Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 1, 1864

Harpers Weekly - Soldiers Foraging

Diary of Orrin Brown,on Baker’s Creek outside Louisville, Georgia

Thursday–Dec. 1st

We had orders this morning to be ready to march at 8 AM but did not start till noon. We marched about 8 miles and went into camp at 8 PM. Our Regt. was detailed as train guards, the day has been Cloudy and warm. I read 8 Chapt. in testament today.

From Louisville, the XIV Corps moved toward Millen, with the 2nd Division bringing along the wagon train, laden with forage.  J.R. Kinnear wrote in History of the Eighty-Sixth Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, During its Term of Service (Chicago, 1866):

The inhabitants of Georgia, on this unexpected raid through their country, used many devices in the effort to hide their household affairs, horses, mules, wagons and all kinds of provisions from the invading Yankee army, but to no material purpose. The foragers would first go to the houses and inquire of the families where they kept their provisions, horses, mules and such, the answer invariably being that “we ‘ens have none, are poor people,” etc. The boys could not be fooled out of a good thing by such talk as that, but proceeded immediately to an investigation of the matter. Drawing the rammers from their guns they would insert them in the ground at every suspicions place where fresh dirt might be seen, and if they should strike anything hard with them, the process of digging would be the next thing on the programme, and behold! various things of consecutive kinds would appear, probably the whole contents of a smoke-house or dwelling. The soldier, making this discovery, would take of the treasure what he wanted, and tell the next fellow he met, who, after satisfying his desires would do unto another as he was done by, fulfilling the moral rules. In this manner, the whole treasure would soon be absorbed in an arithmetical decreasing progression.

It was difficult to police so many troops marauding across the countryside, and some depredations were committed by Rebel irregulars, still official orders condemned abuses.  Military commanders may have been as concerned with wayward foragers getting captured by Rebel cavalry as with treating civilians with civility.  Sherman’s “bummers” were essential to feed the massive column while destroying the war-making capabilities of the South.  At the same time they were expected to work within certain written (and unwritten) army rules and regulations. It was a tenuous position for soldier and civilian, duty-bound or not.


Thanks for following along with Pvt. Orrin Brown of the 14th Michigan Regiment Infantry as he marches with Sherman to the Sea in the fall of 1864.  Next stop, the city of Savannah.



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1 Response to Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 1, 1864

  1. Pingback: Diary of Orrin Brown—Feb 9, 1865 -JC Shepard(dot)com

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