Diary of Orrin Brown—March 2, 1865

Telegram-A.Lincoln to Lt.Gen. Grant, March 2, 1865Diary of Orrin Brown, Chesterfield County, South Carolina

Thursday–March 2nd

We were on the road at 6 AM and found very good roads for 4 or 5 miles and then the road was dreadful muddy and we marched very fast. It rained some through the night and it has been misty and wet all day. We haulted about 1 PM for the train to come up and lay there till about 4 PM then fell in and marched about 2 miles and went into camp about 5 PM in a beautifull pine grove. We crossed Lynch Creek about a mile back. I read 7 Chapts. in the Testament today.

Abraham Lincoln was the original wired president.  The advent of the telegraph gave Lincoln historical access to near real-time information from across the front during the Civil War.  In May 1862, a telegraph office was opened at the War Department, next door to the White House, and Lincoln was online from then to his end.

By the same note, Sherman’s prolonged breaks in communication on the march would have created more worry now (with our expectation of 24/7 broadband connectivity) then they might have previously, when the telegraph hadn’t provided for regular intelligence.  On 2 March 1865, the President sent a telegram to U.S. Grant, then in the field at City Point, Virginia, inquiring about the day’s newspapers from Richmond.  Grant responded:

Richmond papers received daily.  No bulletins were sent…because there was not an item of either good or bad news in them.  There is every indication that Genl Sherman is perfectly safe.  I am looking every day for direct news from him.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—March 1, 1865

Battle of Hanging Rock site, SC (Loyalist Institute)

Diary of Orrin Brown, near Kershaw, South Carolina

Wednesday–March 1st

We were on the road at 6 AM our Brige. was detailed to guard the waggon train and help them out of the mudholes and up the hills and we traveled over some of the roughest country I ever saw and almost bottomless mudholes but as bad as the roads were we marched about 20 miles and went into camp at 6 PM. It rained some last night and it has been showery all day and a cool wind blowing. We came into camp tired and hungry and not much to get for supper. Timber through here is mostly Oak and Hickory with some Pine. I read 4 Chapts. in the Testament today.

Morgan’s 2nd Division reported they were camped two miles east of Little Lynches Creek after passing over Hanging Rock Creek, which are in Lancaster County, SC.  As I’ve mentioned before, South Carolina hosted more Revolutionary War battles than any other state.  Unfortunately, my exposure to that is history is pretty much limited to Mel Gibson’s movie The Patriot—great story, lousy history.  While Gibson’s character was a mashup of several real-life patriots, the villain of the story, Col. William Tavington, is a charismatic, sociopathic slur on the Gen. Sir Banastre Tarleton.

Tarleton was nasty enough without the fictionalization, but his primary claim to fame was his slaughter of surrendering Continental troops at the Battle of Waxhaws, also known as the Waxhaw Massacre.  Patriot Col. Abraham Buford commanded about 380 raw recruits from Virginia, joined by about 40 experienced troops who had escaped when the British took Charleston on 12 May 1780.  Tarleton and his force of 170 Loyalist and British Army dragoons caught up to Buford on 29 May.  After Buford refused to surrender, Tarleton’s mounted troops overwhelmed the inexperienced volunteers, then ignored a flag of truce and indiscriminately continued killing men who were surrendering.  The Continentals suffered 113 killed, 150 wounded and 53 captured against 17 total British casualties; the battlefield is preserved as a park by Lancaster County.

“Tarleton’s Quarter” became a rallying cry in the Carolina back country, drawing volunteers into the militia.  On 6 August 1780, Continental Gen. Thomas Sumter and 800 militia launched an attack on the nearby northernmost British outpost in the Battle of Hanging Rock.  Major John Carden, in command of 1,400 Loyalist and British troops including the Prince of Wales Regiment, were no match for the Patriots, and Major Carden surrendered his command in the heat of battle.  The Continentals suffered 12 killed and 41 wounded, against 200 British casualties; the battle site is listed on the National Register, and is managed by the South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—Feb 28, 1865

Leader, Mt.Dearborn MapDiary of Orrin Brown, just east of Rocky Mount, Lancaster County, South Carolina

Tuesday–Feb. 28th

It rained nearly all night and is still raining this AM. We mustered for pay at 10 AM and at the same time received orders to be ready to march at 11 AM, we marched about 3 miles and went into camp after making a road the most of the way. It did not rain any this PM but it is still cloudy and damp. We drew one days rations of Hardtack, Sugar, and Coffee. I read 7 Chapts. in the Testament today.

Today much of the site of Rocky Mount sits under a hydroelectric reservoir at Great Falls, SC, but the Catawba Falls here had been a military site back to Revolutionary times.  The British maintained an outpost there, which drew an attack by Continental Brig. Gen. Thomas Sumter on 1 August 1780, after the devastating Battle of Waxhaws nearby in May of that year.  The Mount Dearborn federal armory or arsenal opened here in 1802 to compliment the established military facilities at Springfield, Massachusetts, along with facilities at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia.  Tragically, the site was soon abandoned, during a flu epidemic.  The buildings were fortified and garrisoned by the South Carolina militia during the War of 1812, abandoned in 1817 and returned to the State in 1829.  Sherman’s troops took down what buildings remained while camped here.

(map by J. Leader, published by Archaeological Society of South Carolina)



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Diary of Orrin Brown—Feb 27, 1865

Capt Edward S. SimondsDiary of Orrin Brown, Rocky Mount, South Carolina

Monday–Feb. 27th

I will here insert the names of our Commanding officers from the highest to the lowest: Major Gen. W. T. Sherman commanding this army, Corps Commander is Major Gen. Jeff. C. Davis, Division Commander is Brig. Gen. Jas. D. Morgan, Brigade Commander is Brig. Gen, Wm. Vandervere. Our Col. is Henry Crumond Company officers is Capt. Casper Earnest, 1st Lieut. Patrick Kelley, 2nd Lieut. Edward S. Simonds, Orderly Sgt. Harvey M. Smith, 2nd Sargt. Wm. H. Adams, 3rd Sgt. Saml. M. Brower, 4th Sgt. Wm. Dunbar. I will omit the Corporals.

We had a very nice night and it was clear and pleasant this Am but clouded up this PM and some sign of rain. I mentioned yesterday that our trains had all come up but I was mistaken, for when the train had got about half over the Pontoon Bridge broke and they lost 14 boats and they had to move the bridge down the river about 1/4 mile and our regt. was detailed to go down and make about 1/2 mile of new road and they did not get it done till about dark. There was one man in another company got hurt very bad by a tree that was sliding down the bluff a limb struck him on the head. The name of this place is Rocky Mount. and it is very well named for it is a rough rockey country. The report came in yesterday that Richmond was taken and Grant lost 6,000 men but they do not generally give Credit to the report. My health is better today than it has been for several days. I read 10 Chapters in the Testament today.

Here, Pvt. Brown recounts his chain of command we reviewed at the start of the Carolinas Campaign.  This includes:

  1. Gen. William T. Sherman
  2. XIV Corps, Bvt. Maj. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis of Indiana
  3. 2nd Divison, Bvt. Maj. Gen. James D. Morgan of Illinois
  4. 1st Brigade, Brig. Gen. William Vandever of Iowa
  5. 14th Regiment Michigan Infantry, Lt. Col. George W. Grummond.

And we here find the answer to our earlier question of who the Company commanders are, including Caspar Ernst and Patrick Kelley.  Capt. Ernst was from Nunica, Michigan, enlisted 18 Nov 1861, was promoted to captain in 1863, and had actually just been promoted to major on 13 February 1865.  While Kelley is a common name, it seems 1st Lt. Patrick Kelley of the 14th Michigan was from Grand Rapids; he enlisted 13 Feb 1862, was promoted to Full 1st Lieutenant in 1863, then was to be promoted to Captain on 14 March 1865.  2nd Lt. Edward S. Simonds (pictured above from the Library of Congress) is also listed in the National Park Service database as Edward Simons; he enlisted at Owosso as a sergeant and ended as a Captain.

Ironically, this was the day that the former leader of the 14th Michigan, Maj. Thomas C. Fitzgibbon, was shot under a flag of truce.  This ultimately lead to his death in June at his home in Detroit.

Update: Civil War Daily maps where the opposing sides were, approximately, at the end of February 1865.

Civil War Daily map

Further north, while Union cavalry had started to probe Rebel lines around Petersburg and Richmond in early February, the CSA capital did not fall until evacuated by Confederate President Jefferson Davis on 2 April 1865.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—Feb 26, 1865

Santee River System mapDiary of Orrin Brown, Rocky Mount, South Carolina

Sunday–Feb. 26th

It rained nearly all night again last night and was very foggy this morning but the sun came out about 9 AM and I think that our storm is over with for the present. Our waggon train was passing till about 10 Oclock last night and they are passing again this morning. The roads are in a dreadfull condition. I did not rest much last night on account of my eyes and head paining so and my head is very bad today. The train all got up about noon so I think we will move again tomorrow. We had regimental inspection at 4PM we have had a very pleasant day since the sun came out. I read 7 Chapt. in the Testament today.

The Catawba River begins in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, becoming known as the Wateree River at modern Lake Wateree between Fairfield and Kershaw counties—about where Pvt. Brown and Morgan’s 2nd Division was trying to cross the swollen river.  The Saluda and Broad rivers, crossed earlier to the west, combine at Columbia to form the Congaree, which joins the Wateree to form the Santee River.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—Feb 25, 1865

Map of Memphis c1862Diary of Orrin Brown, Rocky Mount, South Carolina

Saturday–Feb. 25th

It rained all night & till about 8 AM steady and it has been damp and cloudy all day. Our regt. went out on detail at 5.30 PM. I was not very well and got excused from duty and my eyes have been nearly smoked out of my head this PM.

After the despair of Louisville and redemption at Shiloh, William T. Sherman was promoted to Major General, and hitched his rising star to U.S. Grant for the remainder of the war (and beyond).  However, after chasing the Confederates out of the railroad center of Corinth, Mississippi, at the end of May 1862, Sherman was assigned in July to oversee occupation of the city of Memphis. Here he was faced with a porous trade in goods and intelligence between the city and Southern agents.  Essentially, he faced what we recognize today as an un-uniformed insurgency.    Sherman had experience with guerrilla tactics, such as he saw the Seminoles use in Florida, but at this point he still saw the general Southern population as misguided countrymen rather than as potentially hostile combatants.  Biographer Robert O’Connell notes:

From the perspective of the twenty-first century, it’s easy to see that such insurgencies were and remain capable of paralyzing whole armies, turning them into targets, not instruments of coercion, emasculating them strategically.  This Southern rebellion had all the ingredients for success—inspired leadership, a clever and bellicose support network, and a commitment to wait out the invader.

The pattern of irregular warfare in parallel to the regular Confederate army was repeated across the border states, from Kansas and Missouri to western Virginia and East Tennessee.  Memphis proved an important training site, with lessons to be applied throughout Sherman’s career.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—Feb 24, 1865

Gen. Robert E. Lee, February 1865Diary of Orrin Brown, Rocky Mount, on the Catawba/Wateree River, near present-day Great Falls, South Carolina

Friday–Feb. 24th

We broke up camp at 10.30 AM marchd about 1/2 mile and crossed the Watterree River, it is about 30 rods wide and shallow and a very swift current after crossing the river we had to climb some very steep hill and the road was dreadfull muddy we marched about 3 miles and went into camp about 2 PM. It rained all night and has been showery all day and the road is so muddy that it is almost imposible to move the supply train. We drew 1/2 days rations of Hardtack and Coffee this morning. I read 2 Chapters in the Testament.

Gen. Robert E. Lee sent a letter on this date in 1865 to Governor Zebulon Vance of North Carolina.  By this time, it was obvious that Sherman was turning north towards Lee in Virginia, and the fields and farms of North Carolina lay in his path.  Apparently, this was leading to “despondency” and desertions as Carolina troops sped home to try to protect home and hearth.  Asking the governor to induce “prominent citizens” to “explain to the people that the cause is not hopeless”, Lee writes in part:

I think our sorely-tried people would be induced to make one more effort to bear their sufferings a little longer, and regain some of the spirit that marked the first two years of the war.

Charles Frazier used this context in his novel Cold Mountain, which was adapted as an Oscar-winning film in 2003.  Apparently, it will also be adapted by the Santa Fe Opera for their 2015 season.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—Feb 23, 1865

Shiloh Centennial 4c StampDiary of Orrin Brown, on Rocky Creek at the Catawba/Wateree River in South Carolina

Thursday–Feb. 23rd

We were on the road at 8 AM and got a ride in the Ambulance. The weather is cool and cloudy with a little mist. We marched 5 or 6 miles and haulted for the 1st Div. to pass. Our Div. is train guards consequently we have to stay in the rear of the other Divisions. It commenced raining about 4 PM and is still raining this evening. We went into camp about 6 PM in one of the roughest countrys that I ever saw and had to get our supper in the rain. I read 5 Chapt. in the Testament today.

William T. Sherman was unsuited for the situation he found himself in at Louisville in the autumn of 1861, when his friend Gen. Robert Anderson resigned, having succumbed to ill health likely from his experience at Ft. Sumner in South Carolina.  Within six weeks, Sherman was replaced at the head of the Department of the Cumberland by another old friend, Don Carlos Buell.  Prone to depression, his superiors (and family) suspected he was having a nervous breakdown and sent him home to Ohio for rest and relaxation.

Sherman was soon back in the saddle, and back at St. Louis, under command of old California rival and bureaucrat extraordinaire, Henry Halleck.  It was here that Sherman’s long-term partnership with Ulysses S. Grant began, providing logistical support for Grant’s push up the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers in February 1862.  The next month, Sherman was assigned to serve under Grant (although technically the more senior officer) as commander of the 5th Division of the Army of the Tennessee.  Caught unprepared by Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston on the first day of the Battle of Shiloh, Sherman redeemed himself on the second—historian James M. McPherson considers Shiloh the turning point of Sherman’s career.  Shiloh was the bloodiest American battle until the 3-day Battle of Gettysburg, with 13,000 Union casualties and 10,700 Confederate casualties on the 6-7 April, 1862.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—Feb 22, 1865

Portrait of George WashingtonDiary of Orrin Brown, outside White Oak, South Carolina

Fifth Part of Journal

Wednesday–Feb. 22nd

We were on the road at 6 AM marched out 4 or 5 miles and haulted for one of the other divisions to pass. Started up again and passed through White Oak Station on the Charleston and Richmond R. R. about 10 AM. We marched about 10 miles and went into camp about 5 Pm in a little grove. I got my things carried in the Ambulance today. The weather was quite cool AM but warm and pleasant PM.

The first President of the United States, George Washington, was born on the 22nd of February 1732 (or 11 February 1731 by the Julian calendar used until c.1752).  The Father of our Country was also a member of the Southern landed gentry, born on a family plantation at Pope’s Creek in Westmoreland County, Virginia.  The Washington family had held the estate on the Potomac River that became Mount Vernon since 1674.

Washington’s image was appropriated by both North and South during the Civil War.  While he owned slaved who worked his plantation, he came to oppose slavery and freed his slaves in his will (although his wife, Martha, did not free hers from her former marriage).  Abraham Lincoln claimed Washington’s support for Union in his 1860 Cooper Union address in New York City.  Jefferson Davis likewise claimed Washington’s Revolutionary mantle for the Confederate States in his 1861 inauguration.

Many of Washington’s family in 1861 did stand with Virginia and the Confederacy.  John Augustine Washington III, the last private owner of Mount Vernon, was Robert E. Lee’s aide-de-camp.  Lee himself had strong connections to Washington:  Lee’s father “Light Horse” Harry Lee was a trusted aide of Washington, and his wife was the daughter of Washington’s adopted son.  Before the war, Lewis William Washington, a descendant of George’s older brother Augustine, was taken hostage by John Brown at Harpers Ferry, and was a key witness at Brown’s trial.  Lewis’ son James Barroll Washington served as aide-de-camp to Gen. Joseph E. Johnston.

While it may seem obvious that Washington’s loyalty would lie with Virginia and the South, during and after the Revolution he consistently supported the Federal idea.  He was instrumental in forging a Continental Army out of the odd assortment of militias.  A weak Federal government under the Articles of Confederation led to the Constitutional Convention, of which Washington was elected President, and then to being unanimously elected President of the United States in 1789.  Then again, during the Whiskey Rebellion, Washington directly led troops into the field in 1794 to enforce federal authority.  As Robert E. Lee’s own father eulogized in the United States Congress, Washington was “a citizen, first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”  And his country was America.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—Feb 21, 1865

NM Territory, Feb 1862 (Swanson)Diary of Orrin Brown, outside Winnsboro, South Carolina

Tuesday–Feb. 21st

We had a frosty night but it came off warm and nice this Morning. We left the picket line at 10 AM went to camp and was on the road at about 10.30 AM. I got into the Ambulance about noon and rode the rest of the day. The country through here is very rough and the soil is red clay. The Timber is White and Blk. Oak. Some Hickory and some Pine. We must have marched about 10 miles and went into camp at about 4 PM in an oak grove. The day has been cool. Read 3 chapt. in Testament today.

The Battle of Valverde, 1862

On the morning of 21 February 1862, 3,000 Union regular troops and New Mexico volunteers under Col. E.R.S. Canby, in charge of Fort Craig near Socorro on the Camino Real, met 2,500 Texas cavalry under Confederate Brig. Gen. Henry Hopkins Sibley, at the Battle of Valverde Ford.  Rebel troops had arrived a week earlier in poor winter weather, hoping to lure Canby out of the fort, which guarded the road north.  When Canby refused to take the bait, the Texans fell back and forded the Rio Grande River, intending to re-cross north of the fort and continue on to assault the town of Albuquerque.  The result of the battle was inconclusive, with 432 casualties (including deserters) on the Federal side against 187 on the Southern side.  Canby was indecisive yet retained control of the Fort, while Sibley, who had previously served under Canby in New Mexico Territory, apparently wallowed in drunkenness, effectively yielding command of the engagement.  Technically it was a Confederate victory, as they held the field at the end of they day and so continued their scourge of the Rio Grande valley.  Both sides were well served by veteran junior officers stepping up, including legendary Col. Kit Carson (later Brig. Gen.) of the 1st New Mexico Infantry for the Union and Col. Tom Green (later General) of the 5th Texas Mounted Rifles for the Confederates.

Fast Tube

The Confederate’s New Mexico Campaign of February – April 1862 can be seen as the continuation of the Texican‘s manifest destiny quest to control expansion territory for the Republic of Texas.  The Spanish had established Santa Fe by 1610, long before the first European settlements on the Texas Gulf Coast.  On independence from Mexico in 1836, Texas had claimed the Rio Grande valley north beyond the river’s source, and soon after its citizens began independent armed forays into Northern Mexico.  In 1841, the Republic sent 300 volunteer troops on an expedition against Santa Fe, which historian Alvin M. Josephy, Jr, termed “a debacle” (The Civil War in the American West, 1991).  In 1843, the Republic tried again, commissioning three independent parties to intercept Mexican trade on the portion of the Santa Fe Trail claimed by Texas.  Each succeeded only in raising animosity against Texas by Santa Fe, the Republic of Mexico, and US Federal authorities.  Annexation of Texas into the United States in 1845, and the cession of New Mexico Territory in 1848 after the Mexican War.  These claims were only dropped in the Compromise of 1850 in exchange for the US Federal government assuming substantial debts run up by the Republic.

At the onset of the Civil War, Southern strategists set their sights on New Mexico Territory in connection with adding California (and her gold) to the Confederacy, as well as Colorado (and her gold).  There was also long agitation for creation of “Arizona Territory” from the southern portion of New Mexico, including the Gadsen Purchase.  After Major General David E. Twiggs traitorously surrendered the U.S. Army’s Department of Texas without a fight, Federal troops had evacuated forts across Texas.  In July 1861, while William T. Sherman was fighting at Bull Run back East, Texan Lt. Col. John R. Baylor arrived at abandoned Fort Bliss at El Paso with authorization to take Fort Fillmore outside the Southern stronghold of Mesilla.  Which he did easily, allowing organization of the territory for the Confederacy with himself as governor.

The Confederate victory was fleeting.  Within a year, Baylor was removed from office in scandal, while Sibley and the Texans were forced back to Texas after destruction of their supply train at Glorieta Pass.  In 1863, the Union Territory of Arizona was organized from the western portion of New Mexico Territory.  The site of Valverde Ford now lies under the waters of Elephant Butte Lake, and in many ways New Mexicans and Texans remain if not at war, certainly wary of each other still today.



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