Civil War History


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The Leaders:
The Politicians

Jefferson Davis

Above: Jefferson Davis of the Confederacy.
Below: Abraham Lincoln of the Union.

Abraham Lincoln

Charles Terry Saxton
The American Civil War

A War Diary

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Diary of Charles Terry Saxton, 90th N.Y. Volunteers, from January, 1862 to August, 1863.

Wednesday July 2nd, 1862

              My birthday today completes my sixteenth year on earth. I little thought a year ago that my next birthday would find me a soldier away down on the Gulf of Mexico on the little island of Tortugas. But the ways of the great ruler are mysterious and often incomprehensible to us short sighted beings. I must now commence the duties of another year. I have a fair prospect for a long life and it depends on me whether it shall be a good and happy one or a miserable failure. A vessel has just arrived. She has sailed many a weary league over the boundless ocean, guided to her destination only by the mariner's steadfast friend, the little compass. She has sometimes had calm and pleasant weather and the gentle winds safely wafted her over the placid waters. But again storms would arise. The gentle winds increase to fearful gales; old ocean is lashed with frenzy; and the raging waves toss her about like a feather. But she is staunch and faithful, defying the exertions of the storm fiends for her destruction, and she outrides the storm and soon sails on as light and buoyant as ever. After a while she reaches port safe and sound where she can repose without danger after her long and perilous voyage. So I am starting on a most important voyage - the voyage of life. I shall meet with pleasant scenes, and again my pathway will be overhung with dark clouds. But if I am composed of the right stuff; if I have implanted within me firm and upright principles, which I will adhere to through thick and thin, nothing will deter me, for I am bound to conquer. I may be tossed about by the storms of life but I shall at last enter port proudly and with flying colors.

Thursday July 3rd

              Have been on police. Yesterday afternoon Lt Guest, 2 men and a boy, went out some distance in a sail boat and have not returned yet. A heavy squall came up shortly after they went up and probably capsized them. The wind has been very high and along the breakers is a line of foam looking like a long snow bank. I went out with the Capt and some others to Bird Key, 2 or 3 miles from here, to get bushes for making wreaths for tomorrow. The island is nearly as large as this, covered with bushes, and above it in the air the birds are so thick as almost to obscure the heavens from view. They looked some like pigeons and would come around our heads cawing and screaming, while some were actually saucy enough, when they had a chance, to peck us in the face. The ground was covered with young ones running around among the bushes and we could get as many of them, also of the old ones, as we wished.

Friday July 4th

              The birthday of our national existence; the great day when everybody is expected to be filled to the muzzle with patriotism, and to proclaim it to the world with the greatest possible tumult; when cannon, muskets, and even fire-crackers are brought into requisition to help give vent to the general feeling; when bands dispense their music freely to admiring throngs, speeches are made, and men, women and children, and even dogs, are expected to enjoy themselves to the utmost; in short, the day of universal celebrating throughout our country has arrived. As a matter of course, I am on guard. Well, if we are away down in the dark parts of Uncle Sam's dominion, we did not forget that there was such a day. No Siree, we had a time as well as any of them. The 4th of July did not catch us asleep. We had a national salute, target shooting, bag racing, wheeling barrows blindfolded, etc for prizes, everything right up to style; but most of all we had plenty of the 'cratur'. To be sure before the racing was half finished they got to quarreling and I had to go down with half a dozen guards and disperse the crowd; also there were some fights, one fellow trying to stab another, who threw up his arm, receiving the blow on his wrist, and some got in the guard house; but you must expect that such things will happen on such an occasion. At 5 o'clock there was dress parade, when the Lt Col made a very good speech, for which he was applauded. In the brick house the officers, most of whom were half seas over, are 'tripping the light fantastic' in a merry dance with the ladies fair of this sea girt fort. Well the day has passed very well although everyone says they will be glad when the 5th comes; but I am afraid that a great many of them will get up in the morning with their heads feeling like pretty good sized pumpkins. Lt Guest and those with him came this morning. They were capsized by a squall but drifted to Loggerhead. They did not come yesterday because the wind was so high.

Saturday July 5th

              I feel very well after the 4th. Rather rainy.

Monday July 7th

              I drilled this afternoon for the first time in artillery. Was gunner. Like it first rate although it is rather heavy work.

Tuesday July 8th

              No mail yet. The last one was June 14th. I don't see why the deuce it don't come.

Wednesday July 9th

              On fatigue today. Had a squad wheeling shell from the dock to the inside of the fort. We had a turtle soup for dinner. Bully!

Thursday July 10th

              Am on guard. Received a letter from mother and answered it. Wrote to father and Will Brown.

Saturday July 12th

              Have been on police all day. This noon we were all thrown into considerable excitement by the cry of fire. We all rushed out; the long roll was beaten and for a while Tortugas presented a very lively appearance. It was a long shed covering barrels filled with lime and cement, and was set on fire by the heat of the sun acting on the lime. We tore off the boards and rolled away the barrels as fast as possible and it was soon over with. It is still burning slowly among the barrels.

Sunday July 13th

              I went to Loggerhead last night with 3 others. After going around once or twice through the sand we turned a turtle weighing about 300 pounds. Got back at half past twelve. Am on guard.

Monday July 14th

              The Colonel, some other officers and the band arrived today from Key West. We gave him a salute. Received letters from Rice and Childs.

Wednesday July 16th

              We had a drill today of about 2 hours on the 8 inch Columbiads.

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Civil War History

Reasons for the Conflict:

     In 1860 slavery still existed in the southern states of the USA, even though it had been abolished in most of the rest of the world more than a generation before.

      Many Americans believed that it was time that it be abolished in the USA as well.

      This was the primary issue of the American Civil War, though there were other issues relating to how strong ties should be between individual states and the Federal government.

Key West, Florida, 1861:

      Located where the gulf of Mexico meets the Atlantic ocean, Key West was of enormous strategic importance in upholding the blockade against the southern states. It was also used to train new recruits.

an 8-inch columbiad gun

An 8-inch columbiad gun
of the type used by
Charles Terry Saxton.

Mrs AH Wilcox of
Barrington Street.
Rochester, N.Y.

originally typed up the diary of
her father, Charles Terry Saxton,
and preserved it for posterity.

Trees of London        A James Wilkinson Publication ©