Civil War History


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The Leaders:
The Politicians

Jefferson Davis

Above: Jefferson Davis of the Confederacy.
Below: Abraham Lincoln of the Union.

Abraham Lincoln

Charles Terry Saxton
The American Civil War

A War Diary

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page 14

Diary of Charles Terry Saxton, 90th N.Y. Volunteers, from January, 1862 to August, 1863.

Saturday Nov 29th, 1862

            Well, I have everything clear for inspection tomorrow, so I will try and write a little. We are having splendid weather now. Sol still has a rather fervent attachment for Tortugas, but we have some wind generally and it is quite comfortable; but, Oh ye gods and little fishes, how dull it is! No Sports, no excitement, and worse than all, no females. Why I consider myself quite a martyr, I have not spoken to one of the opposite sex in about a year. What have I done that I should be debarred from their pleasant company for so long a time? What a life do we lead here. The soldier goes on guard once in a while, drills some, sleeps and lounges around a good deal; the laborer works all day, and after playing a few games or cards, maybe, in the evening, goes to bed and sleeps till morning, each arising the next day only to go through the same routine. Speaking about laborers, it is amusing to see how little they can manage to exert themselves and yet work all the time. I suppose they think they are working for a rich old gent and it won't break him down if they don't kill themselves, and besides that, they might as well cheat Uncle Sam out of a little as have the big contractors get it all. Why, if one of them has a hammer raised to strike when the signal to stop work sounds, he would not wait to do it, but would drop the hammer and start with all speed to his quarters. The boys sometimes have sport shooting at pelicans while they are fishing. There are a great many around here and I can see them now from a porthole in my room, or rather casemate. See that large one flying close to the water seeking a fish. Now he spies one, see him rise in the air to a height of 18 or 20 feet, poise himself a moment, then swoop down upon his unsuspecting fish-ship, turning a summersault as he strikes the water. Poor fishy, I am afraid you are a goner, for he seldom if ever goes down in vain. Yes, now his great pouch extends and he gobbles down his poor victim. But sometimes he does not gobble him down so easily, for hawks often hover around where they are fishing, light on their heads when they descend, and tease or force the prey from their very jaws. Thus it is with the world, one preys on another, another preys on him and so on ad infinitum.

Tuesday Dec 9th

           We were thrown into great excitement today by the arrival of the steamer, New Brunswick, with troops on board. We supposed of course that they had come to relieve us and that we were about to start for other places; but alas! that blessed hope was rudely dispelled, when we learned that she had only come in to coal up. She had on board the 24th Conn Reg't, Col Mansfield, son of the Gen of that name who was killed at Antietam, commanding, and one Co of the 50th Mass. They form a part of Banks' expedition, and are going to the rendezvous at Ship Island. They are 9 months men, and have had little or no drill. They are regular 'deaun East' farmers, and are green as the deuce, but are a strong, healthy set and will probably make first rate soldiers after proper drill. Several other transports of the expedition passed but did not come into harbor.

Wednesday Dec 10th

           The New Brunswick left this morning and the Mary Boardman came in with part of the 25th Conn Reg't. The Tortugas also arrived and brought me letters from mother and Rice and a box of 'goodies'. As I have a pretty sweet tooth, the peaches, cake, etc which it contained were very acceptable and I was very much gratified, not only for the gratification of my appetite, but for the good will shown me by my friends. This evening on dress parade the 25th formed opposite us and their Chaplain made a few remarks and a prayer after which they embarked on the steamer and left the harbor followed by our cheers.

Saturday Dec 13th

            Another steamer of Banks' expedition arrived with part of the 16th NH on board. Received 4 months pay.

Sunday Dec 14th

           The Eastern Queen with the 16th NH came in to coal up.

Tuesday Dec 16th

            Salvor arrived with the 160th NY. The reg't is from Wayne and Cayuga and I found in it some familiar faces.

Sunday Dec 21st

           Received letters from mother, Geo Smith, Aunt Lib, also several papers. Four Cos of the 407th Pa arrived this morning to relieve us. We start for Beaufort, SC tomorrow.

Steamer Cosmopolitan Tuesday Dec 23rd

            We packed up yesterday and embarked on the steamer Cosmopolitan at 5 o'clock pm. Early this morning the sailors raised anchor and we steamed away from Tortugas at a rate which promised a speedy ending to our journey. I was seasick before we were fairly outside as it was quite rough. We arrived in Key West at 2pm and there I received letters from mother, T Smith, Joe Arnold and Miss Hendricks.

Key West Wednesday Dec 24th

            I was up visiting the places where they buried the victims of the fell scourge, yellow fever, this morning. It looked sad to see the long rows of graves which contained all that was mortal of so many I had last seen in the vigor of life. You could count nearly 30 who had fallen out of our Co in the regiment. The remainder of the regiment embarked today and it was very crowded. I was looking around for a place to stay this afternoon, expecting to take up my abode on the floor, where the filth was 2 inches deep, when a little Spaniard from another Co said I might have part of his bunk, so I am all right on that score.

Thursday Dec 25th

           Started from Key West at about 10 o'clock AM. Quite rough. The steamer ploughs through the water at a good rate - some 12 knots an hour. Today is Christmas, the day to which I have so often looked forward with delightful anticipation. But here it is the same as any other day. I think some folks would stare if my dinner of hard tack and 'praties' was placed before them.

Friday Dec 26th

            We saw land this morning but so far away that we could hardly distinguish it. It was probably part of the Florida coast. But few sails have been in sight. I amuse myself by watching the little flying fish and the great rolling porpoises. The weather is quite favorable.

Saturday Dec 27th

           At about 12 o'clock we hove in sight of the light ship off Hilton Head. Soon after land began to be dimly perceptible, and in less than an hour we could plainly distinguish the sandy shore and the background of green trees, also the opening of the bay, in which a number of steamers and sailing craft were riding at anchor. After we were anchored, the Col went ashore for orders. It was a sandy looking place with only a few houses and some barracks, and I was glad when the Col came on board again that we were not to land there, but instead to proceed up the inlet about 15 miles to Beaufort. The anchor was raised again and we steamed up the harbor amidst numerous vessels, among which I noticed 2 large frigates, one a 3 decker, the other a 2 decker. The inlet most of the way did not appear to be more than a mile wide, and on each side there could be seen once in a while a plantation, the owner of which had probably long since skedaddled. Before dark we arrived at the dock at Beaufort.

Beaufort Sunday Dec 28th

           We landed early this morning and pitched our tents on the old camp ground of the 47th Pa, a little to the west of the city. Encamped near us are the 55th Pa, 8th Me, 6th and 7th Conn, 4th NH, and several companies of artillery and cavalry.

Monday Dec 29th

           Slept on the ground last night. Jack Frost was around and pinched like the deuce, glad I suppose to once more get a hold upon us, who have been tarrying so long out of his dominions. We live rather rougher than when we were on Dry Tortugas, but I like the change.

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Civil War History

Reasons for the Conflict:

     In 1860 slavery still existed in the southern states of the USA, even though it had been abolished in most of the rest of the world more than a generation before.

      Many Americans believed that it was time that it be abolished in the USA as well.

      This was the primary issue of the American Civil War, though there were other issues relating to how strong ties should be between individual states and the Federal government.

Key West, Florida, 1861:

      Located where the gulf of Mexico meets the Atlantic ocean, Key West was of enormous strategic importance in upholding the blockade against the southern states. It was also used to train new recruits.

the blockade of the South

Mrs AH Wilcox of
Barrington Street.
Rochester, N.Y.

originally typed up the diary of
her father, Charles Terry Saxton,
and preserved it for posterity.

Trees of London        A James Wilkinson Publication ©