A Buckeye at Appomattox: Joseph C. Brand Distributed Rations to Lee's Army

“The whole scene was so imposing and its contemplation so grand that the mind could not comprehend it.”

    Joseph Carter Brand was born January 5, 1810 in Bourbon County, Kentucky into a family of abolitionist sympathies. He moved to Champaign County, Ohio in 1830 to engage in business with his uncle Dr. Joseph S. Carter; he married Lavinia Talbott in 1832 and had nine children, three of whom served in the Civil War. Captain Thomas T. Brand served with the 18th U.S. Infantry and was badly wounded at Chickamauga which ended his wartime service; William A. Brand succeeded his father as quartermaster of the 66th Ohio Infantry, while his youngest son John accompanied Joseph in the 1864-65 campaigns in the East. This was truly a family that valued service to one’s country.
Captain Joseph Carter Brand

    Joseph Brand had gained local notoriety not only for his business sense, but for his unflinching opposition to slavery. Before the Civil War, Brand’s home on Reynolds Street in Urbana was a stop on the Underground Railroad and Brand was a “conductor.” His sympathies for escaped slaves led to his trial in connection with the Greene County Rescue Case in 1857 (see the story of Addison White hereNot surprisingly, Joseph Brand was an ardent and vocal supporter of Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 Presidential election.
President Abraham Lincoln 

    In the summer of 1861, he was commissioned by Governor William Dennison to help raise troops for what became the 66th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Brand was appointed regimental quartermaster at the outset and had his son William appointed as his clerk; the two served together through the spring of 1864 when Joseph went east to join the Army of the Potomac. William would serve as regimental quartermaster of the 66th Ohio until the end of the war. Joseph had earned praise for evident skill in managing the “business end” of regimental affairs, but also gained encomiums for his steadiness under fire at Port Republic and Chancellorsville.
In 1864 he was promoted at the behest of President Abraham Lincoln to the rank of captain and Commissary of Subsistence for Volunteers and assigned to the Army of the Potomac. His grandson Brand Whitlock described his grandfather’s famous meeting with President Lincoln:

    It would be his old friend [Salmon P.] Chase who presented him to the President, but their conversation was soon interrupted by the entrance of an aide who announced the arrival on the White House grounds of an Indiana regiment passing through Washington which, as seems to have been the case with most regiments passing through the capital, demanded a speech from the President. Lincoln complied, and as he rose to go out he asked my grandfather to accompany him and they continued their talk in that way. But when they stood in the White House portico, and the regiment beheld the President and saluted him with a lifted cheer, the aide stepped to my grandfather’s side and much to his chagrin (for he had been held by the President while he finished his story) told him it would be necessary for him to drop a few paces to the rear. It was a little contretemps that embarrassed my grandfather but Lincoln, with his fine and delicate perceptions, divined the whole situation and met it with that kindness which was so great a part of the humor and humanness in him by saying, “You see Mr. Brand, they might not know which was the President.”

    Brand served as a commissary of subsistence attached to Colonel Ulysses Doubleday’s Second Brigade (8th, 41st, 45th, and 127th U.S. Colored Troops) of General William Birney’s Second Division of General Godfrey Weitzel’s 25th Army Corps during the Appomattox campaign. His youngest son John served as his clerk during this period of service, much as his older brother William had done when Joseph was in the 66th Ohio. Following the end of hostilities, Captain Brand squared accounts with the government and received a brevet promotion to the rank of Major.  He went on to a distinguished career in politics and was the idol of his grandson:
Brand Whitlock
    “In the mid-1870s after serving an appointment as consul at Nuremberg, Germany, Carter Brand returned to Urbana. He furnished his house with mahogany furniture and filled its dining room cabinet with Dresden china. The German poets Goethe and Schiller were well represented in the study bookcase while a piano from Berlin stood in the parlor. Over the windows were heavy green window shades with colorful friezes at their bottoms depicting scenes on the Rhine. In the garden and on the front lawn Major Brand resumed the growing and careful tending of roses. Brand was elected mayor for four successive terms.”
    “He was an honored man to the townspeople and a great hero to his grandson Brand who on a summer afternoon would wait patiently as Grandfather Brand took a nap behind the drawn Nuremberg shades. If undisturbed by youthful frolicking, Grandfather Brand would give Brand a five or ten cent scrip which would buy the best striped peppermint stick and succulent chocolate drops to be found on the square. After his nap, Mayor Brand would dress as befitted an Ohio mayor under recent European influence. His low buckled shoes glistened and his black broadcloth suit was neat and in correct contrast to a stiffly starched white waistcoat with buttons of pearl. In summer, a few of these buttons would be left open. A long gold watch chain was fastened to the second buttonhole from the top making a casual line of golden elegance across the black cravat or at least the part not obscured by a white beard of the President Grant style. Surmounting the mayor’s thick white hair, carefully combed then finger rumpled to give a savage aspect, was a large Panama hat yellowed by several seasons.” (Urbana and Champaign County, Federal Writers’ Project. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1942, pg. 64)

    It is fitting that Captain Brand finished the war serving with the U.S. Colored Troops; his lifelong aversion to slavery led to him helping slaves escape to freedom back home in Ohio; it was natural that he would serve with men that he helped escape bondage. Brand left this extraordinary account of the final week of the war and the surrender at Appomattox which was published in the May 4, 1865 issue of the Urbana Citizen & Gazette, the same issue in which the newspaper reported the passage of the Lincoln funeral train through Brand’s hometown of Urbana.

Petersburg, Virginia
April 18, 1865

    After leaving Point of Rocks, we passed rapidly through the general corps camps of the Army of the Potomac. They had all left and at least one half of their clothing and camp and garrison were left in the tents. They had gone out in the night (I think the 27th ultimo). It is impossible for me to recollect dates as the succession of events have been so rapid that dates are almost obliterated. We halted at Humphrey’s Station on the Weldon Railroad opposite Hatcher’s Run. The next morning (the 29th I think) General Grant took the 2nd and 6th Corps to the extreme right of the Rebel line, swung around, and at almost dark commenced an assault. The 24th, 25th, and 9th Corps were in line of battle in their front. The 5th Corps was formed in reserve on the Danville Road in the rear of the 24th and 25th Corps. The Rebels made two unsuccessful charges to break our line and in turn General Grant charged and recharged sweeping everything before him like an avalanche. The firing was incessant during the whole night and occasionally it appeared as if all the guns ever made were being fired off. General Sheridan had struck the South Side Railroad and was settling the question of transportation for General Lee.
General Ulysses S. Grant

    General Grant in person conducted the assault along the line from Hatcher’s Run to Petersburg and on the morning of the 31st his headquarters were on the heights of Petersburg. The forts were then assaulted and one after another taken. But two of them made much resistance- Forts Lee and Gregg. The colonel commanding Fort Gregg refused to surrender when he was shot by a volley and the whole garrison put to death. The firing now ceased and two regiments of Birney’s division (colored) marched into Petersburg. Shout after shout now rent the air in every direction. Grant was master of the situation. Just then a dispatch was received that Admiral Porter had at the same time of our fight battered down the forts and batteries of the enemy on the James and General [Godfrey] Weitzel with remnants of the 24th and 25th Corps followed up on the north bank of the James and marched into Richmond which had been evacuated by General Lee.
We only halted at Petersburg two hours when the most interesting and exciting pursuit in the history of our present war commenced. We had the inside track but Lee was one day ahead. He (Lee) wanted to go to Danville but Sheridan and portions of our infantry would cut him off at any place he attempted it. These several engagements were brought on during the march and each time the Rebels gave way and escaped. When we reached the Appomattox Courthouse 100 miles from Petersburg, General Lee determined to cut his way through General Sheridan’s cavalry who were on the Danville Road from Appomattox.

    The whole march up to this point had been on the Lynchburg Road. General Grant at this imminent time passed forward by us and went to the front. The 2nd and 6th Corps were put in line of battle on the right and the 24th and 25th Corps on the left. The 9th Corps had not yet got up. Very soon the Rebels rushed with a yell upon Sheridan’s cavalry and supposed that with showers of grape and canister they could sweep the road and get away, but after driving the cavalry about a mile they suddenly came upon the 24th and 25th Corps now lining the road to Sheridan’s rear. They made one feeble attempt to cut through [Colonel Ulysses] Doubleday’s brigade, the one to which I am attached. It is a large brigade, equal to a division, and the Negroes looked like a black cloud. Fearing the thunderbolts, the Rebels flew like the wind back to Appomattox. They received, however, the contents of the muskets of this brigade. For this Colonel Doubleday and Colonel [Samuel C.] Armstrong of the 8th U.S. Colored Troops have already been brevetted brigadiers. [Colonel Doubleday was the younger brother of Major General Abner Doubleday.]

Colonel Samuel Chapman Armstrong, 8th U.S. Colored Troops

    The 2nd and 6th Corps now charged up the Appomattox and took positions; battery after battery were stationed on the hills surrounding the village, but the Rebels marched out to a deep gorge or basin about one mile south of the town and were massed when suddenly a white flag was seen coming into town. It was a momentous and thrilling sight. Was it possible that the great Rebel general was about to surrender? Was it true to blood was about to cease to flow? It was even so. In a very short period of time General Lee and staff with General Grant and staff were seen to go into the Courthouse to settle the terms of capitulation. In about two hours it was officially announced that General Lee had unconditionally surrendered and that his officers and men would be paroled. I expected upon the announcement that there would be a general demonstration of joy, but every Yankee save a few squads here and there was quiet. A few cheers were given and a number of bands struck up Hail Columbia and Yankee Doodle. Save this, it could not be noticed that any great event had transpired.

    The Rebels being without food, 33,000 rations were sent to them from the different corps. When it was distributed, they cheered with a will, receiving it with thankfulness. I rode up to the brow of the basin in a few moments after the flag of truce was sent in and there I beheld the great Rebel Army of Northern Virginia, which had several times threatened Washington City, invaded the states of Maryland and Pennsylvania, had been the terror of the North, fought scores of battles and as heroes had, by their bravery, been made illustrious in history with no drawback except the cause for which they fought. They were, sure enough, massed in as small a compass as possible, sitting and lying on the ground weary and worn out from exposure marching and toil for the last week. This I thought was the last ditch but they did not die in it. Life was as precious to them as to other people of less pretensions of valor and they were in reality submitting to the best arrangement that could be made for surely they were surrounded by General Grant’s invincible host and speedy destruction stared them in the face. The whole scene was so imposing and its contemplation so grand that the mind could not comprehend it.

    Our march was along the Southside Railroad for 52 miles and then on the Lynchburg Railroad to Appomattox. The country has not as yet suffered from the war. We found provision and forage in abundance also as many horses and mules as we needed to keep up our trains. But on our return we found every house had been pillaged, the farms all laid waste and ruined, the people starving and almost frantic beyond despair. Hundreds of houses and barns had been burned and presented a most lamentable spectacle. This was done by desperadoes and robbers and not with the consent of officers. Every effort was made to prevent it, even to shooting the men caught in the act. The roads were strewn with dead horses and mules and occasionally a wagon. I think for 50 miles next to Appomattox that there is one dead horse or mule for every 50 yards. These poor animals fell dead in harness or were abandoned when they gave out and then died.

    I cannot estimate our loss in men but should judge from the beginning of the fight on Hatcher’s Run that 10,000 would cover the killed and wounded. It is said that General Lee’s loss up to the surrendered was 28,000 men killed, wounded, and missing, his stock and trains were ruined, and all his guns taken except a few taken off by Mahoney and Ricketts’ divisions who escaped and made their way to Danville. The Southside Railroad and also the Lynchburg Railroad were repaired and our rolling stock put upon them and a limited supply of provisions reached the army at Farmville in Prince Edward County on our return. We also received one day’s rations at Burkeville Station on the Southside Railroad. General Grant is also issuing rations to the citizens and paroled Rebel soldiers. The demands were so great that all have been put on half rations and truly the suffering and clamor on this account have been distressing. I have done all I could and so has every Commissary, but without food men could not be fed and justice had to be done in the distribution and division or some would have starved to death.

    On the 16th instant a dispatch was passed along our line of march giving us the sad news of President Lincoln’s assassination. It was a clap of thunder in a clear sky, and all appeared to be appalled and stricken with grief and sorrow. For truly the nation, in its new birth, had lost its head and the future was dark and gloomy. May God bless Andrew Johnson and make him a fit instrument for the great task or reconstructing and remodeling the nation upon the basis of freedom and American independence.

    The paroled army of General Lee was soon mixed up with the Union troops in the camps and on the march and all appeared to be delighted at the prospect of returning peacefully. They all go to their homes and say they will never take up arms again, and but desire to spend the balance of their lives in peace at their homes. They all had the idea that their property would be confiscated and hence they fought with determination to save their homes. Indeed, many appeared to be surprised when told that the property of soldiers would not be molested. The news of Lincoln’s assassination made them uneasy for fear it would make it worse upon them in terms of settlement. 

    We were ordered to report to General Weitzel at Richmond but by the misbehavior of some of his men in the city he was relieved at that place and is here or within about two miles of here and we report to him this evening or in the morning.   The 25th Corps (colored troops) will be reorganized and in all probability sent to Texas or South Carolina. I cannot think of going down there now as the fighting is over and the rebellion virtually put down, and if I cannot get a transfer, will resign and come home. I could give you many interesting incidents which transpired on our march, but time and length forbid it. One just now comes to mind. I rode off the road one day to a farmhouse to get my horse fed. I found a lady guarding the barn door while a number of our soldiers stood around hesitating to take the forage or not. She told them she was a widow and had been for 19 years; that she had but little to live on, etc. when a colored soldier named Garnet from Cincinnati asked her if she owned two black boys and a girl standing there; she said she did but their work was not sufficient to support her and that she had been robbed of nearly everything b the soldiers. Garnet asked her is she had been robbed by Union or Rebel soldiers as both had passed that way. Oh, she said, by the Union soldiers of course and that it was the first time she had ever been robbed. Madam, said Garnet, I know how to sympathize with you for I understand this robbery business. I have been robbed for 40 years- robbed of my birthright and all that I could earn by my labor. This I thought was cool and severe sympathy.


  1. In editing the Civil War journal of Aaron Riker (my wife's great great grandfather) of the 66th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, I came across a reference of Joseph C. Brand, who was quartermaster while the regiment was stationed in Dumfries. See http://mathtourist.blogspot.com/2019/08/aaron-riker-in-dumfries.html.


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