Asa P. Wheeler — Diary

Note: Although this document is labeled as a “Diary,” it appears to have been written retrospectively, perhaps based on an actual diary, with dates added in the margins simply to mark the progress of the manuscript.

1861 October 18 – Enlisted at Ware, from Greenwich, October 18, 1861.

November 9 – Started from Ware, November 9, and arrived at Camp Seward at 5 p.m. This was our first night of Camp Life, and a very hard one, as I had to bunk on the floor without anything but a blanket under me. It is a hard task to get used to this, but there is no escape; and at 5 or 5:30 a.m., start at the sound of the Reveille, make up our beds, strap on our blankets together, and start out for the river in order to wash, which often was filled with anchor ice and ran swiftly past, cutting our hands as we plunged them into the purple flood. As soon as this was accomplished, we hurried back to our quarters, and at the sound of the drum, formed in company line, numbered off that each one should know his place, and were marched out to drill for one hour, then broke ranks and formed in line and marched into the breakfast room and partook of a nice quantity of hash, often very sour, so much so that but a small portion was devoured or eaten – many times has it been the case that the pans, after their contents had been once tasted, were turned bottom-up and left to their reflections. When this was the case, all we had was our tea and bread, and if we wished to carry any out, it must be done by carrying it out under our coats.

After this came our morning drill of two hours, both in marching, counter-marching, quick-step, double-quick, and drill in the manual. Also our Dinner, which consisted of boiled meat, cabbage, turnips, and all the rest of the fixings. In the p.m., we had two or three hours of drill. At 5 o’clock, Dress Parade of about 1/2 hour, consisting of Right Dress; Attention Company; Present Arms; Shoulder Arms; Support Arms; Right Shoulder Shift; Shoulder; Order Arms; Parade Rest; and stand in this position until the band can pass down the Regiment and return to their place at the head of the Regiment again.

This was not only the duty of one day, but every day for weeks and even months.

It is a hard, very hard life to live to be a soldier, but I must not complain, the work has but just commenced and I will go on and see the bitter end. It was very cold while here, the snow being from 3 to 4 feet deep, and we are compelled to keep our drilling grounds clean and perfectly clear of all snow.

12 February 1862 — We received our equipments in full and were ordered to be in readiness to march at a moments’ warning, and on the morning of 12 February 1862, we left Camp Seward for the cars at Pittsfield, upon which we got after marching all round through all the principal streets of the place about 9 a.m., and slowly left for Lowell and Camp Chase, at which place we arrived soon after dark, in safety, although as we were coming down the mountain, the train came to a halt, on account of the connecting rod between the cars being drawn out, and leaving, at one time, 9 cars and at another, 11 cars.

At Springfield we stopped and were treated by the citizens to wheat bread and ham, with coffee.

But soon we started again and were treated to Lager Beer, and some of them, that is, the boys, were pretty happy and tight.

Feb. 13 — When our quarters were given us and roll call took place, we all turned in for the night, and arose refreshed the next morning, and marched out to our company’s Cook room and took our turn in being waited upon, and we either sat down on a log or went back to our quarters, to eat our grub.

Feb. 21 [sic] — We stopped at this place but one week, and then we were all put onto a train of cars and started for Boston and the steamer Mississippi, lying off Long Wharf. We had a pleasant ride to Boston, but as soon as we got there and had formed in line to count off in twos — then Battalion Right Face, Shoulder Arms, Forward March, and not to stop or turn to the right or left for about 3/4 of a mile through the mud and water, which was in the way. We arrived at the wharf and went immediately on board, and were directed to our quarters or bunks. I had a bunk down on the lower deck, below the water and just above the hold and over the cargo. There was for cargo 2200 tons of matter, consisting of commissary stores, powder, shot, shell and guns, with one long gun at the bow of the boat, a 32-pounder rifled cannon.

We started the 20th of February in the Mississippi ocean steamer, and when out about 12 miles from Boston, the pilot bade us goodbye and we were separated from all intercourse with men and started down the coast for some unknown clime.

When we got to the steamer, the officers said they had got us now, where they could manage us. Soon after we got out of sight of land, the men began to be sick and to cast up their accounts, but this soon passed, and in the morning we were far away and out of sight of land.

Time passed pleasantly and swiftly, but with all the novelty of our situation and the new scenes we were constantly being brought into contact with, we held with delight each morn and the sun, as it rose from its watery bed off to our left.

Feb. 24 — When just off Fortress Monroe, a thick fog settled down upon us and it was impossible to proceed so as to make any advancement, and the steam was turned off and we lay off until the fog cleared away. Then we found that we had been driven 30 miles out of the way, but on the morning of 24 February, we dropped anchor between the Rip Raps and Fortress Monroe, at the mouth of the James River at the outlet of Chesapeake Bay.

When here, Gen. Butler and staff came on the boat and took command, or had the steamer as his flagship, and a very severe squall came up and before the sails could be secured one sailor was snapped off and he dropped to the deck, a distance of some 20 feet, but sustaining no injury he mounted the mast and had the sail secured, but not until it was spoiled and torn all to threads. Was at anchor all day and until 9 p.m.

February 25 – are underway or getting prepared for start for ship Island. As we look away in the distance upon the land in the water, we see why we are brought down to this place. The ribs are on the move and this morning one of our vessels was fired upon, but was not hit or any damage done.

February 26 – We are bravely passing on, leaving home and loved ones far behind. But we are not alone! Though surrounded by a flood of water on every hand, yet God is with us. He, it is, that is now directing our every movement, to prepare us for what the future may bring forth, and the passage of Scripture is very forcibly brought to our minds, that “we do not know what an hour will bring forth”, for in the afternoon, dark clouds were seen gathering above the western horizon, the wind was quite strong and the clouds continued to rise, pressing upward and onward until all was obscured in a thick canopy of clouds and darkness. Soon the elements, both wind and water, were on the move, and such a storm it is not the lot of man to witness many times and live, for we were driven and tossed even so as to rush almost upon the breakers over which the water was madly breaking and foaming. Most, if not all, were frightened, and we were told, even by the captain, that if we were saved it would be by the hand of Providence alone. Again the voice of prayer was heard, beseeching God for Christ’s sake that he would show mercy in this hour of trial, that he would deliver and not destroy, and bring us safely to land, the desired haven.

February 27 – Surely the prayers of the Righteous Man availeth much, for this morn at sunrise, the wind abated, the clouds are being driven rapidly away, and the sun again lights up the face of nature, and what is seen, the waters rolling and tossing mountains high, the ship plunging from wave to wave, now upon the top, riding in majesty and power, and soon to sink down again deep in the waters which are struggling with mighty power that they may engulf and overpower us.

But the storm has lost its power. The men are released from this the the wheel at which 4 have stood all night long.

In this storm many things were enacted by the men, both sad and amusing. Some were praying while others were wishing that they were safe on the land and making some dry remark that would make even the most somber smile. One man was frightened so much as to get a barrel with both heads knocked out, and attempt to bail out the water which came down the scuttle. He, of course, was not very successful, for as fast as he poured it in one end, it ran out the other.

February 28 – The sun has risen from its watery bed, and we are sailing along quiet and happy, for have we not passed through a fearful trial; and let us give God all the glory, for it is He alone that has brought us through, thus far. But alas this day is not to be spent without its trials, for as we are passing along with rapidity, suddenly and almost without warning, we ran aground upon the Frying Pan Shoals, 10 miles from the city of Charleston, the hotbed of Treason.

Surrounded by rebs and rebel steamers, we know not how soon it would be before we should be in their hands.

Soon after running aground, the Captain of the Boat ran up the flag Union down, as a sign of distress. But the flag was ordered to be lowered and put up again, Union up, and the big gun fired. After this, all the men were supplied with their guns, so that if any of the rebs saw fit to come out to give us a call, they would be received with appropriate ceremonies, but they were cut off by one of our Blockading Boats, who came up within 1/2 mile, and stopped, as they were not certain whether we were friend or foe. Gen. Butler sent out a boat and stated his request, and it was granted. But we had to wait till high tide before getting off into deep water, and then it was to find a large hole stove in the her bottom, and soon there was a call for men to bail water, for the water was 17 feet deep in the bow of the boat.

After bailing 2 1/2 days, we arrived at Port Royal, Hilton Head Island, Seabrook Landing, S.C. at which place we landed.

March 3 – All safe and on the land again, but it is hard to get anything to eat, as the negroes have nothing but Indian meal mixed with water and no salt — which I considered myself very fortunate to get, as I was in somewhat of a hungry state, by paying five cents and waiting for some 12 or 13 others who had gone in before. Our quarters were in an old building kept for storing hay in the base and for a henhouse above. We occupied the henhouse without any windows to prevent the cold from coming in either by day or night.

It was somewhat cold, as the ground froze and it snowed.

March 4 – Am on guard. Had a splendid time when not on duty, but when the order comes “Officer of the day! Turn out the Guard!” every man must jump and be in his place at a moment’s warning. The weather is beautiful and pleasant and time is fleeting on its rapid pinion of flight. We have to bring all our own water for cooking, 1 mile.

Our path, which led to the spring which came bubbling from beneath an overhanging bank, was lined with everything new and startling. First, the Palmetto tree with its thick bushy top, was inspected, and then the Live Oak, with its trailing moss, which hung from every limb as a thick shroud. ‘Neath these trees were the new made graves of two who had given up home with its bright and alluring prospects to come, giving their lives for their Nation’s Honor and Eternal Safety. But alas, they have fallen in an enemy’s, though a brother’s, land. Just beyond this place we found a large field of Sweet Potatoes, some of which we dug. And then, the Cotton Plant was found, in large fields which had been picked and carried away.

We were 7 miles from Port Royal and stopped here one week, loading and packing our cargo. When all was made safe by repairing leak, we started out in order to put to sea, and when out about 1 mile ran aground on an oyster bed and stayed 18 hours.

It took the united efforts of 3 large steamers to pull us out into deep waters, this time, ’cause our captain was found out to be a reb and had cut the tiller rope so that she could not be guided or steered. He was arrested ana new man put in his place.

Wednesday, March 12 – It rains, a cold wet day.

March 13 – Weighing anchor preparatory for a start for Ship Island, and soon we’re out to see.

March 14 – Off the coast of Florida. Pleasant.

March 15 – Passed a lighthouse. Whether rough and squally.

March 16 – Is very warm. Saw a bird light on Dr. Bidwell’s head, as it seemed to think no doubt, it a tree as he is very tall, but did not stop long as the short thick hair of the doctor was slowly moving beneath his claws.

March 17 – Are in the Gulf of Mexico. Have passed in safety Key West, off to the right of us, and at night had a hard thunder shower. Rained three quarters of an hour..

March 18 – Are out of sight of all land, sailing west.

March 19 – A man belonging in Co. B was committed to the deep, today, our first death at sea. Services 10 o’clock a.m.

Ship Island, Mississippi (Image from Harper's Weekly)

Ship Island, Mississippi (Image from Harper’s Weekly)

March 20 – Arrived at Ship Island this morning, after a long passage of 32 days from Boston, have broken off the jib boom of a schooner and run into another and smashed her side.

March 21 – Great times getting ashore, ran into a brig, broke her yard arms, left her a wreck, and then ran into the Black Prince and smashed up things generally.

March 22 – On guard and the third relief.

March 23 – Came off guard. Gen. Butler and staff are gone on shore.

March 24 – Glorious day, but rather dry to stay on the Mississippi, cooped up.

March 25 – Landed on Ship Island. Heavy firing is heard off the west of us. Are marched up the island 2 1/2 miles, and our tents pitched in the sand.

March 26 – Was on guard 2 hours after getting our quarters assigned to us, as the old guard did not land when we did.

March 27 – A part of two regiments went over to Miss. City.

March 28 – Flag of Truce came in today.

March 29 – Am on guard, 1st relief. 6 regiments have received orders to be prepared to march tomorrow, at 8 a.m.

March 30 – Large steamer in sight, coming in, 3 p.m.

March 31 – Regimental Inspection by Col. & Lt. Col. of guns and clothing.

April 1 – Company drill in the morning and regimental in the afternoon, with knapacks and guns.

April 2 – 3 steamers went over to Mississippi City to pay the rebs for firing at a flag of truce.

April 3 – Went downtown to get some green tea, and received for the first time some blank cartridges.

April 4 – This morning 2 large ships came in from sea. Heavy firing, can see the flash of the guns over on the shore of Miss., about 10 miles from us.

April 5 – 6 large ships came in today, loaded with men and horses. 5 men were drowned while in bathing. They belonged:
2 men to the 30th Mass. Regiment and
3 men to the 15th Maine Regiment.

April 6 – 8 men were buried today. 3 died of disease and 5 were drowned.

April 7 – 11 a.m. Schooner coming in and a large steamer in sight. Brigade Drill for the first time.

April 8 – Rain for the first time since landing at Ship Island.

April 9 – Cold, but pleasant in the morning. General review of 16,000 men by Gen. Butler.

April 10 – Warm and very pleasant.

April 11 – On guard. Pleasant but a little cloudy and continues to thicken up as though for storm. In the afternoon low muttering peals of thunder can be heard, rolling and echoing from cloud to cloud. Now the clouds rise in dark volumes, the summits still dazzling, growing dark and more dark; as they approached the zenith the gloom became more and more terrible. The thunder peals reverberated from the from cloud to cloud, while streams of glaring lightning glittered amid the rain, which fell thick and fast, with the clamor more terrible than that of the Approaching Thunder gust. And does it pass by in a few minutes? No, but hours come and go and still the Elements are warring with each other, striving to gain the mastery over each other.

All of Heaven’s Artillery seems to be engaged, and the clouds are still pouring out a flood of water, everything is afloat or covered up.

I was on guard from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.

In the morning, when the guards came out and relieved us, we were glad to get in where it was not quite so moist. Soon after retiring to the guard tent, the thought suddenly came into my mind, were I at home and lying on the ground, I should consider it dangerous. Scarcely were these thoughts uttered, when there came a blinding flash and a most deafening peal of thunder, and all was silent as the Tomb. My mind was busy and its first thought was, “Can this be death?” But now reaction is taking place. The blood which stopped to flow, now has once more commenced to send life through my limbs and it seems as though 10,000 needles were sticking in me all at once. But I must not lag here. Others want my assistance and I must make the attempt to rise. First I rub one arm and then the other, and after a few moments, am able to get up and move around.

But what a scene! Confusion upon all sides, men lying prone upon the ground, stark and stiff even in death. Yes, 3 poor men were called from time to Eternity without a moment’s warning, while 11 others were injured. All were more or less affected by the shock.

April 12 – Regiment all called out to pay their last respects to the silent dead, who were called so suddenly to stand at the bar of God, leaving all things here below for the that of the Spirit World, prepared or unprepared.

April 13 – Attended a prayer meeting carried on by Capt. Lee of Company C.

April 14 – Martin V. B. Groat died this a.m. His was the first death since our company left Mass. Funeral, 3:00 p.m.

April 15 – Embarked on board the steamer Mississippi and anchored out in the stream.

April 16 – [Alfred R.] Ruggles of Hardwick and of Company D died. Still in the stream, waiting for orders. p.m., are preparing to start. May God go with us and be round about us as a wall of fire!

April 17 – Are at the South West Pass, at anchor, waiting to cross the bar and for a Pilot.

April 18 – Weighing anchor, and soon will start for Fort Jackson.

April 19 – Anniversary of the old 6th Regiment passage through Baltimore.

April 20 – Rainy with thunder and lightning.

April 21 – Heavy firing at sundown at Fort Jackson from Com. Farragut and Porter’s fleet.

April 22 – On guard. Heavy firing at Fort Jackson all through the morn. Afternoon and Evening firing both shot and shell.

April 23 – We are still below the Forts, hammering away for admittance, which is fiercely denied to us. It is kept up all day.

A soldier was lashed to the rigging for disobedience and for disobeying orders. He belonged to the 26th Regiment Mass. Vols.

The Fall of the Forts

The Fall of the Forts

April 24 – Still the firing is continued and at last the final bombardment is taking place, firing 100 shells per minute, causing the Johnny Rebs to look 2 ways for Sunday.

Now comes the order for the 31st and a part of the 26th to retire down the river and get into Lake Pontchartrain and in the rear of Fort St. Philip. This was done after going round about 35 miles and then landing the 26th Regiment in order to storm the Forts.

April 25 – Beautiful sunset.

April 26 – Everything is so different from what we have been used to, that excitement is the order of the day.

April 27 – Christ is the soldier’s friend, as ever.

April 28 – A large water battery of 6 guns was blown up. Forts Jackson & St. Philip surrendered. Disembarked from steamer Mississippi, and went aboard the old river steamer Lewis. Slept on a plank with water almost even with you. Cause — an overloaded boat.

April 29 – Came back to the Mississippi steamer, and started for the South West Pass.

April 30 – Are passing up the river again, and on past Forts Jackson & St. Philip, and arrive opposite Quarantine Station, 3 miles above, and come to anchor.

May 1 – Arrived at New Orleans in safety. Truly the Power of God has been revealed toward us. We have been tried and tempted and he has kindly cared for me, while others have been called to meet the Judge of both the quick and the dead.

As we came up to the wharf, an excitement commenced, until a dense crowd had gathered as far as the Eye could see. But soon we were called to clear the wharf so that our Regiment could land. Co. D had the honor of landing first, which they did in a short time, and soon we stood face-to-face with the Rebs, and started off into the city, which was done in fine style, and arrived at the Custom House and entered, glad to get a place to rest upon. But my dreams were dashed, for at 10 p.m. I was detailed to go on guard, and so took my first night, when off duty, sleeping on the soft side of a stone, without any blanket to protect me from the drenching dew. Here we were, 2000 miles from home, surrounded by those who, could they have the chance, would put us to death without a thought of the consequences.

Custom House, New Orleans

Custom House, New Orleans

May 2 – Quartered in the Custom House. Good quarters, but rather hard lodgings and planked floor with our India rubber under us and the woolen over us. By the way, I have got so that I can sleep on a plank all night and feel refreshed in the morning.

May 3 – On guard. Station in the Custom House.

May 4 – Came off guard at 9 a.m. Can this be the Sabbath? No one would suppose that there is such a thing as the Sacred Day which is prized so much at the North by the humble, earnest Christian. Here, everything is going on the same as a weekday.

May 5 – 3 hours’ drill. 500 men took the Oath of Allegiance to save their homes and property.

May 6 – Still men are calling to see Gen. Butler and take the Oath.

May 7 – Men and women are striving to get some flour and keep Gaunt and Famine away from their doors, which is fast approaching.

May 8 – On guard. Hard time, but pleasant, as there is a constant excitement.

May 9 – On guard. Toes blistered. Weather rainy. On guard 36 hours, relieved at noon, and rest from our labors.

May 10 – Went up to the Mint. Looked around in the building, saw the place where Mumford was hung by Gen. Butler for taking down the Union flag and trampling on it underfoot, tearing it up into strips to be kept as mementos by him and his gang of roughs. He accomplished his mission and said he would do the same thing again.

Sunday, May 11 – Came back this morning to the Custom House. Great excitement. Gen. Butler has seized from the Rebs $2,065,000 in gold and silver. Some of it was found in care of the French consul, and some in the graves of the dead, which was revealed by the Nigs.

May 12 – On guard for 24 hours, time to expire tomorrow noon.

May 13 – The weather very warm. Gen. Butler is supplying the poor with meat taken from the Rebs when we took possession of the city. 3000 persons received rations, and such a crowd, and such crowding and twisting to get within the lines, was a scene for a painter.

May 14 – Left the Custom House and marched down to Annunciation Square at 12 o’clock m., about 3 miles south and camped. Name of the camp was Camp Morewood, in honor of a Mrs. Morewood, a resident of Pittsfield, who was very kind to us, or to the 31st boys.

May 15 – How is it I am on guard once in 3 days? I suppose it is to keep me from spoiling.

May 16 – Very warm and pleasant.

May 17 – Drill in the morning. A fire at night. The bells are rung by electricity — the Alarmist runs to a small box on the side of some house, under which is printed in large letters, “Key in the House”. This is procured and [he] opens the box, and the spring is touched and the bells are rung, and soon the Steam Engines are on the move to put out the fire.

Sunday, May 18 – Pleasant. The bells are ringing to call the different classes to attend divine worship. Some are going for amusement, others to pass away the time and see who is there.

May 19 – Something new. What you think it is? Why, I am on guard again.

May 20 – Morn. Nothing of interest taking place, but a change of program is to take place this afternoon. Company D is called out for Extra Duty and we are off for the Northwest part of the city to confiscate some rebel horses.

After marching about 6 miles, we arrived at our destination and obtained 3 of the animals and returned in safety to camp.

May 21 – Very warm.

May 22 – Pleasant and beautiful weather. Scenery grand and sublime.

May 23 – Camp all called out after Taps. A part went away and did not return. Not well today, but was on duty.

May 24 – Showery all day. Time passing as on wings, and may the spirit of my Savior ever guide me in the way of truth and wisdom!

May 26 – All of Company D are either on guard or on Police duty about the city.

May 27 – All on guard and Police duty.

May 28 – Men hard at work, some are growling because of the various duties that we have to perform every day. I went up to guard the levee, which has been cut about 17 miles above, and all of the houses are surrounded with water, so much so that each householder has to have a boat to come and go, or else he must wade. Some of the houses were surrounded with water 5 feet deep, and as far as the eye could see. It was one grand waste of water, and it was impossible to tell the width of the river or where the channel was, except when a boat came along.

May 29 – Weather very warm and pleasant.

May 30 – On guard. Sgt. Clary of Company D, since killed at Port Hudson, was put under arrest. Also Lieut. Rice, who was Lieut. of the Guard, by order of Col. O. P. Gooding. In the morning, when on duty at my post, a soldier came along with the request for permission to pass my beat, whom I permitted to go, as he professed to be acting on the Police. As soon as he had had time to go down, up came the Lieut. of Police (Cushing) and asked me why I had done so. And so, I gave my reasons, when he had the magnanimity to order me to let no one pass without a pass out or into the lines.

I had no trouble after this, and everything passed pleasantly through the day. And at last the Shades of Eve settled down upon me, and twilight had gathered its varied scenes. The stars were gathering or bursting forth from the heavens, and spreading forth their light and influence o’er the world, when up came a stranger whom I addressed in these words:
“Who comes there?”
Answer: “Lieut. of the Police.”
“Advance, Lieut. of the Police, with the countersign.”
“I have no countersign.”
Order: “Halt, Lieut. of the Police! Corporal of the Guard, No. 15!” This call was for orders from the Lieut. of the Guard, through the Corporal, for permission to let this man pass my dominions.

While waiting for the Corporal, I was asked if I was not acquainted with him [Lieut. Cushing], and if I had not seen him around enough to know and understand who he was. But a soldier with the countersign is supposed to know no one, not even his best friend, after dark. This information I gave him, but it was of no use, but as he thought himself greatly insulted to think that such an upstart, as I seem to be, should condescend even to stop or look at him, but rather permit him to pass on and in the end, I arrive to the dignity of the guardhouse as an inmate of the place, a position not to be envied, as it is inhabited by Lice, Bedbugs, Fleas, Mosquitoes and all the filth that can be gathered in such a hole.

But up comes the Corporal, who permits the man to pass in without more trouble, who, as he [Lieut. Cushing] passes me, says, “Young man, you will be reported, and I will see if you had any power to stop me!” This he did, and that was all the good it did him.

May 31 – Came off guard this morning, and when telling Mr. Clary of how I came near getting in the guardhouse, he said there was time yet if I did not stop my row about his arrest and, thinking that perhaps silence was the better part of valor, I turned and left him in his glory, and having a pass went downtown. [I] saw many things that were attractive and beautiful, and after going around from one part of the City to another, would come back well pleased with what we had witnessed and be prepared to enter in with zeal our old quarters.

June 1 – On guard. Lieut. Perry and Sgt. Barber put under arrest by Col. Gooding, who is putting boys ’round in double quick time.

June 2 – Came off guard.

June 3 – No great change in program today.

June 4 – On guard again. Quite a rarity.

June 5 – One of Gen. Butler’s staff was thrown from his horse, had a leg broken as a consequence. He was not a Good Templar.

June 6 – Some of the men are on guard, others are drunk and feeling somewhat down in the mouth.

June 7 – The citizens raised the Union Flag and fired a salute of 34 guns to represent each of the old U.S.

June 8 – On guard. Had a pleasant time.

June 9 – Had a Dress Parade and a long march down in the city, led by Lieut. Col. Weldon of Pittsfield.

June 10 – Excused from all duty on account of poor shoes.

June 11 – Not on duty, for I have some large holes in my traveling rig.

June 12 – Received a pair of shoes and go on Dress Parade at 6 p.m. Another salute of 34 guns upon the raising of the Union Flag.

June 13 – Oh, you old shoes, what have you done! See, I must go on guard as I am detailed. “Wheeler on guard! Fall in quick, we are waiting!” I almost wish I had you back, my kind and torn friends. (Shoes).

June 14 – A change! Off of guard and out on Dress Parade at 6 p.m.

June 15 – Left Annunciation Square and moved out of tents into a Cotton Press and into bunks, but greatly disturbed by the mosquitoes.

June 16 – 4 men hung — 2 for robbery and 2 for other crimes. On guard.

June 17 – Marched downtown in the morning.

June 18 – Nothing of interest taking place from day to day, but guard duty and Dress Parade.

June 19 – Christ is the soldier’s friend and in Him I will trust. My mind calm, my faith firm, I will go on in the way unto the end.

June 20 – 2 men were drummed out of Camp Morewood, New Orleans. The day is very warm.

June 21 – Pleasant thoughts of the loved ones at home are occupying my mind.

June 22 – My soul! What a wonderful mechanism! Who can examine its depths, or explain it secret workings?

June 23 – I come to the Savior daily for wisdom and knowledge.

June 24 – On guard. Edward Howland away without a pass. Prayer meeting last night carried on by one person, who was the only person who spoke, as he used up all the time and gave us no chance.

June 25 – Edward has not returned.

June 26 – Detailed for Extra Duty at the Post Commissary’s, for the protection of Government supplies which are stored in large quantities at this particular place.

June 27 – On guard from 5 hours to 8 each day. Although some days, we have but one hour to stand and then we make the most of our time in visiting various parts of the city and in riding about in the horse cars, which are running down Magazine and up Camp Sts., both north and south, while others are going in opposite directions on Canal Street. If we wish to go up to the north part of the City, we could cross over to Magazine St. and down to Canal and up one which ran away to the north, and all for 10 cents, some 7 miles.

I cannot explain to one who has not been down in Dixie one half of the beauties of many of the beautiful residences of New Orleans, houses hidden by the Magnolia, which when in bloom has one of the most fragrant odors arise therefrom of any flower at the South. It has a simple petal and is as large as a teacup in diameter. And then, there are flowers in bloom at all times of the year. Oranges are found in great quantities from the bud, flour, green fruit, half ripe, and ripe, upon the same tree and all at the same time. Oranges are selling at various prices, some for 3 cents, and others at a picayune or 5 cents, or three for a bit, which is 10 cents. Are at this place 6 weeks, on guard every day and much the same thing taking place every day.

Two ships came in loaded with ice for the use of men who have been deprived of it for two years. It is drawn from the wharf on drays and past our quarters, and we have had orders to ask the driver for a cake and if he does not supply us, all we are to do is to just make a charge on the cake nearest us with a bayonet and what are the consequences? Why we got a supply of ice necessary for all of our wants, which was about 250 lbs. per day as long as they were drawing ice. We had all of the ice we wanted.

July 4 – Everything is pleasant and some new excitement is agitating our minds most every day. We have someone bring down our grub every day, so we are all well-supplied as far as we are concerned. The cooks say we may have all the sugar we want, if we can get it and not get caught getting it. We do not want for this article either.

Sunday, July 14 – Private J. M. Woodis, our Nurse of Co. D, died and was buried this afternoon. This makes 5 men who have died out of the company.

August 5 – Battle at Baton Rouge. Union troops victorious. General Williams brigade engaged, and the ram Arkansas was blown up on the river.

Gen. Thomas Williams (Image Library of Congress)

Gen. Thomas Williams
(Image Library of Congress)

August 6 – General Williams killed. Killed and wounded brought to New Orleans. A sad, very sad sight. Our first view of such a scene, and may be the means of directing our minds to more substantial things than this world can afford!

August 7 – 350 sick and wounded arrived at the different hospitals from Baton Rouge.

I was at the wharf when they were brought on shore. Some were able to walk, others were conveyed on stretchers borne by two men to the different ambulances which were waiting for them.

August 24 – Regt. received marching orders, and ordered to be in readiness at the word of Command to start for Fort Jackson, 75 miles below New Orleans, to do garrison duty. All the sick remained behind and are to be quartered with the 26th Regt. stationed on Camp Street and St. Charles Street.

They were left to take care of themselves on the first night, and early on the next morn each man took up his bed and walked down to our new quarters, where we expected to receive immediate attention as it would be naturally expected, and a suitable place assigned us, but no such blessing was in store for us. We were compelled to remain out-of-doors from 9 a.m. until about 4 p.m. Within that time, we were out in a severe Thunder Shower, and were drenched through and through, but it was of no consequence — we were nothing but poor soldiers. At this late hour, we were put into the Odd Fellows Hall on Camp Street.

Sunday, August 31 – Arrived at Fort Jackson on the steamer “Bee“, and were met at the landing by some of the “boys” of my own company.

I shall have no better chance of giving a description of this place, and now. It is situated on the left bank of the river as you go up towards New Orleans, being built of brick and is surrounded by a broad and deep moat on all its sides. The entrance is a winding passage, so much so that it is impossible for an armed body of men to advance so as to have more than 4 men visible at any one time. There is a drawbridge which can be raised on the approach of an enemy, thus cutting off all chance of an approach without boats.

It is mounted by 85 guns: 2 of 10-inch Columbiads, 1 Rifle Cannon, 100 lbs., and others of 42 lbs., 32 lbs., 24 lbs. It has a Water Battery of 5 guns: 9 & 10-inch guns (Columbiads).

September 9 – When we came to Fort Jackson, everything wore a desolate, forsaken, dusty look, and soon men were detailed to go to cleaning up the rubbish, removing broken bricks, painting and repairing gun carriages, as well as the piles of shells and cannonballs that were piled in heaps around each gun. This was one of my first duties. I worked 4 1/2 days at this business, did not like it much, but a soldier’s bound to perform all that is assigned him, or go to the guardhouse.

October 1 – Sick with chills and fever.

October 5 – Are expecting an attack from Guerrillas. Our large guns are shotted [?] and we prepared to give them a reception as warm as will be agreeable in this warm climate.

Wednesday, October 8 – Saw a very beautiful rainbow spanning the river by moonlight. It was indeed a beautiful sight to see the fulfillment of the Sacred Promise God made to Noah after the deluge, when he placed a Bow of Promise that the world no more should be destroyed by water in the Heavens.

November 11 – It is a great day, but in other words a sad one to me. After being sick for the past 2 months and in that time, been returned to duty by the Surgeon three different times, I am at last compelled to go away from those who have ever prove themselves to be kind and true, in all hours, at all times, and to the Hospital that I may be more directly under the care of my Surgeon, at which place I remained until 27th of Dec., when, in company with 4 others, we were told that we were going to be transferred to New Orleans and examined for our discharge — not being fit to serve longer as U.S. soldiers.

December 27 – Were placed on board of the steamer Gen. Williams and carried up to New Orleans.

Arrived there about 1:00 a.m., and were immediately conveyed to the St. James Hospital, at which place we were entered as regular inmates, with the understanding that as soon as possible we should be examined by the Medical Directors, discharged and sent home.

December 28 – While at the hospital in New Orleans, I saw a great many things that were joyous and a great many that were said. Indeed it is impossible to spend any length of time in an Asylum of this kind without seeing many things which will tend either to elevate or depress the spirits.

I remained here until 6 June, when I was called upon to sign a Discharge Paper and then to stay until the 18th before I was released from the Hospital and conveyed away on a baggage wagon without any springs, to Bulls Head Landing, a wharf some 3 miles up, in the south part of the city.

February 20, 1863 – Had a pass. Lest all should not know what is meant by a pass who may be so fortunate as to get hold of this, I will give a word of explanation. When one of us wishes to go out outside the regiment’s Picket Lines, which are extended about us, forming a circle, it is necessary for us to apply to our Captain or Orderly for permission, which, when granted consists of a writing from our Captain, with our Name, Company, Regiment and Date, with the hour when to return, and countersigned by our Colonel on the back of the same, thus forming a written agreement on our part to return at such an hour or forfeit our honor and give us a free pass to the Guard House.

At this time, after getting out of the Hospital, I was informed the boys of my Company and Regt. (the 31st) were at Carrollton, in Camp, having returned from an excursion up to Indian Bend, and wanting to see them I turned my footsteps in that direction.

First I took the Cars on Camp St. and went as far as the Opelousas R.R. depot. Then I went to the rest of the way on foot and arrived out there about 10 a.m., somewhat tired. I was soon surrounded by my companions, giving and receiving the news as it had taken place since last we had met. I stayed till afternoon, and was permitted to dine upon the Soldier’s Favorite dish, Boiled Beans. While eating my part assigned me, a companion by the name of Chas. Roach sat by my side, talking of what was uppermost in our minds, when suddenly an inquiry was set in motion to know where a plate of beans, which belonged to a third-party, had suddenly and without warning disappeared. An immediate search was made for the missing articles, and after turning everything topsy-turvy, it was found that “mine host” was quietly sitting on them — they being on top of a knapsack, with a fragment of paper thrown over to protect them from getting dusty. After this natural artificial power had been applied, it was not necessary to subjugate them to any more pressing in order to make them eatable. We all enjoyed a hearty laugh at the expense of friend Charles.

After eating our dinners I went into Sgt. Clary’s tent and passed a very pleasant hour in conversation with him. While there he informed me that he had had a very nice revolver stolen from him while on his excursion. The cost of the same was $30. It was a present from a friend at New Orleans. From there I went out round to the different quarters of the Officers, and then bade them all “good-bye” and started for the camp of the 53rd Regt. and found many of my old friends who were companions previous to enlisting at home.

Was very cordially received by Capt. Fay and Lieuts. Brown & Vaughn, but as time was so rapidly passing and I obliged to be back at the St. James precisely at 5 o’clock (that being the time stated in my pass), I bade them all “good-bye” again and turned towards the Depot, at which place I arrived in season to take the evening train for the City. Soon after entering the cars my Pass was demanded by one of the Provost Guard and after due examination it was carefully handed back to me again and I was permitted to go on without any objections as they have no power to delay a patient who is out on a Pass, who belongs in a Hospital.

On the whole I had a very pleasant time, and shall remember it as one of my most pleasant days. I saw much through the day that was attractive and beautiful; much of that, once seen, will attach itself to our minds, never to be effaced as long as God gives me reasoning faculties. The different kinds and species of both Fruit and Flower are ever presenting their varied hues to one who appreciates in the least the works of Nature. One who has been an observer of the beautiful, and can cull fresh gems from things observed, will not murmur at the works of God, but at all times see some new beauty, some jewel that will attract close attention, close study, and in the end be instrumental not only of doing us directly a great good, but of enlightening us morally so as to enable us to live much better lives after the scenes have long been forgotten or have passed out of our minds, being crowded out by some new object, perhaps not so beautiful, but new, and presenting different charms, different new attractions.

Such will be the case with one who walks about the streets of New Orleans. Flowers of every hue will greet him at every turn — those with which he has ever been accustomed to see in his distant Northern Home, others which he is not acquainted with, or that are not found on New England’s hilly sides. The Magnolia with its verdure of living green, interspersed with large single flowers here and there over all its outer surface, is the most beautiful, the most fragrant — nothing so much so as this beautiful tree just after a shower, when the air has been cleansed and so is free from dirt and dust. But I will know more attempt to paint the beauties that will ever attract one who has cultivated his taste for this great, this wonderful blessing, bestowed upon us worms of the dust by our kind and very indulgent Heavenly Father, but will leave it to those who are better able to express their minds and in more expressive language, and return to the Hospital, to think and reflect on what was seen in a few hours of recreation, spent on the Banks of the Old Mississippi.

Sunday, February 22 – Again with the aid of a Pass, I have the privilege of mingling with outside life; directing my way to a Colored Church named St. Paul’s, I spend my time.

Much pleasure was derived by attending this place of worship. To those who had ever in the past attended quietly, from Sabbath to Sabbath, those quiet God-like places of worship and noted the heaving bosom or starting tear spring from eyes that had from early infancy watched over us, such would criticize the proceedings, even condemn their form, and call it all excitement. But charity must be allowed even to them. They are different by Nature, different in practice, their surroundings have been altogether different.

And so sincerity must be allowed in all their acts. If they go to extremes, we must allow that ignorance has been their Master.

But politeness is a virtue, so far as strangers are concerned, who care to visit at their Church. One does not have to stand at the Door stone or at the entrance, waiting for the Sexton to show him a seat, till patience becomes a virtue, but are politely shown a seat up in front of the desk reserved for their especial use while staying with them.

Their singing was old-fashioned — the Pastor reading 2 lines, and then old and young joined in singing the song of praise, with a zest almost unimaginable, or impossible to be conceived.

Pleasure beamed from all of their faces, while hearty Amens sprang from many a lip as they closed the Hymn. The exercises in the morn at 9 o’clock were a Sabbath School, with occasionally a concert. Preaching at 10:30, Class Meeting from 12 to 1:30. Here a great degree of Excitement reigned. 18 classes, all in one room, and all going at once, or at least someone in each class speaking at one and the same time.

February 26 – Was out in the City and purchased a gold pen.

March 8 – Splendid day. Sweet Emblem of the Christian’s rest. How can I express the language of my soul on so great a blessing as the love of Christ!

March 15 – I’m still trying to work out my salvation, still standing up for Christ and am at the St. Paul’s Colored Church.

March 20 – Had a pass and made a call on Mrs. Richards, 107 Coliseum St. She was a strong Union Woman.

March 29 – The Sabbath has quiet attractions which draw us nearer to God.

April 1 – Was called upon by one whose life was fast ebbing away, to write a letter to his mother, then in New York, with a request that she would divide equally his funds among the inmates of his family.

April 19 – Signed the Pay Roll for two months’ pay.

April 30 – Visited Sypras (Cypress) Grove [Cemetery], the last resting place of the Boys in Blue, and gathered some flowers to keep as Mementos.

May 10 – Again am in St. Paul’s Church.

May 11 – Visited Jefferson City and gathered some flowers.

May 31 – Am in a Concert at St. Paul’s and am somewhat amused.

June 18 – At last, with many papers in my own hands and money in my pocket, I am on a Steamer bound for New York, nothing but a poor skeleton and with a poor prospect of ever getting home. They have kept me till life has about ebbed in these old bones.

June 19 – It is now 8:00 a.m., and we are about passing out of the Mississippi’s muddy waters, across the Bar at the South West Pass, into the salt waters of the Gulf. The Pilot has been with us all night, and now is about bidding us farewell, to return up the river; the passage being made since 9 p.m. last night, safely. A gun is fired, the steam put on, as well as all sail, and we are off for the briny deep. As we pass along out of the fresh, into the salt water, one would suppose it impossible to tell just when the event took place, but it is as plain as two distinct outlines can make it, or as much so as black and white on a plane board. As far as the eye can pierce in the dim distance, the division is observable, muddy yellow on one side, blue or green on the opposite.

But how are the passengers? Many are very sick and never will live to see New York. 75 in all of us were discharged from the St. James. Besides these, there are 43 prisoners who are being conveyed to Key West, Florida, to be confined at Dry Tortugas, some for 15 years. They contrived various ways to escape, but thus far have not been successful.

Sea sickness prevails among most of us, but I have been fortunate thus far and have escaped by being less sick than many others. Some provided themselves with various kinds of fruit, and the consequence was a serious casting up of accounts, without Day Book or Ledger to refer to.

The morn was very pleasant, but soon dark clouds came rushing up into view, while strong puffs of wind ruffled the otherwise smooth surface, causing huge waves to dash angrily past, bearing white crests on their tops, threatening to engulf our noble Steamer as she proudly made her way through the commotion. As we proceeded the storm increased, till the whitecaps dashed far over us from side to side, wetting us who were exposed with the salt spray completely through.

June 21 – Very pleasant and warm. Although our passage thus far has been very rough and stormy, yet it has been safely made through the kindness of our Heavenly Father, while the steamer is just opposite Key West.

The signal for a Pilot was made, a rocket set off, and at 1 o’clock in the morning, he came on board, staying until light was sufficiently strong to take us up opposite the shore.

A strong guard of nine-months men were in charge of the prisoners, and were put on shore with them. One prisoner, in his attempt to escape, secreted himself in the coal so deep that he came near suffocating, his attempts to breathe discovered him to those in quest of him.

June 22 – I was called by Rev. Mr. Chubbuck, our Chaplain, to go and sit by the bedside of a poor man by the name of Dunken [Duncan Ross ?], who, it was expected, had but a short time to remain with us. Death had claimed him as a victim. This was a 10 o’clock in the morning.

While there, I was called out to show my Passport. Only one out of all the crowd was pronounced a forgery. One man was arrested and proved to be a notorious Blackleg. He was armed with a large pistol and prepared to defend himself, but coming so suddenly upon him, it was impossible for him to use it in self-defense.  His intention was to get from New Orleans to New York, but Uncle Sam was too smart for him.

As soon as this excitement passed, I returned to the sick man, where I remained till 3 o’clock, when he quickly passed away. I never saw such a man. He could move no part of his body, only his head. At the same time, the most profane oaths sprang in a torrent from his lips. Such a death it is not my desire or wish to die. To die without hope is a fearful matter, but thus to die is much more so.

After closing his eyes, which were now sightless and without expression, excepting the startled look some seem to have as they look beyond the River, I retired to my own quarters for reflection, hoping that no more of our number would thus be called ‘ere arriving at our distant homes.

June 23 – There is no spot so pleasant as is found on a first-class Steamer by one who has been away from home for a long time, and this morning we were out bright and early to welcome the sun as it lifted its head from the heaving billows. What a glorious sight, to see the sunrise! I cannot explain it; it must be witnessed. Soon after, however it clouded over, and a smart shower was the consequence.

We ran 260 miles from Key West in 24 hours. Just at night another squall set in, to finish up the day.

June 24 – Cloudy in the morning, with a strong wind, but soon grew warm. Two soldiers died, and after a short service by our Chaplain, were committed to the deep.

None can tell till called to witness a scene of this kind, how little sincere, heartfelt pity is had for one whose life has been sacrificed for his country, by one whose principles side with the South. It is my prayer, and ever has been in all my wanderings, that death would not call me to enter the spirit world till my feet were standing where no secesh sympathizer could minister to my wants.

June 26 – Are rapidly approaching New York. Men are dying. Again, we are called to pay our respects to one departed, making six men in eight days. Had I remained much longer, such would have been my condition.

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