Diary of Orrin Brown—Jan 30, 1865

Gen Henry Warner SlocumDiary of Orrin Brown, Sister’s Ferry near Clyo, Georgia

Monday–Jan. 30th

We had a pretty cold night but it came off clear and warm in the middle of the day, we had company drill this AM and then we had orders for all that had loaded guns to go out and fire them off. We had company drill again this PM and dress parade at 5 PM. It is cool again this evening. The mail came in again tonight but none for me. I read 7 Chapts. in the Testament today.

Gen. Henry Slocum (continuing in command of the Federal Army of Georgia on the Left Wing) had come up from Savannah on the Georgia side, the river having flooded the causeway there.  On the 30th of January, he met Gen. A.S. Williams (in command of the XX Corps, who had come up on the Carolina side) having crossed the river by gunboat from Sister’s Ferry the day before.  As he reported:

Nearly all the country bordering the river was overflowed by water from one to ten feet in depth.  After landing on the side on which Williams’ troops were encamped I was obliged to use a row-boat in opening communications with him, yet I had not only to open communication with him but to place at the point he occupied at least 20,000 troops, with an immense train of wagons, numbering at least 1,000.

It took five days to construct a pontoon bridge, then clear flood debris and “torpedoes” (land mines) buried in the road, before building corduroy to make the roads passable.  The torpedoes did effectively slow down the Federal troops (2 troops from the 77th Pennsylvania were killed clearing this road on the 31st), yet also increased their resolve to punish South Carolina’s Original Sin as the initiators of this Great Civil War.

It is somewhat ironic that Slocum should have such trouble with boats and water.  In June, 1904, the namesake passenger steamer PS General Slocum caught fire and sank in the East River of New York City on a charter for a church picnic party, killing over 1,000 of the 1,300 passengers.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—Jan 29, 1865

Jaudon-Bragg-Snelling Barn, Effingham Co, GADiary of Orrin Brown, near Clyo, Georgia

Sunday–Jan. 29th

We have orders for marching this morning, the weather is still cold. The report came that the mail would go out at 2.30 PM, I wrote a short letter home. The smoke has nearly blinded my eyes today. I read 1 chapt. in the Testament today.

Most of the XX Corps had come across the Savannah River when it was passable, to march up to Robertsville, SC, opposite Sister’s Ferry, GA, where the XIV Corps and Kilpatrick’s cavalry would cross and join to re-form the Left Wing, while the Right Wing marched from Beaufort.  At Robertsville the XX Corps met rebel cavalry, who were dislodged with few injuries.  The vanguard of the XIV Corps who started out from Savannah on the 20th had began to arrive at Sister’s Ferry on the 28th.  Gen. JC Davis reported:

The excessive rainy season which so much impeded our progress during the succeeding ten days set in as the troops left their camps, and by night the roads through the swamps have become impassable to trains so heavily loaded, until they were corduroyed in many places for miles.  Under the circumstances our movements were necessarily slow and fatiguing, especially to the animals…

Source: United States. War Dept. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union And Confederate Armies. Series 1, Volume 47, In Three Parts. Part 1, Reports., Book, 1895; p.429 (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth142233/ )




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Diary of Orrin Brown—Jan 28, 1865

Gen. Jefferson C. Davis and staff, 1865Diary of Orrin Brown, Sister’s Ferry near Clyo, Georgia

Saturday–Jan. 28th

We had orders to be ready to march at 8 AM, we marched out onto the road haulted till the wagon train came up for our regt. were detailed as train guards today, we marched very slow for about 5 or 6 miles and went into camp in a corn field about 3 PM. We had a very cool night and the ice stood in the mudholes all day. I commenced reading the Testament through again today, read 7 Chapts.

Going forward there was some reorganization of leadership up Pvt. Brown’s chain of command on the Campaign of the Carolinas.  Bvt. Maj. Gen. JC Davis continued to lead the XIV Corps, as did Bvt. Maj. Gen. James D. Morgan for the 2nd Division.  For the First Brigade, Brig. Gen. William Vandever took over for Col. Robert F. Smith of the 16th Illinois.  Lieut. Col. George W. Grummond would replace Maj. Thomas C. Fitzgibbon at the lead of the 14th Michigan.  Fitzgibbon was injured in battle on 27 February under flag of truce, while Grummond was killed the next year during the Fetterman Massacre at Ft. Phil Kearny in Wyoming.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—Jan 27, 1865

Tom Goethe Road outside Clyo_GA

The Road into South Carolina

Diary of Orrin Brown, outside Springfield, Georgia

Friday–Jan 27th

We left the picket line at 6 AM and the regt. had left camp when we got in but we overtook them about a mile out and we marched about 1/2 mile farther and came to a creek and swamp, the creek was bridged but the swamp was about 20 rods wide and a little over knee deep and you can immagine how we felt when the Adjutant came back and told us we would have to wade the swamp for we were all shivering with the cold and there was ice to be seen all along the edge of the swamp. You can be sure it was a cold bath but we got through safe. We marched about 7 miles and went into camp for the night, at about noon. Our Company forraged some fresh pork and Beef yesterday and some more beef and some mutton today. We had a very cold night and there is a cold west wind blowing today but the sky was clear. I read 5 Chapt. in the Testament today which finished the reading the Testament through since I have been in the service.

Winter rains had conspired to keep the Left Wing of Gen. Sherman’s army mired down by mud and flood.  Sherman had intended to depart the coast by 15 January 1865, and Gen. Howard had brought most of his Right Wing to Beaufort, South Carolina, by then.  Mother Nature had other plans for Pvt. Brown and the Army of Georgia (Left Wing) under Gen. Slocum.  The causeway the Confederates had used to flee in December had been fixed up, but heavy rains in January brought the river to flood;  the road was drowned under four feet of water.  Slocum had established a supply depot at Sister’s Ferry (near Clyo, Georgia), up the Savannah River.  However, the river there was also flooded about three miles wide, so a pontoon bridge could not be put into place until the first week of February.  Until then, Pvt. Brown and his regimental companion sit and soak.

(Photo National Weather Service)



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Diary of Orrin Brown—Jan 26, 1865

Thomas Howard, 3rd Earl of EffinghamDiary of Orrin Brown, Springfield, Georgia

Thursday–Jan. 26th

We received orders last night to be ready to march at 6.30 AM, we left camp about 7 AM. We passed through where the town of Springfield used to stand about 1 PM but the place was almost entirely distroyed by the yanks on the other compaign. It was a beautifull situation for an inland town. We went into camp about one mile from the town. Our Regt. went on picket to night. We had a freezing cold night last night and there has been a cold chilly wind blowing today all day. We drew rations just after dark tonight consisting of 3 days of Hardtack Sugar, and coffee and 2 days of salt poark. Read 4 Chapt. in Testament today.

Springfield was the site of the great tragedy at Ebenezer Creek on December’s march, which had led to Secretary of War Stanton’s visit in January, and indirectly to Sherman’s proposal that became known as 40 Acres and a Mule. Springfield is the county seat of Effingham County, which had a population of just 4,755 in 1860.  One of the original counties of Georgia, after the Revolution the county was named for the 3rd Earl Effingham, a British Army officer who resigned his commission in 1775, rather than serve in the English army operations against American revolutionaries.  Thomas Howard, Lord Effingham, died at the age of 45 while serving as Governor of Jamaica.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—Jan 25, 1865

Meldrim house, Sherman's HQ in Savannah, 1865Diary of Orrin Brown, outside Savannah, Georgia

Wednesday–Jan. 25th

We had a pretty cold night and it has been cool all day we received orders about 11 Oclock last night to be ready to march at 7 this morning and we marched out about two miles and haulted for the train to pass. Our regt. was rear guard today. We went into camp about 5 PM. We haulted an hour for dinner but had nothing to cook but coffee, it is very cool this evening. I read 5 Chapt. in the Testament today. We have marched about 11 miles today.

And so Pvt. Orrin Brown’s sojourn in Savannah comes to an end.  Federal troops had been departing the city since mid-month, and the XIV Corps started on the march on the 20th, but heavy rain lead to flooding and even muddier roads than they had found on the way into Savannah a month earlier.  While I doubt the sentiment was universal, many residents had welcomed Gen. W.T. Sherman’s arrival.  On 25 January 1865, the Richmond Times Dispatch reprinted a letter in a New York newspaper from a Savannah lady originally from that state.  It read, in part:

What fools some people have been! They will see their folly when too late, I fear… I find I have a great many friends, and I assure you it is very pleasant, after having been so long alone.

Overall, Savannah seems to have suffered little from occupation, although there were certainly structures burned and misused.  For one, the City capitulated relatively rapidly in December, once Confederate forces evacuated.  For another, the City contributed relatively little to the Confederate war machine, other than as a port.  Since the Yankees intended to continue to use the City as THEIR port those facilities were spared, and a division of the XIX Corps brought down from the North to continue the garrison.   The time had arrived for Sherman to march North and join his friend U.S. Grant in opposition to Robert E. Lee.



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Robert E. Lee and Confederate Confiscation of Private Arms—Jan 25, 1865

Gen. Robert E. Lee, February 1865On this date in 1865, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee issued a reminder to his citizens that all private arms were to be delivered to the CSA Army for immediate use.  This item seems so extraordinary as to deserve a separate entry from our series on the Diary of Pvt. Orrin Brown.

January 25, 1865.

To arm and equip an additional force of cavalry there is need of carbines, revolvers, pistols, saddles, and other accouterment of mounted held by citizens in sufficient number to supply our wants. Many keep them as trophies, and some with the expectation of using them in their own defense. But it should be remembered that arms are now required for use, and that they cannot be made so effectual for the defense of the country in any way as in the hands of organized troops. They are needed to enable our cavalry to cope with the well armed and equipped cavalry of the enemy, not only in the general service, but in resisting those predatory expeditions which have inflicted so much loss upon the people of the interior. To the patriotic I need make no other appeal than the wants of the service; but I beg to remind those who are reluctant to part with the arms and equipments in their possession that by keeping them they diminish the ability of the army to defend their property without themselves receiving any benefit form them. I therefore urge all persons not in the service to deliver promptly to some of the officers, designated below, such arms and equipments, especially those suitable for cavalry, as they may have, and to report to those officers the names of such persons as neglect to surrender those in their possession. Every citizen who prevents a carbine or pistol form remaining unused will render a service to his country. While no valid title can be acquired to public arms and equipments, except form the Government, it is reported that many persons have ignorantly purchased them from private parties. a fair compensation will, therefore, by made to all who deliver such arms and equipments to any ordnance officers, officer commanding at a post, officers and agents of the quartermaster and commissary departments, at any station, or officers in the enrolling service, or connected with the niter and mining bureau. All these officers are requested, and those connected with this army are directed, to receive and receipt for all arms and equipments, whatever their condition, and forward the same, with a duplicate receipt, to the Ordnance Department at Richmond, and report their proceedings to these headquarters. The person holding the receipt will be compensated upon presenting it to the Ordnance bureau.

While it is hoped that no one will disregard this appeal, all officers connected with the army are required, and all others are requested to take possession of any public arms and equipments they may find in the hands of persons unwilling to surrender them to the service of the country, and to give receipts thereof. A reasonable allowance for their expenses and trouble will me made to such patriotic citizens as will collect and deliver to any of the officers above designated such arms and equipments as they may find in the hands of persons not in the service, or who will report the same to those officers. A prompt compliance with this call with greatly promote the efficiency and strength of the army, particularly of the cavalry, and render it better able to protect the homes and property of the people from outrage.

R. E. LEE,


I noticed this item on two separate Civil War sources this morning, both The American Civil War blog and Civil War Daily Gazette, and copied the above text for your interest.  I can’t imagine how many of my fellow patriots would react today if any civil authority moved to confiscate their private firearms, in time of war or not.

This is also an interesting missive, in that I see no hint that Gen. Lee did not believe that but for the want of men and material he could hold off the Yankee hoards inevitably.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—Jan 24, 1865

Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military AcademyDiary of Orrin Brown, Savannah, Georgia

Tuesday–Jan. 24th

The weather is a little cooler today. I wrote a letter to Mr. Moore folks today we had dress parade again this PM but the smoke hurt my eyes so that I could not go out. I read 6 Chapt. in the Testament today.

In 1859, William Sherman became the first superintendent of the new Louisiana Military Seminary, which would one-day become Louisiana State University (LSU).  Sherman thrived back in a military environment, but seemed to have been blind to the growing Southern surge of secessionism, the very reason for his “seminary” to exist.  Sherman resigned after the State of Louisiana seceded from the Union in 1861, and returned home to Ohio.

In March, he found himself back in Washington, DC, in conference with newly inaugurated President Abraham Lincoln thanks to Sherman’s brother, John, who had been appointed to the U.S. Senate.  While nothing came of this meeting, Lincoln remained positively disposed to Sherman throughout the coming conflict.  Meanwhile, Sherman retreated to St. Louis, as the state of Missouri (as the larger Union overall) prepared to tear itself apart North vs. South.  By June, he was back in Washington in command of the 13th U.S. Infantry.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—Jan 23, 1865

Lucas, Turner & Co Bank, San Francisco, CA
Diary of Orrin Brown, Savannah, Georgia

Monday–Jan. 23rd

It rained all night but the weather has been a little fairer today. The company was detailed this AM to clean up the street and we have orders to be ready for Dress Parade at 4.30 PM. I have written a letter home today. There was 25 men detailed out of our regt. this PM as Patrole guards to go outside of the picket line to pick up some men that were out there shooting which is contrary to orders and we arrested 5 or 6 of them. I did not get back to camp in time for dress parade. Read 2 Chapt. in the Testament today.

In March 1853, Sherman resigned his Army commission and left New Orleans to manage the San Francisco branch of the St. Louis-based Lucas Turner & Co. banking house.  Sherman returned just as California’s gold boom began to bust.   His old rival Henry Halleck had done well in his absence, but Sherman refused to mend fences.  In the spring of 1856, Sherman found himself in short-lived command of the local militia, in the Governor’s failed bid to combat vigilantes.  The episode seemed to confirm for Sherman his West Point distrust of volunteers in the military, an attitude that took actual experience in the later war to quiet, if never quite counter.  The following year, Sherman was forced to close the bank office in San Francisco, only to open (and close) a branch of the bank at New York City in the Panic of 1857.  Sherman had also invested over $100,000 for West Point friends such as Braxton Bragg, Don Carlos Buell, William Hardee, and George Thomas, which had been lost in the ensuing panic;  Sherman made good what he could out of personal obligation. He returned briefly to California in 1858 to collect debts, before joining two of his Ewing brothers at Leavenworth, Kansas, where he also found work with West Point roommate Stewart VanVliet at Ft. Riley, with the Army on the Kansas plains.

From the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean and to the heart of the Great American Desert, Sherman had made full circle from the bosom of an Army career to financial boom and bust and back again to a remote Army post.  Approaching his 40th birthday, Sherman was finding his niche.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—Jan 22, 1865

Boehl, St. Lous Levee 1850Diary of Orrin Brown, Savannah, Georgia

Sunday–Jan. 22nd

It has been cloudy and damp all day I was detailed this morning to help dig a well for our company and there was a detail of 19 men made to clean up our camp so I think we will stay here several days. I have written two good long letters today one to E. H. Brown & one to A. S. Hamilton. It has been raining since about 4 PM I read 8 Chapt. in the Testament today.

Capt. William Sherman took a shine to St. Louis when he arrived in 1850, 30 years old and newly married, but it took awhile for his new wife (his foster sister Ellen) and their first child to join him “out west”.  Biographer Robert L. O’Connell describes the highs and lows of his position under West Point classmate Brevet Col Braxton Bragg.  Bragg had seen distinguished service in the Mexican War, whereas Sherman had been relegated to quiet duty in California, at a time when active service was a prime determinant for peace-time advancement.  He also found himself encumbered as local agent for his father-in-law’s real estate holdings in the St. Louis area.  Yet Sherman also took advantage of the new territory, riding widely across Missouri and Kansas before a short posting to New Orleans, adding greatly to his photographic mental map.  After the war, Sherman would return to St. Louis in command of all Federal troops between the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains.  There was no way for him to realize during his first posting there, but the real estate business would prepare him for peace time employment, while his accumulation of geography would serve him even better for later war time employment.



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