Life in the Mississippi Marine Brigade

Discover how Private George Painter, a Civil War soldier from Richland County, Ohio spent 1863 in the Mississippi Marine Brigade. George faithfully wrote in his diary every day during 1863 to report on his military service.

It all begins when General Alfred W. Ellet organizes the brigade and finds that he needs more men for a successful operation. He then decided to recruit members from the local convalescing hospitals with promises of light work. An ad in the Cleveland Daily Leader stated:

The service will be an easy one – no camping out, no carrying knapsacks, and very little marching. The boats will be furnished with good cooks and bedding. Soldiering under such circumstances will be nothing but fun.

George Painter had just recovered from two hospital stays for typhoid fever and was in the St. Louis area where it all began. So it perhaps seemed a good choice for him to join this obscure Union fleet to continue his military service.

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George Painter Background

George Painter was born on April 2, 1842 to Hamilton and Matilda Painter. He grew up on a farm in Richland County, Ohio. He was named for his father’s brother. George had five brothers and one sister and the family attended the local Methodist Episcopal Church.

When the call for volunteers came in 1862, George and two of his brothers enlisted and were soon sent to Cincinnati to begin their time of service. Nearly 320,000 Union soldiers came from Ohio.

During the winter of 1862, the Mississippi Marine Brigade was being formed in the St. Louis area by General Alfred Ellet. Finding enough recruits to man the ships became a problem, so he went to the hospitals in the area to find convalescing patients who would be strong enough to manage ships on the Mississippi River.

George had been in the hospital with typhoid fever and the promise of not having to march daily, carry knapsacks, or sleep in trenches must have encouraged him to join the brigade.

As he traveled down the Mississippi River and its tributaries, George wrote daily of what was happening on the boat and sometimes in the war.