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 17

Diary of Charles Terry Saxton, 90th N.Y. Volunteers, from:

            August 1863 to February 1864

           We were lying at Carrollton during the month of August 1863. Carrollton is a town about 16 miles from New Orleans on the Mississippi. It is a bully place for a soldier. The 90th spread themselves there in fine style. The line of communication with the great southern metropolis was easily kept open. The provost guard was nowhere. We were in a land flowing with milk and honey. A brigade of basket women, black, white and mixed, kept us supplied with everything from sauerkraut to ice cream, and they would even sometimes bring forth mysterious black bottles from some hidden receptacles beneath their skirts. As for lager - that was lying around loose almost asking us to drink it. But I must close this recapitulation of good things. It is a subject too delicate for my sensitive nature. The thoughts of the days gone by entirely overcome me. The happy days, or at least the 'spirit' of them overcame many more. We received pay. This tended to promote a free circulation of whisky, and blood, too (from noses) for that matter. Do you ask if the 90th kept sober? I answer you - a few. Of course I was one. But the majority are earnest devotees of Bacchus and faithfully do they perform the ceremonies of his worship. Not to put too fine a point on it, the majority of the 90th get drunk whenever they can, and as the means were at hand, they did get drunk. This reminds me of a little incident which happened while we were stopping at Algiers, previous to our going up to Port Hudson. The men as usual were nearly all drunk. An officer inquired what regiment we belonged to. We told him the 90th NY. He asked how many men we had. We answered, 'About 400'. 'That's a d--- lie' he said turning away, 'for I have seen more than 500 drunk already'. Of course we had nothing to say.

            While we were lying at Carrollton, I went down to New Orleans several times. Cars started for there every half hour. Our whole regiment went down once to attend the execution of a private of the 1st La. regiment for the murder of his superior officer. He was shot near the Vicksburg press, I believe, on the levee. I also made 2 or 3 trips to Lake Ponchartain. But our sojourn here was soon brought to a close. New Orleans was too near and whisky was too plentiful. About the last day of the month, we received marching orders (our brigade, the 159th, 131st, 91st and 90th NY and 13th Conn) and the same day embarked on the 'Laurel Hill' and were landed in Algiers. Here we took the cars on the NO and Opelousas RR and went to Terre Bonne where we remained all night. The next day we marched to Thibadeaux, a pretty good sized place, where we remained about 3 days. Here the different regiments of the brigade were assigned to different stations and it fell to our lot to guard the railroad. Consequently the regiment was divided up, one Co going to Bayou des Allemands, one to Raceland (my Co), one to La Fourche crossing ; one to Terre Bonne; one to Tigerville; and 3 to Bayou Boeuf, the headquarters, I having been detailed as color sergeant at the latter place. Here I remained 3 months doing nothing but keeping rations from moulding. The bayou is what I would call a pretty good sized river. It extends from the Atchafalaya to a small lake 2 or 3 miles from the station. It swarmed with alligators and we used to shoot them. I had nothing to do but go foraging so I turned my time and talents mainly to that branch of soldiering. I was generally successful in my raids on potato patches. Oranges also attracted much of my attention. I kept a box full in my tent all of the time. They were as plentiful as blackberries along the Teche, or figs in Carrollton.

           Before I left, the sugar making began. I learned the whole process from planting to boiling. The sugar-house generally contained machinery worked by steam, seldom by horse-power. The operation is very simple. The cane is planted lengthwise in furrows, the seeds being on the outside of the stalk at the joints. It is curious to watch the darks while they are cutting it. Men and woman work together. They have a short, broad knife, one edge of which is notched like a saw while the other is sharp. With the notched end they strip off the leaves and with the other chip off the stalk close to the roots. The celerity with which they do this is astonishing to one who is not accustomed to see it. The cane is drawn in with carts and placed in piles near the sugar-house. Young imps of darkness place it in the feeder, as I call it, which carries it up between 2 cylinders which crush it, letting the juice down in a vat and carrying the rest out behind. There are 5 boilers which the darks told me were called 'grand', 'progue', 'flambeau', 'Zus' and 'battery', and under these is a very hot fire. The first is very dirty indeed, or rather the sap in it, but by continual ladling with a long handled bucket, the dirt which rises to the top from all the others to the first one, by the time it gets to to the battery, it is as white as foam. When it has boiled enough it is ladled into a car which carries it along to the different vats. There it soon hardens and is put in hogsheads, which are placed on an inclined platform and the molasses drains out of them and runs down into a trough. I often went up to some sugar-house in my little canoe with my canteen and got it filled with the syrup hot from the boiler. It was delicious after it cooled. Even the sap itself wasn't bad. I could put away all I could extract from a cartload (a small one) every day. The chewing that was done by nearly everybody during this cane season was wonderful to behold.

           The latter part of November, thinking I was getting lazy, I suppose, they sent me up to my Co. I was nothing loath as I had made several visits to my Co and had discovered that they were ahead of us at Bayou Boeuf on the grub line; so I packed my personal belongings, jumped on the morning train, and 'presto change' found myself among the boys again. Then I lived in clover during the winter. There was no house nearer than a mile and a half, but there was a horse car went every day to Bayou La Fourche, 2 miles from the station, and as there was no charge for riding we could go as often as we wished. We could get what we wished off the darkies or even off the planters. We wouldn't look at sweet potatoes; eggs were not of much 'count, as the darks say; ducks were not much better; and even oysters would hardly claim our attention. Slapjacks with 'bully' syrup could always be had; and the darks would bring us up pumpkin and orange rind preserves for writing their letters. 'Go way sugah, you've lost your flavah'. That is what I call high living for a soldier. Besides, most of us had good log shanties with fireplaces, so we lived very comfortably indeed. I became acquainted with some fair young ladies and spent many agreeable hours in their society. I did not like them as well, however, as some of our northern lassies.

            I shall never forget the Christmas I passed there. A few of us had a sort of glee club and we made a plan to visit some of the planters in the evening. So we went down to a neighboring plantation and confiscated a cart, 3 mules, and a 'cullud pusson' to drive and started off in style. Away we went down the bayou singing and shouting like mad until we came to the house of a gentleman we were acquainted with, about 6 miles from camp, where we pulled up. The old gent came out smiling all over and invited us in. We didn't wait to be asked twice but in we went. After a while we sang a few songs, when out came a square bottle looking as if it might contain some old Bourbon. It did. We smiled and drank and that was all we said. After we had refreshed ourselves with a few cakes and oranges, we entered our carriage again and started down the bayou at 2:40 (2 hours and 40 minutes) rate. Time and the cart rolled on and we soon pulled up again, after going 4 or 5 miles farther, at another house. This was the residence of a jolly old 'bach' and was troubled by no feminines except the sable daughters of Africa. Here my powers of description fail me. Suffice it to say that we shouted and sang and danced and drank, and, in short, enjoyed ourselves to our hearts' content. To cap the climax we had a tiptop supper. 'That was better as goot, that was nice'. Well we all went home as sober as judges at about 2 o'clock. I was almost murdered going back by the jolting of the old cart but consoled myself with the thought of the good time I had been having. So wagged the world at Raceland. About the only thing that troubled me was the mosquitoes. They were our terror during the day and our torture during the night. How they were cursed! 'D---n the infernal mosquitoes' shouts one and the cry echoes and re-echoes from tent to shanty and shanty to tent down the whole line until it even comes howling from the depths of the lieutenant's tent, and the whole Co has taken up the chorus of 'D--n those diabolical mosquitoes'. Job was patient but he never had his face covered as with a veil by these savage little torments, and each one of them continually biting with all the vengeance of which he was capable. The case of the Irishman who had to work off during the day what little flesh he could get on during the night, was reversed. During the night all the blood was sucked out of us that we could succeed in getting on us during the day. Thus even here the bitter was mingled with the sweet.

            Along the latter part of January the question of re-enlistment began to be agitated. What we considered an enormous bounty was offered and the additional inducement of a 30 days furlough was held forth. At first not one would listen to anything of the kind. What, consent to be cursed and d---d by our officers for another 3 years? Not for all the greenbacks in the land! A great deal of breath was needlessly expended in this and similar expressions but the final result was that nearly all swore in for a second term. I had served 2 years and 3 months and I thought at first that I would serve my time out and go home; but as nearly all the boys were going in, I thought I would stay with them and we would see the thing out together. Besides, the general impression was that the war would soon end, and as I had continued in the chase so far I wanted to be in at the death. Thus I was induced to continue my game of chance with the grim archer for 3 years longer, commencing the 20th day of February, 1864. Will my second term be as successful as my first? Time will show.

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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 ©