Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

31st. Cleared up soon after sunrise, but did not remain so long. Very heavy firing. Musketry and artillery to the right of and beyond Dinwiddie C. H. Very uneasy to know how the day is going. God grant us victory. Success now, the capture of the Southside and the Danville R. R. must bring peace soon. We can leave the cause in God’s care. On to Dinwiddie—there at 6 P. M. 1st Div. all driven back. 3rd Div. engaged. 3rd N. J. ammunition exhausted. Go up at a trot, dismount and go in. Doublequicked half a mile—came upon infantry line which opened fire and charged. Had to fall back quickly. Horse wounded. Many good men lost. Fortified and lay on our arms.


March 31st.—Mr. Prioleau Hamilton told us of a great adventure. Mrs. Preston was put under his care on the train. He soon found the only other women along were “strictly unfortunate females,” as Carlyle calls them, beautiful and aggressive. He had to communicate the unpleasant fact to Mrs. Preston, on account of their propinquity, and was lost in admiration of her silent dignity, her quiet self-possession, her calmness, her deafness and blindness, her thoroughbred ignoring of all that she did not care to see. Some women, no matter how ladylike, would have made a fuss or would have fidgeted, but Mrs. Preston dominated the situation and possessed her soul in innocence and peace.

Met Robert Johnston from Camden. He has been a prisoner, having been taken at Camden. The Yankees robbed Zack Cantey of his forks and spoons. When Zack did not seem to like it, they laughed at him. When he said he did not see any fun in it, they pretended to weep and wiped their eyes with their coat-tails. All this maddening derision Zack said was as hard to bear as it was to see them ride off with his horse, Albine. They stole all of Mrs. Zack’s jewelry and silver. When the Yankee general heard of it he wrote her a very polite note, saying how sorry he was that she had been annoyed, and returned a bundle of Zack’s love-letters, written to her before she was married. Robert Johnston said Miss Chesnut was a brave and determined spirit. One Yankee officer came in while they were at breakfast and sat down to warm himself at the fire. “Rebels have no rights,” Miss Chesnut said to him politely. “I suppose you have come to rob us. Please do so and go. Your presence agitates my blind old father.” The man jumped up in a rage, and said, “What do you take me for —a robber?” “No, indeed,” said she, and for very shame he marched out empty-handed.


31st.—A long pause in my diary. Every thing seems so dark and uncertain that I have no heart for keeping records. The croakers croak about Richmond being evacuated, but I can’t and won’t believe it.

There is hard fighting about Petersburg, and General A. P. Hill has been killed. Dreadful to think of losing such a man at such a time; but yet it comes nearer home when we hear of the young soldiers whom we have loved, and whose youth we have watched with anxiety and hope as those on whom our country must depend in days to come, being cut down when their country most needs them. We have just heard of the death of Barksdale Warwick, another of our E. H. S. boys—another son of the parents who yielded up their noble first-born son on the field of battle three years ago. He fell a day or two ago; I did not hear precisely when or where; I only know that he has passed away, as myriads of our young countrymen have done before him, and in the way in which our men would prefer to die.

A week ago we made a furious attack upon the enemy’s fortifications near Petersburg, and several were taken before daylight, but we could not hold them against overwhelming numbers, and batteries vastly too strong for any thing we could command; and so it is still—the enemy is far too strong in numbers and military resources. The Lord save ns, or we perish! Many persons think that Richmond is in the greatest possible danger, and may be evacuated at any time. Perhaps we are apathetic or too hopeful, but none of us are desponding at all, and I find myself planning for the future, and feeling excessively annoyed when I find persons less sanguine than myself.


Chattanooga, Thursday, March 30. No rest for the wicked, for the present at least. Was on the inevitable detail as usual working on Captain’s house. I and another man sawed out the door hole and corner blocks in the forenoon, roofed it and fixed ready to move into it in the afternoon. Rained till I was wet through before quitting time. Feel tired and somewhat sick from my cold. Dye finally reported from furlough, six days behind time. David Carpenter also joined us, having been relieved from duty at 3rd Division, 15th Army Corps headquarters. He left the good old command at Pocataligo, and came via Savannah and New York. News is splendid all around, would like to have a little from home though.


March 30th.—Raining rapidly, and warm.

Again the sudden change of weather may be an interposition of Providence to defeat the effort of the enemy to destroy Gen. Lee’s communications with his Southern depots of supplies. I hope so, for faith in man is growing weaker.

Our loss in the affair of the 25th instant was heavy, and is now admitted to be a disaster; and Lee himself was there! It amounted, probably, to 3000 men. Grant says over 2000 prisoners were registered by his Provost Marshal. It is believed the President advised the desperate undertaking; be that as it may, many such blows cannot follow in quick succession without producing the most deplorable results. The government would soon make its escape—if it could. Mrs. Davis, however, soonest informed of our condition, got away in time.

Dispatches from Generalissimo Lee inform the Secretary that large expeditions are on foot in Alabama, Mississippi, etc., and that Thomas’s army is rapidly advancing upon Virginia from East Tennessee, while no general has yet been designated to command our troops.

The papers say nothing of the flank movement commenced yesterday by Grant. This reticence cannot be for the purpose of keeping the enemy in ignorance of it!

I am convalescent, but too weak to walk to the department today. The deathly “sick man,” as the Emperor of Russia used to designate the Sultan of Turkey, is our President. His mind has never yet comprehended the magnitude of the crisis.

Custis says letters still flow in asking authority to raise negro troops.

In the North the evacuation of Richmond is looked for between the 1st and 25th of April. They may be fooled. But if we lose the Danville Road, it will only be a question of time. Yet there will remain too great a breadth of territory for subjugation—if the people choose to hold out, and soldiers can be made of negroes.

It is reported (believed) that several determined assaults were made on our lines yesterday evening and last night at Petersburg, and repulsed with slaughter; and that the attack has been renewed to-day. Very heavy firing has been heard in that direction. Gen. Lee announces no result yet.

We have 2,000,000 bread rations in the depots in North Carolina.


Thursday, 30th—It is quite stormy and rainy today. All is quiet in camp, and there is no news of importance.


30th. Rain continued. Lay in the mud till noon, then moved into the woods. Moved out just after getting fixed up comfortably. Moved 4 miles over awful roads and camped 5 miles from Dinwiddie C. H. Building a good deal of corduroy road. Put on picket. Barnitz uneasy all night. Allowed no rest.


March 30th. Nothing special for the past few days. Daily routine is kept up. When off duty tramp through the country, calling at the farms, meeting the old men. The young men are mostly in the army, either in the Union or the Confederate. Religious service is held in the log chapel, conducted by our good Chaplain, Walker, assisted by Chaplains from other regiments and the Christian Commission.


March 30th, 1865.

My curiosity as to what correspondents might say of the battle of the twenty-fifth inst. is partially gratified by a perusal of the Herald’s dispatch. Their account of the affair, after daylight, is in the main correct, that dated at City Point coming nearest the truth. But the facts in regard to the Rebels getting possession of the fort are suppressed or misrepresented. Neither does General Parks’ “official” come nearer the mark.

The fact is, we have one more occasion to thank God for saving us from the stupidity of “men in high places.”

The long-expected movement on our left is under way. Yesterday Army Headquarters moved to Dinwiddie Court House, about four miles beyond Hatcher’s Run. Part of the Twenty-fourth Corps and the Twenty-fifth corps have joined the expedition, which must swell the number to near one hundred thousand infantry.

This force represents the “upper” and Sherman’s the “nether” mill stones that are grinding the Confederacy to powder. Meanwhile the post assigned the Ninth Corps is one of responsibility. We must hold these lines or Grant’s supplies are cut off.

It has rained all day, steadily; a warm, gentle rain that seems so much in keeping with the season, I enjoy it. What a bright, fresh green it gives to vegetation, and how sweetly the new-born flowers look up and smile their thankfulness.


Mrs. Lyon’s Diary.


New Market, March 30.—Cool and rainy. We find these people very friendly. They are very glad to accommodate us. Mrs. Pierce showed us a room in the center of the house that they built on purpose to protect her husband and boys when they come home. Mr. Pierce is home now. He is not well, and the rebels let him alone, but they are bent on getting the boys, because they are Union boys.

Our life is very monotonous. It seems too bad to stay here when the regiment is so near, only about thirty-five miles from here. Mrs. Moulton and I took a long walk over the hills. It is a very pretty country. A little girl brought me a nice bouquet because we are Union people; but this family are very careful about talking, for fear of being heard. They shut the doors if they want to talk.