Diary of Orrin Brown—Oct 19, 1864

Zollicoffer Barracks Diary of Orrin Brown, Nashville, Tennessee

Wednesday–Oct. 19th

Quite cool and disagreable, we arrived at Nashville at 3AM were marched about 3/4 of a mile to a large brick building erected by the Rebbel Gen. Yolicoffer for a hotell but he was killed before he got it done and now the government is using it for a rendesvous for soldiers. I should judge that the building is 200 ft. square and 6 stories high. Nashville is a verry pretty place the buildings are principaly built of Brick. The State house or Capital is built of stone on a verry high eminence commanding a view of the whole city. I saw when we came in this morning the first gun boat lying in the Tenn. river but could not tell what it looked like by moon light, we got breakfast about 9 Oclock but did not get any dinner and did not get any supper till after dark on account of there being such a rush of soldiers. There was 1,000 came here this afternoon and could not get in the guards say that there is over 3,000 in this building, read 5 chapters in the Testament this evening and read some in my prayerbook. Then went to bed in one corner on the floor.

Zollicoffer Barracks was an unfinished hotel built by Col. John Overton in downtown Nashville, at North 4th Ave and Church St.  It was one of the last commissions of noted architect Isaiah Rogers.  Confederate troops initially housed in the building borrowed the name from Gen. Felix K. Zollicoffer, a Nashville newspaperman who was killed in a battlefield case of mistaken identity in eastern Kentucky.

After the fall of Nashville, the building served as a Confederate prison hospital and as a rooming house for Union soldiers in transit.  Overton finished the building after the war. It served many years as the Maxwell House Hotel, which later lent its name to the coffee brand.  In the tradition of the Burdick House, the building burned on Christmas night, 1961.

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The L&N Don’t Stop Here Any More

Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians
A point of context for the subtitle in my commentary yesterday on the Diary of Pvt. Orrin Brown.

Jean Ritchie was born into a family of folk balladeers in the Cumberland Mountains of eastern Kentucky.  Song catchers like Alan Lomax sought out her family in the early 20th century to document the long journey of common music from Europe to modern America.  After World War II, Jean moved to New York City and fell into the folk scene there with the likes of Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, and Woody Guthrie.  Through the 1960s, her distinct playing style helped popularize the mountain dulcimer.

Jean Ritchie released The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore in 1965. She originally credited the song to Than Hall, her grandfather.

When Jean Ritchie was a young girl, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad had a little passenger train that ran by the mouth of the Slabtown Holler in Viper, Kentucky, where the Ritchie Family lived.  When the coal mines shut down, the passenger service along with the coal trains was discontinued.  It was one of the first signs of hard times.  The L And N Don’t Stop Here Anymoreis a reflection of the period.

—Jonathan Pickow


Fast Tube

I came to know the song by way of Johnny Cash. I prefer this later sparser cut of the Unearthed sessions to the glitzier 1970s production:


Fast Tube

I addition to a noted cover by Michelle Shocked in the 1980s, Kathy Matea also released an excellent cover on her album of mining songs in 2008.


Fast Tube

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p.s. one of my elementary teachers in Michigan played the dulcimer, as does my good friend Scott in Colorado, although I don’t know if it’s mountain or hammer.  Good folk.

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Diary of Orrin Brown—Oct 18, 1864

US Railroad map, 1861

Diary of Orrin Brown, on a train south of Louisville, Kentucky.

Tuesday–Oct. 18th

It is most a beautifull day, clear and warm but we had a verry hard frost last night, we arrived at Jeffersonville about 7AM, marched down to the river, got aboard the ferry boat, Isaac Bowman crossed over to Louisville were marched about 1/2mile and put into an old brick building and then down to breakfast. I left my knife on the table and did not get it again, the U. S. C. Commition presented each one of us with a prayer and hymn book and some tracts, I wrote a letter home. We left Louisville about 3PM for Nashville in a second class car without windows. Here I saw the first earthwork fortifycations I also saw Old Rebbel fortifycations all along the road made by diging a trench and setting logs about 16 ft. long on end and then throwing throwing the dirt up around the outside. Just before dark we passed throught a tunnel a mile long and as dark as tar, when it got so dark we could not see any more we hung our blankets up to the windows built a fire in a small coal stove and prepaired to spend the night as best we could.

The L&N Don’t Run Here Anymore

Railroads provided a decisive advantage to the Union cause in the Civil War.  The Civil War Trust notes that by 1861, 22,000 miles of track had been laid in the Northern states and 9,500 miles in the South.  The railroads in the Confederacy were also fragmented, with few interconnects and no standard gauge.  There was also little manufacturing capacity in the South to replace equipment and rail.

The Louisville and Nashville (L&N) Railroad traded with both sides early in the war, north and south, but by mid-1862 was mostly doing business with the Union after the fall of Nashville and occupation by future President Andrew Johnson. The line was vital to Union supply lines into the Deep South, leading to both profiteering by the company and predation by regular and guerrilla forces up and down the rail.

(image source)

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Diary of Orrin Brown—Oct 17, 1864

Camp Morton

Diary of Orrin Brown, On a train in Southern Indiana.

Monday–Oct. 17th

It was quite cool last night but it has come of warm and pleasant, there were 8 Reb. prisoners brought into camp this morning all officers, they were dressed in all kinds of clothes no two alike, we left camp about 11AM marched down to the depot and were put into box cars left the depot at 4PM, there were 1,000 Illinois Soldiers on the same train, there were 40 men in a car, we could not sleep much, it was cold and uncomfortable.

Camp Morton was a Civil War-era Prisoner-of-War camp for captured Confederate soldiers in Indianapolis, named for the governor of Indiana.  At the beginning of the war the site of the Indiana State Fair served as a military training ground, then was converted to a prison camp in 1862.  The camp occupied 36 acres bordered by present-day Central Ave and 19th, 22nd and Talbott Streets.  The camp averaged 3,200 prisoners at a time.  More than 1,700 prisoners died at the camp.  After the war, Southerners built a memorial to Camp commandant Col. Richard Own as a tribute to his fair treatment of Confederate prisoners.

Over 400,000 men were imprisioned North and South during the Civil War, with 12% casualty rate in Northern camps and 15.5% in Southern camps, both together accounting for about 10% of all fatalities.  Andersonville, in Georgia, was perhaps the most famous for its medieval conditions, housing 45,000 prisoners of whom 13,000 died in one year of operation.

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Diary of Orrin Brown—Oct 16, 1864

Officers of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment play cards during the lengthy Siege of Petersburg in 1864-65.

Diary of Orrin Brown, Indianapolis, Indiana

Sunday–Oct. 16th

We got up this morning and found it quite cool, I wrote a letter home this fournoon, we had an Oyster dinner today and it went like hot Cakes, I read 10 Chapters in the Testament while some were writing some playing cards some carousing and swearing some drinking liquor, we have had a pretty fair day and now to supper but we have just got the word that we are not going to have any supper so goes the world in dixie.

Long Periods of Boredom Punctuated by Moments of Sheer Terror

It is said that the soldier’s primary duty is to wait.  And wait.  And wait some more.  Hurry up and wait.  Wait patiently, wait impatiently, but first and foremost wait.  As editor Kelly Knauer told PBS Newshour on the Civil War between the battles, “There was an awful lot of downtime and the war really became this long stalemate, and probably 90 to 95 percent of the time you had guys sitting around drinking and playing cards, simply trying to kill time.”  Which seems better than trying to kill and avoid being killed, but it doesn’t make time go by quickly.

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Diary of Orrin Brown—Oct 15, 1864

Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Diary of Orrin Brown, Indianapolis, Indiana

Saturday–Oct. 15th

Got up this morning and found it cloudy and a little cooler, we were arroused about 3AM on account of the desertion of 3 or 4 Bounty jumpers or Subs. from Canada cut a board off and crawled out under the fence we layed around and stood around in our corner all day this evening it looks like rain so we were marched into the baracks for the night we were routed out about 9:30PM wit orders to prepair to march to the depo on double quick and were marched down to the cars and then could not go, we were then marched back to camp, the Captain of the camp wasent going to let us into the barracks but he finally concluded that he had better let us in to keep peace for we did not intend to be run over that way if we were drafted men from Mich.

The Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Indianapolis is a particularly impressive piece of civic art.  The site at the intersection of Meridian St and Market St was originally designed to be the location of the Indiana Governor’s Mansion.  Even if you’re just passing through town, it is worth a visit.

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Diary of Orrin Brown—Oct 14, 1864

Diary of Orrin Brown, Indianapolis, Indiana

Friday–Oct. 14th

Arrived at Mich. City just after daylight and had to waith till after 9AM and then started south arrived at Leafyette Ind. at 4PM arrived at Indianapolis about 9PM were marched up to the Soldiers Home fenced up in one corner by the guards spread our blankets on the ground and went to bed with the broad canopy of the heavens for our shelter, we were lucky enough to hava a nice night and slept first rate.

Indianapolis was a major railroad hub in the Civil War, housing two dozen training camps and a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp.  The Soldier’s Home at West and Maryland streets could feed 8,000 men in transit and shelter 1,800 (The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis).  Development during the war advanced the state capital as the economic center of Indiana as well, at the expense of Southern cities along the Ohio River.

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Diary of Orrin Brown—Oct 13, 1864

New York Draft Riots

Diary of Orrin Brown, Jackson, Michigan

Thursday–Oct. 13th

We have a heavy frost this morning but we are going to have a nice day there is going to be a mass meeting in the City today we heard the Canon firing before breakfast we were all call up in a corner just after dinner and the roll of those call who were to leave for dixie on the evening train. we were formed in a line in the road and the substitutes received their bounty were marched down into the city cheering for Old Abe at every man we meet, we found the city deckorated with flags from one end to the other and nearly everybody cheering for Old Abe the Copperheads had on long faces what few there were as we marched to the depo and those had a chance to express money that wanted to, while waiting one Sub. tried to desert but was caught and his money and everything else taken away form him we got aboard of the cars about 8PM, we gave the R.R. Co. credit for furnishing us the best Pasinger cars to ride in started about 9PM.

Orrin Brown substituted for his brother, N.E. Brown, in the Civil War draft.  The Enrollment Act of 1863 (the Civil War Military Draft) continued to allow substitution—men drafted could opt out of service by providing a substitute to take their place.  We don’t know why Orrin and Norman hadn’t volunteered earlier, although both did have a young family at home. The policy was intended to provide an option for pacifists and others, but led to general discontent as those with money to pay substitutes were better able to evade the draft.  As wiki says:

The problem with substitution was that it provided substitutes with powerful incentives to desert soon after enlisting. Career “jumpers” made a living off of enlisting as a substitute, collecting their compensation, deserting before their units were dispatched to the front, and repeating the process. This problem was well known to the military commanders who regularly saw the same recruits repeatedly. In addition, troops furnished through substitution were considered to be of an inferior quality in comparison to regulars and volunteers.

 

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Diary of Orrin Brown—Oct 12, 1864

George Custer, 1865

Diary of Orrin Brown, Jackson, Michigan

Wednesday–Oct. 12th

It is a little cooler this morning I wrote a letter to Lant this morning we left the barracks for Jackson about Noon arriving there about 4PM we cheered for Old Abe all the way and were as noisy about it as we know how to be we were marched around camp a little and were left at Barracks No.12 Camp Draft found the boys there all right we got supper and went to bed we had some straw in the bunks.

More than 90,000 men from Michigan served in the Civil War, including George Armstrong Custer who grew up in Monroe, Michigan, between Detroit and Toledo, Ohio.  Custer entered the US Military Academy at West Point in 1858, and was graduated a year early after outbreak of the War, last in his class of 34 cadets.  While there were many boys in blue from the Great Lake State, Custer rose the highest and fell the farthest I would say.

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Diary of Orrin Brown—Oct 11, 1864

Abraham Lincoln, November 1863

Diary of Orrin Brown, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Tuesday–Oct. 11th

Clear and warm–our town have their quota full and the boys have their discharge and start home this afternoon. I have two friends here yet from Pipestone but they have got furloughs and are going home tonight so I am left alone. We had two rousing war speeches this evening, one from a soldier the other from the Hon. Mr. Plimpton of Niles we also held an election in the barracks it resulted in 60 for Lincoln and 26 for Me so that the boys go to bed with light hearts.

President Abraham Lincoln’s re-election in 1864 was by no means assured.  What had first looked to both sides to be a quick little contest became the national tragedy of the Civil War, four years on at this point.  A group of Republicans, pressing for more radical action, nominated popular former Senator, General John C. Frémont for the Presidency, in reprise of his nomination as the Republican Party’s first candidate in 1856.  Democrats, split among themselves, nominated General George B. McClellan who personally opposed the party’s peace platform.  Despite his failings as a commander, McClellan had blocks of support in the North.  Fremont withdrew in September 1864, however, after the fall of Atlanta, securing a solid block of Union votes for Lincoln in November.

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