Diary of Orrin Brown—March 29, 1865

Grant and Lee, 1865Diary of Orrin Brown, Goldsboro, North Carolina

Wednesday–Mar. 29th

We have had several light showers today and it looks as though we would have more rain tonight. I wrote a letter to Elmer and one to Ad Hamilton today. The regt. was on dress parade and after that they had batalion for about half an hour. We drew 3 days rations of Hardtack, Sugar, and Coffee and some Salt Poark, Beans, Codfish, and Vinegar. We have all the rations we can use for the first time since I came into the service only when we hapened to get pleanty of forage while on the march. I feel quite smart today but am very weak. I read 3 Chapts. today.

The Eastern Theater of the Civil War

29 March 1865 is considered the beginning of the Appomattox Campaign, the final series of battles between the armies of Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.  On this day, Grant began an offensive that broke the Rebel defenses at Petersburg, Virginia, which cut supply lines to Richmond.

How did Lee come to such an inglorious end?  Early on, he and the Army of Northern Virginia had been singularly successful in keeping the Federal generals and their armies in the Eastern Theater on the defensive.  Twice at Bull Rull (Manassas), at bloody Antietam (Sharpsburg), Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville, Lee set the terms of engagement.  Even in the West at Shiloh, the Confederates held their own.  Then the timeline shifted after Gettysburg and Vicksburg in July 1863.

What happened then?  In the East, Lee retreated to his home ground in Northern Virginia and dug in while temperamental Gen. George Meade dithered.  In the West, though, the brotherhood of Grant and Sherman kept the Confederate armies on the run.  Grant took over Western operations, and broke out of Chattanooga in November 1863, setting the stage for Sherman to grind down Southern forces at Atlanta in the spring and summer of 1864.  And for our hero to join Gen. Sherman on his march to the sea.

President Lincoln promoted Grant to the rank of lieutenant general in March 1864, and gave him unified command over all Union armies.  Grant’s operations during May and June 1864 in the Overland Campaign were not initially any more successful than Meade had been, yet through sheer mass of forces Grant achieved strategic success.   This forced Lee to dig in for a nine-month siege of trench warfare between the Confederate capital at Richmond and the port of Petersburg, Virginia (Richmond-Petersburg Campaign).  Sherman’s turn north through Carolina merely closed the vise that Grant had set a year earlier.

Which gets us to today, another day closer to Appomattox Courthouse.



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