In early 1865, as Union General William Sherman made plans to move north from Savannah and advance through South Carolina toward Columbia, it was clear that the important port of Charleston would have to be militarily abandoned. Confederate surgeon Francis Marion Robertson, posted there via his duty on a board of medical examiners, was one of those who packed up and spent the better part of the next three months attempting to stay ahead of the advancing Federal army. Fortunately Robertson kept an extensive journal of his travels and travails.
The diary, which Robertson claimed at the time was “only for the perusal of my dear wife,” from whom he was separated, remained in his family and descendent and editor Thomas Heard Robertson Jr. has now brought them into book form. It covers the period of early February 1865 through mid-April and describes a journey of 900 miles through four states.
Robertson has gone beyond the usual editing in his desire to bring in as much relevant information. Along with biographical information on his ancestor, numerous footnotes identify and give background of almost all characters mentioned and Robertson adds sidebars covering “a variety of subjects suggested by the diary”; for example, he provides a recipe for crablanterns, a pastry mentioned in the text. Additionally, in 2003-04, accompanied by his sisters, he traveled the route laid out in the journal and found many of the locales and landmarks still in existence and these descriptions have also found their way into the text.
Surgeon Robertson was not officially part of the Confederate forces evacuating Charleston, so he did not always travel with those units. He was on his own, or in small groups, traveling by wagon, or horseback, or occasionally train, sometimes camping in the tent that was carried and occasionally sometimes being offered shelter in private homes. His daily entries were very lengthy and detailed and describe armed forces as well as a society near the end of its rope after four long years of war.
Title: Resisting Sherman: A Confederate Surgeon’s Journal and the Civil War in the Carolinas, 1865
Author: edited by Thomas Heard Robertson, Jr.
Publisher: Savas Beatie
-Courier book review by Brian Bennett
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