October 10, 1864: Robert Watson Diary Entry

The following post is part of an ongoing series entitled Civil War Voices from Florida. Each day in October 2014, Florida Memory will post a document from the collections of the State Archives of Florida written exactly 150 years before that date, in October 1864.

It’s back to Savannah Harbor for today’s edition of Civil War Voices. Confederate sailor Robert Watson of Key West had a busy day aboard the C.S.S. Savannah:

Excerpt of Robert Watson's Diary (M76-139, State Archives of Florida).

Excerpt of Robert Watson’s Diary (M76-139, State Archives of Florida).

Two interesting aspects of this diary entry stand out. First, Watson’s description of “scraping” and “caulking” allude to a critical part of maintaining wooden ships in this era. Ships with wooden plank decks used pine pitch and either cotton or hemp to caulk the spaces between planks and create a watertight seal. One coat of pitch was never enough, however. As the pitch became brittle and cracked over time as a result of the ship’s movements, it had to be replaced. As a consequence, one of the ongoing maintenance projects for a ship such as the Savannah was removing the old caulking with scrapers and putting down the new caulk.

Watson also alludes to the position of General William Tecumseh Sherman, who at this time had left a single corps of his army in Atlanta while he chased the forces of Confederate General John Bell Hood around northwestern Georgia. Watson’s assessment of Sherman’s predicament was a bit sanguine. In less than a month, Washington would consent to Sherman’s plan to leave Hood alone and begin marching to the Atlantic to take Savannah.

For more information about Florida and Floridians in the Civil War, check out the related resources below. Also, come back tomorrow for another edition of Civil War Voices. We’ll return to northwest Georgia to hear again from the diary of William McLeod.

 

Related Resources on Florida Memory:

Related Resources at the State Archives of Florida:

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