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 25

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

            October to December 1864 (cont.)

            We remained away from the regiments, supporting the battery, for about 2 weeks. While here our Thanksgiving dinner was given us. We had read a good deal about the good things that were to be sent to the army for that day. For weeks before, nothing was in the papers hardly but the 10,000 turkeys and hundreds of barrels of pastry, etc, that were to delight the palates of 'our brave boys'. Of course we were prepared for the occasion. We thought that a good piece of turkey would not be so bad after a long course of pork, tack, etc, and we were very thankful. Thanksgiving came, and the Lieut went to the Commissary's after the turkeys; while we were all collected around the fire waiting to get a peep at them. They came at last, but alas, the big, fat turkeys had dwindled down to a few small, lean chickens. We stood petrified with amazement for a moment and then our indignation burst forth. 'What sense those four little chickens for a company of men?' 'What do they take us for?' 'A cursed humbug!' 'D--n the officers, they get enough, I'll warrant'. Such were a few of the exclamations that greeted the advent of our great dinner. But what could we do with them? That was the question. If they were cooked, we would each get only enough to sharpen our appetites. At last some one made the proposition that they should be raffled for. Agreed. So each squad of 8 took one and shook dice for him. I lost, of course. So that was the last of our grand dinner. Out of all the turkeys, chickens, etc, that our friends from the north sent us, I got a good look at 4 little chickens and that was all. Moral: when you hear of good things being sent to you while in the army by absent friends, always calculate how many hands they must pass through before reaching you, before you get your mind fixed upon being benefitted by them and then you will be sure not to be disappointed.

            I am afraid that this will be a very desolate valley by the time the war is over. It looks bare enough now. I don't see how the inhabitants will live this winter. It must be hard for the women and children. God help them! It is amazing how rapidly rail fences disappear around where an army is encamped. Soldiers are death on rail fences. A few days after they have been in a place you can't find one for miles. And sometimes they don't even stop there. They got to going one day at the fences around a house and went from that to the barns, and in an hour not a fence nor barn nor out-house of any kind was standing. The house would have gone, too, I guess, if it had not been made of stone. The captain of a battery was very active in the work, and the old woman, who, with her daughter, was standing by and wringing her hands, exclaimed, 'The captain of the battery comes to see my girls and then comes and tears my barn down'. This produced a roar at the captain's expense. One has a good chance to see the inhabitants when he is on picket, especially if he is posted on the pike. I was there one day and about 20 females came, some in rickety wagons drawn by rickety horses, and some mounted on 'architectural steeds'. They all wished to get inside the lines, some to draw rations, some to see Gen Sheridan, etc, etc. It must have been galling to the pride of these aristocratic dames, 'the first families of Virginia,' etc, to have to stoop so much as to beg rations from an enemy, and that enemy the much despised mud sills of the north. One lovely young damsel came and wanted to get through, but we couldn't see it. She said that her barn was coming right behind in some forage wagons and she wanted to go with it. When she found that she couldn't get in she turned around and said that she reckoned she should have to go and tell them to go back with the barn; but I guess it did no good for in a few moments in it came, and is now, in all probability, making shanties for the yankees. Such is the fate of a great many of their barns.

            We soldiers have a great many ways of amusing ourselves. The signal corps gave us a cue for one thing that was kept up for some time. They swing a light backwards and forwards and in that way telegraph from one station to another, that is, in the evening; for in the daytime they use flags. The boys got imitating this and every evening for some time you could see the firebrands swinging back and forth as they would signal to each other; while every once in a while they would send up a rocket, as they called them. We were signalling with a battery one time and they sent us over a couple of rails and a haversack of tack, saying they thought that was what we were signalling for. We returned the compliment shortly by sending them some whiskey. We have a great deal of fun at the recruits' expense. One of the boys will get at a 'flat' and begin 'buzzing' him; while the poor recruit will listen with open mouth to the tale of horrors that the other is telling him, drinking in every word and going away deeply impressed with the terrible sufferings and awful fate probably awaiting him. One of them was going past the tent of one of the old boys one cold night, who halloed out 'Halt!' to him in a commanding tone, and then told him to stand there. The poor fellow thought of course it was all military and stood there until he was nearly frozen; and then he began to 'smell a mice' and walked away. This is very wicked, I suppose, but they will do it. A recruit is looked upon by old soldiers in the same light that marines are looked upon by sailors; and I would advise them to keep out of a veteran regiment if they can.

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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 ©