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)

Alexandria, Va., April 24th, 1865.

One year ago we passed through this city on our way to Richmond. Today we tread its streets with buoyant feet, on our way home, our work accomplished.

I am filled with gratitude that I am permitted to see this day. ‘Tis a long, weary road, the one we traveled, but what matter now? A year’s campaign! Surely it has few parallels in history. Eleven months, lacking nine days, the Ninth Corps occupied the trenches before Petersburg, under fire both night and day; but the grand results more than compensate for all our sufferings.

We are going home, soon as the coils of red tape that bind us hand and foot can be unwound.

April 19th. 1865.

Yesterday afternoon we received sad news from our Nation’s Capital; news that caused each soldier’s cheek to blanch, as if in presence of some dire calamity. Our President is murdered; ruthlessly struck down by an assassin’s hand! The demon of Secession, in his dying agony, poured out the vials of its wrath on our Executive. Imagination cannot paint the whirlwind of revengeful wrath that swept over the army; the strong desire, openly expressed, to avenge his death by annihilating the people whose treason brings forth and nourishes such monsters. Woe to the armed Rebel, now and henceforth, who makes the least resistance.

To illustrate the feeling of the men, I will write down an incident that occurred in our regiment. We have one reptile left, and only one, to my knowledge. When the news reached us, he was heard to say, with an oath: “I’m glad of it. If I had been there, I would have helped to do it.”

Before his words had time to cool, he was seized by the men near him; a tent rope was thrown around his neck, and he was hustled toward a tree, with the intent to hang him. The officers interfered, and sent him under guard to the “bull pen.”

Tomorrow is to be observed as a day of mourning throughout the army. Never was man more sincerely mourned than will be Abraham Lincoln, and in history his name will be enrolled beside our Washington.

April 10th, 1865.

It has just now been officially announced that Lee has surrendered the last remnant of his broken army. Everyone is wild with joy. As for myself, I cannot write! I cannot talk; only my glad heart cries “Hosanna! Hosanna in the Highest; in the Highest!”


Hobbs House. Va.. April 10th, 1865.

Transportation has nearly failed since we left Petersburg. The cars are running past here, but the roads are in such condition the troops can with difficulty be supplied with rations. Captain Sudborough has left us on twenty days’ leave to visit his home in Michigan. He goes by way of Richmond, fearing he may have no other opportunity to see that famous city, the goal of our ambition the last four years. During the last two days great changes have been made in our police regulations. The General has put his machine in running order, and we can now turn out “citizens of the United States” with neatness and dispatch.

Nearly every man, woman and child in this County have taken the oath of allegiance. The people of this County are quietly resuming their usual avocations. From the little knowledge of human nature I possess, I believe a majority of them to be more truly loyal now to the “Old Union.” as they term it than they ever were before.

April 8th.

We have remained all day in camp, expecting, each moment, the order to move. Last night was a night of rest, the first in seven long, weary days. Today we are ready to march, or fight, or do any work remaining to be done, to finish up the job we have in hand. I do not, however, anticipate any more fighting, unless with small bands of guerillas. Our men are scouring the woods in every direction, but with small success.

Good news comes pouring in. Last night an “official” from General Grant was read, telling us of the capture of six Major Generals, fourteen pieces of artillery and thirteen thousand prisoners. This evening it is reported that Lee, hard pressed in front and rear, has asked Grant for terms of surrender. Thus the good work goes bravely on. I read of great rejoicing in the North over our success. What, then, must be our emotions? Words cannot express them. I can only say, in all sincerity, I am glad I contributed my mite to bring about this glorious result. Colonel Swift has been appointed Provost Marshal of this district, and has asked me to act as clerk.

April 7th.

These are busy days with us; days of glorious activity, wherein we reap fruits of former toil. Our harvest time of victory, watered by tears and enriched by blood, is yielding bountifully. I have no time to give details; not even an outline of what has transpired during the past week.

We left Petersburg day before yesterday, and marched out on the South Side Railroad to near Southerland Station, where every man, not otherwise employed, was placed on picket. Yesterday we started at 9 o’clock and marched sixteen miles, which brings us twenty-five miles from Petersburg. We expect the cars will run as far as this place tomorrow.

April 4th.

I have slept one night in Petersburg. Again, with knapsack packed, I am ready for the move. I have no time to chronicle particulars; would that I had. This much I will say: I am about as happy as man can be far from his loved ones. Yesterday was a glorious day for the Nation and for us.

Inside of Petersburg, April 3d, 1865.

I was cut short off night before last by orders to “get ready to move, immediately.” Petersburg is ours, at last. The fighting yesterday was terrific, lasting from 3 o’clock in the forenoon until dark. The Seventeenth was not engaged; was detailed as Provost Guard. The First Division entered the city early this morning. I can write no more now. Everybody shouting. My heart overflows with happiness, too deep for words.

April 1st, 1865.

The Rebels are very restless in our front. Nearly every night this week they have threatened the line in front of the Third Division.

And now, that dark night has “spread her sable mantle o’er the earth,” and those who remain in camp have retired to snatch, perchance, a few hours sleep, perchance to be aroused before slumber has closed their eyelids, to face war’s rude alarms, I sit me down to ponder on the whereabouts and doings of General Grant during the past four days.

“Any news from the left?” meet whom you may, is the eager inquiry. “Nothing reliable,” the unvarying reply. Of course, the air is filled with rumors.

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.

March 26th, 1865.

I have just read the President’s Inaugural. I consider it the most remarkable state paper of modem times. Beautiful in its simplicity; grand and majestic in its expressions of lofty faith in the “Great Ruler of Nations;” it resembles more the production of one of Israel’s ancient rulers than the Inaugural Address of a modern politician. I gathered strength and courage from its perusal. Our camp has settled down to its usual quiet. Nothing remains to remind the casual observer of the strife of yesterday.

Our men are busily engaged, under cover of night, in repairing the damage done our works. Part of our regiment went to Hatcher’s Run today, and returned with the news that the Sixth Corps advanced, and now hold one line of Rebel works, and that they took about two thousand prisoners.

Poor, old, misguided Robert; every effort to shake off the strangling grip with which Grant has throtteled him but serves to tighten it. This attack and failure proves his weakness beyond a doubt.