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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page 21

Diary of Charles Terry Saxton, 90th N.Y. Volunteers, from:

            June 1864 to September 1864

            Shortly after arriving at Morganza, our detachment was put on provost guard over the transports. I was appointed commissary for the battalion and had nothing to do but draw and issue rations. Before long I got a chance to go down to New Orleans on a steamer in charge of a guard with some rebel prisoners. We remained there one night and had a good time. On the 2nd of June I received pay and a $50.00 installment on my bounty. A week or two after, I went to New Orleans with more prisoners. Will Sloan, Hank Hoffman, and some of the other boys went with me. We remained a week, by which time we were all broke and completely disgusted, when we started back. When we arrived at Morganza we found the remainder of the regiment there. Some of the boys took trips to Natchez and Vicksburg, but I didn't get a chance to go to either of these places. We were reviewed several times, once by Gen Reynolds and once by Gen Canby himself.

            On the 2nd of July, my 18th birthday, our corps received marching orders. The same night our regiment was transferred to the 1st brigade, 1st division. We embarked on the 'Henry Ames' and the next day arrived in the Crescent City. The Mississippi, a large ocean steamer, was waiting to receive us, and our regiment with the 30th Mass and 116th NY were immediately packed on her. We lay alongside the wharf at the foot of Jackson St on the 4th. I never in my life saw so quiet a 4th of July as was this one. Not the faintest sound of any shouting and cheering - not even a firecracker. There was a little something going on farther uptown but it didn't reach our ears. I couldn't stand the pressure so I thought I would go up to the city. Towards evening my chum and I jumped on a Jackson St car, rode up to Poydras market, took a bath, walked around the city a little, went to the Academy of Music, and then took a car and went back to the steamer. This was my farewell visit. The next morning we started down the river. Before night we reached the bar, where we stuck fast. Here we lay, like McClellan, not able to move forward on account of the mud, until the morning of the 7th, when with the aid of 3 tugs we succeeded in getting over the obstruction.

           We now passed rapidly through the muddy waters which Father Mississippi brings down to the sea and were soon bounding once again over the blue billows of the Gulf of Mexico. As is usual with the 90th on the sea, it was a beautiful day. Old Solwas out in all his splendor. The blue of the arched heavens above vied with the deep indigo of the waters beneath. The little flying fish were darting hither and thither about us and the huge porpoises were lazily tumbling around and enjoying the warm sunshine. But few sails were in sight. Even these soon receded and we were left alone on the trackless deep. What an infinitude of water! On every side under the blue arch bent down to meet the still more blue ocean, nothing could be seen but the rising and falling of the waves. Infinite space! Eternal motion! Fit symbol of these incomprehensible infinitudes! How mean and insignificant do we appear when contemplating such immensity! And yet how grand and august, when we think that even these winds and waves are made subservient to our wants and pleasures!

            The weather continued fine. The 3rd morning out we passed Key West, the paradise of the 90th, and could dimly distinguish through the mists of the deep, the walls of old Fort Taylor and the masts of the numerous vessels in the harbor. That night a man fell overboard. One shout -

'The bubbling cry
Of a strong swimmer in his agony'

was all we heard. The steamer was stopped as soon as possible and a boat lowered and sent back, but he was not to be found. He had found a grave in the vast ocean cemetery.

            We would have enjoyed the voyage if it had not been so crowded. All over the decks and in the hold it was so crowded at night that after a man had lain down it was a difficult matter for him to turn over. The water also was scarce and what we did get was very bad indeed. I had not been very well for some time before we left Morganza and I kept growing weaker every day. A little before noon on the 12th we arrived at Fortress Monroe, but remained there only a few moments, when we started for Washington. The next morning we found ourselves ascending the world-renowned Potomac, with 'My Maryland' on our right hand and the 'sacred soil' on our left. The banks on either side were quite high and in some places the scenery was quite romantic. For the first time in 3 years I now beheld something approaching to northern farming. I had not seen a field of wheat before since I left New York. It was all cotton, cane or corn where I had been.

           A little before noon we came in sight of the great capital city of our great republic. Before night we had landed and stacked arms in a street near the dock. This was my first entree into Washington, the 'City of magnificent distances'. I did not see much of it this time but what I saw of it afterwards brought me to the conclusion that it was one of the poorest specimens of a city I had ever visited.

            A little before dark President Lincoln and Secretary Stanton drove down past us and we gave them three cheers. I was feeling quite unwell at the time and was very weak. When evening came I lay down on the pavement anticipating a good night's rest. I didn't get it. About midnight we were roused, fallen in and started for somewhere. We marched through Washington and Georgetown and a little before morning stopped near Tenallytown. We were after Early. It was just before this time that he had made his raid into Maryland and nearly set Washington into hysterics. We remained here but 2 or 3 hours when we started again. I was completely played out and soon stopped. The remainder of the day I lay on some hay in a little out-house, sick and completely exhausted. But I did not want to give up, so at night, feeling a little better, I bought a cup of milk at a farm house and started again. I walked that night until I could go no farther and then sank down by the roadside and slept. In the morning before daylight I was again on the road. It was hard work going up and down those hills with my legs almost sinking under me at each step, but I made a very good day's march. The next morning at about 8 o'clock I reached the regiment at Poolesville. The same day we forded the Potomac. That must have been an amusing scene to a spectator; but it was no fun for us, for the stones hurt our feet terribly. Once in a while some poor fellow would make a mis-step and fall down. Then we would roar. Soldiers will laugh at almost anything. We reached Leesburg before we went into camp that night. The next day we lay still, and I feasted on blackberries which were very plentiful indeed.

            When we started in the morning I felt somewhat better and marched along with a better heart. The Blue Ridge reared its head into the clouds away off in the distance. Towards evening the blue began to disappear and before sunset we were at the foot of the mountains at Snicker's Gap. My courage almost failed me as I looked away up to the height we were about to ascend. When we were going down on the other side there was some cannonading in our front. The Johnnies were shelling the 6th corps. We encamped about a mile this side of the Shenandoah.

            The second day after, we forded the Shenandoah and marched about a mile the other side. There was heavy cannonading that day off towards Winchester and we remained in line of battle. Towards evening we had orders to be ready to start back to Washington. I went to the Major and told him my condition and he told me I had better start immediately. A little after dark I reached the river, which I forded. I now trudged along up the mountains; and having reached the summit, descended on the other side. I had no rations and I must eat something to give me a little strength; so I found some tallow lying where they had been killing cattle and having fried this, I ate it. How vividly the suffering of that night is impressed upon my memory! Many times I lay down to die or be taken by guerillas. Once I lay there until all the troops had passed, and I was all alone in the dark woods. When I look back on that night, I hardly know how I ever endured it. God only know why I did not stay behind; but I did not. The army did not stop until the next afternoon, when they crossed the Gorse creek and encamped for the night.

            The second day after, we crossed the chain bridge and halted on the heights near by. The army remained here in camp 2 or 3 days. One night there was a heavy rain and as I had nothing to protect me, I got very cold and wet. This finished me; and when we were ordered to be ready the next morning for another march, I went to the doctor and he sent me in an ambulance to the Columbia College Hospital in the outskirts of Washington. When I arrived there I had a good wash, put on some clean clothes, and lay down upon the nice white sheets of the hospital bed. The hospital was as '''eavenly'' a place to me as it was to little Dorrit's big child. It was paradise. I had no other wish on earth but to lay my wasted frame upon that nice clean bed and rest. It seemed as though I could be content to lie there forever. And the food! Soft bread, meat, potatoes, soup! What luxuries for a poor soldier! Everybody was kind, the lady nurse would occasionally bring me a piece of corn starch pudding or some other delicacy; and a lady of the sanitary commission once brought me a bottle of blackberry wine, and more than that, sat down and kindly conversed with me. God bless them and God bless anyone who cares for the sick and wounded soldiers. They have my eternal gratitude.

            I soon began to improve. In a few days I was able to walk around. There was a fine drive in front of the hospital and a great many of the citizens of Washington would generally be riding past in the cool of the evening. President Lincoln would pass in a carriage every day on his way to his summer residence, sometimes alone and sometimes accompanied by his wife.

            After I had been here about 10 days I made application for a furlough. As soon as I told the doctor that I had been nearly 3 years in the service and had never been home, he promised to recommend me. This nearly set me wild. I was much excited all day. The next day I paid the penalty, for a bad fever again stretched me on my back. The doctor soon broke the fever but it had left me so weak I could hardly hold my head up.

            My furlough came for 30 days. I waited one day but could wait no longer, and weak as I was, I started for home. For home! I could hardly realize it. Courage! Revive, fainting strength! Cheer up, drooping spirits! We will soon be in the place of rest, among friends who will care for us and minister to our wants.

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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 ©