Diary of Joseph Heft


Reproduced here is the diary of Joseph Heft, a private in Company H of the 78th Ohio Infantry, who took part in Sherman’s March to the Sea and through the Carolinas.  The transcription was done by the Manuscripts Department of the University of North Carolina Library.  It covers the period September 1864 to June 1865.  From September to December 1864, Heft provides an account of the march from Atlanta to Savannah — including lots of mud, long marches, little food to eat, much cannonading, and skirmishes with the rebels.  The period from January to June 1865 covers the Carolinas and Virginia campaigns.  The diary concludes with the celebratory Grand Review in Washington, D.C., and then Heft’s return to his native Ohio.   During the Carolina campaign Heft’s adventures include a boat trip which takes his unit from Savannah to Beaufort, S.C., as well as more fights with the Rebels, lots of marching, and the tearing up and burning of railroads and railroad depots.   He also chronicles the burning of Orangeburg, S.C., apparently as a retribution for some men in the 78th being wounded and killed by a mine (or torpedo as the term was used at that time) in that city.  In all Heft marches over 1500 miles, keeping track of them for the reader on a daily basis.   As the UNC transcription notes, “Heft writes in a ‘folksy’ lingo phonetically spelling many of his words.  In addition, he doesn’t concern himself with punctuation.”  In cases where a unique and not easily comprehensible spelling is first encountered the transcriptionist, quite thoughtfully, puts the modern correct spelling in parentheses.