Diary of Orrin Brown—Oct 22, 1864

Chattanooga c.1894

Diary of Orrin Brown, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Saturday–Oct. 22nd

We got up this morning shivering and no wood to make a fire of, we managed to pick up enough to cook breakfast and dinner by going about a mile after it. I went down to the river and looked around and then down town came back and we got dinner and I have wrote a letter home. There is thieveing going on here in Camp every night more or less in the line of Coats Blankets Knapsecks etc. etc. Those Rebbel graves that I spoke of yesterday are holes dug in the ground by the rebs to protect them from our shell so I heard last night.

There is not many horses used here for teaming and the most of them are verry poor and the majority of the mules are as poor as crows. The new troops are coming in every day by the hundreds from all of the western states, we are scrimped on rations pretty close, last night each man drew 4 hardtack about 3 ozs. of salt poark one table spoon full of sugar 2/3 spoonfull of tea and less than a teacup full of beans and about an oz of soap for one days rations. I did not eat any breakfast but the boys bought 1 dos russ for 50 cts so we made out tolerably well.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park spans numerous sites over a 150-mile front that saw blood shed in 1863 and 1864.  Lookout Mountain towers over Chattanooga from the southwest high above the Tennessee River, while Missionary Ridge’s Crest Road commanded the eastern side of the city.  Chickamauga, 26 miles south of the city, became Confederate Gen. Bragg’s wedge between pursuing Federal troops and their supply lines to the North.  The hunters became the hunted became the hunters with the ebb and flow of the War.  It could not last, however, as Washington threw General Joseph Hooker into the fray from Virginia; Gen. William T. Sherman from Mississippi; and finally Gen. U.S. Grant in command of all Union forces in the “West”.  The glow of victory turned swiftly to “the death-knell of the Confederacy”.

Fast Tube




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Diary of Orrin Brown—Oct 21, 1864

Orchard Knob Above Chattanooga, 1864

Diary of Orrin Brown, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Friday–Oct. 21st

At day light this morning we found ourselves in the verry midst of the Cumberland Mountains about 15 miles from Chattenooga and a verry rough country to rocks upon rocks nearly as high as I could see, we arrived in Chatenooga about 8AM, run arround town just as we were a mind to for two or three hours. I got a little to far and was ordered to show my pass, I had none so I had to go to the officer of the guard, he asked me a few questions and passed me out telling me to get a pass next time. I just got back in time to receive orders to march, we marched about a mile to Camp detatchment and here we are on a hill so that we can see all over the country and we cannot look in any direction only up or down without seeing camps of soldiers and earthworks in fact they are the principal part of the town for the town itself is’nt any larger than St. Joe, from where we are now we have a fair view of Lookout Mountain.

I should judge that there was at least 25,000 troops here the Rebs took some of our men prisoners at Dalton and tore up about 20 miles of railroad track last week, we are to go on to Atlanta as soon as the railroad is in runing order again, I am sitting within two rods of the graveyard where the Rebs burried their dead. There is 750 graves. It is hard to immagin how this place looks untill one sees it for himself it is cut up with entrenchments as far as the eye can see in every direction, the timber through here is all scrubby Oak seeder Pine hickory maple and a great many other kinds. The weather is generally quite warm through the day time but uncomfortably cool at night about like the 1st of Nov. in Michigan. We drew rations tonight of some soft bread and some hard tack a piece of salt pork, Coffee sugar and today we drew Beans and soap, we spread our blankets on the ground and went to bed with the sky for our shelter. The wind raised about noon and is blowing quite cool so that it is uncomfortable.

Chattanooga was a freight hub of about 2,500 population in the 1860s, with manufacturing and rail lines between Nashville and Atlanta crossing the navigable Tennessee River.  Confederate General Braxton Bragg held onto the heavily fortified city until September 1863, when Union General William Rosecrans forced the Rebels to withdraw into northern Georgia.  Bragg’s victory at Chickamauga (over the Georgia line) then pinned Union troops down in Chattanooga for the rest of the Autumn of 1863.  This is when General Ulysses S. Grant was given command of Union forces in the West.  After reinforcements poured through Central Tennessee, Grant’s forces moved Bragg off Lookout Mountain above the city and back into Georgia, setting the scene for Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign during the summer of 1864.


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Diary of Orrin Brown—Oct 20, 1864

Murfreesboro, Tenn, train

Diary of Orrin Brown, On a train South of Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Thursday –Oct. 20th

It is a little warmer than it was yesterday and a good prospect of a fine day. It is reported that we are to leave here at 11 Oclock AM. There is theiving going on among us every night in the way of money watches boots blankets etc. etc. etc. There was a man shot this morning in the room above us for throwing something out of the window. The orders are that if any man shall throw anything out the windows the guard shall shoot him right through and they have to carry out the orders or subject themselves to military punishment. There are quite a number of civil and religious men in the company and thode that ar o inclined get together and sing and talk and read their Testaments to each others prophit, there is a company of them singing in another room now and others reading their prayer books and tracts and newspapers and Testaments and others writing and others playing cards and swearing and rowdying.

We lift the Yolicoffer House berween 11 and 12 Oclock were marched down through the City to the depot got aboard the cars about 50 in a car so that we could not sleep much, we arrived at Murfeeborrow just before sundown and saw Camps and earthworks all around on the north side ond a large drove of Government beef cattle, here we passed two trains of Soldiers going home on furlough and discharge. After leaving there we tryed to sleep but did not do a verry driving business at it. We saw several Cotton fields this afternoon the first that we had ever seen in our lives.

Tennessee was the last Southern state to secede, with large areas of Union support in the mountains of East Tennessee.  Where Virginia’s mountain counties seceded from the secession, Tennessee kept its rebellious rebels in the fold—partly under forces commanded by Gen. Zollicoffer.  After the tremendous Battle of Shiloh, and the fall of Memphis and Nashville, Union control of the middle of the state was confirmed at the beginning of January, 1863 by Gen William Rosecrans’ victory over Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg in the Battle of Stones River at Murfreesboro.  Wiki notes:

Total casualties in the battle were 24,645: 12,906 on the Union side and 11,739 for the Confederates.  Considering that only about 76,400 men were engaged, this was the highest percentage of killed and wounded of any major battle in the Civil War, higher in absolute numbers than the infamous bloodbaths at Shiloh and Antietam earlier that year. [emphasis added]



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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


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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