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.

Saturday, Jan. 25th, 1862

            After having remained out in the woods all night with three comrades; during which time I slept about 2 hours in a sitting posture, and with my head resting against a stone; I came to camp this morning to get the usual breakfast of crackers and coffee. I felt very tired and unwell so I did no duty until 4 o'clock drill. It has been very pleasant today and this afternoon, especially, the sun has poured down its rays upon our heads with great fervor. I must now close and go to the Capt's tent where he holds evenings a school for the non-commissioned officers.

Sunday, Jan 26th.

           Another Sabbath has nearly passed away; and with it commenced another week of my life as a soldier. This morning we were called out - not by the ringing of the church bells, summoning us to the place of worship to listen to the songs of praise and the exposition of God's Holy Word; but by the sound of martial music calling us to inspection. Our equipment was all inspected, which operation occupied about two and half hours; during which we had to stand in the hot sun, our knapsacks weighing heavily upon our backs. After this I busied myself with reading, etc, until 5 o'clock, when we had dress parade. In the evening a few of us formed in line and went to church. We heard the very eloquent sermon delivered by the Chaplain of the 91st; which regiment is encamped here; although it was not very deep or logical, still it sounded good to me as it was the first I had heard since I left home.

Monday Jan 27th

           The day has passed in about as monotonous a manner as is usual in our life, when we are encamped as we are with no foe near to raise an excitement. We went through the routine prescribed by the Col, nothing occurring worthy of mention. I feel pretty well, only rather weak. The time approaches for tattoo to sound, after which lights out, and thus ends another day's action.

Tuesday Jan 28th

           The day dawned as clear and beautiful as ever, but I awoke this morning with my feelings corresponding very little with the appearance of nature. I have felt unwell all day; and had to leave the ranks while we were drilling because I was so weak and faint I could hardly stand. Things went on in their order as usual except that wing drill is dispensed with now and hereafter Co drill is to take its place. While I write the Sergeant comes and wants me to go on some extra duty so I must close.

Wednesday Jan 29th

           I left off last evening where the Sergeant orders me on duty for the night. I reported myself to the officer of the guard, after having accoutered myself, and 3 men were given in my charge. We marched about a mile through the woods, conducted by a guide, before we reached the place of duty; that duty being to watch some beef that had been killed that day for the regiment. I slept very little during the night as I had to see that the men relieved each other every 2 hours. At about 7 o'clock men came for the beef; and we went to camp, reported, and were dismissed. Being excused from duty until afternoon parade, the Captain gave me leave of absence from 10 o'clock until 3. I went to the village and looked around some; then went to Fort Taylor, which is so situated that it commands the channel by which vessels approach near to the island, and went through it. It is a splendid fort; built of brick; very large; and very nicely finished. It is in the form of a trapezoid and the wall is in 2 parts, with an intervening space of several feet which is filled with sand, something which a ball can penetrate but very little. It has places for a great number of guns, but they are not yet all mounted. The fort is scarcely yet finished; and outside they are still at work making a sort of breakwater around it; and for the purpose of getting sand from the other side of the island they have a railroad and on it a small locomotive. It is built out several rods from the shore, with which it is connected by a bridge. After going through the fort I started for camp, and arrived there at about half past twelve. Did not feel well, but nevertheless had to go on drill at 4 o'clock. What we considered as quite an era in our lives occurred at supper time, as we had soft bread for the first time since we left Governor's Island. I feel very weary tonight, and think I can rest very well even though the floor is my resting place.

Thursday Jan 30th

           Did not sleep well last night, but still feel quite smart today. The day has been perfectly free from all incidents; nothing out of the ordinary routine occurring, except that instead of drill at 4 o'clock we marched down through the city.

Friday Jan 31st

           The same old round was gone through with again today, with nothing to relieve the monotony. But last night, as we learned this morning, for the first time one of the Co.s was out on picket all night with loaded rifles. I expect that our Co will have its turn soon, perhaps tonight. It has been a pleasant day, and I feel very well.

Saturday Feb 1st

           Another month has passed away; and is now 'with the years beyond the flood'. And it has been a month pregnant with events which I consider most important in my rather uneventful life. Now a new one commences; but what scenes I may witness during its continuance, God only knows. Our regiment may be called upon to struggle with the foe upon the field of blood and carnage; and I may be transferred from earth to the land of shadows. But time will determine. Today nothing unusual has happened. A short time after breakfast the Co that was out on picket last night discharged their rifles at a target, but made few good shots. Feel well.

Sunday Feb 2nd

           The regular routine of Sabbath duty has again been finished, and the time of silence and rest approaches. It has been a beautiful day, and I have been in good spirits. I went to church in the evening and heard a very passable sermon delivered by the Chaplain, Mr Bass.

Monday Feb 3rd

           Very nice day again and also very dull. Feel well. Everything has proceeded as usual.

Tuesday Feb 4th

           This morning, during the time for the Co drill, which commences a little after 9 o'clock, our 1st Lt., whom, by the way, we all like very much, instead of exercising us in the manual wheelings, etc., as usual, took us outside of the camp ground and began marching us down the road. The road was very pleasant, being very smooth and solid, and flanked on each side by overhanging trees or rather bushes. We marched along this, sometimes on the double quick and occasionally stopping to rest, about two and half miles, when we came to some salt works (carried on by solar evaporation) although all I could see was some ponds of water, and a few shanties containing salt; no machinery at all. We proceeded a short distance farther when suddenly we found ourselves upon the shore of the ocean. We stacked arms, broke ranks, and each began strolling along the sandy beach to see what we could find. Some of us found some very curious shells, etc., which I would like very much to have at home. The tide was coming in and it was pleasant to watch the waves roll upon the shore, seemingly so eagerly and then retreat again as though in disappointment. But they persevere; and rise higher and higher at each successive trial, until they reach to where God has said, 'Thus far shalt thou go and no farther'. After a while we went in bathing and I enjoyed myself immensely. A comrade and myself went more than a quarter of a mile from shore; and it was great sport, in swimming back, to have the big waves come along and raise you up, then plunge you again in the briny waters. We marched all the way back in quick time and without pausing; and we arrived in camp a little after noon. The remainder of the day passed off as usual. I am well and in first rate spirits.

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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.

the blockade of the South

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 ©