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Civil War diaries, 1862-1863
MANUSCRIPT SMCII Box 14 Folders 1-2
Collection Overview


Civil War diaries, 1862-1863
James B. Brown Civil War diaries, 1862-1863


Brown, James B. (James Berry), 1837-1921, creator


Two diaries, leather bound. 1862 is 'Daily pocket remembrancer for 1862', 15 cm.; 1863 is 'Pocket diary 1863', 12 1/2 cm. Kept by James B. (Berry) Brown as a record of his military service in California during the Civil War and sent to his sister, Effie, in Pacific City, Missouri. In addition: several newspaper clippings regarding Brown -- one of which includes a funeral oration he gave for President McKinley in 1901; calling cards for J.B. Brown -- two versions, 'Superintendent of Schools, Humboldt County, Cal.' and 'Lt. Col. and A.A.G. 6th Brigade, N.G.C.; last page of a letter on County Superintendent of Schools stationery, signed 'From your loving brother, James B. Brown', undated but printed date of '188 ". Brown discusses his wife's illness, his children, and a trip they made recently to Southern California.
In a note at the end of his diary for 1863, Brown writes to his sister: "I send you this copy of my diary so that you may know better than I could tell you what I have been doing the past year. The pages being so small of course I could not write full details of daily occurrences". Despite the limitations he mentions, Brown's diaries for 1862 and 1863 provide a vivid account of a soldier's life in northern California during the Civil War period.
The 1862 diary begins as Brown's company arrives at Santa Barbara on the steamer Pacific. During his 3 month stay there, Brown learns the routine of a soldier's life and details his time on guard and on police; preparing for and having inspections; drilling, skirmishing and firing blank cartridges. He also makes note of the weather, the food, their quarters, and all the small variations in routine such as firing rounds in honor of Washington's birthday. And makes observations about his new surroundings: "This is the first adobe built town that I've ever seen. Most of the houses are one story high. The streets very irregular. We camped in tents, large Silbey tents 15 men in each. We were surprised at the sweetness of the sound of chimes rung on the bells of the Mission Church."
In mid-April, Brown's company is sent north to protect the settlers from Indians and Brown is sent to Fort Humboldt. There he often stands guard over the prisoners including soldiers awaiting court martial proceedings and Indians brought in to be relocated to the reservations. (On May 9th he reports: "On guard. 40 or 50 Squaws and children brought in by the Cavalry. Poor miserable half naked half starved wretches. The sight was sickening.") In his off-duty time he hunts and fishes, finds ripe salmon berries in the woods, receives and writes letters to friends and family, especially his brother Jesse. On June 7th there is an Indian attack up the coast and Brown is sent on an expedition in aid of the settlers but returns on the 12th "without seeing an 'Injun'". He then moves on to join his company at Fort Gaston.
On June 24 there is a reference to events back east: "Express from Eureka bringing papers etc. Learned something more of the battle near Richmond." On July 12 Brown takes note of his birthday: "My birthday 25 years old to day born at Camden Preble Co. Ohio 1837"; in August he is making brief entries in Spanish "Cleaning up. (Frio y viento, cold and windy) Spanish"; and in Nov. he records: "Went hunting with Martins and Stevens. Killed an elk in the Redwoods which weighed 450 pounds. I came back for mules and went out in the night to where the others were camped under a big redwood tree."
Otherwise, the routine does not vary much throughout the rest of the year and on Dec. 31 Brown sums up: "To night I take leave of the 'old' year 1862 so brimfull of events in the history of our country although to me a year of 'ennui', banishment and pent up impatience. In bidding the old year 1862 affectionate farewell I do not upbraid it for not furnishing me with more interesting material to fill my 'diary' for the year is rife with events that will live in the history of our country but I cannot help deploring the fate that has sealed me up in this obscure region while the cause that my whole heart is interested in is being so severely tried by the demon of secession. Our country has need of our help we enlisted to help her and in doing so put ourselves entirely out of all chance to do it for 3 years unless we leave this desolate coast."
1863 begins with more adventure when Brown is sent with a detachment to the Bear River mountains to scout for Indians. This proved to be a long journey from Jan. 14 to Feb. 23 and Brown's entries during this period are full of detail about the novel landscape he visits and each day he records miles traveled. "About noon we packed up and moved 4 miles further down the mountain to Whitman's ranch. This is a cattle country the mounts(?) are generally 'bare' of timber and are covered with good grass. This has once been the greatest country for elk and deer in the world. The hills are white with the bleached horns of elk. Dis. 4 m."
The company often camps with settlers in the region although Brown notes: "The Indians have been so bad for several years that nearly half the ranchers have left their houses stock etc. and moved down to Eureka or Eel river." On Feb. 29 he has his first encounter with Indians: "When coming down from the mountain last night to this place (Bull Creek) we saw two Indians fishing. We fired on them. They dropped three or four salmon and took to the brush. We ate the salmon for breakfast and supper."
Life settles again into the routine of guard duty and drill until mid-May when Co. H receives orders to go to Benicia where they remain for most of the year. Here Brown has time to enjoy the fruits of civilization. He subscribes to both the Sacramento Union and the S.F. Bulletin and also mentions reading 'Little Dorrit' as well as works by E. Bennet and Mrs. H. Ward. "Got some books which I left 18 months ago." He attends the theater, opera (Traviata), and an election debate between Higby and Cole (Union candidates for Congress) and visits San Francisco attractions such as Hay's Park and Mission Dolores. Many entries refer to events taking place back East as he is able to stay current with the war news: "More good news from Vicksburg. We have the news from the States here every evening by the boats from S.F. and Sacramento." The boats must provide better mail service also as Brown often refers to letters written and received: "Letter from Elijah M. Brown. George W. Low my old schoolmate and playmate dead. He was killed in battle."
Brown is still mindful of nature: "The air so clear that the snowy summits of the Sierra Nevada's are plain to be seen over 100 miles distant". He notes the changing seasons with the new grass coming on the hills after the rains in November and the wild geese filling up the tule marshes. On Nov. 25th Brown makes note of the 2nd anniversary of his entry into the service; one year remains. On Dec. 14th Brown's company embarks on the steamer Panama for their northern return as they report to Fort Gaston where they join the Cal. Mountaineer units already in place. Christmas day finds him "On guard to day. A message came in from Co. C that they had the Indians surrounded in a fortified village or 'Rancheria' and they could not take them without a small cannon. A reinforcement went out to them taking the Howitzer and some shell. We had a good dinner to day (for soldiers)". The result of this action is "The scouting party came in. The Indians got away in the night after all. A few of them were killed". And so the year ends for James B. Brown with "Inspection and muster" on Dec. 31.


1862 (issued)


Folder 1: Diaries. -- Folder 2: Transcriptions, Misc.


n-us-ca -- n-us---
Brown, James B. (James Berry) -- 1837-1921 -- Diaries
Soldiers -- California -- Diaries
United States. -- Army. -- California Infantry Regiment, 2nd. -- Company H.
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives
California -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865
Humboldt County (Calif.) -- History
Indians of North America -- California -- Humboldt County


Transcriptions provided for research use.
James Berry Brown was born on July 12, 1837 in Camden, Preble County, Ohio to a farming family of Quaker heritage. The family, which eventually included three boys and three girls, moved to Lee County, Iowa, in 1847. James attended schools in both Ohio and Iowa although he was also responsible for helping to support the family when his father joined the California gold rush in 1849. During 1855 and 1856, James attended the 'normal department' of the University of Iowa and obtained a teaching certificate. For the next three years he taught in Cincinnati, Iowa, enrolling 64 pupils from age 5 to 21.
In 1859 James and his brother, Jesse, left Iowa to participate in the Pike's Peak gold rush but en route they changed plans and headed for California. (The diary that James kept during this journey was published by the Book Club of California in 1970 as: 'Journal of a journey across the plains in 1859'). The Brown brothers arrived in Butte County in Sept. of 1859. There James herded sheep and farmed. On Nov. 26, 1861, James Brown enlisted in one of the first volunteer units mustered in California to support the union in the Civil War (California Volunteers, 2nd Infantry Regiment, Company H). To his disappointment his unit was not sent east to fight but was instead stationed in northern California to relieve the regular troops there for duty in the east. Most of his three years of service were spent in Humboldt County and during his stay there he decided to make that area his home.
Thus, after his discharge in late 1864, Brown settled in Eureka. He returned to schoolteaching and continued in that career for the following 50 years or so, serving as County Superintendent of Schools as well as principal of the Eureka schools and becoming well-known throughout the state as an educator. He was active in the Mason's Humboldt Lodge No. 79 and also in the G.A.R. Colonel Whipple Post No. 49. In 1879 Brown organized and served in a company of the National Guard of California known as the Eureka Guard. An honored pioneer of Humboldt County, he died on Feb. 23, 1921. He was survived by his wife, Adele Cummings Brown, and their daughter, Katherine Leuve Brown, as well as a son from a prior marriage, Herbert E. Brown.
James B. Brown Civil War diaries, 1862-1863
Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.



Physical Description:

23 items




MANUSCRIPT SMCII Box 14 Folders 1-2



Copyright Note:

Transcriptions provided for research use.
Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.