1864: Robert H. Brown to John W. Orendorff

This letter of recommendation was written by Robert H. Brown (1835-1909), the son of Nimmo and Agnes (Steven) Brown of McLean county, Illinois. In 1840, five year-old Robert came from New York City to St. Louis, Illinois, with his parents and after a few years they  moved to central Illinois. Influenced by acquaintances with both Stephen Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, he read law while but preferred medicine and graduated from the Rush Medical College in Chicago before marrying in 1859 to Martha A. Pittman (1838-1892). He then set up a medical practice in Mahomet, Champaign county, Illinois. During the Civil War, he enlisted in June 1861 as an Assistant Surgeon in the 25th Illinois Infantry. “He was in the battles and sieges of Corinth and Stone River where he was slightly wounded, but remained on duty night and day for five days. He was also at the Battle of Chickamauga” and lesser engagements.

After the war, Robert relocated his practice to Kirksville, Adair county, Missouri, where he worked to establish the Normal School and where he was elected to the State Senate in 1870. He also authored the biography of Abraham Lincoln entitled, “Abraham Lincoln and the Men of his Time.”

From this letter we learn that Robert was working at the Washington U. S. General Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, in January 1864 where John W. Orendorff of Co. F, 103rd Illinois Infantry—probably a former acquaintance from McLean county, Illinois—had been detached from his regiment and laboring as a ward attendant. Not long afterwards, Robert returned to his regiment in the field and was with Sherman’s Army on the Atlanta Campaign. He was wounded in the foot while on the skirmish line in early June 1864 and was discharged from the service in July.


Washington U. S. Gen. Hospital
Memphis, Tennessee
January 28th 1864

We the undersigned take pleasure in certifying that we have been acquainted with Mr. John Orendorff of the 103rd Regt. Illinois Infantry for 8 months during which time he has been on duty in this hospital for the last two months as Ward Master of Ward A. He has faithfully and efficiently performed his duties. His devotion and care for the sick and wounded has merited our highest commendation.

We can cheerfully recommend him as a skillful, competent, and trustworthy attendant, and that he is well qualified to perform the duties of ward master.

— R. H. Brown, A. A. Surgeon USA
— C. R. Langdon, A.A. Surgeon, USA
— Jos. W. Hayward, Medical Cadet, USA
— D. C. Lloyd, Medical Cadet, USA

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