Diary of Orrin Brown—March 31, 1865


Petersburg 1861Diary of Orrin Brown, Goldsboro, North Carolina

Friday–Mar. 31st

The weather has been cool and windy again today. I went over to the 17th A. C. and mad Loren a good long visit and then I went down through the town and got back to camp about 4 PM then I went and tryed to find the 38th Ohio regt. but failed. The regt. had general inspection at 5 PM. I read 3 Chapt. in Testament today.

Richmond-Petersburg Campaign

In June 1864, Lt. Gen. Grant settled down for a siege of Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia.  Unlike the siege of Vicksburg, where Grant surrounded the town and starved out the defenders in a matter of weeks, the Siege of Petersburg involved nine months of trench warfare strung over 30 miles between the Confederate capital and Southern supply lines.

Grant brought two armies to the campaign: Maj. Gen. George Meade’s Army of the Potomac, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler’s Army of the James.  At this time,the Army of the Potomac consisted of II Corps under Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, V Corps under Maj. Gen. Governeur K. Warren, VI Corps under Horatio G. Wright (detached to the Shenandoah thru the end of 1864), IX Corps under Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, and the Cavalry Corps under Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan (also detached to the Shenandoah through the campaign).  The Army of the James consisted of the X Corps under Brig. Gen. Alfred H. Terry, XVIII Corps under Maj. Gen. Baldy Smith, XXIV Corps under Maj. Gen. Edward O.C. Ord, XXV Corps under Maj. Gen. Godfrey Weitzel, and a Cavalry Division under Grig. Gen. August Kautz.  Gen. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia consisted of Lt. Gen. Richard H. Anderson’s First Corps (after October under Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, when Anderson took command of the Fourth Corps), Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early’s Second Corps detached to the Shenandoah, Lt. Gen. AP Hill’s Third Corps, and Cavalry Corps under Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton.  Lee also had Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard in command of about 10,000 men defending the capital at Richmond.

Major engagements occurred up and down the lines.  Butler’s Army of the James led indecisive attempts on the Confederate lines in the First Battle of Petersburg (9 June) and Second Battle of Petersburg (15-18 June).  Failing to capture the city, Grant moved to cut railroads at Jerusalem Plank Road and in the Wilson-Kautz Raid, resulting in some miles of track destroyed at the cost of heavy Union casualties.  At the end of July, Grant sent Hancock’s II Corps and Sheridan’s Cavalry against Richmond in the First Battle of Deep Bottom, hoping to draw Confederate reinforcements away from Petersburg where the plan was to mine under the lines and set off a massive explosion.  The first part of the plan worked, but the Battle of the Crater devolved rapidly when Union commanders led their men into the crater instead of around.  In August troops clashed again at the Second Battle of Deep Bottom outside Richmond and the Battle of Globe Tavern against the Weldon Railroad outside Petersburg.  At the end of September, Grant extended his lines further left southwest of Petersburg, while skirmishes continued along the front through October.  Operations subsided through the muddy winter months, until Lee’s unsuccessful attempt to break through the lines at Fort Stedman on 25 March 1865.

Nine months of trench warfare resulted in approximately 42,000 Union casualties and 28,000 Confederate casualties.  The end result, however, forced Lee to abandon the Confederate capital at the end of March 1865, and retreat southwest to try and unite with Gen. Joe Johnston in North Carolina.  As we know, he never made it past Appomattox Courthouse.


War is hell, it is said, but there are often consequences to bad actions.  Back in North Carolina, Pvt. James Preble of the 12th NY Cavalry was court-martialed in Kinston for rape and sentenced to death by hanging, under orders from Gen. Schofield.  His sentence was changed to execution by firing squad.  On the 31st of March 1865, at Goldsborough, twelve men of the 132nd NY and 17th PA formed a line, and at 3:05pm were given the order to “make ready, aim, and fire”.  The whole division was marched past the corpse as a warning.




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Rural America is Growing—Except Where It Isn’t

Fastest Growing Counties <50k Population

The Bakken is booming.  New US Census Bureau population estimates indicate that 7 out of the dozen fastest growing counties in the United States over the last four years are in the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana.  Yes, large metro counties (Harris County, Texas; Los Angeles County, California; Maricopa County, Arizona) gained the greatest gross number of new residents.  Yet aside from one metro area in Florida, all of the dozen fastest growing counties on a percentage basis started the decade with populations under 50,000.

McKenzie County (Watford City), North Dakota, grew by an estimated 72% from 2010 to 2014, and over 18% in the last year alone.  Williams County (Williston), ND, grew by 42% over four years, and 8.7% last year.  Mountrail (Stanley), Stark (Dickinson), Dunn (Manning) and Divide (Crosby) counties in ND and Richland County (Sidney) Montana, all in the Bakken oil play, added 17%-25% over the last four years.  Andrews and Sterling counties in the Permian Basin of West Texas also added population at a good clip.

The estimates, of course, cover through the 1st of July, so we’ll have to wait a year before we see the population impacts of the more recent decline in the price of oil.  While we are seeing substantial retractions in new exploration nationwide (rig counts are down 48% over the last year) and the lowest-in-the-nation unemployment rate in North Dakota is now ticking up, anecdotally it seems more a needed breather than a turn to bust quite yet.

The other fastest growing counties include St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, still recovering from Hurricane Katrina;  Fredericksburg (independent city) Virginia, at the end of the commuter rail line south of fast-growing Washington, DC; and Wasatch County (Heber City) Utah, which is attracting commuters to the mountains above Salt Lake City.

(Interactive map of year-on-year population change from Governing magazine.)

Greatest Population Loss Counties <50k Population

Counties with the greatest population losses were also rural counties, but more spread out across the country and the economy.  Bent County (county seat Las Animas), on the agricultural Eastern Plains of Colorado, led the field with an estimated -13.5% decline in population between 2010-2014.  Neighboring Las Animas County (Trinidad) lost -8.8%.  Like DeBaca County, to the south on the High Plains of eastern New Mexico, these places have suffered long-term economic restructuring made even more difficult by recent drought.  (Note the chart above is inverted for readability.)

Further south, the Census estimates that Presidio County, in the Big Bend of Texas, lost 11.4% of its population since 2010, but had seen healthy population growth since 1970.  The Presidio County seat is the eclectic border town of Marfa.  Marfa is known for its arts community; the Coen Brothers filmed their movie No Country for Old Men there in 2006.  Marfa is also a long-way down a two-lane road from most employment opportunities.

Presidio County is outside the Permian Basin.  Schleicher County, also in West Texas, is at the southern end of the Permian;  however, it is dominated by natural gas drilling which has been in a bust for several years now (although Sterling County, with healthy estimated growth, also has a lot of natural gas wells).  Dickens and King counties are on the far north edge of the Permian, in the Texas panhandle.  Oil and gas translates to boom and bust, boom and bust.

In the Southeast, Hancock County, Georgia (county seat Sparta), is part of the Milledgeville Micropolitan area.  Milledgeville, as readers of my Civil War blog will recall, was the historic state capital of Georgia.  Hancock County’s population contracted for many years, then grew during the 1990s before contracting again since.

On the West Coast, Lassen County, California, lies in the Sierra Mountains (county seat Susanville) northwest of Reno.  The county has grown consistently except for a marked contraction in the 1950s, but like many areas across the West has been hit by declines in the timber industry.

Back in the Rocky Mountains, Butte County, Idaho, is home to Craters of the Moon National Monument in the Snake River Plain.  Next door, Clark County, is the smallest county in the state, gained an estimated six residents last year, but not enough to offset an -11% loss since 2010.  King County, Texas is even smaller.  A small absolute gain or loss translates into a large percentage statistic.  With populations under 1,000, who knows if the Census Bureau’s sampling procedure is all that accurate?



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Diary of Orrin Brown—March 30, 1865

Grant's Council of War 1864Diary of Orrin Brown, Goldsboro, North Carolina

Thursday–Mar. 30th

It rained most all the after part of the night and nearly all of the fournoon and it was quite cool PM with a high S. W. wind. The regt. was on dress parad and Batalion drill again today. I read 3 Chapt. today.

Grant’s Overland Campaign

Gen. Grant wasted no time in the spring of 1864 after he arrived in the East from Tennessee.  In command of all armies of the United States, he trusted Gen. Sherman to get things done in the West and put his mind to work on the problem of Robert E. Lee in the Overland Campaign.

Overland Campaign map 1864

On 4 May 1864, Grant took Gen. Meade’s Army of the Potomac across the Rapidan River in Virginia between Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and the Confederate capital at Richmond.  The next day, Lee surprised Grant with an aggressive attack in the Battle of the Wilderness (5-7 May), resulting in 17,666 Union casualties and 11,033 for the Confederacy.

Unlike Meade (and the Union generals before him), Grant gave as well as he got.  Instead of retreating and licking his wounds, Grant pivoted again, to the southeast.  Much as Sherman would continually maneuver to outflank Confederate forces guarding Atlanta, Grant continually maneuvered between Lee and Richmond.  At Spotsylvania Court House near Fredericksburg, Grant repeatedly attacked Southern defenses (8-21 May), inflicting heavy loses on each side:  18,399 for the Union, 12,687 for the Confederacy.  At this time, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan went over Meade’s head and convinced Grant to let him lead a cavalry raid into the Confederate rear.  At 10,000+ armed with rapid-fire Spencer carbines, Sheridan commanded the most powerful cavalry force assembled in the Civil War against 5,000 Confederate cavalry.  On the 11th of May, legendary Confederate cavalry commander Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart (Sheridan’s West Point classmate and friend) was mortally wounded at the Battle of Yellow Tavern by a Union private in the 5th Michigan.

Moving again, Grant’s armies met Lee’s at the Battle of North Anna River (23-26 May, 2,623 Union casualties, 1,552 Confederate), followed by a series of assaults at Cold Harbor through mid-June (12,737 Union casualties, 5,287 Confederate).  The cavalry again came into play at the Battle of Trevillian Station, where Sheridan commanded 9,200 Union troops in a raid against Confederate Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton‘s 6,800, in the largest all-cavalry battle of the war, resulting in a tactical Southern victory.  The cavalry raid did provide cover for Grant to cross the James River on 15-16 June in a move on Southern supply lines at Petersburg, setting the stage for a nine-month siege.

Overall forces in the field:  118,000 for the Union, 64,000 for the Confederacy.  Overall casualties in two months’ time:  38,000-55,000 for the Union, 33,000-40,000 for the Confederacy (estimates vary).  The campaign was the most costly in the war, and in American history—although Grant suffered a higher number of casualties, Lee lost 50% of his forces in a few short weeks, with no reinforcements in sight.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—March 29, 1865

Grant and Lee, 1865Diary of Orrin Brown, Goldsboro, North Carolina

Wednesday–Mar. 29th

We have had several light showers today and it looks as though we would have more rain tonight. I wrote a letter to Elmer and one to Ad Hamilton today. The regt. was on dress parade and after that they had batalion for about half an hour. We drew 3 days rations of Hardtack, Sugar, and Coffee and some Salt Poark, Beans, Codfish, and Vinegar. We have all the rations we can use for the first time since I came into the service only when we hapened to get pleanty of forage while on the march. I feel quite smart today but am very weak. I read 3 Chapts. today.

The Eastern Theater of the Civil War

29 March 1865 is considered the beginning of the Appomattox Campaign, the final series of battles between the armies of Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.  On this day, Grant began an offensive that broke the Rebel defenses at Petersburg, Virginia, which cut supply lines to Richmond.

How did Lee come to such an inglorious end?  Early on, he and the Army of Northern Virginia had been singularly successful in keeping the Federal generals and their armies in the Eastern Theater on the defensive.  Twice at Bull Rull (Manassas), at bloody Antietam (Sharpsburg), Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville, Lee set the terms of engagement.  Even in the West at Shiloh, the Confederates held their own.  Then the timeline shifted after Gettysburg and Vicksburg in July 1863.

What happened then?  In the East, Lee retreated to his home ground in Northern Virginia and dug in while temperamental Gen. George Meade dithered.  In the West, though, the brotherhood of Grant and Sherman kept the Confederate armies on the run.  Grant took over Western operations, and broke out of Chattanooga in November 1863, setting the stage for Sherman to grind down Southern forces at Atlanta in the spring and summer of 1864.  And for our hero to join Gen. Sherman on his march to the sea.

President Lincoln promoted Grant to the rank of lieutenant general in March 1864, and gave him unified command over all Union armies.  Grant’s operations during May and June 1864 in the Overland Campaign were not initially any more successful than Meade had been, yet through sheer mass of forces Grant achieved strategic success.   This forced Lee to dig in for a nine-month siege of trench warfare between the Confederate capital at Richmond and the port of Petersburg, Virginia (Richmond-Petersburg Campaign).  Sherman’s turn north through Carolina merely closed the vise that Grant had set a year earlier.

Which gets us to today, another day closer to Appomattox Courthouse.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—March 28, 1865

Fight at Pigeons RanchDiary of Orrin Brown, Goldsboro, North Carolina

Tuesday–Mar. 28th

It was cool again last night and the day has been foggy. I wrote another letter home today. We drew clothing this AM. Jim Gifford was put on extra duty today for not going with the regt. a forageing last Sunday he was not well but did not go to the Drs. to be excused from duty. I have felt considerable better today. The regt. was out on dress parade again at 5 PM. There is a standing order for dress parade at that hour every day while we stay in camp. Sherman issued an order to the effect that the army was to have a good rest here and be well fed well clothed and payed off so that the soldiers can leave here on the next campaign in good spirits. Lieut. Kelleys time is out the 13th of next month. I wrote another long letter home today.

Battle of Glorieta Pass

Glorieta, New Mexico, is often called the “Gettysburg of the West”.  The Battle of Glorieta Pass was the high point of the Confederacy’s manifest destiny expansion plans to conquer the American Southwest.  Rather than extending their reach to the Pacific ports of California, and the gold and silver mines of Colorado—in what had seemed an easy task after taking Valverde Ford, Albuquerque and Santa Fe—the Southerners were forced to retreat back to Texas for the duration of the Civil War.

Apache Cañon offered a preview on 26 March, when evenly matched advance forces under Confederate Maj. Charles Pyron and Union Maj. John Chivington had fought to a draw in the narrowest part of Glorieta Pass.  On the 27th, Col. William Scurry took command of the Confederate forces camped at the western mouth of the canyon, intending to march on Fort Union.  Col. John Slough commanding Federal troops from Fort Union camped at Koslowski’s Ranch near Pecos east of the canyon.  The morning of the 28th, both commanders took to the field, meeting about 11 am at Pigeon’s Ranch in the middle.

Battle of Glorieta Pass

The Confederates had their three cannon in the road as they had the day before, but now with about 1,000 battle-hardy veterans arrayed across the canyon wall to wall.  The Union troops, numbering less than 900 of whom about 2/3 were raw recruits, also formed a battle line, with their artillery (two batteries of four pieces each) across the road and up a gently rising hill.  The Federal artillery forced the Rebel guns back, but an attempt by Colorado Volunteers on the Union right to use the cover of an irrigation ditch to sneak up on the guns resulted in intense hand-to-hand combat when they were discovered.  About noon, Slough fell back about 800 yards and established a new line just west of Pigeon’s Ranch (which was in use as a hospital).  Here the Union artillery pounded the Texan battery quiet.

A frontal assault by the Confederates forced one Federal battery to fall back again, but together the Northern cannons stopped the Rebel advance.  On the rocky slopes above the canyon, though, the Texans were more successful, finally forcing the Union guns to fall back east of the Ranch.  It was a terrible fight, Col. Scurry later reported, noting that every Confederate officer on the field had been injured if not killed.  After six hours of fighting, both sides gradually stopped firing in exhaustion, with the Confederate Army in control of the field of battle.

The Southern victory was tactical, but unknown on the battlefield the Northern troops had scored a strategic victory this day.  Slough had detailed Chivington with 490 men on a circuitous route led by Lt. Col. Manuel Antonio Chaves of the 2nd New Mexico Volunteers across the mesa in an attempt to flank the Texans and harass them from the rear.  Chivington wound up 200 feet above Pyron’s camp at Johnson’s Ranch, where the Rebels had left their baggage train under light guard.  Union troops scaled down into the canyon with rope and leather straps, and quickly routed the baggage guard, fired 80 supply wagons, spiked a cannon, and killed or drove off 500 horses and mules.

Casualties reported on 28 March 1862:  46 killed, 64 wounded, 15 captured for the Union; 46 killed, 50 wounded, 17 captured for the Confederacy.  Yet with the loss of their supply train, Scurry and Pyron had no choice but retreat.  After retreat to Santa Fe, they fell back to Gen. Sibley’s headquarters at Albuquerque before evacuating the Territory and returning to Texas.

Chivington went on to disgrace after the Massacre at Sand Creek in November 1864.  Slough, ever temperamental, resigned his commission and returned East after Col. Canby ordered him back to Fort Union, although by that point Canby had already left Ft. Craig and had authorized the very troop movement Slough had initiated.  The fact his own troops had apparently targeted him during the fighting at Pigeon’s Ranch might also have had something to do with it.  In Washington, DC, Slough was appointed brigadier general with command of a brigade in the Shenandoah.  After the war, he returned to Santa Fe where he was killed in a duel.

In 1879, the New Mexico and Southern Pacific Railroad was constructed through Glorieta Pass, and became part of the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.  In the 20th century, first Historic Route 66 and then I-25 were constructed through the pass and now cover much of the original site.  The Glorieta Pass Battlefield is now part of the Pecos National Historical Park, which was first set aside in 1965 to protect the Pecos Pueblo ruins, built c. 1100 AD, and the remains of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de Porciúncula de los Pecos, an early 17th century Spanish mission.  Portions of the battlefield may be open for public access.

Fast Tube




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Diary of Orrin Brown—March 27, 1865

Healy, The Peacemakers, 1868Diary of Orrin Brown, Goldsboro, North Carolina

Monday–Mar. 27th

We had a heavy frost last night but it has been warm and pleasant today. There was another mail came in today but none for me this time. I wrote a letter home today. I do not feel much better yet because I cannot rest nights. The regt. was out on dress parade at 5 PM.

Gen. Sherman arrived at City Point, Virginia, at 6pm on the 27th, to meet with Gen. Grant at his field headquarters.  It just so happened that President Lincoln was in port, aboard the River Queen.  After catching up on recent events, the three agreed to meet again the next day, when they were joined by the generals’ friend Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter, who recorded the event in his journal.

The historic confab on 28 March was the only time during the Civil War that the three met together.  Their topic was the coming peace.  Author Robert L. O’Connell recounts Porter’s notes:

When it came time for the president to speak, he was emphatic about sparing further bloodshed and very willing to give the rebels “the most liberal and honorable terms” for surrender.  When the general demurred that the strategic situation left little choice in the matter, Lincoln, according to Porter, urged them to err on the side of generosity:  “I want no one punished; treat them liberally all round.”

Sherman was back on the train at 4pm on the 28th, likely with maps in hand to guide his troops to Gen. Lee’s back door.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—March 26, 1865

Pecos Civil War WeekendDiary of Orrin Brown, Goldsboro, North Carolina

Sunday–Mar. 26th

It has been a little warmer today than yerterday. Our regt. went out today to guard a forage train they had to start at 4 AM and got back at about 3 PM. We got a large mail this PM. I got 9 letters.

Battle of Apache Cañon

New Mexico Territory, 1862, was very much in play between the Confederate States of America and the Union to which it had only recently been attached.  So far, Sibley’s Brigade of Texas Volunteers had marched up the Rio Grande Valley with little resistance (Sibley’s New Mexico Campaign).  However, a force of Colorado Volunteers under Col. John Slough was also on the march by way of Fort Union, destined to meet first this day.

On 25 March 1862, Union Maj. John Chivington, a Methodist preacher from Denver, led four companies of the 1st Colorado Volunteers and a detachment of the 1st and 3rd U.S. Cavalry regulars up the Santa Fe Trail from the main Federal force camped at Bernal Springs, stopping that night at Martin Kozlowski’s ranch near Pecos Pueblo, where there was a good spring to provide water for the men and horses. Under cover of darkness, 20 men under Lt. George Nelson moved out hoping to surprise any Rebel pickets in the early morning, which they did near the Alexander Vallé “Pigeon” Ranch at the eastern end of Apache Cañon in Glorieta Pass about 20 miles east of Santa Fe.

Battle of Glorieta Pass map

Confederate Maj. Charles L. Pyron, a veteran of the Mexican War, had taken Santa Fe, but he was unaware of the newcomers from Colorado.  Pyron’s advance of Texas Mounted Rifles and local scouts and Chivington’s Colorado volunteers and regulars found each other in the narrow canyon that afternoon.  Pyron’s two howitzers quickly threw grape and shell at the Union troops, who were then deployed to either side of the cleft and sent a withering crossfire on the guns.  The Texans were forced to fall back about a mile and a half before also climbing the rocks and the repeating the scene once more through the day.  The day ended with Pyron retreating to Anthony Johnson’s Ranch (known today as Cañoncito) at the western end of Apache Canyon.  Chivington also retreated, to the Alexander Vallé home, as he explained in the Official Report:

It now being sundown, and we not knowing how near the enemy’s re-enforcements might be, and having no cannon to oppose theirs, hastened to gather up our dead and wounded and several of the enemy’s, and then fell bak to Pigeon’s Ranch and encamped for the night.

As Arthur A. Wright* wrote:  “Something out of the ordinary had taken place in this remote section of the war: Union troops had had a taste of victory.”

Casualties reported for this day were 5 killed, 14 wounded and 3 missing for the Union; 4 killed, 20 wounded, 75 captured for the Confederates.  The next day, Chivington buried his dead and fell back to the better water supply at Kozlowski’s Ranch.  Both sides brought up their reinforcements:  Confederate Col. William R. Scurry from Santa Fe bringing the Texans to 1,100 men; Union Col. John Slough from Bernal Springs, bringing Union strength to 1,300 men, ready for the main event on the 28th.

* Wright, A.A. The Civil War in the Southwest, Denver: Big Mountain Press, 1964.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—March 25, 1865

Union Cavalry Soldier, 1861Diary of Orrin Brown—Goldsboro, North Carolina

Saturday–Mar. 25th

The day has been cool but clear. I had another bad spell today and I feel very miserable. The mail went out at 2.30 PM but I could not write any.

On 25 March, Gen. Sherman hopped a train for City Point (Hopewell), Virginia, for a sit-down meeting with Gen. Grant and President Lincoln.  He left Gen. Schofield in command in Goldsboro.  Kilpatrick’s cavalry were busy foraging the countryside, running three mills at Mount Olive (south of Goldsboro) to grind corn for man and beast.

The newcomers in the 9th New Jersey posting guard in town were veterans, but they weren’t used to the rough and tumble manners of Sherman’s “bummers”.  Angley and Cross* recount a diarist:

Sherman’s westerners, when they came into the town, wanted to paint things red, but the orders and discipline of the men of the Ninth New Jersey did not permit conduct of this character, whereupon the Jerseymen were twitted as “white-gloved soldiers.”  A number of “bummers,” having a contempt for men whose hands were covered with white gloves, got into trouble and the lock-up by attempting to do as they pleased—the Jerseymen having seen too much service and knowing their duty too well to permit themselves to be imposed upon, even by these heroes who had been on a picnicking march from “Atlanta to the sea.”

In Pvt. Brown’s own Division, Gen. James D. Morgan did not hold a high opinion of the “bummers” either.  Angley and Cross relate:

I regret that I have to except anyone from praise and credit, but I have some men in my command…who have mistaken the name and meaning of the term foragers, and have become under that name highwaymen, with all of the cruelty and ferocity and none of their courage…

Not all of the depredations visited upon the countryside were by officially sanctioned troops either, as deserters from both armies and other “hangers-on of the army” were active throughout the state.

*Sherman’s March Through North Carolina: A Chronology (1996)



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Diary of Orrin Brown—March 24, 1865

Fort Union Officer's Quarters, 1958Diary of Orrin Brown, Goldsboro, North Carolina

Sixth Part of Journal

 Tuesday–Mar. 24

We still lay here behind our temporary breastworks and every little while the boys are made to dodge down their heads to keep out of the way of the shot and shell and the sharpshooters balls which are thrown in here at us, there was one man wounded in the regt. yesterday in the arm by a musket ball. We drew two days rations of Hardtack today we were relieved from the front line this evening and moved to the right and in the rear of another regt. and put up another line of works.

While Pvt. Brown is pinned down on the Neuse River awaiting supplies, let us return west to New Mexico Territory, 1862.  After the Union defeat at the Battle of Valverde in February, Confederate Texans under Gen. Henry Hopkins Sibley had rolled north up the Rio Grande valley in search of victuals—presaging Sherman’s March to the Sea, Sibley had fully intended to live off the land.  This limited his supply train back to El Paso and across the long lonely trails back to the heart of Texas.

Col. Canby, in nominal command of the Territory, kept his Federal forces inside Ft. Craig.  Sibley marched on Albuquerque, taking control of the town on 7 March after Union defenders abandoned the villa.  Days later an advance guard of 500 Rebels took the capital of Santa Fe uncontested, as the Territorial governor had also fled the advance for the protection of Col. Gabriel Paul at Fort Union on the Eastern Plains*.  Along with the Union post at Cubero about 60 miles west of Albuquerque, Sibley secured about 3 months worth of supplies for his expedition.

Meanwhile, a call for volunteers had gone out in Colorado to stop the advancing Texans.  A regiment of “Pike’s Peakers” under Col. John P. Slough marched on the double-quick south, making up to 40-miles a day in the late winter’s cold.  Slough, a fiery Denver lawyer, pulled rank on Paul, an experienced regular Army officer 13 years his elder, and commandeered the troops stationed at Ft. Union to immediately march against the Rebels at Santa Fe.  This was counter the ever-cautious Col. Canby’s instructions to secure the fort first and foremost.  The Coloradoan apparently didn’t think much of Canby after his inaction at Valverde.  Col. Slough set out from Ft. Union at noon on the 22nd with 1,342 volunteers and regular army troops, reaching Bernal Springs on the Santa Fe Trail late on 24 March 1862.  He then sent the later-disgraced Maj. John M. Chivington of the First Colorado Volunteers forward with 180 infantry and 238 cavalry, to see what they might see up Glorieta Pass.  On the 26th, they would see plenty of grey coats coming down Apache Canyon.

We’ll pick up their story again in two days.

*The Santa Fe Trail army outpost active 1851-1891, not to be confused with the Fort Union fur trading post on the Upper Missouri River in Dakota Territory from 1828 through the 1860s.



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Meet Some New Friends Doing Interesting Things In Community Development

Orton and Sonoran websitesSpring is in the air.  Local citizens are coming out of their winter’s cocoons and are eager to do something.  You’re right on top of that, coaxing your friends and neighbors to stop pushing buttons (between planning and doing) and starting to move their Flywheel of incremental, constant improvement.  You’ve spent your winter getting to Know Yourself, shredding the common wisdom and turning data into actionable information.  Maybe you’ve even read up on Strategic Doing since last week.

You’re inspired.

You’re ready.

You’re still not sure WHAT to do to improve your community…

Sounds like a good time to meet some new friends who might have resources to share.

A Couple Groups of Folks Doing Interesting Things in Community Development at the Moment

Fast Tube

Orton Family Foundation.  Up in the mountains of Vermont, the Orton Foundation is an operating foundation with a track record of nurturing innovative ideas, especially for small towns and rural areas:

  • Community Matters, a partnership of seven organizations (including Chuck Marohn’s Strong Towns) intended to facilitate connections and conversations for communities who want to re-create themselves and their civic infrastructure.  On 12 March they also sponsored a webinar on “Creative Rural Urban Alliances“, which they handily recorded and posted for your enjoyment.  On Twitter @CommunityMttrs.
  • CommunityViz GIS plug-in was sponsored by the foundation. This tool helps visualize scenarios for growth and development, which they spun off in a partnership, Placeways based in Boulder, Colorado.
  • Community Heart & Soul is their latest initiative which aims to get people participating in making community decisions and taking action to improve the place where they live, work, learn and play.  They have been ground-testing this four phase, 12 step process, in New England and across the Rocky Mountain states, and have some interesting results you can put to work in your community.   In fact, they were at work the last couple years just the other side of Mesa Verde National Park, in the community of Cortez, Colorado.

Urban Renewal as a Catalyst for Private Investment from Sonoran Institute on Vimeo.

Sonoran Institute.  Out in the deserts of Arizona, the Sonoran Foundation is celebrating 25 years working mostly across the Western U.S.  When I first got to known them, they had a reputation as environmentalists, and they still are, but they have grown over the years with a vision for healthy landscapes, vibrant communities and resilient economies.  A couple of their initiatives include:

  • Community Builders shares success stories from across the West, from “communities with strong and diverse economies, quality growth, vibrant downtowns, and complete neighborhoods.”  They sponsored a webinar this winter from Downtown Bozeman, Montana (I hardly recognize my old hometown).  On Twitter @CommunityBldrs.  And yeah, I get Community Builders and Community Matters mixed up time-to-time, but they’re both good folks.
  • SCOTie.org— the Successful Communities Online Toolkit information exchange—is a joint project of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Sonoran Institute, among others including several APA chapters.  This consortium also put together Don Elliott of Clarion Associates with Jim Holoway (formerly head of Western Lands and Communities at Sonoran) for a great study on “Zombie Subdivisons”, cut up on paper and left as the living dead of the real estate market since the crash.  The website (due for a sprucing up soon) provides a database of smart growth and resource protection resources.
  • New Mobility West is another partnership sponsored by the Sonoran Institute and others, providing support to communities in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Colorado to improve transportation systems and create stronger and more vibrant communities. They are at work up the road from me right now in Durango, Colorado, on the state highway that cuts through the historic downtown.  If you live/work in Montana or Wyoming you might be able to get in on some FREE training if you apply soon.  On Twitter @NewMobilityWest.

Those are just a couple ideas from good folks doing good things for communities across the country.  Maybe they can help implementation be your watchword this year, too.



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