Diary of Orrin Brown—March 31, 1865


Petersburg 1861Diary of Orrin Brown, Goldsboro, North Carolina

Friday–Mar. 31st

The weather has been cool and windy again today. I went over to the 17th A. C. and mad Loren a good long visit and then I went down through the town and got back to camp about 4 PM then I went and tryed to find the 38th Ohio regt. but failed. The regt. had general inspection at 5 PM. I read 3 Chapt. in Testament today.

Richmond-Petersburg Campaign

In June 1864, Lt. Gen. Grant settled down for a siege of Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia.  Unlike the siege of Vicksburg, where Grant surrounded the town and starved out the defenders in a matter of weeks, the Siege of Petersburg involved nine months of trench warfare strung over 30 miles between the Confederate capital and Southern supply lines.

Grant brought two armies to the campaign: Maj. Gen. George Meade’s Army of the Potomac, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler’s Army of the James.  At this time,the Army of the Potomac consisted of II Corps under Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, V Corps under Maj. Gen. Governeur K. Warren, VI Corps under Horatio G. Wright (detached to the Shenandoah thru the end of 1864), IX Corps under Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, and the Cavalry Corps under Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan (also detached to the Shenandoah through the campaign).  The Army of the James consisted of the X Corps under Brig. Gen. Alfred H. Terry, XVIII Corps under Maj. Gen. Baldy Smith, XXIV Corps under Maj. Gen. Edward O.C. Ord, XXV Corps under Maj. Gen. Godfrey Weitzel, and a Cavalry Division under Grig. Gen. August Kautz.  Gen. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia consisted of Lt. Gen. Richard H. Anderson’s First Corps (after October under Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, when Anderson took command of the Fourth Corps), Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early’s Second Corps detached to the Shenandoah, Lt. Gen. AP Hill’s Third Corps, and Cavalry Corps under Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton.  Lee also had Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard in command of about 10,000 men defending the capital at Richmond.

Major engagements occurred up and down the lines.  Butler’s Army of the James led indecisive attempts on the Confederate lines in the First Battle of Petersburg (9 June) and Second Battle of Petersburg (15-18 June).  Failing to capture the city, Grant moved to cut railroads at Jerusalem Plank Road and in the Wilson-Kautz Raid, resulting in some miles of track destroyed at the cost of heavy Union casualties.  At the end of July, Grant sent Hancock’s II Corps and Sheridan’s Cavalry against Richmond in the First Battle of Deep Bottom, hoping to draw Confederate reinforcements away from Petersburg where the plan was to mine under the lines and set off a massive explosion.  The first part of the plan worked, but the Battle of the Crater devolved rapidly when Union commanders led their men into the crater instead of around.  In August troops clashed again at the Second Battle of Deep Bottom outside Richmond and the Battle of Globe Tavern against the Weldon Railroad outside Petersburg.  At the end of September, Grant extended his lines further left southwest of Petersburg, while skirmishes continued along the front through October.  Operations subsided through the muddy winter months, until Lee’s unsuccessful attempt to break through the lines at Fort Stedman on 25 March 1865.

Nine months of trench warfare resulted in approximately 42,000 Union casualties and 28,000 Confederate casualties.  The end result, however, forced Lee to abandon the Confederate capital at the end of March 1865, and retreat southwest to try and unite with Gen. Joe Johnston in North Carolina.  As we know, he never made it past Appomattox Courthouse.


War is hell, it is said, but there are often consequences to bad actions.  Back in North Carolina, Pvt. James Preble of the 12th NY Cavalry was court-martialed in Kinston for rape and sentenced to death by hanging, under orders from Gen. Schofield.  His sentence was changed to execution by firing squad.  On the 31st of March 1865, at Goldsborough, twelve men of the 132nd NY and 17th PA formed a line, and at 3:05pm were given the order to “make ready, aim, and fire”.  The whole division was marched past the corpse as a warning.




This entry was posted in Pursuit of Happiness and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.