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 16

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

Saturday Feb 28th, 1863

           We were mustered this morning for 2 months pay.

Monday Mar 2nd

           We had a gay time with the 47th last night. The 2 regiments have not been on very good terms lately, and 2 or 3 nights ago they had quite a fight together, one of our fellows nearly getting killed. Last night as I was in command of the police guard, at about 11 o'clock a shot was fired from the bushes at some one inside of our lines. The officer of the day, who was standing near where the shot struck, immediately drew his revolver and fired in the direction from which the shot came. At this the whole regiment poured from their quarters, eager for the fray, while I turned out the guard and ordered them to load their pieces. This being done, we double quicked it to the fort, which appeared to be in the direction taken by the one who fired the shot. When we got there our boys were eagerly searching among the tall weeds, while some were chasing the flying Dutchman, whom we commenced immediately to fire at. After exchanging several shots we took 5 prisoners and escorted them in triumph to the guard house. They were all intoxicated. It was a wonder that no one was shot, for the bullets were flying around as if human life was of no consequence, but so it was. Our guard was doubled but there was no further disturbance.

Friday Mar 27th

            I was down looking at the US gun boat 'Vanderbilt' this afternoon. She came in the other day for coal. She is a splendid steamer, I think the largest I was ever on, and has the reputation of being the fastest boat in our navy; being the one chosen to go in pursuit of the celebrated '290', from a cruise after which she came in here. Her armament consisted of 2,100 lb Parrott guns, one on her bow, the other in the stern, and below, twelve 9 inch rifled guns. She is classed as a sloop of war and has a crew of about 200 men, 25 of whom are marines. The 'Circassian' arrived bringing a mail and I received letters from father, JB, and Sgt Apthorp of our Co who went as Capt in the 2nd SC Volunteers, colored.

Sunday Mar 29th

            I was aroused last night from a comfortable snooze at about 1 o'clock by the cry of fire. My clothes were soon on and I started at a pretty good pace in the direction in which it appeared to be. It was a large wooden building used as a dwelling house and blacksmith shop, down in the city. There were no engines in the place and so, although everybody yelled in the most approved style, and did as little good as possible, it burned to the ground. The loss was inconsiderable. Received a letter from Clare Perry.

Monday April 6th

            Our Co was consolidated with Co I today, and Co E with Co H; so our regiment is reduced to a battalion of 8 Cos. Owing to this 6 of our officers who were very much disaffected were sent to New York. We still retain our letter and our Captain; I am 4th Sgt.

Saturday Apr 18th

           We have been transferred to the 'Department of the Gulf', Gen Banks commanding, and Key West and Tortugas now form a separate district commanded by Gen Woodbury who arrived today on the transport 'McClellan'. Received a letter from Joey Arnold.

Brashear City, La., May 10th

            Since my last entry, our regiment has made a move. We received marching orders on the 2nd, and then on the 3rd embarked on the iron steamer, St Mary, and departed from Key West. We had in tow the large, full-rigged ship, Dewitt Clinton. The steamer rolled about a good deal during the whole trip and nearly everyone was seasick. It is a sight to see a regiment of soldiers on a transport and seasick. How the initiated will bother the poor fellows whose stomachs are not able to stand the pressure. Here you will hear one say to a chap who is leaning over the railing, 'casting up accounts' - 'Want a piece of salt pork, Jim?' another will yell out, 'Turn it out, Bill it won't pay its rent', etc. It's all very well, but the sick ones can't see the point.

           On the night of the 6th it was very rough and the boat pitched and rolled about very much. In the morning when I went on deck, the land and light houses at the mouth of the Mississippi were in sight; and before long we had crossed the bar and were steaming up the river, the water of which was very muddy indeed; I should judge that it was about a mile wide. The banks were very low and swampy with only once in a while a miserable looking house. They were very narrow strips of land formed by mud deposited of the river. As we proceeded farther up, the land got higher and woods began to appear. We continued up about 60 miles, passing Forts Jackson and St Philip, the former on the right, the latter on the left of the river going up, until we arrived at quarantine, where we received a despatch ordering us to return down the river. The steamer was turned about and we steamed back down the river, went out the south pass, crossed the bar and were out in the ocean again before dark.

           The next day, we were in sight of land nearly all day and passed quite a number of light houses, one of which, I noticed, was built on timbers set right out in the ocean, Atchafalaya Bay. In the afternoon we neared land at the mouth of a river or bayou, Atchafalaya River, called Berwick Bay, which we ascended. The river resembles the Mississippi very much only it is not so wide and the shores are higher. After going up about 40 miles we came in sight of this place. At the dock were several Mississippi steamers. They are funny looking craft, with their wide bows and 2 tall black smoke stacks. We landed that afternoon and pitched our tents near the city. This place is very small but quite important on account of a railroad* communication with New Orleans.
*New Orleans, Akelousas and Great Western railroad.

           There is now but one regiment, the 4th Wis., here besides ourselves; but the country around is dotted with the tents of sick soldiers, paroled prisoners, etc, etc. Only a week before we came Banks passed through here with his whole army. He fought his way through and at last report was at Alexandria, about 200 miles from here on the Red River. This is a rich country and is the principal source of the rebel supplies. There are around here thousands of cattle and horses, innumerable hogsheads of sugar, and over 200,000 bales of cotton which have fallen into our hands; while large squads of contrabands come in every day. We expect to join the army soon. We were ordered today to prepare with only one change of clothing in our knapsacks for leaving tomorrow morning, but the order has been countermanded as they expect the quartermaster. I hope we will go soon.

Carrollton, La., Aug 3rd 1863

           Since my last entry we have been in the field and I have been forced to leave my knapsack containing you, old diary, behind me until now; but will try and tell you as well as I remember what has happened to me since then. Shortly after writing last we were paid, I receiving $136 and sending $80 home.

           On the 15th or 16th we started on the steamer 'Union' up the bayou to a place called Barres' Landing, about 120 miles from Brashear. We passed through Grand Lake where we saw the remains of the ram 'Queen of the West'. The banks of the bayou were mostly covered with woods and overflowed; and once in a while a huge alligator could be seen basking in the sunshine. We arrived at Barres' Landing the next night.

           We remained here a few days when we took up a line of march for Brashear. With us were the 110th, 114th and 175th NY regiments, the 41st (mounted) and 52nd Mass and 26th Me, besides a section of Nines battery. We had under our charge a train of wagons containing emancipated negroes 5 miles in length besides a large number of horses and mules. The march progressed very well with the exception of blistered feet, etc until the end of the 5th day. We had already marched 20 miles, and were stacking arms to stop for the night when the report came that our rear guard 6 miles back at a place called Franklin was attacked by guerillas. We double quicked back, all raw as our feet were, but they had skedaddled. Several of our rear guard were wounded. We got back to camp and had just composed ourselves when a report came that a large force was coming up in our rear. That night we made a forced march. In the morning after a little rest we proceeded on and arrived in Berwick in the afternoon. I performed the last 10 miles in my bare feet through the hot dust as I could not wear my shoes.

           The next day (the 27th) we crossed to Brashear, and on the evening of the 28th started on the cars for Algiers across the river from New Orleans. The next evening we embarked on the 'Catawba' and proceeded up the river and the next day landed a little below Port Hudson. We marched nearly all that night and arrived in the morning at our place on the right in Grover's division. Our brigade is the first commanded by our Col.

           The next day, the 1st of June, we went to the front where we remained until the place was taken. We were where the shells from the rebs came rushing in amongst us nearly every day; and on picket so near them that we were firing at each other continually.

            On the 11th, in the morning at about 1 o'clock, an attack was made and our regiment went in on the right. We received several heavy volleys from the enemy lying in the rifle pits but succeeded in getting on their breastworks. Soon after it commence to rain but we held our position until morning, when, no relief appearing, we retreated. They fired high in the dark and we had only 5 or 6 wounded. Had they fired lower the loss would have been severe.

           On the morning of the 14th another assault was made. Our regiment was in the advance. There was hard fighting, but they had the advantage of us, and secure in their pits could mow us down like grass as we were crossing the ravines before we could get to their works. We gained some advantage but could not get the place that time. Our regiment lost 60 or 70 killed and wounded out of about 250. Preparations were made for another assault, volunteers called for, etc, but on the 8th of July they surrendered. We captured 5500 persons, 6000 stand of arms and 55 pieces of artillery. I was all around the works, which were very extensive. Their rifle pits extended for miles; with every once in a while a battery planted. The chief difficulty, however, in taking the place was the wide and deep ravines filled with brush and other obstructions, which had to be crossed. On the night of the 10th we were aroused at 12 o'clock and marched 8 or 10 miles to a landing where we embarked on the 'Gen.Banks'. We proceeded to Donaldsonville, a place between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and about 4 miles from here on the 13th had another pretty severe fight. Our brigade, less than a thousand strong, was attacked by a largely superior force of enemy with artillery.

           On the other side of Bayou La Fourche, which was near, was another body of our troops who were attacked at the same time. We held our ground for a long time amidst a hot fire of both artillery and musketry but as they got on our flank on the other side of the bayou we were forced to retreat, which we did in good order. Our regiment was in the most exposed position and lost in killed, wounded and missing about 76 men. After this the rebs got scared and skedaddled to Texas. They were a large force under Magruder. We remained in Donaldsonville a couple of weeks after this when we embarked on the 'Iberville' and came to this place, which is about 5 miles from New Orleans.

           One thing I had nearly forgotten was a little trip we took out in the country from Port Hudson. We were aroused one night at about 12 o'clock and marched that night and the next day (our brigade and one or two others under Gen Weitzel) near to a place called Jackson about 15 miles out. We were after guerillas who had been robbing one of our trains. We did not see anything of them although we were once drawn up in line of battle, they were so near; but we stayed out 3 or 4 days having a bully time and living on fresh pork, green corn, chickens, etc etc.

(End of diary, which was written in a blank book. The rest is a narrative written on sheets of paper sewed into little books.)

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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.

a 100lb parrott gun

A 100lb parrott gun.

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 ©