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Samuel L. Dorroh papers

One hundred seventy items, 1861-1995, document the Confederate military experiences of Samuel L. Dorroh, a native of Laurens District who enlisted in the Confederate army on 16 August 1861 and served throughout the Civil War in Co. E, 14th Regiment, South Carolina Volunteers. The eighty letters included in this collection, most of which were written to Dorroh's mother, describe the movements and activities of his unit, the nature of camp life, and his feelings about the course of the war.

Dorroh's service took him through Camp Johnson near Columbia to Tomotley, then on to Virginia, where he saw action at Fredericksburg, Petersburg, and numerous minor skirmishes as his regiment served in the Army of the Rappahannock. Both of his brothers, James and John Dorroh, were killed at the battle of Fredericksburg, 12 December 1862, and Samuel was wounded in fighting, 27 June 1862. Although the wound he received was not serious, Dorroh, in describing the skirmish to his mother from a bed in Richmond's Banner Hospital, wrote—"I cant see why we were not all killed...such a time I never want to experience again" (1 July 1862). Dorroh's unit saw much heavier and more extensive fighting as the war progressed. His later letters describe the fighting in bare detail with an unyielding tone of stoicism.

The descriptions of camp life which Dorroh provides often tell of the other discomforts of war, most notably illnesses such as mumps and measles. The war took Dorroh, who was twenty at the time of his enlistment and from a rural background, to large Southern cities such as Charleston, Wilmington, and Richmond. The latter, Dorroh confided to his mother, was "the prettiest place I ever saw" with "the most great big fine looking women I ever saw. I never saw no pretty girls before. Old S.C. cant hold her a light, but you need not tell the gals...that I said so" (28 April 1862).

In January 1862 Dorroh was elected lieutenant by the men of his company. Then, in January 1865, he was promoted to the rank of captain. His letters suggest that morale remained high within his unit well into the final stages of the war, although by February 1865 the reality of the situation had become overpowering. Alarmed by the news of Sherman's capture of Columbia and fearing that Greenville would be the next to fall, Dorroh speculated—"I think they will be apt to go to Greenville to burn the Foundry and Factorys if they do they will be sure to go up by our house but hope they will not get that far." His concern for the Southern cause was grimly apparent. "I dont see what our men are doing, it seems that they are not trying to stop the yanks at all, at least they go just where they please." Morale among the Confederate ranks, he observed, had clearly fallen—"the Soldiers are in very low spirits a good many are deserting and going to the yanks....I fear a great many more will go if Sherman is not stopped." All the same, Dorroh's hopes remained undaunted and his confidence high—"I hope and think that old Lee will manage to have him whipped before he goes much further" (26 February 1865).

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