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 3

Diary of Charles Terry Saxton, 90th N.Y. Volunteers, from January, 1862 to August, 1863.

Wednesday Feb 5th, 1862

           Everything as usual today. The 47th Pa arrived here yesterday from the army on the Potomac. That, with the 91st, which arrived a short time after we did, and ourselves, are to be in a brigade together. Feel well.

Thursday Feb 6th

            This morning a mail came in which brought me 5 letters and 2 papers. The letters were from Father, Mother, JB, Terry and G Smith. I was overjoyed at once again hearing from home - that home between which and me so many hundreds of miles intervene. We erected a flag pole on the camp ground today - a very nice one; and on it was raised and flung to the breeze the glorious 'Star Spangled Banner' amid our cheers and acclamations. The whole regiment marched to the village to escort the 2 companies to the boat on which they leave the island; they having had orders to depart for Missouri, I believe.

Friday Feb 7th

            Last night I went out on picket duty for the first time. There are a great many on this island, who, although outwardly they are loyal, yet in reality are traitors at heart; and although this duty is more for the purpose of initiating us than anything else, still there are persons who need watching. One in particular, a wealthy man who owns the salt works, and who is suspected of wishing to ship salt to the confederates, is eyed pretty closely. The Capt and Lt formed us in line, 20 of us, 2 corp'ls, of whom I am one, and 16 men. At about 9 o'clock, after having loaded our rifles, we proceeded from the camp, making as little noise as possible. We took the same road we had passed over before when we went to the salt works. As we passed along the road, the thicket on each side of us, with naught to break the deep silence except the steady tramp, tramp of the men or now and then the low voice of the Capt as he gave some word of command, I felt strongly awakened within me the spirit of adventure; which, however, was not likely to be satisfied. When we arrived at the salt works we divided off, the Capt taking 1 Sergeant and 1 Corp and 8 men, the Lt the same. I was Corp of the picket in the Lt's squad. The Lt posted his men about 50 paces apart, the line extending across the island. The Capt posted his men somewhere around the house of the man who owned the salt works. The men were instructed not to allow anyone to pass without the countersign; if anyone was challenged 3 times and did not answer, to fire on him; and to keep watch for signals, etc. Well, of course, nothing happened. The only enemy we encountered was the mosquitoes; and they came upon us thick and fast and furious as soon as we got into the bushes. I went along the line several times to see if all was right, sometimes alone, sometimes with one of the officers. None of us got any sleep except some of the men, who would get so wearied that they would drop asleep while standing, and then maybe would fall and awake. We did not say much to such, as all the thing was for was to try us, and there was not the least danger. We called in the men and started for the camp about 4 o'clock. After breakfast we fired off our pieces at a target and I made as good a shot as any. I have felt very much fatigued all day as I travelled in all last night about 10 miles, but am otherwise quite well. All I have to say about picket is that it requires a great deal of caution and watchfulness; and also much discretion. It must be a pleasant duty to one who loves excitement, when near the lines of the enemy; but here, where there are more mosquitoes than adventures, it is not quite so desirable. Everything is as usual today.

Saturday Feb 8th

            Everything is as usual today. This afternoon the right and left wings of the regiment had a drill for the purpose of learning which is the best drilled in the manual of arms; there being a wager pending between the Major and another officer on the result. When we were through the Col who was chosen to drill us and decide, said we both approached so near perfection that he could not give the decision at present. Feel well only weary.

Sunday Feb 9th

            The day has passed off as usual with one important exception; namely, that we were called upon to sign the pay roll in order that we may receive our pay on the morrow. I went to church this evening and heard the Chaplain of the 11th deliver another earnest and powerful discourse, which, by its eloquence, fairly enthralled his hearers from almost the first word to its close.

Monday Feb 10th

           Today the regiment was payed off up to the 1st of Jan; and I received my first money ($18.20) in recompense for my services since I have been in Uncle Sam's employ. It has been quite rainy. Feel well.

Tuesday Feb 11th

            I obtained a pass today and went to the city. I purchased a copy of Milton's works and several other things. It is very pleasant. Have a slight headache, otherwise am quite well. Went to the Col's this evening with the other non-commissioned officers and was examined by him. Passed.

Wednesday Feb 12th

            I had just finished writing to father, mother, and E Childs and was about to write to JB, when I was notified by the orderly that I was to go on duty today. Consequently I was compelled to defer writing and go to blacking my shoes, scouring my brass implements, etc, preparatory for duty.

Thursday Feb 13th

            I did not sleep at all last night as the non-commissioned officers were required to keep awake during the 24 hours of their duty. I came off at 9 this morning. Feel well, only much fatigued.

Friday Feb 14th

            It rained very hard last night, making it too wet and muddy for drill this forenoon. I received a letter from JB containing her photograph, besides 4 papers from different ones.

Saturday Feb 15th

            Everything passed off today as usual. This afternoon I received a letter from the Rev Mr Brown dated Nov 25th; it having been miscarried. I wrote to JB.

Sunday Feb 16th

           Wrote an answer to Mr Brown's letter. Am in good health and spirits. Did not go to church.

Monday Feb 17th

            It has been very warm indeed today, so that it was uncomfortable for drilling. Have not felt as well as usual, probably on account of the great heat. Wrote home and sent ten dollars.

Tuesday Feb 18th

           This morning during drill the Capt gave us the double quick for about a mile, which tired my strength considerably. I could hardly endure it but determined to drop before I would leave the ranks, and did neither. It is hard now but I suppose we must become accustomed to it if we would become soldiers. The monotony has been as undisturbed as ever. Several gun-boats arrived at the island today, which we suppose will convey us on an expedition against the enemy.

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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 ©