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

A Soldier’s Diary, The Story of a Volunteer, David Lane, (17th Mich. Vol. Infantry)

June 8th, 1865.

We were discharged at Delaney House, D. C, on the third day of June, and next day took cars for Detroit, where we arrived on the seventh, and were disbanded. We are no longer an organized body. Each individual is at liberty to consult his own interests or inclinations. After exchanging photos and kindly regards with my late comrades, I took the midnight train for Jackson, where I arrived at 5 o’clock in the morning.

It is now five miles to my country home. I lost no time in friendly greetings by the way, but leaped from the cars before they fairly stopped; passed swiftly up the track to the first street crossing; up “Moody Hill” and along the “Gravel;” turned to the left; on down the “Marvin Hill” to the old “Clinton House;” again to the left, past “Markham’s” and “Shipman’s,” to the little school house on the corner. I am now one mile from home. What a beautiful world it is, this bright June morning; and how familiar the sights and sounds that greet my senses.

The trees, dressed in their robes of darkest green, wave me a welcome. The wayside thorn, arrayed in spotless white, doth waft to me its richest perfume. The feathered songsters, their bright plumage flashing in the sunlight, attune for me their sweetest melody, and every nerve and fiber of my being responds to these kindly greetings.

I am almost home; just around the corner. I see the cottage now, set in a grove I planted many years ago, when first my mate and I did build our humble nest. I wrote them yesterday I would break my fast with them this morning. I wonder, did they get it? Yes, they are on the lookout. In the east door, that commands this angle of the road, stands my darling, waving her handkerchief, her dear face transfigured with joy and happiness. In the south door is my eldest daughter, clapping her hands in unaffected delight. Another daughter and my son have climbed the road fence, and are giving vent to their joy in childish boisterousness, while “pet,” the little lass, is running down the street, fast as her little feet can carry her, to leap into her father’s arms and bid him Welcome Home.



May 31st. 1865.

Dearest Wife:

I cannot rest this night without writing you a few lines to report progress. Have we not been busy these last—I cannot tell how many—days? To me, it seems an age. Our papers are all complete and have been sent to Headquarters for inspection. Our roll accounts for one hundred seventy-three men; this for Company G. Of the above number, twenty-three are present to be discharged.

The Twentieth Michigan was mustered out this morning, and will start for home tomorrow morning. We expect to be mustered out tomorrow; certainly the next day. My anxiety is for you, my wife, fearing the suspense is greater than you can bear.

It is useless for you to write to me again, darling, and this is the last letter you will get from your soldier. Before this reaches you, I will be on my homeward way, a full-fledged citizen, and as I come, my glad heart will ting the joyous refrain: “Oh, I come. I come, ye hare called me long; I come o’er the mountain with light and song.”

Yours lovingly.

May 24th, 1865.

The grand review is over. No doubt it was imposing, beyond the power of words to describe. Now we can begin our work in earnest. We had positive orders from Headquarters to do nothing until that event was disposed of. We could not get blank muster rolls until tonight. Working little by little, I have prepared the descriptive lists and accounts of our recruits, and have put company papers in proper shape. Our departure now depends on dispatch; first come, first served. I must now forget my “pains and aches” and settle down to a week of persevering effort.

The captain gives me leave to detail as many men as I can use.

Tenleytown, D. C, May 21st, 1865.

The long-delayed, eagerly-looked-for order has been issued; read to us on dress parade. “All troops whose term of service expires on or before the first day of October, 1865, shall be mustered out immediately.” and our officers are to make out their final muster-out rolls without delay. Recruits are to be transferred to veteran regiments, which will be retained for a time.

Five copies of muster rolls are to be made out, and a descriptive list of each recruit, of whom there are thirty-three in our company. The glad day on which we bid farewell to “Dixie” does not yet appear, but I can now await, with patience, the necessary time.

May 19th, 1865.

The grand review has been officially announced to come off on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, in Washington. The First Division, Ninth Corps, is being reviewed this afternoon by Generals Grant, Sheridan and others. Our brigade commander tells us this is to be our last demonstration; no more drills; no more reviews.

Probably the First Division will be required to do guard duty in Washington until after the review. That will all be over next week. Captain Sudborough tells me he has learned for a fact we will not be kept here longer than next week.

May 12th. 1865.

I received a letter from home last night, dated the sixth inst. Its effect was magical, and confirmed me in the suspicion that I am—a little—homesick. Of course, I must know that arrangements are being made to send us home, and that the time is near at hand. Red tape requires time, and its fountain head is here. “How not to do it” seems to be the study of all officials in Washington. Still, there are some things to encourage us. Two regiments from the Ninth Corps have started for home—the Thirty-first and Thirty-second Maine went yesterday.

May 8th. 1865.

Two weeks today we arrived in sight of Washington, from our year’s campaign, crowned, this time, with victory. Why the impatience with which I await my discharge? I wonder, am I homesick, at this late day, just on the point of going home?

I certainly am not well; it is equally true I can think of naught but home. But, I am better than when I came; therefore I will write it down—impatience.

There are rumors of grand reviews, triumphal processions, and all the rest of it; and our flag, too, must have all the various battles in which we were engaged inscribed upon it. And officers are in no hurry to lay aside their trappings. Why should they be? It clothes them with authority which, lain aside, they never more can wear.

May 4th. 1865.

The work of preparation progresses, but oh, so slowly. But the work is gigantic. The dismantling of this mighty engine of war; of returning this “citizen army” to its legitimate and proper field of action, transforming it to an army of citizens, is an herculean task. Officers are busy arranging their affairs for the final settlement.

Everything that has passed into or through their hands must be accounted for. There is but one “loop hole” for the dishonest officer. “Lost in battle,” like charity, can be made to cover a “multitude of sins.”

Our pay rolls are completed and have been sent to the Paymaster. We draw clothing nearly every day, as the officers insist every man shall wear a new suit home. Guns, too, are being issued to every enlisted man, as we return our guns to the State Arsenal.

Governor Crapo and Senators Chandler and Howard are in Washington, and come out occasionally to see us.

Drill and dress parade—”fuss and feathers”—are the order of every day.

Tenleytown, D. C., April 29th, 1865.

I can write of nothing, just now, but “Home, Sweet Home;” can think of nothing else. Is it a wonder? When work was to be done, did I not set my face, like flint, to do it? And now, the task complete, our Nation’s unity restored, slavery wiped out, and peace secured, is it any wonder my impatient soul chafes at restraint? But, patience, thou spirit of unrest. I have been making out muster rolls today; tomorrow we muster. Captain Sudborough has returned. He learned, in Philadelphia, that we were coming, and hastened to join us, that he might go home with the regiment. Every detailed man has been returned. The next muster rolls I make will be to muster us out of the service.

April 28th, 1865.

We are now encamped on the homeward side of Washington, about two miles east of Georgetown, where we are to remain, so say our officers, until mustered out. Of course, that day will not be revealed to us until the date of its arrival. It would not be military to give out information in advance. I form my conclusions after reading the signs of the times, and am convinced our final muster-out will occur the last of May or first of June.

Only one thing can delay us, and that not for long; and that is Sherman’s unfortunate treaty with Johnson. That was a sad mistake, but I think General Grant will easily correct it.