I just ordered a book called Giants in the Cornfield, the story of the 27th Indiana Infantry during the Civil War. I ordered it when I discovered that an ancestor, Mike Keller (my genealogy software tells me that Mike was my great-granduncle) served in this regiment.
As always, I started thinking about how hard it is to comprehend the daily life of our Civil War ancestors–both soldiers and civilians. I have a fairly extensive library of pioneer women diaries, and because they give a clear picture of day-to-day life, I decided to go looking for Civil War diaries and letters on the ‘Net. Here’s what I found.
Duke University put together a dandy site called Civil War Women. The site features transcriptions from their manuscript collection which document women’s experiences in the Civil War. Among them are letters from Rose O’Neal Greenhow, a Confederate spy.
The Diary of Basil H. Messler spans from February of 1864 to January of 1865. The majority of the diary chronicles his stay in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
I particularly enjoyed his July 4, 1864 entry where he writes about seeing the elephant (engaged in fighting). He wrote “there’s whare we seen the Elephant and he was tramping on our Toes we limbered up 7 of Them There and then and Then They came so thick and fast we a got on the elephant’s and rode across the cornfield. . .” (I probably liked this because of my own visit to Vicksburg)
The website Letters from an Iowa Soldier in the Civil War contains a sampling of letters sent over a three year period from Newton Robert Scott, Private, Company A, of the 36th Infantry to a neighbor, Hannah Cone.
You can get a lot of insight into the everyday soldier’s feelings about the 1864 election, when Scott wrote “The Election is near at hand and I I [sic] am glad to tell you that Co. A has No McClellen Men Amongst our No.. I think that Every man that Belongs to Co. A will Vote for Old Abe without a Doubt.”
If you’d like to learn more about everyday life during the Civil War, there’s a wonderful book called Everyday Life: the Civil War. You can order it at Amazon.com or your local bookseller.
Are you one of the lucky people who have a Civil War diary or letters? If so, please write and tell me about it.
If you want to learn how to trace your Civil War ancestor? Check these sites.
- A Brief Introduction to Genealogy and the American Civil War
- Cyndi’s List: Civil War
- National Archives: Civil War Records
American Civil War Research Database (subscription site) http://www.civilwardata.com/