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 26

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

            December 1864

            We remained there by the battery about 2 weeks, and then rejoined the regiment on the other side of the pike. Here we went to work to put up winter quarters. It is astonishing with what few materials a soldier will put up a comfortable shanty. The trees are standing in the woods; stones are in the field; tents are furnished him, and with these he makes himself comfortable during the rigor of a Virginia winter. He has no nails and hardly an axe. First he goes into the woods and cuts his logs, then carries them over on his back. He places his logs in position, notching them so they will fit closely, and then digs down in the ground about 2 feet, after which he stretches his shelter tent over the top, forming a roof. He next fixes the ends with the rubber blankets and shelter tents or boards, if he can steal them, and banks up all around so the wind can not come through the cracks. Finally he builds a fireplace of stone, using mud for mortar, makes his chimney of sod, and the shanty is done. Pegs are driven up between the logs to hang equipment and haversacks on, shelves are made to put cups, etc, on, places are fixed for rifles, a bunk is rigged, a coffee pot and gridiron are purchased if he has the spare change, and his mansion is furnished in tip top style.

            A soldier needs a dry place in the country, I can tell you. Ugh! What bleak winds sweep over the hills sometimes, when old Boreas is out in force. They shriek and howl and whistle around our frail tenements, coming in at every crack and crevice, and causing us to cower down as near to the fire as we can get. The very thought of them makes me shudder. And to be on duty at such a time - on guard or picket; won't a soldier think of home and of the blazing fire and warm bed at such a time? Maybe not. And the snow! We have had that, too. It came in the night and when I got up in the morning and peeped out of my tent, I found the ground all covered with the white, fleecy snow. How beautiful! On tents and breastworks, up on the hills and down in the valleys, away up on the steep sides of the mountain, covering the whole earth as far as the eye could reach, nothing but this pure white messenger from the clouds. It was the first I had seen of any consequences for 4 years, and Oh, how forcibly it suggested to my mind the jingling of bells and merry shouts of laughter of the old time sleigh rides. What can be more pleasant? I am sure, at any rate, it is better than walking in the snow in low shoes. I found that out by experience. I could not enjoy snow-balling, washing faces, rolling in the snow, etc, as I once could. I had been too long in the south for that. It was amusing to see the dismay with which some of the Louisiana darkeys, who have never seen snow in such quantity before, now regarded it. A lieutenant asked his darky to go down to the spring and get some water, and he wanted to know, 'What is de use of goin' dar, de spring is all filled up, ain't it?' He also wanted to know if 'dey was goin' to put on any picket or guard today'.

            But I must begin to bring this imperfect narrative to a close. I have endeavored to relate for your amusement, mother, some of the incidents of my life for the past year and more, as well as I could. It is poorly written and poorly composed but I must plead unfavorable circumstances as an excuse. Most of it was written in a little shelter tent in which I could hardly sit upright, with the ground as a seat and my knees for a writing desk. I have now established myself in comfortable quarters. I have built a shanty and furnished it. It is not a palace, to be sure, still it does very well for a soldier. I receive letters occasionally, have books to read, plenty of writing materials, pipes and tobacco, and these are my chief sources of happiness. As an offset to these, I have my arms and equipment to keep in order, am obliged to carry all the wood that we burn on my shoulder the distance of nearly half a mile, and have to go on guard and picket occasionally. These nearly constitute the sum of my enjoyments and miseries. The campaign in Shenandoah is apparently over for the season. Black December is upon us. The weather is very cold, and the earth is covered with snow. It appears on the mountains that loom up on either hand in the blue distance, in patches here and there, giving them a cheerless and forbidding appearance. Piercing blasts from the north sweep over the hills and down through the valleys, chilling and killing and shrieking in high glee at the misery and death it occasions. Everything looks bare and desolate. The trees, stripped of their foliage, are tossing their skeleton arms to and fro in wild despair. Not a fence is to be seen. Even the houses look neglected and forsaken. A dismal picture truly.

            This is the present and here I must close. If these few scribblings will afford the least pleasure to any at home, I am well repaid for the little trouble it has cost me. I would do much more than this to please you. With love to all, I am, mother, your affectionate son

                    Chas T Saxton.

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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 ©