Diary of Orrin Brown—March 15, 1865

Swanson's Civil War Map, March 1865Diary of Orrin Brown, Kyle’s Landing on the road toward Raleigh, North Carolina

Wednesday–Mar. 15th

We had orders to be ready to march at 9 AM and we had company inspection at 7 AM. We started out on the road about 10 AM and I was so bad that the Dr. gave me a ticket to ride in the Ambulance and I rode all day but the road was very rough and muddy. We had a heavy thunderstorm about 1 PM and it more or less the rest of the day. We marched about 12 miles and went into camp about 6 PM.

March 1865 found both armies awakening from Winter’s quarters.  Sherman, of course, had hardly rested.  In the Shenandoah, Maj. Gen. Phil Sheridan rode out in late February to join Sherman’s march, but diverted when Brig. Gen. George Custer engaged Confederate Gen. Jubal Early’s skeletal force at Waynesboro on 2 March, which turned into a rout for the Federals, who proceeded to join Grant and the Army of the Potomac at Petersburg.

Lee’s position had become untenable at Richmond and Petersburg, with dwindling supplies and increasing desertions.  Apparently, Lee considered three options—immediately sue for peace, fall back and join Johnston’s troops against Sherman, or take the fight to Grant for better or worse.  Lee chose a combination of the later two, tho his choosing would come too late in the final outcome.  Confederate forces began to prepare to evacuate their capital to fall back south and west.  Then on the 25th, Southern troops under Gen. John B. Gordon launched a pre-dawn offensive against Federal Ft. Stedman (Battle of Hare’s Hill) as a diversionary tactic to give Lee time to prepare his retreat.  While the fort fell, it was a short Rebel victory; they did not hold the fort through the day and suffered heavy casualties, about 4,000 to 1,000 for the Union.

In “the West”, Union Gen. George Stoneman took 4,000 Union cavalry on a raid over the mountains out of east Tennessee, reaching Boone, North Carolina on the 28th, and Wilkesboro by the end of the month.  The campaign inspired Robbie Robertson’s  song “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down“, by The Band on their 1969 self-titled 2nd album, and released as the B-side for their song “Up on Cripple Creek“.  Joan Baez released a cover of the song in 1971, which peaked in the third slot on the Billboard Hot 100.  Johnny Cash also covered the song, as have Charlie Daniels, Jerry Garcia, Zac Brown and many others.  Stoneman, who had been a roommate of “Stonewall” Jackson at West Point, went on to become the 15th governor of California.

Meanwhile, Kilcavlary was about to stumble on Hardee and most of the Confederate forces in North Carolina.  Civil War Daily’s map gives us an idea:

Civil War Daily Map - 15 March 1865

Thank you for following along with Pvt. Orrin Brown of the 14th Regiment Michigan Infantry on his March with Gen. Sherman.



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