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 15

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

Tuesday Jan 1st 1863

           The new year has commenced. 1862 is now numbered with the things that were but are not; and now 1863 commences his reign. May it be a year of greater happiness to us and our country than was its frowning predecessor. I have hope that the great and important step that has been taken in regard to emancipation of the colored race may be the first one towards the dawning of a new era in the history of the nation. I have long since come to the conclusion that slavery and peaceful prosperity cannot both exist, and am confident that any thoughtful and honest minded person will uphold me in my opinion. Gen Saxton made a speech to the negroes around here this afternoon, announcing to them their freedom henceforth; and of course the colored element are having a jubilee over their new acquisition.

Monday Jan 5th

           Sgt Apthorp and I obtained a pass this morning and went to the camp of the negro regiment which is about 4 miles from our camp. They call themselves the 1st Carolina Volunteers, and are commanded by Col Higginson, a Mass man. We saw them while they were drilling and their movements were performed with as much precision and accuracy as those of any of our white regiments. Their uniforms were the same as ours with the exception of red pants instead of blue ones. Coming back we walked on the beach and found some oysters, with which it was covered, but concluded it was better to buy them for 10 cents per quarter than to get and open them.

Friday Jan 9th

            The brigade was reviewed today by Gen Braman and Gen Seymour.

Wednesday Jan 14th

            They are drilling us like the deuce now. There is brigade drill for about 3 hours every afternoon in which all the movements are all executed in double quick time, besides others.

Thursday Jan 15th

           We had a great time today. The brigade was reviewed by Rear Admiral Dupont and Gens Braman and Seymour, after which we had a drill. Everything was done as though we were opposite an enemy and they kept us going in the double quick for about 3 hours. The cavalry charged, the cannon roared, the small arms cracked, the men shouted when they came down on a charge, the officers yelled, wheels rumbled, sabres clanged, and there was considerable hubbub generally. The wind blew like mad, the dust flew in clouds, and when we came in camp the boys thought the contrabands were coming. It was rough work and still was fun for the boys. Received letters from mother and JB.

Friday Jan 23rd

            Our Co was out on picket last night. There are 3 lines of pickets, the outer of which is about 10 miles from here and to which our regiment goes every 10 days. Of the 2 inner lines, one is at what they call Shell Bridge, about 5 miles from camp; the other is at the rifle pits which are dug across a sort of narrow isthmus, on each side of which is a swamp, about one and a half miles. This swamp contains many alligators and you could hear them in the water while on picket. We were at Shell Bridge. Nothing of consequence happened.

Wednesday Jan 28th

            Received letters from mother, Joe Arnold and Rice. General inspection today by Lt Henry of the 1st US artillery. Very cold last night and snowed some. This cold weather is rough for us as our tents do not afford much protection against the chilling northern blasts which sometimes sweep over the island. This is a strange climate to me. Some days are so hot as to be quite uncomfortable, then again it is cold enough to freeze the nose off a fellow. Received letters from Smith and Childs.

Thursday Jan 29th

            Received orders this evening on parade to pack up preparatory to going away somewhere. I wonder where the deuce they are going to put us now.

Steamer Matanzas Friday Jan 30th

            By all that's great and good, we are going back to Key West again. Confound the luck. We embarked on the propellor Matanzas this afternoon and proceeded to Hilton Head where we are now lying. Not a great distance from us are the ironclads Passaic and Ironsides. The Passaic is a funny looking craft. I had to look twice before I could make her out. All I could see was a long black line in the water, and her tower. The Ironsides is a very formidable looking boat with her impenetrable, sloping sides and fierce rows of teeth; but she is much higher out of the water and consequently presents a larger mark to the enemy than the Passaic.

Saturday Jan 31st

            Left Hilton Head early this morning. Going out we met 4 transports going in laden with troops, which were probably going in that expedition against Charleston which has been talked about so long in Beaufort. Thus our regiment is cheated out of any participation in it. It has been very calm indeed and the steamer goes through the water at a pretty good jog.

Sunday Feb 1st

            Very calm this forenoon but this afternoon the wind freshened, and the boat rolled until my stomach was all turned topsy turvey. We were quite near the Florida coast all the afternoon.

Monday Feb 2nd

            Splendid weather for a journey. You can always tell when the 90th is on the ocean for it is always pleasant. Passed Sombrero light house only 40 miles from Key West in the early evening.

Fort Taylor Tuesday Feb 3rd

            We went out of our course last night and this morning none of them knew where we were. After changing our course several times we came in sight of the same light house we passed last evening. The captain then learned where he was, turned her prow in the right direction and we arrived in Key West about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. We soon disembarked and our Co with 3 others marched up to Fort Taylor, the remainder of the regiment going to the garrison and new barracks.

Friday Feb 6th

            It has been dull and monotonous since we came on the island. The guard is heavy and keeps us on nearly every other day. Received letters from JB, mother, Aunt Lib and Clare Perry who was discharged from our Co in Beaufort. With the letters were likenesses of my aunt Mrs Terry, my little brothers and 2 sisters. The 47th left today and we took possession of their quarters. We were staying in the casemates since we came, but now have good quarters, containing bunks, etc.

Light house barracks Feb 27th

            The 47th arrived today on the Cosmopolitan from Hilton Head. They took possession of the fort and consequently we removed to the light house barracks where we now are. What a picture of the life of a soldier is now before one. It is in the evening before tattoo. We are in a large room in the barracks, rudely finished, with rough bunks in one part; while in the other are, lying around loose on the floor in lovely confusion, straw beds, knapsacks, belts, and all the paraphernalia of a soldier's equipment. And the men owning these, what a motley assemblage! Here are Irish, Dutch*, French, Italians, Spanish and Austrians, for the 90th has representatives from nearly all of the European nations; here are young boys who look as if they ought to be home with their mothers, and men whose hair is gray with the ravages of time; here are good men and bad men, although, the more the pity, I fear the number of the former is small. Over in that corner is a group of young boys, and the words that come to my ears - the 'check', 'pass', 'a quarter better', etc - tell me that they are engaged in a game of bluff; while near me one says, 'By - -- -, that's a euchre' and from the other side of the room comes, 'High, low, jack and the game, that's 4 times'. Cards occupy the attention of many but the lively music of a violin in one corner is the chief attraction. Now a couple of fellows are dancing a jig, and the whole building is jarred as in their enthusiasm they execute a 'double shuffle', jump up about 2 feet from the floor and come down 'kerslam'. But they soon 'cave' and then the boys seize on a poor dark, a Beaufort dark, blacker than the ace of spades, and tell him that if he don't give us a breakdown they will cut his throat. Of course he complies and gives us a regular South Carolina, plantation breakdown, as only a plantation darky can do it. Thus the soldiers enjoy themselves. Is it any wonder that he loses all the refinement he ever possessed, surrounded by such influences?

*Germans, he probably meant. LSW.

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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 USS Passaic

The USS Passaic.

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 ©