Diary of Orrin Brown—April 8, 1865

Thomas A. Smyth, c.1860Diary of Orrin Brown, Goldsboro, North Carolina

Saturday–Apr. 8th

It has been very warm today. The regt. did not drill any today but they had dress parade at 5 PM. We drew 3 days rations of Hardtack 5 of Coffee and Sugar 2 of Salt Poark and some Tomato Pickles. I have had another bad spell today. There is a rhumor in camp that 600 rebs came in yesterday and 600 today and gave themselves up as prisoners. I read 4 Chapts. today.

The Army of Northern Virginia continued to retreat west, with the U.S. Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James close behind.  The afternoon of 7 April 1865, the advance of the Gen. Humpphrey’s II Corps engaged entrenched Confederate forces at the Battle of Cumberland Church.  Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Smyth was shot by a sniper during the fight, earning the dubious distinction as the last Union general killed in the Civil War.  The Rebel defenders held off the Federal attackers, in what is often characterized as Gen. Lee’s final victory.

On the 8th, Gen. Custer’s cavalry moved on the Confederate supply train waiting for Gen. Lee at Appomattox Station.  A single squad of Rebel cavalry guarded the train and quickly surrendered to Custer’s division.  Just then, however, Confederate Brig. Gen. Rueben Walker’s Reserve Artillery reached the station with 100 cannons in advance of the Army of Northern Virginia and opened fire on the Union cavalry without little support.  Some Confederate batteries escaped to the west or north during the four hour engagement that only ended under the cover of darkness, when Custer’s troops were able to silence the 25-30 guns still on the field of battle.  More importantly, the cavalry now stood between Lee and his line of retreat to Lynchburg.

That evening, Gen. Lee called a council of war among the remaining Southern commanders.  Would they fight? or surrender?  The next morning would tell.



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1 Response to Diary of Orrin Brown—April 8, 1865

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