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

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

10th.—Spent yesterday in the hospital by the bedside of Nathan Newton, our little Alabamian. I closed his eyes last night at ten o’clock, after an illness of six weeks. His body, by his own request, will be sent to his mother. Poor little boy! He was but fifteen, and should never have left his home. It was sad to pack his knapsack, with his little gray suit, and coloured shirts, so neatly stitched by his poor mother, of whom he so often spoke, calling to us in delirium, “Mother, mother,” or, “Mother, come here.” He so often called me mother, that I said to him one day, when his mind was clear, “Nathan, do I look like your mother?” “No, ma’am, not a bit; nobody is like my mother.” The packing of his little knapsack reminds me of


“Fold it up carefully, lay it aside,
Tenderly touch it, look on it with pride,
For dear must it be to our hearts evermore,
The jacket of gray, our loved soldier-boy wore.

“Can we ever forget when he joined the brave band
Who rose in defence of our dear Southern land,
And in his bright youth hurried on to the fray—
How proudly he donned it, the jacket of gray?

“His fond mother blessed him, and looked up above,
Commending to Heaven the child of her love;
What anguish was hers, mortal tongue may not say,
When he passed from her sight in his jacket of gray.

“But his country had called him, she would not repine,
Though costly the sacrifice placed on its shrine;
Her heart’s dearest hopes on the altar she lay,
When she sent out her boy in his jacket of gray.

“Months passed, and war’s thunders rolled over the land,
Unsheathed was the sword, and lighted the brand;
We heard in the distance the sound of the fray,
And prayed for our boy in the jacket of gray.

“Ah, vain, all in vain, were our prayers and our tears;
The glad shout of victory rang in our ears;
But our treasured one on the battle-field lay,
While the life-blood oozed out on the jacket of gray.

“Fold it up carefully, lay it aside,
Tenderly touch it, look on it with pride,
For dear must it be to our hearts evermore,
The jacket of gray our loved soldier-boy wore.

“His young comrades found him, and tenderly bore
The cold lifeless form to his home by the shore:
Oh, dark were our hearts on that terrible day
When we saw our dead boy in the jacket of gray.

“Ah, spotted and tattered, and stained now with gore,
Was the garment which once he so proudly wore;
We bitterly wept as we took it away,
And replaced with death’s white robes the jacket of gray.

“We laid him to rest in his cold, narrow bed,
And ‘graved on the marble we placed o’er his head,
As the proudest of tributes our sad hearts could pay,
He never disgraced the poor jacket of gray.

“Fold it up carefully, lay it aside,
Tenderly touch it, look on it with pride,
For dear must it be to our hearts evermore,
The jacket of gray our loved soldier-boy wore.

April 10.—The Rebels have run and left Island 10, and our boys have taken some 2,000 of them prisoners below here. They passed up on a boat this morning. We will be paid off to-day or to-morrow.

Thursday 10th

The weather is more settled today. Nothing in particular has occured. We are getting more of the particulars of the great Battle at Pittsburgh Landing, it was the most desperate fight of the War so far. There is nothing from Yorktown, to which all eyes are now turned. Both parties are in great force there. There must be another desperate encounter there. Our troops are flushed with Victory. The rebels are desperate.


The three diary manuscript volumes, Washington during the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865, are available online at The Library of Congress.

APRIL 10TH.—The condemned spies have implicated Webster, the letter-carrier, who has had so many passports. He will hang, probably. Gen. Winder himself, and his policemen, wrote home by him. I don’t believe him any more guilty than many who used to write by him; and I mean to tell the Judge Advocate so, if they give me an opportunity.

Thursday, 10th—We are still burying the dead. The lieutenant of Company F was buried today. Nearly all of the dead have been buried now, but there are some of the wounded still dying. I was detailed with two others to bury three of the rebels’ dead. We went out about a half mile north of the camp to a stony knoll where one body lay, and worked all forenoon, the ground being so hard and stony, to dig even a shallow grave into which we rolled the body and covered it the best we could. In the afternoon we dug a double grave for two who had died of mortal wounds.

April 10. Thursday. — A. M. Ground whitened with snow; still threatening bad weather.

3. P. M. Captain Haven, Company G, and Lieutenant Bacon, Company K, have just returned. They bring fifteen prisoners and about fifteen horses, with a number of saddles and bridles. They were captured over New River in Monroe County.

At 8 P. M. F. M. Ingram (the silent telegrapher) came in saying we had gained a victory at Corinth; Major-General Lew Wallace killed; [Albert] Sidney Johnston, ditto; Beauregard lost an arm. Later told me that Island Number 10 was taken with six thousand prisoners. Glorious, if true! Night, clear and cold.

To Mrs. Lyon

Cairo, April 10,1862.—Since the capture of Island No. 10 our regiment has moved to New Madrid and I have received orders to join it forthwith. I came from Sikeston to make necessary arrangements for leaving. We shall march from Sikeston on Saturday. Think we shall get through by night.

The fighting at No. 10 was all done by the navy and artillery. The infantry had nothing to do but look on. Not so at Pittsburg Landing. There on the Tennessee a terrible battle has been fought. Our loss is very heavy. The 16th Wisconsin was in the fight. I can get no definite intelligence of its fate.

10th. Thursday. The First Battalion of the Second Cavalry (four companies) left at ten A. M. for Carthage, Mo. Issued to them ten days’ rations. Reported that we shall leave in a few days for some point forty or fifty miles east.

Beaufort, S. C. April 10th, 1862.

My dear Mother:

I was glad to get your photograph, as it does not look, as did the other one you sent me, as though you were the last inhabitant without a friend left in the world. This one is a thousand times more agreeable, though I have to make allowances for those very extraordinary expressions which play about your mouth, when photographically tortured.

The bombardment of Pulaski has begun to-day. Full accounts, I hope, of the “fall” will be taken North by the steamer bearing this. We can hear the guns booming in the distance, but our Brigade, with the exception of the 8th Michigan Regiment, is condemned to remain at Beaufort. So I shall see nothing, but hope soon to hear the fort is ours, and, indeed, so secretly, yet so securely have preparations been made, that we can hardly fail of success. It is dangerous though to make predictions, so often have I read similar sentences in “Secesh” letters written just previous to a defeat.

The atmosphere is most delightful to-day. I wish you could breathe such balmy, though invigorating air. It is hard to realize that it soon will change to an atmosphere deleterious in character.

It is strange to think how ordinary dangers lose all terror in these war-times. I have been almost constantly exposed to smallpox, yet never have so much as thought of the matter further than to assure myself that the vaccination was all right. It is wonderful too how perfect a safeguard vaccination is. Although smallpox has been so prevalent, it has been wholly confined to the negroes and young children, and a few backwoodsmen, to whom modern safeguards were not accessible, or who had neglected the common precaution. I think there has not been a case among our vaccinated soldiers. It is quite a relief to feel that this is so.

I am glad to hear of all my friends wheeling so enthusiastically into the service of their country. As far as I can ascertain, the position of an Allotment Commissioner is one that requires an earnest determination to do something, to tempt any one to accept it, and yet it is really a philanthropic act to perform its purposes.

I wish Charley Johnson would come down here. I would give him the best reception I know how, and this is a pleasant season to visit Beaufort. You ask for my photograph, dear mother, and I meant long since to have gratified you, having had myself taken alone, in company with the Staff, and on horseback with the Staff—in a variety of positions, you see, to suit everyone. But I know not how it is that I have never been able to get a copy since they were first struck off, although we have had promises enough that they will soon be ready. I intended to surprise you, but despairing of success, I write the matter that you may not think I have not tried to gratify your wishes.

I am suffering great torments from the sand-flies which abound. These are the peskiest little creatures you ever saw, completely forbidding sleep on a warm night, and defying such flimsy obstruction as mosquito bars.

I wrote Sam Elliott a few days ago. Wm. Elliott has returned looking well, and disgusted with leaves of absence. He is really about the most efficient man in the Brigade. His education has given him great habits of self-reliance, which are invaluable in his profession. Give my love to Mrs. Walter Phelps, and tell her I expect she will send me a photograph of that precious baby of hers. Capital idea photographs are!

Love to all my dear friends.



April 10.—This morning we were informed that we could go to Corinth, as the order did not apply to us. With joy we hailed the news! It was still raining, but we did not mind that. When we reached the depot, Mrs. Ogden informed me that Miss Booth was sick—too much so to leave this morning. As we left Mobile together, I felt it my duty to remain with her.

I met at the depot Dr. Anderson of Mobile; and was quite amused at a remark which he made to some ladies who were telling him how badly Dr. Caldwell had acted, in not permitting us to visit his hospital. In his usual humorous manner, he said, “What can be expected from an old bachelor, who did not appreciate the ladies enough to marry one?” He also said that he did not think any hospital could get along without ladies. So we have one doctor on our side.

I rode in a carriage with Rev. Mr. Clute, the Episcopal minister of the place, to Mrs. Henderson’s, where Miss Booth was staying. Mrs. H. was glad to see me. She is a very intelligent lady, and quite handsome. Her sister, Mrs. Young, living with her, is a highly accomplished musician—plays upon the harp and piano beautifully. She sang some very fine Scotch songs for me. We had a long talk about Scotland. They are of Scotch descent. I felt quite proud of the manner in which they spoke of that land of heroes. It is my native land; and although raised in this, and never personally having known any other, I will not forget the country of my forefathers—the land of Wallace and Walter Scott. I have always found that the southern people speak in praise of it, and the noble deeds for which it is famed, and more now than ever, as we are undergoing the same ordeal through which she so nobly passed in her great struggle for independence: all trust that we may show a like spirit, and meet with like success. The husbands of both these ladies are in the army.

This is a very wealthy portion of Mississippi, and food of all kinds seems to be plentiful. At Mrs. Haughton’s we had sweet potatoes as a substitute for coffee, and it was very nice. Mrs. H. informed us that she did not intend to use any other kind while the war lasted.