Diary of Orrin Brown—March 5, 1865

Diary of Orrin Brown, Sneedsboro, North Carolina

Sunday–March 5th

We had a cool windy night but it came off clear and warm about 10 AM and I think we will have some better weather than we have had for a few days back. We have no marching orders this morning and I think that we have to lay over here a day or two till they get the Pontoon Bridge down. There has been occasional canonadeing on our right front today. We had company inspection at 11.30 AM. I read 10 Chapts. in the Testament today.

In one month, from the 5th of February to the 4th of March, Pvt. Brown and the rest of Sherman’s troops had marched the breadth of the State of South Carolina and into her gentler twin, North Carolina.  The two states had started out together as the Province of Carolina, and both attracted English and Scots plantation owners to the coastal Lowlands, while Scots-Irish, English and German Protestants settled the Piedmont (above the Fall Line).  During the Revolution, the prosperous Lowlands tended to remain Loyalist, while the Uplands sprouted “Committees of Safety” leading the call for Independence.

In 1780-81, Lord Cornwallis had moved from Charleston up the Santee River system, chasing the rebels across the Piedmont.  Sherman’s objective in 1864-65, however, was not to chase the rebels, but to destroy their next year’s crop and cut their supply lines—the railroad made it easier to move, but also made it easier to intercept reinforcements.  Cornwallis had a glimmer of the idea, moving from Wilmington, North Carolina, on Patriot supply lines from Virginia, but by that point it was too late, as the French fleet trapped him at Yorktown.

General Sherman…claimed, and perhaps rightly, that reading-matter was necessary food, and that we had a right to forage for it.

Civil War Daily Gazette blog today gives an update from General Sherman in occupation of Cheraw, South Carolina.  Apparently Sherman was a fan of Scott’s novels.  Check it out.




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Diary of Orrin Brown—March 4, 1865

Lincoln at Second Inaugural AddressDiary of Orrin Brown, Sneedsboro, North Carolina

Saturday–March 4th

We broke up camp at 6 AM and found very bad roads AM but the roads were good PM. We had about 2 hours rain after we started this morning but it faired off and was quite pleasant the rest of the day we must have marched about 18 miles today and went into camp about 6 PM near the Big Peedee river. I rode in the Ambulance today. We came in with the 20th Corp just before we went into camp. I read 6 Chapt. in the Testament today. We drew rations of Hardtack sugar and coffee today to last two days more or less. We crossed the line into North Carolina this PM.

On 4 March 1865, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated into his second term as President, and Andrew Johnson of Tennessee was inaugurated into his first term as Vice President.  Widely considered Lincoln’s greatest speech, at 700 words it is only slightly longer than Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and with it is engraved on the Lincoln Memorial.  Rather than a victory speech, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address is a rumination on Divine Will, and a vision for national reconciliation, destined for betrayal in his assassination and bungled Reconstruction.  It is best known in its closing:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.



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Diary of Orrin Brown—March 3, 1865

John Craig House, Sherman's HQ at Chesterfield, SCDiary of Orrin Brown, on Thompson’s Creek north of Chesterfield, South Carolina

Friday–March 3rd

We broke up camp at 6 AM and found a very good road till about 2 PM then the road was bad again. It was damp and cloudy last night and we had one pretty hard shower today but the sun came out clear this evening. We marched 24 miles back and did not get into camp till about dark. Our foragers came in tonight with their mules will loaded with meal and Bacon. Our Brig. was detailed to go out and fix the road after dark tonight and worked about an hour. I read 2 Chapt. in the Testament today.

Chesterfield County led the South Carolina secession movement as the first county voting to secede from the Union, at a convention on 19 November 1860.  This became the general waypoint destination of Sherman’s various columns on their Carolina Campaign, where the troops would rendezvous to cross the Great PeeDee river in the vicinity of Cheraw, SC.  Sherman’s army had advanced between Camden and Chester, with Pvt. Brown and the Slocum’s Left Wing (including Kilpatrick’s cavalry) to the west feigning toward Charlotte, North Carolina.

Chesterfield District c.1825

The Official Records note skirmishes near Cheraw from 28 February through the 5th of March, at Chesterfield and Thompson’s Creek on the 2nd and 3rd of March, and “Affair near Big Black Creek” on the 3rd.  Sherman camped on the 2nd of March at Chesterfield.  After burning most of the town, they moved into Cheraw on the 3rd.  Despite Confederate troops trying to burn cotton bales as they retreated across the river, Sherman found ample military and civil supplies here, including 24 guns, 2,000 muskets, 3,600 barrels of gun powder, and thousands of rounds of ammunition.  On the 4th-6th of March, and expedition was also mounted from Cheraw on the railroad and supplies at Florence, South Carolina.  The commercial district burned as Sherman’s troops left, heading on to North Carolina and Lee’s army in Virginia.



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Implementation is the Watchword

Action Planning Slider Bar

Most people have a hard-wired bias for action — they may place more or less value on collaboration, or risk-taking, but they want to get things done.  Others of us are more concerned with taking our time to understand what were doing, to get the Right things done.*

This does not have to be an either-or choice.  There is no on-off switch to creating winning companies or winning communities.  We don’t create corporate or civic enterprises for the exercise of keeping people busy, yet we can’t spend all our time philosophizing either.

Collins' Flywheel in the Social Sectors

The idea of implementation goes beyond simply getting things done, to getting things done with a purpose, that put a plan into action to achieve a mission.  I’m reminded of Jim Collins’ book Good to Great (and it’s companion Good to Great in the Social Sectors).  Each of us is engaged in a mission, from the monumental to the mundane.  We are successful when we achieve our mission.  Much conflict in organization is simply a lack of agreement on a true mission, but that’s a morass for another day.  When we agree on our mission—our Hedgehog as Collins puts it—we still have to agree on how we get that done.

That’s our Flywheel.  Collins admonishes us to go beyond the bias for action, beyond the search for the magic silver bullet.  There is no one sweet spot on the slider bar between Action and Planning.  Rather, we’re turning a giant heavy flywheel.  We do things, we talk to people, we build on our strengths, we demonstrate results, we return to go and start around the flywheel again.  Its a cumulative, and iterative process, not a linear allocation of choices.

The idea isn’t new, but the norm doesn’t seem to have caught up.  It does seem to be getting a new look from different angles.  There are elements in the ideas of “Failing Faster” and Tactical Urbanism, making it easier to try many small ideas and then quickly incorporating those back into even more experiments.  There are elements in the ideas of taking a long term view of where we want to go with short term practical changes in how we get there.  There are elements in the Strong Towns idea that cities are complex systems subject to trial and error experimentation over a long period of time.

Think globally, act locally; rinse, wash, repeat.



*I want to acknowledge Nancy L. Sisson, Center for Workforce Training, at San Juan College for some great discussion on the DiSC Workplace profile during our session on Effective Frontline Leadership.  I’ve spent a good bit of time with my Myers-Briggs Profile, and Nancy’s seminar helped explore how all sorts of personality types can do better together.


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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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