Good Book: Civil War Experiences by Henry C. Meyer

There are so many Civil War diaries out there, all different.  I've read a few, and have tried especially to read Mary Boykin Chesnut's Diary from Dixie THREE TIMES now, and never getting very far and having to return it to the library.  I know it's online, but I like the tactile experience of turning pages.  I like the book just fine, but the copy at my library has such small font, and Mary was quite verbose and no matter what volume you read they're all tomes.

Anyway, I check Gutenberg every morning to see what new books have been posted, and this morning I saw another Civil War diary – Civil War Experiences under Bayard, Gregg, Kilpatrick, Custer, Raulston, and Newberry, 1862, 1863, 1864 – and took a look as I always do.  They're usually dull and boring, but not this one.  The content is as full and rich as the title is bone dry.

I was captivated before the end of the first sentence.  I'm not yet on page 5 and I had to start this post as the book is so engaging I just knew I was going to post about it.

It is written in such a delightfully easy conversational tone, I can almost imaging him saying it out-loud – here are some samples:

*"That night I went to my home, at Dobb's Ferry, on the Hudson River, and reported what I had done, intending to leave for Washington the next morning, when I was promised transportation. This interview with my parents was quite unpleasant, as my father was very angry and my mother in great distress. At that time both my father and his friends regarded my action as worse than foolish and almost as bad as though I had done something disreputable. Indeed, as I was afterwards informed, one gentleman remarked, "Well, that is too bad; that boy has gone to the devil, too. 

*"The following morning I bade my parents good-bye, feeling that if I were wounded or crippled I should not care to return home for them to take care of me. Subsequent letters from home, however, removed that feeling."

WOW.  That's some deep sentiment.  And then he speaks of the beginnings of his trip to meet his regiment, and the part inbetween about his filling out his own enlistment papers and the armless man entering the recruiting station were amusing too, and then there was this part about him selling his civilian clothes and the buyer deserting… and we aren't even on page 7 yet and I can't post everything he wrote, but this part about the pickles and ice cream made me chuckle.

*"On landing at Walnut Street wharf I went into the soldiers' refreshment room, maintained by the citizens of Philadelphia, which was open night and day, and at which all soldiers passing through the city were fed free of charge. It was about two o'clock in the morning, very hot, and I was tired and depressed. Hence, when invited to partake of some refreshments, I was unable to do so but contented myself with eating a few pickles."

*"On arriving in Baltimore I walked to another part of the city to take the train for Washington. Meanwhile I wanted some breakfast. Going into a place which I supposed was a restaurant, I found that the only thing they could offer me was ice-cream. I thereupon ate some, and soon after took the train for Washington. In a few moments the Philadelphia pickles, the hot night, and the Baltimore ice-cream produced most severe cramps, and I was in a very distressed state of mind, fearing that I would never be able to reach the front, but would have to submit to the mortification of being returned home."

And I just know there's a joke in there about keeping your nose to the grindstone somewhere….

*"On this raid the regiment destroyed considerable property, and many of the men carried away all sorts of things for which they had no use. Indeed, I heard Colonel Kilpatrick laughingly remark that one fellow, in his zeal to have something, actually had a grindstone on his saddle in front of him. After carrying it about a mile he concluded, however, that he had no further use for it, and dropped it in the road."

That's most of chapter one, and if I haven't sufficiently piqued your interest nothing in chapter two will.

*Book excerpts taken from Project Gutenberg's copy of Civil War Experiences under Bayard, Gregg, Kilpatrick, Custer, Raulston, and Newberry, 1862, 1863, 1864 by Henry C. Meyer.

If you enjoyed this book, or just like Civil War diaries I highly recommend Alf Burnett's Incidents of the War: Humorous, Pathetic, and Descriptive; and I do have a particular favorite, but I am saving that one for a post of its own, so I'll mention Sarah Dawson Morgan's A Confederate Girl's Diary instead.

And I am going back to reading chapter two now…

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 2:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,