Diary of Orrin Brown—Feb 9, 1865

Bivouac Feast - Waud, 1861Diary of Orrin Brown, on King’s Creek in South Carolina

Thursday–Feb. 9th

I was detailed with 6 others of my company and 7 out of each in the regt. to go in advance as foragers for the regt. We left camp at 6.30 AM and they put us right through on the quick step and part of the time on doublequick till noon then we had it a little easyer PM but the worst of it was we did not find any forage to amount to anything. All of the great houses on every plantation had been burned and the Cotton Gins and Presses. In fact our forces are just turning S. Carolina up side down.

We have passed through a beautifully timbered Pine Country today, and passed severall very large Plantations, we have marched about 22 miles today. The weather has been freezing cold with a high West wind. I lost one of my mittens today. We had a light squall of snow today but it was only a few flakes. We went into camp about 5 PM in a beautifull grove of young groath Oak and Pine timber. I read 2 Chapt. in the Testament today.

Pvt. Brown took his turn this day as one of Sherman’s “Bummers”, the foraging teams that fed the Union Army on the march from the fat of the land.  The primary duty of the forager was to feed the troops.  Their secondary duty was to destroy any material which could be used to feed the Confederate war effort, in particular King Cotton.  They also ended up as reconnaissance units, providing a buffer between Rebel troops and the marching columns.  It could be a pleasant diversion from the daily march.  It could be a deadly expedition into enemy territory.

Robert L. O’Connell wrote in Fierce Patriot, his biography of Sherman, that “Being a bummer wasn’t for everyone.  This was difficult and dangerous work, the kind that normally appeals to outliers in the military behavior bell curve.”  Nearly everybody took their turn at foraging, to the tune of about 3,000 troops each day, or about 5% of those on the march.  “Sherman’s army recovered the bodies of 64 foragers in Georgia and at least a hundred more in the Carolinas, all hanged, shot at close range, or with throats slit.”



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