This letter was written by 18 year-old George Washington Brown (1845-18xx) of Co. K, 68th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (O.V.I.). He enlisted in October 1861 at the age of 17 to serve three years with the regiment and was mustered in as a corporal. He was promoted to sergeant on 1 May 1863 and mustered out with the company on 10 July 1865 as a veteran.
George was born in Tiffin, Seneca county, Ohio — the son of Christian Brown (1815-1847) and Susannah Schall (1816-1884). George lived with his mother on the 80 acres of land that his father Christian Brown had purchased in 1841 that was near Fostoria. His father died when he was about 2 years old and he was raised by his mother. When he was 20 years old he married Sarah F. Hartsock on December 8, 1864 in Seneca County, Ohio and because he was under 21 years of age, his mother had to agree to the marriage and sign the marriage certificate. They had three children Anna Rebecca Brown born April 22, 1867, died November 16, 1922; Sarah Virginia Brown born November 29, 1872, died June 13, 1896; George Ohio Brown born September 8, 1876, died July 25, 1940
Th 68th O.V.I. was organized in the state at large, in Oct., Nov. and Dec, 1861, to serve for three years. Defiance, Paulding, Williams and Fulton counties each furnished one company and Henry county furnished the majority of the men in the other companies. In Jan., 1862, the regiment moved to Camp Chase, where it remained until February, when it moved to Fort Donelson, Tenn. During 1862 it was actively engaged in guard duty, etc., and the following spring took an important part in the Vicksburg campaign. It moved down to Bruinsburg, where it crossed the river, and by a forced march was able to participate in the battle of Port Gibson. It followed closely after the retreating Confederates, and was engaged in the battles of Raymond, Jackson and Champion’s hill, sustaining considerable loss in all these engagements, especially at Champion’s hill. It engaged in an attack on the Confederate works in the rear of Vicksburg on May 19, and participated in the assault on Fort Hill on the 22nd. During the early part of the siege it was almost constantly in the trenches and it also furnished large details of sharpshooters; but during the latter part of the siege it was placed in the “Army of Observation,” near the Big Black river. In October it moved on a reconnoissance with the 17th corps and was engaged in a skirmish at Bogue Chitto creek. It also participated in the fights at Clinton and Jackson while moving on the Meridian raid. It was one of the first regiments in the 17th corps to report three-fourths of its men reenlisted, and after its furlough home joined Gen. Sherman for the Atlanta campaign. It was on the advance line for 65 days and nights, being engaged at Kennesaw mountain, Nickajack, Atlanta, July 22 and 28, Jonesboro and Lovejoy’s Station. Then came the march to the sea, up through the Carolinas, the surrender of Lee and Johnston, the grand review, and the muster-out at Louisville, July 10, 1865.
Fort Donaldson, Tennessee
February the 20th 1862
Dear Brother & Parents & all whom it may concern,
I take this present opportunity to inform you that I am well at present & I hope that you are the same.
We left Camp Chase on Sunday after I wrote you the last letter, We started for this place where we arrived on Friday. We passed through Cincinnati on Sunday evening where we got aboard a boat & went to Paducah where we arrived on Wednesday. On Wednesday night we ascended the Tennessee river to within five miles of Fort Henry. When we found that we could not land, we went back to Paducah. On Thursday evening 13 boat loads of soldiers & 4 or 6 gunboats ascended the Cumberland river to Dover or Fort Donaldson. We landed on Friday morning. There were a great number of our troops here from Fort Henry.
On Friday afternoon fighting commenced between our forces and the secesh. On Saturday our forces attacked them on the rear. There was dreadful hard fighting on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday it came our turn to fight. I did not like this for I thought it was not right to fight on the Lord’s day but all who would not go willingly would be forced to go so I went. But as the good Lord would have it, when we were ready to pitch in them, they surrendered. Our victory was complete. We took a good many thousand prisoners. The number you will know better than I can tell you.
Three days after the surrender, I traveled over the battle ground. They were burying the dead as fast as they could. There were yet over 100 dead secesh that I saw & quite a number that I did not see that were not buried. I also saw about 30 or 40 dead Union men & lots of horses that were killed. The trees were mowed down like grass. Terrible were the times here. I pray God that by His kind providence He may induce the whole Confederate army to surrender that I may never witness another such a scene.
I have not yet got The Messenger or even a letter from anyone since I have been in Tennessee. I must bring my letter to a close. Write soon. Direct your letter to G. W. Brown, Fort Donaldson, Tennessee, Co. K, 68th Reg. Ohio Vols., U. S. A. in care of Capt. [Edwin J.] Evans.
Levi Kime ¹ has the dysentery & Jackson Treaster ² has the measles. There are a great many sick. Pray for me.
— G. W. Brown
¹ Levi D. Kime (1837-1865) of Co. K, 68th O.V.I. enlisted at the age of 24. He was wounded and missing on 12 May 1863 in the battle at Raymond, Mississippi. He died of disease at Vicksburg, Mississippi, on 26 November 1865, and was interred in the National Cemetery there. Levi was from Superior Township, Williams county, Ohio.
² Andrew “Jackson” Treaster enlisted at the age of 18 in Co. K, 68th OVI and mustered out with the company as a veteran in July 1865.
~ RELATED ~
George W. Brown Letters transcribed by others & posted on the internet:
October the 16th, 1864
I received your letter of the 24th of Sept., the day before yesterday and was happy to behold your hand writing once more. I am well at the present time of writing. I have been sick with the Ague. I was sick when I got your letter. The Ague is pretty bad here. But the season for that disease is nearly past. I never was troubled with the ague as much in my life as I have been since we took Vicksburg.
I am sorry that the flu is so bad up there. I guess that if I get there again among white people as you call them, that I will have to get acquainted again, for it looks as though my old acquaintances have gone the way of all the world. God hath need of them and has called them to come to Eternity. Our Regiment has left. They are on an expedition somewhere to the rear of Vicksburg. Where they are a going to, I cannot tell. We expect them back in about 7 or 8 days. Those that were too sick to march were left back to take care of the camp.
You spoke about being here to take care of me, mother. Well, I should be sorry to see you here. We do not draw any more grub than we can manage, but we draw all we want. Sometimes we are rather short of rations. Jonas hates it yet that we could not invite you to eat with us the time that you visited us at Camp Chase. But at that time we did not have anything to eat except a few hard crackers and a little coffee.
You want to send me what I want. Well that is hard to do. I have a new pair of boots that cost $6.50 cts. I have the mittens yet that you sent me, but I have no socks. I would be glad to get a new pair of socks or two. New boots and new socks will go well together. Then if I had a couple of plugs of good white man’s tobacco, it would be good for the taste, and would help amazingly to while away the long hours of guard duty in town or on picket. In short, if I had a pound or two of good homemade butter with the bread we draw, a dozen or two of good eggs, a ham, some apple butter and a few of the dainties of your table. I could make a meal that a king would be proud of. It would savor greatly of home, and make me forget for the time being that I am a humble servant of Uncle Samuel.
But these things cannot be sent without a good deal of expense. You can send me a pair of socks by mail and the cost will be small. When I get home, we will feast on the good things of the world. I notice in the paper that Abe Brown was wounded in the battle with Rosecrans and the Rebels. I hope that William and Jesse are unhurt….
Camp Logan, Louisiana,
March the 29th, 1863
I received your kind and affectionate letter some time ago, and was prevented from answering it by sickness and by moving. When I got the letter, the fever was burning me and before I got well, we got orders to go to Vicksburg. We went there and got orders to come back again. I was sick until we got back. But I am well now and I hope you are all the same.
Some of our boys got as far as to see Vicksburg. It is on a high hill. I hope they will soon take that place. We are about 75 miles from there now. They will keep us here until they get ready to take the place, when they will give us a call. If I must fight there, I would rather do it at once. But I don’t relish the job very much. God in his mercy has seen fit to preserve my life until the present time and he may yet bring me safe, through the contest.
I have no fears of getting killed. We opened the levy of the Mississippi River at Providence and the water of the lake has backed up to this place. They say that Lake Providence is now 100 miles wide and two hundred [miles] long. It has overflowed an awful sight of land.
It is awful hot here now. It is as warm as it ever gets up north. You spoke of seeing my piece in the Messenger. I think you won’t see it there, for it is not worth publication. I will get up a piece some day that he will publish. If ever I get home, I want to go to school about six months and lean the rudiments of the English language. Then I can write to editors without being ashamed of my writing. I must quit for awhile and get some dinner and then write more.
I have had a dinner of coffee and bread and fell better. I wish I was there to help you make sugar. I would have all the taffy I could eat. Alvin don’t write to me anymore. Maybe I don’t get his letters. [Interestingly, this letter was written about a month before his brother, Alvin, would be killed at Chancellorsville.] I want more stamps. I have not got one. They say that we can get a furlough after awhile. I would come home if that is so. If it was not for the cost, we will have to bear our own expenses. I will get one if I can and go to Iowa to see Martha.
Direct to Lake Providence, Louisiana. In care of Capt. Evans, 68th Regt. O.V. I.
George B. Brown. Goodbye Parents
Columbus, Ohio, January the 28th, 1864
I take this present opportunity to inform you that I am well at present. I do sincerely hope that you are the same. I received your letter a few days ago. I was very happy to hear from you. You stated that you got my likeness. I thought that you did not know it, ye it is perfectly natural. I do not think that you would know me either, if I would come home. I am bigger, fleshier and stronger than ever I was. I would like to know how much postage you pad on that picture.
If it should be my fate to fall upon the battlefield as I think it shall be—be of good cheer, for I expect to rest in a place where there will be no more fighting.
Uncle Jonas was enlisted and he likes it very well. [George refers here to his father’s brother, Jonas Brown who also mustered into George’s Company “K”, 68th Ohio. He was promoted to Corporal on July 23, 1864.]He is getting fat here in camp. He is the only one of our relation that I know of that has enlisted. Brother William has not enlisted. I told him not to. He is not very stout.
You want to know how I like it in our camp. I like it very well. I have real good times. I have an office which is very small, but it keeps me off of guard. Yesterday, we left camp…for Camp Chase, four miles west of Columbus. We got here safe and sound this evening. Things are in first rate order here. We have nice, warm barracks here. They are a great deal warmer than a great many houses that I seen in the west. The only objection that I have to this camp is that it is so muddy. I think that we will leave this camp in a week or two and I want you to write immediately and let me know who is our missionary here in Columbus, and let me know where he lives that I may go and visit him.
I feel as if I would like to stay in a house of prayer and more before I go to my long home. If we only had enough of religious soldiers to have a prayer meeting in camp. There is a great deal of swearing in camp.
Your other letter was a good one. Direct to Camp Chase, Ohio, in care of Capt. Evans, Co. K., 68th O.V. U.S.A.