Civil War diary is basis for new book

June 30, 2015

Dede Biles

Aiken Standard

As the War Between the States was winding down, Francis Marion Robertson kept a diary. The physician’s hand-written account has survived for 150 years, and one of his descendants recently turned it into a book.

Tom Robertson is the editor of “Resisting Sherman: A Confederate Surgeon’s Journal and the Civil War in the Carolinas, 1865.” It covers a three-month period during which Francis Marion Robertson traveled about 900 miles through four states.

Francis Marion Robertson, who died in 1892, was Tom Robertson’s great-great-grandfather.

The doctor’s journey took him from Charleston to Richmond, Virginia. Then he headed back south and made his way to Augusta, where the diary ends.

Union Army Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman and his forces, meanwhile, were marching through South Carolina and North Carolina after capturing Savannah. The Confederate Army was scrambling to try and stop them.

“This is not just a military history,” said Tom Robertson, who is the president of the Cranston Engineering Group in Augusta, during a talk at the Aiken Country Historical Museum on Monday night. “Yes, it has military aspects to it, but it also covers and talks about what happened to the people that were suffering under the boot of war along his route.”

In North Carolina, Francis Marion Robertson met a woman he identified as “Mrs. Banks,” and stayed in her home.

“Like all persons along the road,” he wrote, “she was evidently expecting to be plundered by the Yankees and seems to have stripped her house of all the good furniture and bedding, leaving just sufficient to give the house and premises the appearance of belonging to a person of very moderate circumstances. ...”

Francis Marion Robertson also described his encounter with a “strange specimen of the feminine gender,” who was “a regular piney-woods sandlapper with three tallow-faced, bloodless-looking, squalid children.” The woman, he wrote, “declared that, of all the suffering the war had inflicted upon her, the want of coffee was the greatest.”

Francis Marion Robertson helped treat his son, Jimmy, who was wounded in battle. He also spent time talking to soldiers, and he included their accounts of the fighting in his journal. One provided details about the Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads, which caught Union Army officer Hugh Judson Kilpatrick by surprise.

“Kilpatrick’s baggage and horses were captured, and he barely made his escape in his drawers,” Francis Marion Robertson wrote. “A woman was, also, captured in his camp in her night dress. It was said she was a Northern woman whom he had picked up in Barnwell District.”

“Resisting Sherman” can be purchased online from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also, visit

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard.