Civil War History

Index

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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 23

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

            September to October 1864 (cont.)

            I was discontented at the hospital, fairly homesick to get with the boys once more; so the first time the doctor came around to see who was fit for duty, I told him to put my name down, for I was ready to go. He looked at me a moment in astonishment and then said that 'I talked like a man'; and 'when he heard a man talk that way he made up his mind that when he got to the front he would fight like the devil'. I thought he was giving me quite a compliment, although I couldn't see why; but I suppose that a great many soldiers try to 'beat it' whenever they get an opportunity.

            The next day a squad of us started off and went to the 'soldiers' rest': (a sad misnomer) near the Balt and Ohio depot. We remained here all night and the next morning started for the Camp of Distributions. We crossed the long bridge on the cars and went out to Alexandria, where we remained a couple of hours and went out to the aforesaid camp. This is a very good place. We had good barracks and soft bread and pork enough to keep us up to our fighting weight; but they kept us there too long to suit me. It was nearly 2 weeks before we started away; and then we marched down to Washington to the 'Soldiers' rest', stayed there till night and took a train for Harper's Ferry, Of course it was a cattle train. We piled in pell mell and as it was dark we had the deuce of a time. I managed to get about a square foot to myself, where I placed my knapsack and curled myself up on it. Some were drunk and were cursing everybody and all the others were cursing them, so we had a regular 'tempest in a teapot' for a while; but this soon subsided and a snoring match commenced and was still in full blast when I went to sleep.

            My sleep was somewhat disturbed because every once in a while someone would stick his brogans in my face or I would stick mine in some one's else, either of which events would serve to wake me up; and besides, several were lying on my head, legs, etc, and I was similarly reposing on several others. When day dawned I found the train still creeping along at a snail's pace; and I found myself bent up in an indescribable shape and nearly frozen stiff. I unfolded myself by layers, very carefully for fear I might break, and after some work succeeded in getting straightened out. The train still continued to move at the rate of a mile in 6 hours or 6miles an hour, I forget which, and we reached Harper's Ferry about noon. It was the richest country around there I had ever been in. On the Maryland side, just before the cars cross the river, they form one of the sublimest spectacles I ever witnessed. Rocks are piled on rocks and layer on layer away up above us for hundreds of feet. Great ledges fairly overhang the railroad; and as one looks and sees them right over his head he almost imagines them toppling over the cliff and rushing down like an avalanche through the air to grind him to powder. What an exhibition of the power and grandeur of Omnipotence!

            Harper's Ferry itself is a very shabby looking place. It is built partly in a valley surrounded by mountains except where the waters of the Potomac and Shenandoah have made a path for themselves, and is partly on the side hill. The government buildings have all been destroyed, and the remainder are generally in a very dilapidated condition. We were not here long but went out to camp on Bolivar heights.

            By this time I had begun to wax exceeding fat. Government rations seemed to agree with me first rate; the chief trouble being in the quantity. They disappeared before me like snow before an April sun. I was also in first rate spirits. My visit home had given me new courage, and I felt that I had 'a heart for any fate.' I was no longer downhearted. New hopes cheered me on. The light of the bright days I saw in the future was reflected away back to the present, chasing away the darkness, filling my heart with hope and courage. I felt as if I could breast the current and buffet the waves with a stout arm and an unwavering purpose.

            We were at Bolivar heights 5 or 6 days when we received marching orders; and about 2,000 of us started about 6 o'clock in the evening for the front. We marched nearly all that night, passing through Charlestown, where the last act of the John Brown tragedy was enacted, and through Smithfield, another little town, and encamped a little way from Bunker Hill. In the morning we reached the village of Bunker Hill, where we met a supply train from Martinsburg and guarded it through to Winchester. The train that went through the day before was attacked by Mosby, and we expected to see that gentleman or some of his band before we got through, but he failed to make his appearance.

           We arrived in Winchester after dark. It had begun to rain some time before. When we encamped we could find no wood to make fires with or pitch our tents. I lay down and covered up with blankets as well as I could, but soon found myself floating. Seeing that it was no use lying there, I jumped up and ran through the mud in my stockings, leaving everything behind, to a little fire that was struggling for existence a little way off. I divided the remainder of the night between hovering over this, and running around to keep warm. I had no overcoat and was wet to the skin, and when a cold norther arose just before morning, I thought I should freeze. Didn't I hail the appearance of 'old yellow' that morning with delight? Maybe not! And the poor recruits who were along! They were 'weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth' the whole night through, and cursing the day they ever heard of the thousand dollars bounty. They all thought they were killed. I consoled them as well as I could by the cheering information that this was not a circumstance to what they would soon see.

            I felt pretty stiff in the morning and not in very good trim for travelling in the mode generally used by soldiers. Besides this, my blankets were wet and covered with an inch of mud, which made them weigh something less than a ton. But I wanted to get to the regiment and I started. A little after noon we arrived at Cedar Creek, where the army of the valley was lying in camp. I found the 90th, but not the old 90th. Many old faces were missing, and in their places were men I had never seen before. Everything seemed strange. There were a few of the old boys left, however, and they were all glad to see me, and I was just as glad to see them. I now commenced to lead a soldier's life once more. It is a very good life, I suppose, for one who likes it, but unfortunately I have a constitutional objection to it; and am therefore anxious for it to come to as speedy an end as possible. So be it.


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Civil War History

John Brown: abolitionist

     There were those who believed that slavery was such an abomination that it justified violent resistence. John Brown was a such minded person.

      He and his sons had led a campaign for many years, often raiding plantations and freeing slaves, before they led an attack on the fort at Harper's Ferry.

     The raid resulted in deaths and led to a seige, which was finally ended when the authorities attacked the fort.

The Trial at Charles Town, Virginia, 1859:

      John Brown was found guilty and sentenced to death. His execution made him a martyr and he became a national symbol for the abolition of slavery

John Brown's Body: song.

      The song, John Brown's Body, became a marching chant for the anti-slavery cause.

      It is more well known now as: Glory, Glory Halleluiah.
click for more on the bizarre life of John Brown: www.law.umkc.edu

John Brown, abolitionist

John Brown, abolitionist.


Acknowledgement
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 ©