Civil War History


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last page 30 of diary

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 27

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

            June 1865 - January 1866

            The following, in a home made blank book, seems to have been written after Lee's surrender, up to the time of his mustering-out. The first few pages are missing.

            -----apologies for soldiers favored above us and permitted to go home while we were compelled to stay. There is encouragement for a man to fight for his country. Oh we will not forget these things, ye powers that be. The cut was deep and will not quickly be healed. Well we expect to start early tomorrow morning. I hope we may.


            Up at 4 o'clock. Let me tell you that is something unusual. I fear I have been getting lazy lately. In fact, I don't know but laziness has been growing upon me for the last four years. Soldiering is remarkably adapted for developing what proclivities a fellow may already have for doing nothing only when he is forced to it, and producing such proclivities where none have before existed. It is such an irresponsible life. There is such a sameness, such a monotonous walking in the same old beaten path. Nothing to look out for. Everything is marked down for you and you have nothing else to do but to follow the prescribed course. One can't think for himself. He is a mere automaton - a machine moved by the will of others. That is the reason, I suppose, why we are so lazy. Like any slaves we do what we are forced to do and no more, except for a few who are ambitious for something in the military line, or in the civil life we soon expect to lead. But I said we were up at 4 o'clock. At 5 the tents were all struck, the knapsacks all packed, and the line formed. The sun was just appearing in the orient; the dew was still sparkling on the grass; and in the vigorous coolness of the morning we started for the wharf. The knapsacks were pretty heavy that morning but I fear that some hearts were heavier. The boys had seen thousands of their comrades en route for home, and now they were turning their backs upon it, soon to put hundreds of miles of ocean between it and them, and going to a climate, where death lurked in the very atmosphere. But soldiers are not much given to despondency and most of them laughed and joked and cursed and tantalized each other or any other good subject that came along, as much as ever. They always treat bad luck in a very cavalier manner, and while a few grumble and complain, the majority ridicule it to its very face; and even bad luck can't stand that.

            After a march of about an hour and a half we reached the city, filed along past the capitol and down the avenue, now deserted, (it being Sunday and so early in the morning) except by some sleepy looking shopkeepers, a few colored individuals and some unhealthy looking women looking out of the doors and window, aroused probably by the sound of the fife and drum; until we reached 7th St, down which we turned. A ferry boat was here awaiting us, and after our regiment and one other had filed aboard, she started down the river. Opposite Alexandria was a big black steamer - the 'Northern Light'; and our boat steamed up alongside of this. After considerable jamming, and loud talking and throwing of ropes, spiced with a great deal of cursing, we were made fast in the proper place and a gang plank stretched from one steamer to the other. Then a living stream of blue-breeched humanity commenced to pour upon the 'Northern Light'. Its progress was very unsteady. Now it flowed onward smoothly quietly tranquilly; and again when something occurred to check its progress, it would fume and fret and try to break down the obstruction, all the time muttering angrily, until an opening was again made and then the whole volume would surge onward. Two regiments besides the two that were on our boat thus came aboard, and nearly all were packed away down in the hold. But she is a large vessel and is not nearly so crowded as some I have been upon.

            At last everything was safely aboard and after a great deal of yo heave ho-ing on the part of the sailors the anchor was hoisted, and then the big wheels began to revolve, making an awful commotion in the water, and we moved majestically down the stream; that is, as majestically as a steamer is supposed to move, for one cannot be compared to a ship under its cloud of white canvas. The steamer is a big, black, unpoetical looking craft with two or three naked looking masts which are seldom used, and great black tall chimneys. Still what is lacking in beauty is made up in power (which I think is better than mere beauty even in man) and one cannot help admiring the great ugly marine monster, all sombre and naked as it is, when he feels the mighty throbs of its iron heart and thinks of its immense power and usefulness. Well we moved along down the river, the immense wheels beating the water into hissing, boiling foam, and leaving a long line of it stretching away back behind us; while the big waves would come rolling along in our rear, always seeming to be the same waves trying to overtake us. Away back the great dome of the capitol loomed up distinctly against the sky until at last we rounded a curve and it was shut from sight. I wonder under what circumstances I will next see it, or if I will ever. Onward we go. Down past the hills and valleys and bold bluffs; past green meadows covered with beautiful verdure and large fields golden with their wealth of wheat and rye; past forests growing down almost to the banks, dark and gloomy, where the beautiful sunlight could not penetrate; past white houses stiff and stately, red brick houses, little brown houses, some nestling away among the trees and peeping out curiously at us as we steamed by, and others staring boldly at us from some high bluff; past all these and much more with panoramic rapidity. At one place, near a pretty little white cottage standing in a valley near the bank, was a steamer; and swarming around the cottage and along the bank, and in the shady grove in the rear, were dozens of fair (we suppose of course they were fair) 'angels in white' and about an equal number of 'gentlemen in black' enjoying a picnicing excursion, I suppose. It looked very inviting, but I couldn't stop. At dusk we anchored and lay still all night.

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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 ©