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 29

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

            June 1865 - January 1866 (cont.)

5th July, 1865

            Let me see - I left myself wooing the drowsy god on a rubber blanket over a few square feet of bedewed grass on Bay St, for you can see grass in the forest city and plenty of it too. Well, I got up in the morning, went down and took a wash which also served for my breakfast, and felt as though I had 'a heart for any fate', but would prefer a fate that would send me home about as soon as it conveniently could. I had just finished my frugal meal (devilish frugal) when the drum with its seductive tones invited us to fall in, with which we responded with the proverbial alacrity of soldiers. We were then marched through the city southward and encamped just outside. Until the last two days I have been so busy with returns, etc, that I have scarcely looked out of camp, but the pressure has relaxed and I have been looking about some. Savannah is a very pretty little city for the most part. A great proportion of the residences are fine looking buildings, the streets are some of them broad, and nearly all well shaded, and there are quite a number of little parks. On Bull Street, the street of the city, there are a couple of monuments, one to the memory of Pulaski and the other of I don't know who or what. There is a very pretty little theatre and I have been three or four times, but became disgusted and foreswore it until there can be some change, both in my pocket and in the company.

            There was not much going on yesterday. The regiment was paraded in the morning and kept in the sun until the Declaration of Independence and Emancipation Proclamation were read to us in the entirely-devoid-of-a-spark-of-animation tone of the Adjutant (blasphemy); a sure way to give one a mortal antipathy to those great papers; after which the Colonel in his most paternal manner (by the way he is a father who does not believe much in sparing the rod, or the military substitutes for it) blessed us, gave us permission to go to the city and cautioned us against getting drunk, which was rather superfluous, as none (or at least very few) had money enough to buy a cork, let alone a bottle. I went downtown, walked around a while, sweating in the hot sun, saw a great many soldiers getting drunk and firing firecrackers; and came across a procession of darks - men, women and children, in gala-day attire, trying to ape the military style (rather a ludicrous failure) with flags and banners floating in the breeze (imagine the breeze), and preceded by a nondescript band playing a nondescript tune, and two or three equestrians with the sweat rolling off their faces and their bosoms swelling with all the importance of brigadier generals. The negro is a queer specimen of the genus homo.

            After this, feeling that I had sweated enough for one day, I turned my face toward camp. Soldiers - warriors taking their rest - were reposing beneath nearly every tree. The sun combined with bad whisky had been too much for even their indomitable spirits and they were laid out, deeply, damnably, gloriously drunk.

            Toward evening I again bent my steps cityward, and got down just in time to see the chivalric feat of a crowd of soldiers taking a fire engine away from some harmless negroes who were quietly parading the streets, enjoying in their way the day we celebrate. It is wonderful how brave some men are when they have to deal with the poor negroes, who, they know, as a general thing, stand too much in awe of a white man to retaliate, especially when there are two or three to one. O most valiant and puissant heroes! Your country appreciates your heroic vindication of the right of two white men to whip one negro, even if the negro has given no provocation except the greatest one of being black.

            I went to the theatre where there were a very few fast women and a great many soldiers, a deuced poorly acted play, an infernally ventilated house and then went to camp, and was lulled to sleep by the varying notes of that great linguist, the mocking bird, which was pouring forth its melody upon the otherwise still air of night from a tree over my head.

August 8th

            The scenes have again shifted, I again raise the curtain (I hope it may be the last act) but Savannah, and with it nearly the last vestiges of civilization have disappeared and the little village of Hawkinsville (rendered famous by the sojourn of the irrepressible 90th) comes forth on the stage. Scene: city of Savannah; road on the outskirts of the city; 75th, 90th, 160th and 162nd in martial array, presenting a mild but terrific appearance; cloudy, with strong symptoms of rain; city in the distance - likewise a few 'niggers' of various sexes; approach ferocious man with fierce black mustache on fiery steed; who commands in stentorian tones 'Forward march'; exeunt all with muskets in various positions rather startling to a nervous man; steeds prancing when the spurs are plunged in deeper than usual; music playing and colors flying. All this on or about the 24th of July, 1865. Said invincible band of heroes, composing the 1st division, Dept of Georgia, were about to take a little pleasure trip to keep them from stagnating.

            Well, we plunged into a swamp almost before we were really out of the city. There were no suburbs at all unless you call cypress swamps inhabited by moccasins and rattlesnakes suburbs. We saw only one house, I think, after we left the city until we were about 6 miles beyond the Ogeechee and about 21 from Savannah. There was no water but swamp water. Magnolias, oaks and cypresses crowded close upon the road. Sometimes the branches on each side would meet over our heads, forming a beautiful bower, from which the clinging moss hung in long drooping clusters. There were immense spiders in these wood. I saw one, the body of which was nearly an inch and a half long and its legs two or three inches.

            The sun soon began to appear and when we came to exposed places it was terribly hot. Several were sunstruck. I saw one poor fellow lying beside the road with pallid face and glazed eyes just gasping his last. I saw others drop in the ranks as if shot and commence laughing and moaning in wild delirium. Four died that day. We halted at about 11 o'clock and remained quiet until 4 in the afternoon. Shortly after we had again started, a violent storm arose. We were drenched to the skin in about five minutes. The road was transformed into a small river. After splashing along for about 4 miles, with the rain pouring and the lightning flashing and the thunder crashing in a most uncomfortable manner, we halted and camped near the Ogeechee. I found that some one had appropriated my knapsack which I had left in a wagon; so I, with a very poor grace, dropped down on a 'rubber' and all wet as I was, was soon unconsciously snoring away. In the morning our regiment, having the advance, commenced first to cross the river. We went over on a 'flat', the bridge having been destroyed. This primitive mode of ferriage was attended with some difficulty, as most of the boys had never studied that branch of navigation pertaining to the propulsion of a large scow by means of a long pole, and besides the mules were not very tractable and would kick and plunge about, until some would plunge into the river, from which they would be rescued after the expenditure of some labor and many curses. We marched about 6 miles from the river after the whole regiment was safely over, and encamped to await the others. The last of the train did not get over until the 27th and on the morning of the 28th we resumed our journey. We now began to emerge from the swamps and to enter a more thickly settled country. The soil began to be sandy - almost like the sand of a beach; the surface more uneven; and the everlasting 'piney' woods began to appear. No other timber has since greeted our sight. This was the programme of our march all the way through. Reveille would sound at half past two in the morning (it was like pulling teeth to get up so early); at four we would march and press forward, until 9 or 10; and then we would rest until 3 or 4, although it was deuced little rest a fellow could take in the shade of those infernal pines, for the sun was always chasing one 'round and 'round the tree. We would then march until about 6 and then camp for the night. Now for a busy scene. The huge fires made with the igneous pine wood roar and crackle and leap high in the air. A city of white tents rises 'like an exhalation'. Men flit to and fro like demons in the red light of the devilish forges below; but they are engaged in the very anti-demoniac occupation of cooking pork and coffee. Strange noises - strange to the place at least - break out harshly upon the night. Mules are braying; horses whining; teamsters cursing; soldiers laughing and chatting; and darkies singing hymns or chanting some line over and over again in the monotonous, but withal not unmelodious, tones which you hear among the negroes of the south. But this doesn't last long. The cursing and laughing and chatting and singing is soon superseded by a universal snoring. The fires slowly die out and the darkness wraps us all in his mantle. Life and light have succumbed to silence and gloom.

            We reached the Ohoopee on the 31st and luckily found a bridge over which we passed without any trouble. The inhabitants (yclept crackers) were generally of a very inferior class. The men looked as inert and lifeless as men could look, the women dirty and slovenly (many of them chew tobacco) and the children neglected. All were of the pale, cadaverous hue that prevails so generally throughout the south, especially among the poorer classes. And they were terribly ignorant. Only a small proportion could read or write. I saw a sign over a sort of store on a much traveled highway, spelled and written something like this: TURMS CASHAK. I judged by this that either the neighbors around were likewise ignorant or that the proprietor was a pig-headed old fool who would not be corrected. Another old man who said he had once been 'Justice of the Peace' had an idea that London was in New York state and that England adjoined the US. They did not even know the events that were transpiring in the world around them. One fellow was inquiring what had become of Booth. He had heard of the murder of Mr Lincoln but did not learn what became of the assassin. The fact of the matter is, the whites and the negroes are about on a par. The degradation of the latter seems to be reflected in direct proportion upon the former. Does not the system bear upon its very front the brand of the accursed?

            The houses are mostly small and of mean appearance. Some are built of boards with maybe an open space in the center; but most of them with logs. Most all of them had their satellites in the shape of a few negro shanties from which the grinning occupants would emerge and stand staring at us with eyes distended and teeth conspicuous, until we had passed. They had never seen so many Yanks before. These plantations (I ought not to call them plantations for I hardly saw a decent one all the way up) generally looked very desolate. Nearly all, however, had peach orchards and a great many had melon patches. We gorged ourselves with these fruits all the way up. Most of them also had patches of corn and a few little patches of cotton which was in bloom and looked very pretty with its red, yellow and white blossoms intermingled.

            The surface became gradually more and more rolling as we went farther into the interior. On the morning of the 22nd we reached the Oconee. It looked some like the 'Red' with its high banks and almost blood-red waters. This was about a mile from its confluence with the Ocmulgee. We crossed this by means of a flat and were all over by night.

            In the morning we again started, taking what is called the ridge road in preference to the other by the river, it being somewhat shorter. There were few houses along the way. The piney woods seemed to be interminable, and we would sometimes travel 10 miles without seeing a building except maybe a little shanty in the heart of the woods either deserted or inhabited by a family of the poorest of crackers. Water was very scarce indeed.

            The evening of the 5th we encamped about 9 miles from the ferry. The next morning the regiments began to 'run' each other; and we all rushed along through creeks and mudpuddles, over fences; double quicked half of the time, with the dust flying and the sweat pouring; all puffing and blowing like locomotives on a tear, while we brought up on the bank of the Ocmulgee pretty well played out. My shoes were completely caved in. For 3 days I had been marching in wonderful curiosities of superannuated shoes but now they were rendered completely unfit for service and appealed to me in a most moving manner for a discharge. But I have a second time brought this journey to an end. We had marched 170 miles and had not seen a town or even a little village. We crossed the river on another flat and encamped in a shady grove a little way from the village.

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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 ©