Civil War Journal
Dear Journal,August 2, 1863
With Dixie in my heart, today is the day that South Carolina recruited me for this war. I must soon be ready to go to the regiment I was assigned to. I am in the 3rd Infantry Regiment of South Carolina. I would rather have been in the cavalry since, the Great State, I raise horses, but they needed infantry even more. I will do anything to help the Confederacy. Emily, Joseff, and Soo are sad that their Pa is leaving them. I told them not to fret and remember that I am fighting for what our forefathers wanted. They wanted to have an equally distributed government as not to have a ruler and people with no say. That promise has not been kept, and to start anew, we seceded. The children understand, having the Confederate flag gleaming in their eyes. I said my fare-thee-wells to Anna, the children, and the servants. “Never forget me. We will be together under one nation, the Confederate Nation. Our spirits will live on, bringing forth rights to rule as we please.” Going off to war is a tough thing to do. I am forced to leave my family, horses, plantation, and slaves to fight for the pride. The proudest of keeping those elements intact. Keeping those in order is a war in itself.
Dear Journal,August 17, 1863
The war front is quite an unimaginable experience unless you go through it yourself. We have little rations of horrid food. Hard tack full of meal worms and chicory coffee. Our Mamie’s collared greens is what I miss most right now. I do not feel kindly towards the food, but as long as we are able to keep alive on hard tack and goobers, we will fight to the very end. I am on of the newcomers of this regiment. This infantry has been here since the C.S.A. was established. I have made some acquaintances in my company, Company B. There is Michael Watkins, whom I may become quite attached to. Then there is Josiah Masterson who is frankly very pious and will shoot at the sight of any Stars and Stripes Yankee. The last man I befriended is William Chance. Will is the census taker of the wounded and dead. I must say it is not a pleasant job, but if one wanted to be in the war and not defend your rights, it is a good placement. I am ready for action. Michael warned me about the fighting. He said that I must imagine the worst that may happen, and make it inconceivable. Men have stamina now, until out on the battlefield. I do not believe Michael much. I think it is sublime to fight against the Yankees and dishonor them. Yet, there is some doubt of what his Jezebel words that are spoken. He might have the same problem, but I am not gonna eat it all at once. That is war, you can not eat all of it at once or you choke, but you can always wash it down with water, I say.
Dear Journal,September 19, 1863
“War will change a man, mentally and physically.”- Michael Watkins. He was correct. I am anxious about fighting and I love serving my country anyway. General Longstreet and Bragg are true fighters. We did not break the Federal line, but we pressed them pretty hard. Tomorrow we will attack again. We attacked the Yanks in the morning and we fought all day. Seeing the elephant (seeing battle for the first time) was exciting and exuberant to be out there and be the true Patriot that I am. It was nuts for us boys (easy) to fight. The Union was so helpless, although they did have those Spencer Rifles and they were on horseback, but we held them at bey, but we cannot call it a victory, yet. We need to get Chattanooga back. That is the main reason why we are fighting this battle. Chattanooga is an important mainstay for us Southerners, and we do not want the North to win now, do we? Not me, at least. Michael was by my side unflickering. Josiah, I now know, seeing the elephant as well, is all talk. He is a true blue Sunday soldier underneath. He injured himself with his bayonet, just stuck it right in his leg and went to the sawbones to get his leg amputated. I think he is a smart one doing that so he can be back home, but I still do not understand why war is traumatizing. Josiah’s way will never come over me, and I am drawing the furrow straighter (telling the truth) when I say that. The one thing that got to me is the horses that were killed. Just the dead carcasses of those creatures, not knowing what really is happened. Also the fact that they were killed because the rider is fighting for causes the horse has no clue what they would be. I just do not understand why we must kill the animals as well. One of our manure spreaders approached me with a problem with his horse. He does not know much about horses. Apparently, his horse is a female, which is odd because male horses are much stronger and more reliable to go into different situations, has menstrual cramps. I gave him the best advice. To ease her pain, he must put copper Union pennies, if he still has some, in her water. She needs some copper intake. That will help her to deal with the pain. He thanked me and I went about my business, but now when there are problems with horses, the men come to me to either double check if what they are doing is correct, or ask for advice itself. I am quite honored to be the service of our men.
It is getting a bit chilly, but this will be nothing comes December and January, if I make it that far…
Dear Journal, September 20, 1863
Victory is ours! Those Yanks can run! They skedaddled right out of our sights, when we pressed on them. You know, I think that Rosecrans’ fellow made a big mistake when he tried to close one gap that we made, because he made a bigger one when he filled it! We fought them until dark and then Dixie ran through our blood when them Yanks returned to Chattanooga. More people were killed right in front of me. I couldn’t understand why people were getting shot and annihilated by the Northerners. They are the same as Josiah, plain old Sunday Soldiers. The total of killings on our side was 18,454 men, my friend, William Chance, told me. That is a lot of lives for such an easy victory. I would think there would only be 100, tops, from the amount of people left here. Josiah had his leg amputated and I am predicting that there will be gangrene forming around the cut out. It does not look like it was treated properly. He does not have much to live for anymore, and he can not go home. The surgeon ordered that he would not be able to. I think he might be going insane as well. I spoke to him today. The hospital is a mess and there are bodies everywhere. He is living, but you can see that the color of his skin is pale and he does not look well. Almost looking death in the face, but he spoke words which I will never forget, “Get out of here. Run away, and do not come back. It is hell. Save yourself from getting hurt and mutilated by these doctors.” I thanked him for the advice, then he drifted off to sleep. I am not sure if he will wake up, but I do know he is fighting a battle himself, one he may not be so lucky with as we were, today.
Dear Journal,October 4, 1863
It is cold out. I already received about 10 letters from my family. There must be more, but they might not have come yet. Every time we are at a site for longer than a day, I write to everyone. We are staying at a town called Monterey. We drilled all day today. I am estimating that we drilled for about 5 hours and hoofed it about 18 miles. My feet are tired and more and more men are getting the quickstep, including me. It is not great. I still love fighting and proving my faith in the Confederacy, but the war is proving what I did not want to happen. This is wanting to go back home and be a part of the United States again. I want the world right again, yet I want the Union to change their stubborn ways of anti-state rights. This is confusing. I am the enemy of myself. I mean I am defeating myself by thinking these thoughts of the Union ways and being before the Antebellum. I just don’t understand my Jezebel ways right now. We haven’t eaten for two days. Tomorrow, we are supposedly getting food, but me and Michael went bumming off to a farm to see if we can catch some chickens with no luck at all. Josiah would have been a help since he is quick, but after he passed away, we did not allow ourselves to dwell on the loss. We almost got killed doing it, especially after a drill practice like the one we had today. I think that the only reason why we have these practices is to keep us busy with our minds and not worry about going insane. Also I believe that we have them so we can keep warm before we go to sleep at night. I might even take up some poetry now and then. I hope you do not mind, Journal, but it will keep this old man’s brain from veering too far from the war. They might not be any good, but I need it.
The man that is not near me
will grow closer
inpassingtime. Death is
upon us.Here itis, it’s
I must quit tonight now. I am not a good poet, but at least it helps get my ideas out in the open more, and I thank you Journal for listening to the sad song I play.
Dear Journal, October 27, 1863
There is frost on the ground. I did not realize how quickly winter comes about until I actually slept out in the open. Michael and I played cards today. We gambled our housewives and hardtack, with a few other people. We were only doing it for fun though. Back home, Joseff turned fifteen. He will be enlisted in soon. I am frightened for what that boy has to go through. I am praying that he will be able to dodge that conscription set out. Emily is doing well in school. She is reading a lot, but, I think, she is pro-Union. She has been reading that Negro book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I am quite upset that she is rebelling against her father’s wishes and disobeying the Confederacy’s deals. I do not even know how she acquired that book. I thought they were all burned. Baby Soo is doing hunky dory at least. She should be, since she is only 6. The only thing that effects her is that her Pa is away. She misses me, I know that. She drew me a picture and sent it to me along with Anna’s letter. But other sad news was to follow. About ten of my slaves ran away already. I do not understand how this can be. I was good to them. I treated them with more respect than most other cotton planters. Well, as they say in France, “C’est la vie”. I am just not sure if my family can take that hardship anymore, I would not be able to. I wish this war was over so our family’s house would not be as divided as it is now. I just do not understand. Without this war, the ground thaws, the rain falls, the grass grows, the stars will gleam and the poets will dream. Life goes on, but if my family is gone, I will die inside. My poetics are improving I must say but, that will not help me much fighting and drilling. I wish that went away. I am singing Dixie now. It is putting me in a good mood, for tomorrow is another day, another mystery for my life to follow whether I die or live. Well, no day but today. I am getting tired, I must sleep. Goodnight.
Dear Journal,November 4, 1863
“I wish I was in the Land of Cotton. Old times there are not forgotten, Look away! Look away! Look away, Dixie Land…” I wish I was there, at home, living in the C.S.A., at the end of the war, and not be alone like here. I am losing my anxiousness as this war drudges on. Josiah’s words still haunt me now and then. ” Get out of here. Run away, and do not come back. It is hell and save yourself from getting hurt and mutilated by these doctors …” I am frightened of this. I am trying my hardest not to get sick and to steer clear of the disease and getting hurt. I just don’t want to do that. I want to be wrapped up in my Bonnie Blue Flag and sleep. It is too cold out here, especially with no blanket. Someone needed it because a person fell and set off a gun, killing the man instantly. It was not a pleasant thing to see, but we all must have the safety on the gun from now on unless we are using it for battle. I don’t know what to do with myself I am utterly bored. I learned the bugle and now I play Reveille and the mess call and the rest of the bugle calls. I am pretty good at it, and I even learned some pretty marches and songs. Michael plays the banjo and Will knows how to play the trombone. We play at the campfires when our instruments are not so cold or when we are not drinking and playing cards. This is one long war. I have been here for only three months and I am already losing my pride for the South and I want to go home. I write now everyday to my family, but I only get a letter every two weeks. It is not like Anna or the children to neglect me like this. I am hoping that nothing happened to them. Family and War are occupying my mind now. That is all I think about. We did not fight much in battles. I was in the Chattanooga Siege and now the Knoxville Siege. This war has no meaning to it anymore. We kill people, we win, we lose. That is all it is. The people that are ordering us around, do not get killed, but we are the ones. It is the people on the mountain that are controlling the people in the valley down below. Why, why oh Lord are we fighting now? I realize that I wanted to have States’ Rights and secession is good, but we need to end the Hell now and give peace a chance. I am now contemplating this now. In my dreams, the world will live as one, if there is peace returned back to the states.
Dear Journal,November 28, 1863
I miss food. I have not eaten for two days. I only drank water and whiskey. That does not fill me up. Chattanooga was another battle gone, losing more lives than necessary. Of course we were not so lucky this time in winning. Bragg, although he cut off Rosecrans’ supplies supposedly, Grant came in from the West to control the Yank armies. He put Thomas in charge apparently and took the bumbling Rosecrans out. If Rosecrans was still in charge, I have a feeling that we would have won Chattanooga back and acquired our trading. I would know that Chattanooga is a big trading center because I usually send my cotton there and it is shipped all over the North. About half of our company is away on leave, wounded, or killed now. You could tell this on Missionary Ridge, where we were. It looked like you could not be able to get through, and yet with the lack of men we had, them Yanks did. I have a feeling that this loss ill affect us in the long run more than we know it now. There were 6,670 men killed, at least that is what Will said. I still can not believe we lost though. We are the Confederates, the proudest, most hot-headed men in this war and we should easily beat those Yankees any day. That is one mystery to me. We are better than them and yet we lose. Besides Chattanooga, at Campbell’s Station, another loss to us of 570 men, also came and went at Campbell’s Station. If Longstreet just got there sooner, I think that we could have won that battle, which makes me upset. On a lighter subject, Will, Michael, and I are doing pretty well by playing. We play almost nightly. We keep our instruments warm by putting them near the fire all day. It is snowing now. About ten men are in the hospital because they got frostbite. Why does not Davis realize that we need more equipment than we were issued in the beginning. I sewed my name in my coat, the only thing keeping me remotely warm now. I did this so my family can be notified if I do get hurt or killed. I highly doubt that will happen to me to tell you the truth. I am quick and I dodged a few bullets in my life, but why do the other soldiers not do that? Maybe, I just found out my answer in Josiah’s words… they wanted to get out of this, and just gave up. Well, the Confederacy did not need them then if they did that. Well, I am becoming quite tired, I must sleep.
Dear Journal,December 7, 1863
Being thirty-seven is not a pleasant experience I must tell you. Today I was born, but you can not really celebrate one’s birth in war. Drilling is not on the top of my list of priorities for celebrating this, but when you are in the war, you can not do anything about that one. We fought another battle in Fort Sanders (Fort Loudon). Longstreet was our commander. I think he is bad luck for us. We keep losing when he is in charge. I wish Robert Lee controlled us once, then I would be certain that we would win. Will said that there were 780 men killed in that one. It is rather sad really because we lost all of Eastern Tennessee to the Union camps, while we need it more than they do. They have good food because me and Mike went to one of the dead on the other side, and they had hardtack, real coffee, and canned beef, and fresh water. We split our findings with each other and we had a feast. A lot of men were envious that they did not think of that idea that we had, and we were filled for once. The meal worms were not as big either than that of southern Hardtack and we just dunked it in our coffee, and skimmed those critters off the top and they did not effect the taste of it. We are still in Knox County. I think we might have another battle to regain Chattanooga. I doubt that the victory will happen. Many of the men went home to their families for Christmas and they will not be back for a while. If you are enlisted in the army, the least you can do is stay until you are shot, then you can go home. That is the duty of mankind, to be loyal to your job. I have thoughts of going home, but I will never go through with it, never. It is senseless if men keep that up, we will surely lose the war and then where will we be? Slaves free, not much freedom in what we want from our government, and the North would power over us. I do not want this to happen, although I want the war to stop, I just do not want to lose the faith in the Confederacy, or the Confederacy itself.I must rest for tomorrow is another day of waiting for a battle.
Dear Journal,December 17, 1863
I tried and tried to stay away from the damned hospital, but to no avail. Bean’s Station, although our win, my legs were blown away. No gangrene yet. I doubt that I will get it because I was one of the first to go down. General Longstreet gave us at least a good win though and not many men were killed; only 900. This win though, does not mean much except that it did not bring us into total disaster. The rest of the troops are in Russellville in for their winter quarters. I have a feeling that they will not be there long though. Michael is beside me. He was next to me when the incident happened, but was not as lucky. He is dying. His right side is all bloody. You can not recognize it. He is badly burned and there are minnie balls everywhere in his body. It is a sore sight for the eyes, and I can not look at him for too long without getting a wave of nausea. Luckily I am allowed to go home when I have enough strength. Michael can not rejoice on going home. He is drifting in and out of consciousness. There is blood everywhere in this hell hole, and it makes more bad than good. Men should not die from a cold, but they do when they go to a War Hospital. Michael should not be here, he does not deserve it. He would have been better off dying in the battlefield and have more honor to his name than being stuck here trying to be revived by unknowledgeable doctors that have no clue which is left or right. I am frightened myself, whether I live or not, but poor Michael. He should just quiet the world around him, and go off to the place beyond the cotton fields. He spoke! “To the days of inspiration, and peace is not the opposite of war, creativity is. La vie Confederate!” And now he is silent. The hum of the other voices slowly went away, and I only heard Death that past Michael’s lips.
Dear Journal, December 24, 1863
Back home is not what I expected either. My family left for fear of the Union occupation. They went to Texas I think. That is what the Donovans’ said. I figured they either died or they would move because of the of the lack of letters I had. It feels as if they had forgotten about me. I didn’t fathom that this would happen, even Soo forgot about her Pa, but she did. They left and they did not care. They did not care what happens to the Confederacy or even the devoted soldier. Josiah did not tell me what would happen after I would get out of the army. I do not think that he planned that far. He just wanted out, but didn’t see the consequences. He did not realize that people in the Land of Cotton will forget the old times and the honorable soldier. I regret these circumstances that other men in the South have to go through this, and I wish that this love for a soldier and family would be thicker than blood. But that would have to depend on trust, and devotion, and not denying feelings that would scare most people, like my family was. I wanted to live in a free country, and believe in the person that is running the nation. What I got was being a cripple, and a country where Jeff Davis does not prove his States’ rights theory. This is not what I was fighting for. I do not think that is what anyone was fighting for. We, the Confederacy, wanted Peace, Love, and Justice and make our country work. Well, now I realize that those thoughts are just wishful thinking for a Southerner. The war still goes on, and life does, but I want it to be over. All what I lived for, is gone in a blast. My family left me, and I am not allowed back into the war. I am too weak to go on anymore either. The doctors gave me Valium to take. I might as well ease the pain of my heart on Christmas Eve to follow the starry night and have it guide me into heaven. I thank you for being there to help me through this. Now I must meet the honored soldiers that have fought bravely. Maybe in the Great States above, it should be the way it is meant to be.
As what Michael has said, “La vie Confederate!”