Mr. Editor,?I send you a bit
of veritable historya leaf from a soldiers diary in the last campaign. The
testimony of an eye-and-ear witness, the personal record and experience of one man is
always valuable. But every man in the army has his story or report to give. Collect a
hundred thousand such reports, and you have the history of a campaign. Not the dry
official report of the general or corps commander, nor even the flaming rhetorical
descriptions of "our correspondent." Here, as nothing was done for glory, so
nothing is written for effect. But the simple incidents of a soldiers life, told
naturally as they fell out, are forever linked with the brightest and the darkest page in
a nations history.
To the writer, of course,
and to his family and friends, not to the great public, such a record is most valuable. It
will instruct the present, and be an heir-loom to future generations. And to himself it
remains a cherished memento of dear-bought experience. A note taken on the spot is a
wonderful refresher of memory. The mere telling from day to day of what he did and where
he was brings up a host of incidents, a thousand associations, just as the items of a
business mans experience lay open at a glance his whole plan and economy of life.
All common men in the midst of great actions are poets, and write poetically; that is,
truthfully. A bold stroke or two, no matter how rough the writing may be, paints the image
to the mental eye, and gives the scenery of war and battle. And as the scene changes and
shifts, and unrolls itself to the gaze of the actor and spectator, he is made a
participant in all the fortunes of the fight, in all the passions of the combatants, while
the glory or disgrace of the action is keenly felt as his own. In after-life he lives over
again in memory the battles through which he passed, and how he fought all day and marched
all night in one of those flank movements which his General was so famed for executing. He
remembers that in such an action or skirmish a bullet ticked him, and a comrade was either
wounded or killed; that on such a night he worked in the trenches in the rain, or was
detailed as picket-guard; and that another time he lay with his regiment a long time under
a broiling sun, and lay close to keep clear of rebel bullets and shells falling thick
about him. He is fond of telling over "hair-breadth" escapes, his "moving
accidents" by flood and field, and his particular "peril" in the
"imminent deadly breach." In short, the whole art of writing or story-telling,
to the private soldier, consists inputting the greatest quantity of life and action into
the fewest possible words.
April 13.Pleasant morning.Left for our
regiment at 8 oclock; marched to Alexandria at 10 oclock; took the cars, got
to our regiment at Rappahannock station at 5 oclock.
April 17.Sunday.Cloudy, cold
morning.Worked all day building our tents.Cleared off in the
afternoonheavy fall of snow on the mountains.
April 18.Cold morning.Finished our hose
and moved into itfour of us?all together.
April 22.Frosty morning, but
pleasant.The regiment presented Colonel Woodard with a splendid horse, saddle, and
bridle, worth $305.
May 4.Started for the front.Marched
across the Rapidan at 9 oclock; camped and got our breakfast; marched to the front
and camped for the night.May 5.Drawn up in line
of battle.Marched into the woods and laid down.Four companies went out
skirmishing.At 9 oclock, drawn up in line of battle; 12 oclock, charged
the rebel lines.Lost a good many boys.Colonel Woodard wounded.
May 6.Started at 4 oclock;; marched out
two miles to the rebel lines, formed in line of battle, and laid down.Laid all day:
shells passed over up pretty thick.Rebs charged our right wing: drove it
in.Withdrew to our breast-works.
May 7.At sunrise the rebs made a charge on
our centre, but we drove them back: sharp-shooters firing at us, we charged on them and
drove them back to their breast-works.They shelled us all day.Left at 9
oclock to reinforce the left wing.
May 8.Marched all night down through
Spottsylvania.Went into the fight at 10 oclock, made two charges on the rebs,
got drove backloss very heavy.Rested.Ordered out in front: only 200 men
left.Stand picket all night.
May 9.Pleasant morning.Started early,
marched out, formed a line of battle.Laid down.Laid all day in the hot sun,
with our straps on.Attacked the rebs a little before night, drove them back, then
laid down and slept.
May 10.Pleasant morning.The battle
commenced anew at noon, lasted till 9 oclock, when we passed to the front to support
the skirmishers.Staid there until dark; drew back, lay down for the night.
May 11.Cloudy, looks like rain.Skirmish
firing commenced early.Just commenced to rain a little.Ten oclock, moved
back into the woods, and stopped.Laid there all day and all night, until 4
oclock.Rained nearly all night.
May 13.Started at daylight, marched one mile,
stopped and wrote a letter home at 11 oclock.Built a line of
breast-worksrained a good dealput up tents and laid down.Called up at 10
oclock, and marched all night in the mud.
May 14.Stopped at 5 oclock, made our
coffee, and ate our breakfast.Laid there all day and all night; rained a good
deal.Drew three days rations.A good deal of fighting through the day:
got shelled some.
May17.Cloudy.All quiet along the lines
this morning.Sick to-day: building fortifications.
May 18.Warm morning.The battle opened
at sunrise; very heavy artillery firing.Fired all the forenoon.Got letters
from homesent a letter home.?Threatening rain.Go on picket: rained some in the
May 19.Cloudy.All quiet on the
line.Our boys changed papers with the rebs this morning.Wrote a letter home
Relieved from picket at 9 oclock: laid behind breast-works all night.
May 23.Cloudy and cool.All quiet this
morning.We are in Bowling Green, beginning to move forward.Marched nine miles,
forded the North Anna River at 2 oclock.The rebs attacked us at 6
oclock.Fought an hour and a half: whipped them.
May 28.Pleasant morning.Started at
sunrise, marched 10 miles, crossed the Pamunky River, and formed a line of battle: threw
June 3.Rainy morning.The battle opened
at six oclock.Continual roar of musketry and artillery until evening: rained
all the time.I was on the skirmish line from 9 to 5: balls and shells fell thick all
June 6.Cloudy, but warm. Stopped at 6
oclock near Cold Harbor.Cooked our breakfast, washed, got a letter from home:
ordered to pack up and go on picket at evening.Got a good nights sleep.
June 7.Cool and cloudy.The boys go in
swimming in the mill-pond.Went out on picket at 8 oclock: relieved at
sundown.Marched five miles and bivouacked for the night.