Civil War Diary of Sergeant Henry W. Tisdale
Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry
TYPED & BOUND IN 1926
FOR FREDERICK C. TISDALE (HENRY’S SON) BY MARGARET H. TISDALE (FREDERICK’S WIFE)
This Civil War Diary is published here to be read and used for historical enjoyment, knowledge and research purposes by all.
Roscoe H. Tisdale (Henry’s son)
My brother Fred’s wife, Margaret, typed this diary from the pen transcripts made by Sergeant Henry W. Tisdale. They were given to me in his will. He turned them over to me the day before he died, with the request that I should not open them until after he had passed on. Father always kept them among his private papers and no one was allowed to see them. As I consider them to be a priceless family possession and of especial interest to his children, I have had four copies made, and I am giving one copy to each of my brothers, Charles and Fred, and one to my sister Edith, on this Christmas Day 1926. I feel that the possession and reading of these pages will give us a more intimate understanding of father’s character, and make his memory nearer and dearer to us all.
HENRY W. TISDALE
Mark F. Farrell/ Great-grandson
Henry W. Tisdale was born on March 9, 1837 in Walpole, Massachusetts, the eldest of seven children. He was raised in both Walpole and West Dedham, Massachusetts, which at present is the town of Westwood, Massachusetts. On July 10, 1862 at age twenty-five, Henry enlisted in Company I, Thirty-fifth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, and was given the rank of sergeant. Henry ‘s name appears first on the company roster. Henry was employed as a clerk at Benjamin Boyden’s trading business at the time of his enlistment and wrote many letters during the war to Mr. Boyden and to Henry’s sisters, Abbie, Nellie (Penelope), and Carrie (Caroline) Tisdale.
The regiment trained at Camp Stanton in Lynnfield, Massachusetts. On September 14, 1862 Henry was wounded in the thigh at Fox’s Gap during the Battle of South Mountain in Maryland. Henry recovered and rejoined his regiment on February 4, 1863, when it traveled to Kentucky and East Tennessee. During 1863 Henry participated in the Vicksburg and Jackson, Mississippi campaigns. On July 13th, while near Jackson, Henry was giving instructions to a sergeant of the 7TH Rhode Island, when a minie ball passed through the sergeant and killed him. It then struck Henry’s rifle sparing his life. Later in 1863 the regiment returned to Kentucky and East Tennesse and fought at Campbell’s Station. During 1864, the regiment took part in Grant’s Overland Campaign in Virginia. On May 24th Henry was captured following the Battle of North Anna River. He was held at several Rebel prisons, including Libby Prison in Richmond, Andersonville Prison in Georgia (from June 7th through October 5th), Camp Millen in Georgia, Camp Davidson in Savanah, Georgia, and the Florence Stockade in South Carolina. While at Andersonville Henry served as the sergeant of the 3rd mess of Detachment # 76 and was responsible for 90 fellow prisoners. His duties included obtaining rations, roll call, and taking the sick to the hospital. While a prisoner of war Henry was recommended for the Medal of Honor by Col. Carruth and Gen. Parke. However, there is not any record of a disposition in the matter. Henry was exchanged on March 3,1865 and discharged on June 13th after three years of war.
On June 3, 1868 Henry married Abbie Frances Cheney and they had seven children and were living at 23 Glenwood Avenue, Boston. Circa 1880 the family moved to 124 Eustis Street in Roxbury, MA and later moved to 92 Winthrop Street, Boston. Henry opened a grocery store and market located at 1800 and 2219 Washington Street. Henry was a deeply religious man and never spoke of his Civil War exploits. Henry died on May 31, 1922 at age eighty-five and was buried in Highland Cemetery in Norwood, MA.
The family has made seven hardbound typed copies by Margaret H. Tisdale and later a dozen loose photocopies of the ” Civil War Diary and Letters of Sergeant Henry W.Tisdale”, were made by this writer. The three volume original diary is preserved in the Rare Books Department of the Boston Public Library. The fourth volume,” Rebel Prison Pens,” was returned to Henry’s daughter, Ella, and is lost. However, the library did make a photocopy of it. The diary has not been published, except for a few excerpts for the book, Tribute. Mr.Robert Cormier’s AP students at Shrewsbury High School transferred the diary to a digitized computer disc as a class project. Although, this project was done without the knowledge of his descendants it has allowed for this digitized copy of the diary at this website, for which we are very greatful to Mr. Cormier, who was this writer’s high school US History teacher. The Civil War Diary and Letters of Sergeant Henry W. Tisdale, 1862-1865, was registered with and issued a copyright from the Library of Congress to this writer in 2001.
Henry’s youngest son, Frederick, was this writer’s maternal grandfather. Henry’s Model 1861 Springfield Rifle hangs above the family fireplace in West Alton, NH. Henry’s other Civil War equipment was given to the Dedham Historical Society along with one hardbound typed copy of the diary.
To view photos please go to the address below.
NOTE: To Navigate to the Next Page of the Diary please Click on the Link at the Bottom of each Page.
CIVIL WAR DIARY OF SERGEANT HENRY W. TISDALE
July 30, 1862
The past 22 days have been busy and eventful ones to me. Thursday, July 10th, enlisted as a volunteer in the service of the U.S. Soon after the President’s call for the 300,000 volunteers felt it my duty to be one of them, feel it as much a Christian as a political duty, and feel that every citizen ought to feel it so. And certainly have never felt more peace of mind as flowing from a sense of duty done, as in this matter of enlistment into the service of our country. In most of the towns of our state volunteering goes on rapidly. In others, however, there seems to be but little true patriotism. All towns are offering liberal bounties, varying from one to three hundred dollars. I fear that some of our volunteers go more from motives founded in dollars and cents than from those drawn from true patriotism. May God bless our land and help us as a people to have that true patriotism which is founded in true Christian and political principles. I have been at home all day or nearly so, having left Mr. Boyden’s Monday night. I have been busy packing my effects and preparing my camp equipage. Tomorrow go to camp at Lynnfield. May Thy blessing, My Heavenly father, be with me, and aid me to have thy love and service first and foremost upon the affections of my heart, and be the foundation motives of each thought, word and act, for Christ’s sake.
August 1,1862.Camp Stanton, Lynnfield, Massachusetts.
Came into camp yesterday. Found things pleasanter than I had expected. Everything new and novel and affording much amusement. Towards night was examined by the surgeon, pronounced fit for and sworn into U.S. Service for the term of three years or sooner discharge. Wrote letter to folks at home. Had a very heavy thundershower in afternoon. We enjoyed it much, snugly ensconced in our tents, a new and novel shelter to us. Had fish chowder for dinner.
Had our first season of battalion drill. Enjoyed it much, though quite a severe tax to me physically. Already feel that my daily drill in the open air is improving me in my mental and physical health, and that if watchful against needless exposure need have no fears but that I can endure the hardships of soldier life.
It is saddening to see the regard paid by the majority of soldiers for this day, Sabbath, making it but a day of pleasure and frolic. Crowds of visitors are about the camp, most of them seem to have come for mere pleasure. May God help me to be watchful and so strengthen my faith that I may even in the army, grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ, and exert an influence for good. I wrote a letter to W. H. C. today and attended the church in the village in forenoon. But few were in attendance in proportion to the place and number of people about the camps. In the evening had services in the camp, quite impressive. It was interesting to notice the difference aspects of character exhibited by the men in their tents as shown in their manner of spending the evening. Some singing comic and lewd songs, others patriotic and sentimental, others sweet Christian hymns which did one’s soul good to hear and affording a pleasing contrast to the almost continual profanity heard about camp.
Had my first experience in guard duty today. Found it easier than I had expected an indeed find all of my experiences of soldier life more agreeable than I had imagined. God, help me to be spiritually and not carnally minded.
Had to sleep on ground last night and in the open air for the first time, with a blanket for my bed and billet of wood for my pillow. Felt most sick this forenoon, but better in afternoon. Woke with splitting headache.
Nothing of note the past three days. Left camp for home today on three day furlough. Enjoyed the change very much. Already has my short experience of camp life led me to feel more than ever blessings of a quiet home and the peaceful pursuits of industry. May the blessings of our God rest upon our armies and soon give us a righteous peace, so that there may be no war in our land for our Saviour’s sake, Amen.
Came back to camp, felt rather sober in resuming soldier duties, and at the near prospect of bidding goodbye to home and loved ones, perhaps to meet no more on earth. Brought some papers and tracts from the American Tract Society. and distributed about camp. Need to pray for a deeper measure of faith to work for Christ aggressively.
Have been very busy the past three days. Have been appointed Sergeant and have been busy in drill and in study of the “tactics.” Feel I need more decision and promptness, and to learn to be dependant upon myself. Had a very hard day’s work today. The 33rd MA Regiment left for the front. Changed our camp spot and now occupy the tents and grounds vacated by them. Are in Sibley tents, sixteen men to a tent. Have good rations. Camp not kept so cleanly as it should be, seems to me.
Received our guns and equipment today and formally sworn into the U.S. service as a Regiment, the 35th Massachusetts. Colonel Edward A.Wilde commanding.
Sabbath. A strange way of spending it has been my lot. On guard last night, until 9 AM, this morning. Then busy cleaning up tent and camp for inspection so did not get through work and duty until ten AM. A most beautiful day, and all are mature smiling with the love of God to man. The pond bordering our camp is calm and still, with scarce a ripple upon its surface. My thoughts flew toward home, thinking of the quiet peace and freedom from labor and opportunities there open to learn of God and His truth. Here all turmoil and confusion. Felt a little homesick as I contrasted the difference. Reflecting, however, I felt that the true sources of happiness are from within, and not dependant upon earthly surroundings or circumstances. That with the love of God and Christ in my heart, I can be happy and content anywhere when in the path of duty, even if that path be amid much that is far from God and uncongenial to the heart. Last Sabbath was in Dedham. It was communion Sabbath and now today I realize more than ever the preciousness of that service and that perhaps I have participated in it for the last time on earth with those whom for many pleasant years have been covenanted with in bonds of Christian faith and love. Miss much my past opportunities for retirement for secret prayer. Here no opportunity to retire alone is at hand. O God help me to have my heart in constant communion with Thee, for Thou hearest from the heart even though there be no outward word expressed. May Thy word be indeed a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path mid the turmoil about me, and may I in heart be instant in prayer and fervent in spirit serving Thee in and through all the new scenes and life about me. For Christ’s sake, Amen. More than ever precious are God’s words and the privilege of prayer. Many thoughts of home and loved ones today-may God bless them and aid us so to live that we may all meet above to go out no more. May I pray each day in faith for them, and in my letters aim to let Christ shine forth in my words and spirit. Hope to get a chance to see them once more ere leaving the state.
Sisters came to camp today. Enjoy their visit very much. Had furlough granted me and went home with them, to be back by 3 PM tomorrow. Sister Carrie at work at Uncle William’s going up there, after our arrival home.
Went to Uncle William’s in forenoon and bid Carrie goodbye. At 11 AM left for camp bidding adieu to the folks perhaps forever. My heart was too full to speak as I bid them goodbye. There were many, many things I wished to say to them and which I fully intended to, but kept putting them off through the morning and when the hour for departure came, I could not control myself to do it. Now perhaps I may never speak to them again. O God if it may be thy will, grant that we may meet in heaven through the merits of thy son, Jesus. Amen. Cried near half the way to camp. Rode to Readville to take the cars with Sabin R. Baker. There are five of us from West Dedham in Company I: Sabin R. Baker, Ephraim A. Roberts, George E. Whiting and David Sullivan. As the day is closing think of those from whom I have parted. Feel that God does all things well and will care for them that I should trust their welfare fully in His hands, for He who careth for the little sparrow and numbereth the hairs of our head, will surely care for our highest good.
At near 11 AM left Lynnfield en route for the front or seat of war. There was a long train of us and one could not help feeling a sort of pride to be steaming along, thinking of the great work we were going to do. “ We Are Coming Father Abraham, 300,000 More”, was our song, as I hummed it over could not keep the tears from my eyes as I thought of home, left perhaps forever.
Arrived late at night and camped at Arlington Heights above five miles from Washington, and near the estate of the Rebel General Lee. The journey on was in the main pleasant. From Boston by the Fall River route to Jersey City, we crossed the sound on the steamer Bay State. At Philadelphia, had a splendid treat at the “Cooper Shop” an establishment for the purpose of entertaining the regiments as they may be en route through the city and supplied and kept in readiness by the contributions of the citizens. Had a hot and dusty march through Washington over aqueduct bridge to our camp spot, a distance of near 8 miles which with our greatness at marching and heavily laden knapsacks was quiet a task to us and many of us had blistered feet.
Sabbath. Changed our camp ground about half a mile and are now near Fort Coccoran, have a fine view of the Potomac and a portion of the city of Washington. Have had some little drill the past few days. New troops are arriving every day and camping about us. Evidence multiplies that stirring times are about us, with reports of hard fighting, as going on near the old Bull Run battle ground. A portion of General McClellan’s army marched by our camp today. They looked worn and weary. Their soiled and worn uniforms and tattered flags presenting a strong contrast to our new and clean attire and trappings. Somehow felt ashamed of my new uniform, and wished that I could with them show the marks of honorable service. This is our first Sabbath in our camp. Have no chaplain with us yet so had no religious services. Wrote letter to Benjamin Boyden. Need to be on the watch against wasting such leisure time as I may have in camp. Have not been as earnest as I should be in ascertaining the number and who of our regiment are Christian men.
Have done wrong in not keeping a journal more strictly, have no excuse but a spirit of laziness. Find there is something in soldier life that induces this spirit when there are no drill duties on hand, must watch against it. Our regiment or a portion of it, on guard duty at long bridge one day. There has been hard fighting and our troops have again been worsted and driven or retreating back to the line of forts skirting the Potomac. There is a grand skedaddle of citizens setting out for Washington, and crowds of vehicles of all descriptions are crowding the bridge giving us quite a job to keep order among them and see that no contraband articles are carried to Washington. A large drove of beef cattle passed over the bridge into the river so great was the rush and hurry. Had one day of picket duty near Blain’s Cross Roads. The whole country here is being sadly cut up by our armies, buildings, fences, trees, orchards, etc., all being destroyed or as good as destroyed. Find I need to cultivate my perceptive faculties also hard work to keep awake nights when on guard duty. This being obliged to be on the watch nights when nature craves sleep is one of a soldier’s duties which I must learn to bear and discharge faithfully. Notice I am drifting to a neglect and loss of love for prayer. Feel that the duty and privilege of prayer and morning and evening study of God’s word are to be my main bulwark against forgetfulness and neglect of the service of God and of eternal things. Have written letters to Father, sisters, Abbie and Nellie, and to W. H. C. Received a letter from Father. He wrote that Charlie Everett had left and gone to live with his grandmother. Have had some ammunition given to us and one were ordered to sleep with our equipment on and be ready to turn out at a moment’s notice. Some are quite elated at these prospects of actual fighting.
A portion of our regiment and our company among them sent out digging trenches and throwing up breastworks. It was amusing to hear the scolding and fretting taken up by some at this kind of work saying “they did not come out to dig but to fight” thus seeming to forget that trenches and breastworks are a necessary part of the machinery of war. Very warm and the use of the pick and shovel made us sweat freely. At noon came orders for us to be ready to move at 5 PM. Packed up in light marching order, i.e. with blankets (rubber and woolen) and overcoats if we chose and such other light matter as we saw fit our knapsacks to be stored in Washington for a season. Many of us had disposed of much extra clothing and useless “knick-knack” which we had brought out from home and which our first march through Washington to our present camp had taught us had better be thrown away than lugged on long marches. Amused ourselves while waiting for orders to start, with pelting each other with melon rinds, melons are the only articles of fruit we get. A squad of us having defective guns was marched to the Arsenal in Washington where we exchanged them. We thus had four miles extra marching. Got underway at 5:30 PM marching across long bridge and through Washington out into Maryland. All sort of rumors are afloat as to our destination to Leesboro Harper’s Ferry etc. Reports say the Rebels are making a raid into Maryland.
Marched until 1 AM this morning. Came hard upon us being unused to marching but as it is one of the things we have got to put up with our only way to enjoy it is to make the best of it. Many fell out and straggled behind, of our company, but thirty bivouacked with the regiment at its final halt for the night, some of the other companies had but 10 and 20 each. Halted in a fine grove and were allowed to rest in quiet until after sunrise, our bed soft Mother Earth with rubber and woolen blankets for bedding. Slept soundly and felt as much refreshed as if I had lain upon the nicest mattress. Truly find that fatigue of body will induce sleep anywhere. Waited ‘til near noon ere ordered to move the neighboring fields furnishing a good supply of grapes, peaches, melons, potatoes, apples etc. to splice our hard tack and pork rations. Could hardly realize it to be the Sabbath. Everything about so full of novelty excitement and seeming confusion. Troops of all kinds passing along the road, while ourselves under orders to move at a moments notice. Help me O God, amid these scenes and duties to have my heart still in communion with thee and in all the new and strange life about me to do all things in Thy fear and for Thy glory. At 10 AM were on the move. Marched until 1 PM and then bivouacked in a fine grove near a small brook and remained rest of the day. Had nice bath in brook. Foraging was freely indulged in by many of the men, pigs, fruit, green corn, etc. Have my doubts as to the propriety of this when we have plenty of rations. Had many thoughts of the Sabbath quiet of home and of loved ones there. May God’s blessing be with them.
Have been on the move off and on since the 7th. Are now encamped near Brookville, MD waiting for rations. Weather has been very warm causing many to fall out on the march. We have no tents yet, but get on quite comfortable with blankets. A rain, however, would not be quite so comfortable to us. Before leaving our camp spot of the 7th, our Colonel Wild told us in an address to the regiment that there was some prospect of getting into action soon. Exhorted us to be cool, to have our ears open for orders and our eyes about us, and not be watching where this or that shell or solid shot was going to strike. Said he was perfectly willing we should forage our food whenever we were short for rations whether in the enemies’ country or not, but to be sure and not waste anything, foraging enough for our immediate wants and no more. Are restricted today to what we can pick up for our food, as supply trains are not up with us. Have lived on fried apples and potatoes mostly today. Wrote letter to folks at home. Feel I ought to have written more of the near prospect of our getting into a fight, of my feelings and some parting words to them. Think it would be well to write something of these and seal up and in case of my death in action have them sent to them.
On the march since the 10th off and on and are now camped near Middletown, MD. According to reports we are attached to General Jesse Reno’s Division of Gen. Burnside’s 9th Corps. Was some little fighting yesterday between our advanced parts of the army and the rebels under Stonewall Jackson near Frederick, MD. The country through which we have passed is a very fine in natural scenery, interspersed with fine farms and woodland, the latter more of a true forest style than our Northern woods, having much less underbrush and rocks, and the wood much larger. Passed through two or three small villages; these and the farm dwellings and buildings we have passed are far from equaling in style or taste those of the North, showing many of them in a dilapidated appearance, and far more whitewash than paint. One feels already the taint of slavery upon the land in the somehow thriftless and want of enterprising look of the country. Our march through Frederick, MD yesterday and by moonlight, over the hills and beyond it was very fine. The scenery from these hills delightful. This morning was opened with the booming of cannon and during the day thus far troops have been passing by our camp in one continued stream. It is hard to feel it the Sabbath. Prospects of our getting into action before night multiply causing a sort of feverish excitement to come over me. Help me my heavenly Father to do my duty in thy fear and for glory for Christ’s sake, Amen. In one of the churches of the town is some of the rebel wounded from the action of yesterday or skirmishing. Tears come into my eyes as I think of home and of the peaceful Sabbath there enjoyed.
Some six weeks have passed away since writing. They have been eventful ones to me, full of God’s providential goodness and mercy. A good deal of the time I have been unable to write and the remaining time I have been indisposed to it. At near 4 PM September 14th our brigade was ordered to the front, a rough march of some 4 miles brought us to the scene of conflict, climbing steep hills, some almost mountains crossing rough fields through corn fields and some of the way at double quick. On our way meeting many wounded being carried to the rear and as we neared the battleground here and there a dead body was to be seen. At little after 5 PM were upon the ground where the booming of artillery the screaming of shot and shell and rattling of musketry told us we were mid the stern realities of actual battle. The sight of the wounded sent a kind of chill over me but in the main feelings of curiosity and wonder at the scene about me took hold of my mind. Were drawn up in the line of battle in a cornfield and then advanced through a sort of wooden field to a thick wood where we met the rebels or a few scattering ones for their main body was on the retreat. In entering the wood came upon a large number of rebel dead lying in a ravine, presenting a sad and sickening sight. They were making an advance upon our lines, but when crossing the ravine, were met by a volley from the 17th Michigan which so thinned their ranks that on that part of their line they made a precipitate retreat. Just after we entered the wood was wounded by a rifle ball passing through my left leg just opposite the thighbone. As the ball struck me it gave me a shock which led me to feel at first that the bone must have been struck and shattered and for a moment did not dare to move for fear it was so. Found on moving that the bone was not injured and that I had only a flesh wound, which relieved my mind and thankfulness to God that I was not maimed or dangerously hurt came. I think that the shot must have been fired by some straggling rebel or sharpshooter in a tree, as we had not yet got up to within reach of the rebel lines. Found myself in a few moments growing weak and tying my towel above the wound to stop its bleeding tried to make for the rear where the surgeons were. As I was limping off a wounded rebel who was sitting against a tree called me and asked me if I did not have something to eat. Exhibiting a loaf and going to him I opened my knife to cut off a slice when he placed his hands before his face exclaiming “Don’t kill me” and begging me to put up the knife and not to hurt him. Assuring him I had no intention of hurting him I spoke with him a little. Found he had a family in Georgia, that he was badly wounded and was anxious to have me remain with him and help him off. But found I was growing weaker from loss of blood and that the surging to and fro the troops about us made it a dangerous place so limping and crawling was obliged to leave him and move for the rear. Soon came across some men detailed to look out for the wounded who placed me in a blanket and took me to the rear to the surgeon. The place where the wounded were brought was near a cottage, near which had been the battle- ground of the forenoon. Was fortunate enough to be placed upon a straw bed in the garden just outside the house and had my wound promptly dressed. The cottage had a memento of the fight in the shape of a hole through its roof made by a cannon ball. The fighting continued till late in the evening, our regiment losing but a few wounded among them our colonel lost his left arm and George E. Whiting of our company one of his feet. He bore the amputation manfully. The house and outbuildings and the ground adjoining them were filled and covered with wounded rebel and union mingled, all being cared for as best they could be, many moaning piteously throughout the night or until death put an end to their sufferings. Friend Sabin R. Baker of our company took care of us of the regiment doing what he could and adding much to our comfort amid the confusion and suffering existing about. On the afternoon of Tuesday Sept. 16th a train of ambulances came and all of us able to be moved were taken to Middletown and placed in the churches vacant dwelling etc. in town. Endeavored to get into the same building with Whiting but in vain. Was saddened to hear while at Frederick, MD of his death, from dysentery and weakness from his wound. Remained at Middletown until the next afternoon; the citizens generously supplying us with food and other needs; when we were moved to Frederick, and were placed in the Lutheran Church, which was turned into a hospital. A rough board floor was laid over the tops of the pews. Folding iron bedsteads with mattresses, clean white sheets, pillows, blankets, and clean underclothing, hospital dressing gowns, slippers, etc. were furnished us freely. The citizens came in twice a day with a host of luxuries, cordials, etc. for our comfort. The church finely finished off within, well ventilated and our situation as pleasant and comfortable as could be made. A few rebel wounded were in the building. Some of the citizens showed them special attention bringing them articles of food, etc. and giving none to the others. The surgeons put a stop to this however by telling them that they must distribute to all alike or they would not be allowed to visit the hospital at all, this was much to our satisfaction. Remained in Frederick until Sept. 30th, getting on slowly, having my wound dressed twice a day. A liberal supply of reading material and other comforts furnished by the citizens,-when able to go about on crutches was sent off for Philadelphia. Had a rough ride thither, were placed in box freight cars with but a thin layer of straw upon the floor to lie upon. Owing to delays were 27 hours on the trip. Were kindly cared for on arrival at Philadelphia at the Citizen’s Volunteer Hospital and from thence was transferred to a regular government hospital at the corner of 5th and Burtonwood Streets. Here I found every appliance that humanity could suggest for our comfort. Was placed in the 4th story of the building. Wound continued to heal nicely giving me but little pain and in about a fortnight was able to hobble about the room and dress myself and by the 20th of October to walk out doors. Found many sad cases of wounds and sickness in the hospital, many from shattered limbs had been lying for many months slowly recovering and waiting to be able to be sent home. Felt that I had great need for thankfulness that mine was only a flesh wound. On October 27th through error and carelessness of the surgeon, my name was placed upon the list of those to be sent off to join their regiments and though protesting against being sent away until my wound was fully healed, was sent off to the Convalescent Camp at Alexandria. My wound was not healed either where the ball had entered or passed out and was obliged to have it have it dressed that morning. But the surgeon rather than take the trouble to alter the “papers” he had made out told me I must go. Regretted this very much for I had hoped to stay until fully well, and while convalescent visit about the city. Have had many pleasant calls upon me from friends in the city have brought me many delicacies especially fruit. Most of them are former residents of MA. Among them Misses Clarke and Harding, friends of sister Carrie two very pleasant girls and who I visited at their workshop a day before I left, Mrs. Boynton of Beverly, NJ, a school mate of father’s and Mrs. J. L. Frost formerly of Boston. Made many pleasant friendships in the hospital of brother soldiers among them H. Vantassie of NY, Walter E. Swan of Mass., and James Mack of PA. How many pleasant friendships are but for little time here on earth ere time of parting comes, and we go away to meet no more perhaps forever,-how should this admonish us to have our affections on things above where naught can separate us from the love of Him who hath redeemed us and who ever is near all that love him. Felt sort of home sick thus suddenly to bid goodbye to friends and seemed like leaving home a second time for the untried scenes of war. Had a pleasant journey to Washington and from thence on the 29th was transferred today to the convalescent camp or post hospital near Alexandria. On arrival was examined and pronounced unfit to go to my regiment and sent to a portion of the camp set apart for convalescents. Found here my quarters were to be in a crowded tent and obliged to lie upon the ground. Went to the surgeon and showing him my wound asked if I could not have some quarters where I could have something or other for bedding and was transferred to the “half sick quarters” and placed in tent with four others with straw ticks to lie upon. Felt quite comfortable and hopeful that my wound would soon heal and my lameness pass away. Before leaving Philadelphia was told by the surgeon to exercise as much as possible for some of the cords were partially cut.
Found the camp a mixed up concern, of convalescents, men waiting to be sent to their regiments, others for discharge for disabilities, many quite sick lying in hospital tents, a lot more sort of half sick. The executive department of the camp but poorly managed, men kept here who should be discharged, others sick, not properly cared for either in their bodily or medical wants; in fact the men here tell me the common name of the camp is called ironically “Camp Misery” and “Camp Humbug.” Visited the Fairfax Seminary Hospital and found Frederick J.. Neiss of our company quite sick of typhoid fever. Tried to cheer him up a little.
A beautiful day. God seems to be blessed our armies with good weather, may He bless with victory and our rulers with wisdom in their plans. Wasted much time must be more watchful to have some employment constantly on hard for either mind or body. Felt somewhat homesick or heartsick at the prospect of having to stay in a camp like this for some time yet before able to go to the regiment. There is a great deal in the conduct of the men here unpleasant to bear. But feel God for some wise reason has placed me here, and that here there is work for me to do in subduing evil in my own heart and of doing good to others. Need to look more for guidance in each new scene and circumstance of life.
Yesterday began a new month, our dear New England Thanksgiving month. Nothing of note happened yesterday. Took bath in neighboring brook in afternoon. Need to lay some plan for better improvement of my time. Today is the blessed Sabbath was disappointed in there not being any religious services in the camp. Think there is a great lack of regard for God and His commandments among our military officials. Received a kind letter from Carrie, it was a great treat to me. Am I doing what I can to lead her Christ? Went outside of camp and had season of prayer in a neighboring wood. Sweet are the hours of true communion with God and our Saviour. May I ever regard the privilege of prayer as one of life’s greatest blessings.
Busy most of the day writing to Carrie. Had a deeper view of the depravity of the human heart today by hearing conversation of some of the men in the camp. Am I prompt to manifest by my conversation that I am a disciple of Christ? Feel that I ought to be, and that my life should be a “living epistle known and read of all men.”
Another week has flown away. Nothing of particular note has occurred. God is giving me good health and strength and my wound is healing slowly. Our rations, coffee twice a day, one loaf of bread, salt pork or meat, and bean soup once or twice a week in place of meat, also a little molasses. Buy a good many apples. Feel I am not growing in the graces of Christ and in usefulness for Him as I ought. My daily temper does not show itself as being molded after the spirit of Christ as it ought. Feel I am too indecisive and not as energetic as I should be in my improvement of time. Need more acting and less resolving. Have had a severe snowstorm on the 8th, snowing near all day. Many of the sick are suffering much from the cold. No means of warming the tents being as yet supplied showing shameful neglect somewhere.
Think it would be more profitable for me to write in journal each day. Must try and write each morning, the first business after morning Bible study. The past week had passed swiftly away. My wound not improved much, fear it will not until I am furnished with more appropriate food and warmer quarters; fortunately am well off for clothing, but having to stay in a tent with no fire these cold raw days find it difficult to keep warm at reading or writing. Reading newspapers and other matter sent from home and letter writing my main employment.
A foggy and drizzly day. Mud about an inch deep over camp. Wrote letter to my brother, Herbert. Wasted much time for want of system and energy.
Attempted to write letter to Daniel F. Nichols, but did not feel like writing. Camp near being detailed for duty in taking charge of a squad of men to give them their rations etc., but determined I would do no duty or active duty while away from the regiment. Wish I could be sent to the regiment but it is useless to go there until fully well, I suppose.
A wet and cold day. Did not get up until 10 AM. Could do nothing while up but walk up and down the tent to keep warm. New tent mate, A. H. Van Vleit, of the 1st Michigan arrived. He is not yet 18 years of age yet has seen 18 months service. Notice he is quite given to profanity. In conversation with him upon the subject, he felt it to be wrong. How much do I need to cultivate tact and judgment to lead others to sense of sin and of need of a Saviour.
A bright and shiny day. Had a new experience of one of the disagreeable duties attendant upon soldier camp life, one which by thorough cleanliness I had hoped to avoid, but found it in vain here where it seems to me the very ground is infected with those disagreeable insects “lice.” Many do not keep their clothing as clean as they ought, and the camp is not properly “policed” or cleaned.
A cold day. Have to sit with our overcoats on and blankets around us to keep warm. Still feel I have need for thankfulness, for the cheerful spirit God is giving me, and feel that my condition is far better than is the lot of many a poor soldier. Sabbath is today. Feel I do not have “Christ in my heart and heaven in my eye” as I ought. Notwithstanding God’s sparing mercy to me the past three months amid danger and sickness in preserving me in health while so many of my comrades in the war have been called away, my heart does not have that spirit of grateful consecration to Him it ought. Wrote letter to Daniel F. Nichols.
A fine day, wrote Thanksgiving letter home. Corporal C. H. Higgins left today for home, having, after near two months of waiting, received his discharge. The delay occasioned in fact by the negligence of his Captain to send him his descriptive list. Belonged to the 11th Maine regiment, his home in Ellsworth, Maine. Has been a very pleasant tent mate since my stay here. Accompanied him to the city carrying part of his baggage to the boat for him. Ought to have spoken to him at parting upon his duty of a Christian life. Have had talks with him upon the subject. He understands with head but does not have the submission of heart necessary to the true Christian life.
Lay in bed near all day wrapped up in blanket. My wound a good deal inflamed. Had papers to read. Waste much time in semi-idleness and useless thought. Must cultivate more tact and energy to make a good use of time.
My thoughts have run much the past two days upon Thanksgiving time at home, with the social gathering of loved ones there and of the past association of the day or season. Received letter from sister, Abbie, and most joyfully welcomed. Wrote that they were anxious to send me a box of sundry home luxuries. Wrote to have them send one. Felt dull and stupid today. Think I eat too much in proportion to the labor or exercise I take. How does sin stayed at one point, break out in another.
Last day of another month. A month in this camp and still not well for duty. I purposed to be well for duty in two weeks, but God has ordered me otherwise. Feel that the past month has been a blank to me. Time wasted for want of system and determination of mind. What precious hours have I had for the study of God’s word, yet how little have I improved them to this end. Must try and start anew in earnestness of living. Make every moment useful in the great work getting and doing good, growing in holiness and aggressive usefulness for Christ and the salvation of men. Need especially to seek a more tender conscience and deeper spirit of instant prayer. The month has brought about no very important results in military matters. The Proclamation of the President announcing that by January 1st he should declare all the slaves of those states still in rebellion against the government, to be free. This has caused some dissatisfaction and caused much surprise. It has caused many debates among us soldiers. Somehow feel the measure to be unwise and tending only to exasperate the rebels. Yet feel that our President has an honest disinterested desire for the welfare of the country and would not act rashly in anything pertaining to its interests. Therefore have reason to wait quietly for the results, and in good hope that they will be such as to show the wisdom of the President in this action.
A warm day. Wrote letter to C. H. Higgins and Benjamin Boyden. Made a little improvement in manner of spending time today. Commenced reading in Proverbs for my morning reading of the Bible. Friend W. O. Green discharged and left for his home today in RI. Two new men placed in tent. Pride at work in my heart today showing itself in a spirit of thinking myself holier and better than others with whom I have been thrown in contact. Must watch against it and plant within the heart instead, love to all mankind, and a spontaneous desire to do good to all. Studied prayer of our Saviour with his Disciples as in St. John. How much and earnestly does He pray that His disciples to the end of time, should love one another.
Unwell today for diarrhea, causing me to feel weak. Think it caused by drinking too much of the aqueduct water we have here. Feel that the day has been barren of progress. Have done nothing seemingly for others, and little to improve myself. Spent much time in cooking today.
A dull chilly day. Notices the spirit of doing and saying things to win applause of man working in my heart today. Need to cultivate disinterestedness in word and deed.
A beautiful day. Busy doing various jobs of mending a good part of the day. Enjoyed reading of Congregationalist today. A portion of our camp removed to a new location. It is reported that the whole is to be removed and remodeled in its management ere long barracks built and other needed accommodations. Senators, Wilson and Gooch have visited the camp and declared it a nuisance in its present management. The number of men kept here has increased to some 15,000. The sick are poorly cared for. Hundreds here are disabled in one form or other, waiting for their discharge. The latter, owing to the mismanagement of the surgeons and officials in shamefully delayed, the men meanwhile dying from want of proper treatment,-some kept in waiting until so weak as to be unable to bear removal to their homes after receiving their discharge papers, dying with their discharge papers beneath their pillows. Have suffered for want of wood, scarce enough being brought to camp to supply the cooks, and so we have to stroll over the country to pick up brush or waste wood, or hack stumps to get wood to do what extra cooking we need. Near all the wood of the country about here has been cut off by the armies who camped about here a year or more ago.
Cold, rainy and snowy. Wrote letter to A. B. Norris.
The past two days have been severely cold. Laid in bed near all the time both night and day to keep warm and rolled up in blanket and overcoat and reading Sunday newspapers from home. Received letter from Abbie informing me that a box was on the way to me. A letter from Nellie also telling me that Ronnie commences his apprenticeship as a machinist today. It makes me feel older to think of my younger brother as old enough to go to a trade. How much do I wish I could be at home to counsel him. Must write him promptly giving him what counsel I can. Neglected prayer this morning and as if in consequence have been wasteful of much time during the day. Feel that in my prayers are growing formal, not asking, seeking, and knocking as one really wanting or hungering for what I ask.
A beautiful day. Wrote a letter to brother Ronnie. Feel I am too anxious of “wherewithal shall I be clothed” and what shall I eat and drink and too little anxious for spiritual food and progress.
December 10th.Went to Alexandria, visited various parts of the city. The city I should judge never had that spirit of enterprise common to our Northern cities. One or two small machine shops all the sign of any manufacturing it boasted. The city now is but a sort of war depot. Many or most of its churches are used by Government for hospitals, the pastors and congregations being “secesh” and consequently were ordered to close their churches while entertaining such sentiments. Friend A. H. Van Vleit got his discharge today. My box arrived today, contained some clothing and various eatable which were most gladly welcomed and giving me quite a treat of apples, potatoes, onions, mince pie, some of the Thanksgiving turkey, etc. Folks were kind in sending it. Busy rest of day getting clothes washed. Made some apple sauce. Wrote letter to Daniel F. Nichols.
Received letter from Carrie. A nice letter received full of home news. Took bath today in tent, using old mess pan for bathtub. Endeavored to get a “pass” and visit Cousin Ansel who lies sick in Washington, but could not, no passes granted except for official business.
Attended prayer meeting in evening in tent of Surgeon Smith, who took charge of the meeting. These meetings are held now every Sunday and Thursday evenings are very interesting. Felt too formal in mind and heart. Received a kindly letter from Cousin Julia. Surgeon Smith leaves the camp tomorrow. Shall miss him much as he is the only officer here who has or shows any interest in religious meetings. Wrote to D. Guild, in answer to a kindly one from him.
Felt inactive in mind today. Have thought much of the coming Sabbath tomorrow and endeavored to so improve the closing hours of the day as to awake in a goodly frame on the morrow.
Sabbath. Felt much today my need of more tenderness of heart towards the impenitent, so that I may hunger to do them good. Attended prayer meeting in Doctor Smith’s tent in afternoon. He has this tent arranged with temporary seats making quite a goodly chapel. To prayer meeting in 19th CT camp in evening. Must be more earnest in prayer for faith and love.
Unwell today. Feel it to be the result of eating too much food in proportion to the labor I perform.
Felt better today and think that cutting short the full gratification of my appetite had helped me to feel more alive in mind and body. Wrote letter to sister Nellie. Severe wind and rain came this morning. Through carelessness lost my memorandum book yesterday. Regret its loss though it contained but little of value.
Wrote a short letter to sister, Abbie. Received some papers and Congregationalists from Benjamin Boyden.
Wrote long letter to Abbie, upon political and military matters, the camp here and some of own experiences of soldier life. Find that where the heart is right in love to God and man, one can do good and get good even amid much that is to appearance entirely subversive of Christian principle and life. Find much that is uncongenial in the conduct of many of the soldiers here, but still find with watchfulness over my temper and heart can get on peacefully with all or nearly so and get if not do some good. Some of the men who have served under General McClellan are very bitter against the President for removing him, yet the majority have that confidence in the integrity of the President that they feel it is doubtless for wise and sufficient reasons that the change is made. Have had to keep pretty quiet the past three days, my wound having become inflamed again. Begin to think I shall have to be removed to better quarters if I would hope to get well to where I can have proper warmth and food. Reports are about that the camp is about to be removed to its new quarters are long.
Received a letter from Abbie. informing me of cousin Ansel’s having received this discharge and return home and of brother, Ronnie’s success thus far in learning his trade. Very glad to learn he likes and is getting on well.
A bitter cold day. Lay wrapped up in my blanket nearly all day. Towards night as the surgeon came round, spoke to him of the need of my being transferred to better quarters in order to hope to get well. He granted my request and removed me or allowed me to remove to one of the hospital tents but little better than the one I left. Had been in my new quarters but a short time when orders came for our removal to the hospital in the city. A most welcome order and we were soon in ambulances in route. By nine in the evening I was once more in a good hospital where I was given a warm bath some clean hospital clothes put on and soon snugly to bed in a ventilated and heated room. Was placed in the Methodist Church Hospital so called because the building was formerly a church but the congregation being “secesh” the government confiscated the use of their house of worship. Was joyful thus to bid goodbye to “Camp Misery.” Nearly all of the sick have now been transferred from thence to good hospitals in this city and Washington. One of my tent mates was sent to Washington, Edward Otto, a Prussian. He had a very bad leg, having got hurt by a fall from a horse, he belonged to the 1st N Y Cavalry. Was obliged in walking to drag his toes upon the ground. Had been laid by some four months and had tried in vain for discharge. He had come to this country to avoid being drafted into the army at home and on breaking out of the war enlisted as a “saddler” that being his trade. Hope the whole of the convalescent camp will be broken up, as it is nothing but a disgrace to the government in its present management.
Have been now four days in my new quarters. The change is very pleasant. My wound is already improving under proper dressing and the good accommodations generally. My heart is not as to me. Have misspent much time the past four days in useless reading. Must overcome this habit of reading trashy literature if I would have true ideas of life and earnestness and stability of character. Need to cultivate more energy and decision in my daily life. Have noticed a lack of self-possession in my intercourse which feel is but a consequence result of the want of the above qualities of character.
Last Sabbath of the year. I do not realize it so. Indeed feel my heart is cold to true spirited life. Am feeling more end more each day my need of God’s quickening grace in my heart. Feel that my little wasting of time my little sins I often commit are perhaps the occasion of God’s hiding His face from me. Yet ought to feel too that it is not by any words of my own that I can merit His grace still also must realize that while I love sin cannot hope for His mercy or grace. Must therefore yield the whole service and love of my heart not as hoping for reward for my so doing but as my rightful service, and what devout gratitude for God’s goodness call upon me to bestow. Had a fine Christmas dinner provided for us by the ladies of Washington and Alexandria. The hospital is full to overflowing with wounded from Fredericksburg, VA. Sorry to learn by the papers of the death of our Major Sidney Willard, formerly captain of our company, killed at Fredericksburg. I fear more men of our company and regiment have been laid bye in the fight. Had services in the hospital today. Have a good Chaplain connected with it. Received letter from brother, Herbert.
The past three days have been very pleasant. Took walk to the new convalescent camp on the 29th. Enjoyed the tramp very much. From appearance should judge they were making a first class camp, building good barracks, etc. On my return came around by Fort Scott, which overlooks the cities of Washington and Alexandria, the Potomac River and the surrounding country affording a delightful view, with the Capitol and many of the government buildings being in full view. Received six letters the past two days and have been busy in answering them. Feel I have much cause for thankfulness and gratitude to God for His many memories and blessings given me for the year now closing. Too little have I felt His goodness to me, sparing my life and giving me such good health and cheerfulness, His goodness too in sparing the lives of us brothers and sisters and in giving us in the main such good health and prosperity. May I commence the year with deeper love and consecration to Him, and a more earnest striving to grow into the image of His son in my life and conduct. Need deeper and truer views of life, of its object and ends, and to feel that only is a true life, which is spent in seeking the glory of God. And as a consequence of this, my own highest development, physical, mental, and spiritual and the good of my fellow men is realized.