brown—Feb 8, 1865

War of the Rebelion- Vol 1 Series XLVII coverDiary of Orrin Brown, Brighton, South Carolina

Wednesday–Feb. 8th

We got up this morning and found it quite cool with a high west wind. There was a boat sunk down at the landing yerterday afternoon and it was loaded with Hardtack, Sugar, and Coffee, and there was over 100 Boxes of Hard tack got wet and spoiled and they threw them out onto the bank and I went down about 11 Oclock last night and got about 1/2 bushel of them and dryed them by the fire so I did not get to bed till after 2 Oclock this morning. I expect we will fat now for a few days. We were on the road this morning at 8 AM and they marched us very fast, we haulted about 11 AM and had to carry two fence rails apiece back 3/4 of a mile to make Corderoy in a mudhole. About 1/2 of our road today has been swampy and muddy. I think we must have marched about 12 miles today and went into camp about 3 PM right in sight of where the town of Brighton stood only a few days ago but it did not stand long after the yanks came to it. We passed one very beautifull dwelling house that was left standing and guarded I suppose the owner was a Union man while our army is going through but when we get out of the way he will be as black at heart as he ever was. When we came into camp there was quite a large building close by but the boys were not long tearing it down and carrying it off for fire wood 3/4 of an hour after we haulted there was not hardly a chip to be found where the house stood. There has been a chilly wind blowing all day and we are going to have a cold night. I read 4 Chapt. in the Testament today.

Today we wish a Happy Birthday to Uncle Billy, as William Tecumseh Sherman was born at Lancaster, Ohio, this date in 1820.  And as a birthday present, his boys finally made it across the swollen Savannah River and into South Carolina.  The Civil War was one of the first widely documented conflicts in history, in part due to wide-spread literacy among officers and troops, but also due to efforts after the war to document the experiences of both sides.  The winners do write the history, but in the case there were great efforts to reintegrate the losers back into the nation as a whole.

Chief among this documentation is The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, published in four series of over 100,000 pages published between 1881 and 1901, and often attributed simply as Official Records or ORs. The Official Records contains primary documents, including formal reports, correspondence, orders, and maps.  Various sources now make these documents available online.  Cornell University has posted digitized OCR text files of the ORs (not corrected but easily searchable), while the University of North Texas has posted scanned images at their Portal to Texas History.

Volume 1 Series XLVII cover’s Sherman’s Campaign of the Carolinas, along with contemporary operations in Southern Georgia and East Florida from January to June 1865.  I’ve found Section No. 86, the “Journal of the Second Division” (under Morgan) the easiest to follow for the general position of Vandever’s 1st Brigade and the 14th Michigan under Lt Col. Grummond.  In this campaign there were 5 regiments in the 1st Brigade, 6 regiments in the 2nd Brigade, and 6 regiments and an extra company in the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Division, so that’s a lot of men strung out in a division.  Nonetheless, the locations cited are approximately in the neighborhood.

Maps tell me Pvt. Brown may have marched from the river on the Orangeburg Rd, or overland on the Black Swamp Rd, which cross at Brighton.  He likely left the next morning on the Augusta Stage Coach Rd along the east bank of the Savannah River, trying to catch up with the rest of Sherman’s boys on the way to liberate the state capital.

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