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Orsell Cook Brown
Papers, 1752-1931; bulk 1861-1865


Quantity: 3 Boxes (1.0 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Gift: Mary Emogene Hazeltine, September 1935
Processed By: Fred Bassett, Senior Librarian, Manuscripts and Special Collections,
December 1994
View catalog record

Biographical Note:

Orsell Cook Brown was born April 20, 1835, the second son of Samuel and Clarissa Slayton Brown, who lived near Ashville, Chautauqua County, New York. After completing his public school education, he studied at Bryant and Straton Business College in Buffalo. Soon after the onset of the Civil War, Brown enlisted for three years' service in the 44th New York Infantry Regiment, also known as Ellsworth's Avengers. He mustered in as a private with Company A on August 30, 1861, and was assigned for duty primarily in the regiment's quartermaster department. Upon re-enlisting in February 1864, he was assigned to Company C of the same regiment. In October 1864, he transferred to the 140th New York Infantry Regiment with promotion to the rank of quartermaster sergeant. Subsequently, he was transferred to 5th Veteran Infantry, June 3, 1865, and was mustered out of service with this regiment on August 21, 1865, at Harts Island, New York. After the war, Brown worked as an accountant for the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, D.C. He was active in several Washington, D.C., civic and social organizations. He never married and died, March 24, 1881, in Jamestown, New York.

Scope and Contents Note:

These papers consist chiefly of letters written by Orsell Cook Brown to his sister, Olivia A. Brown, of Ashville, New York, while he was serving in the army during the Civil War. Covering the period from September 1861 to May 1865, the letters detail many of the battles and campaigns in which the 44th Regiment participated. Brown, himself, was not engaged in combat, but he wrote about information garnered from his fellow soldiers. In particular, he commented on human casualties and the devastation of the countryside after the battles at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chaneldersville, Gettysburg, Wilderness, and Petersburg.

The letters also contain comments on camp life, training, marches, troop movements, morale, discipline, desertions, diet, disease, medical care, foraging, quartermaster department activities, and news about and his opinions of fellow soldiers.

The papers include a few letters written by Orsell's brother, Charles G. Brown, who served in the 9th New York Cavalry Regiment, that are similar in content; O.C. Brown's commission, enlistment certificate, discharge certificate, letters of recommendation, and other official records of his military service; and a photograph album of members of the 44th Regiment and Union Army officers.

Box and Folder List:

Box Folder Description
1 1 Biography and family history, compiled by Mary Emogene Hazeltine, ca. 1931 and copy of an article from Jamestown Journal, March 26, 1931 (2 items)
1 2 Letters of Orsell Cook Brown, September-December 1861 (22 items)
1 3 Letters of Orsell Cook Brown, January-June 1862 (30 items)
1 4 Letters of Orsell Cook Brown, July-December 1862 (21 items)
1 5 Letters of Orsell Cook Brown, January-March 1863 (15 items)
1 6 Letters of Orsell Cook Brown, April-June 1863 (23 items)
1 7 Letters of Orsell Cook Brown, July-September 1863 (19 items)
1 8 Letters of Orsell Cook Brown, October-December 1863 (17 items)
2 1 Letters of Orsell Cook Brown, January-June, 1864 (18 items)
2 2 Letters of Orsell Cook Brown, July-December 1864 (22 items)
2 3 Letters of Orsell Cook Brown, January-May 1865 (14 items)
2 4 Letters of Charles G. Brown, 1861-1863 (19 items)
2 5 Letters of Recommendation, 1864-1865; includes A.L.S. of Gov. Reuben Eaton Fenton, 1865 (9 items)
2 6 Military Service Records, 1862-1864 (8 items)
2 7

Legal documents from Commonwealth of Virginia, 1752-1864 (4 items)

  1. D.S., Theodore Bland, July 22, 1752
  2. D.S., John Page, November 5, 1777
  3. D.S., Benjamin Harrison, October 10, 1783
  4. D.S., W.B. Clayton, May 17, 1803
2 8

Photographs (3 items)

  1. Orsell Cook Brown, ca.1877 (1 item; cabinet card)
  2. Brown Family Homestead, Ashville, New York, ca. 1930 (3 items)
  3. 44th Infantry Veterans Reunion Badge, 1871 (1 item)
2 9 Illustrations clipped from a newspaper and other miscellaneous papers (4 items)
3 Loose Album containing carte de visite portraits of members of the 44th New York Infantry, Union Army officers, and friends and relatives (1 volume)
3 Loose Three bundles of postal covers (envelopes) separated from the letters
Last Updated: April 1, 2022