Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Hope you all have a great Holiday. On to 2011, right?

You might not hear from me for a short while, maybe a month. I've added another Blog site to Blogger. What I thought would be simple for me is now looking like a commitment of time I don't have. you know what I mean?
Anyway, enough of my complaining.

BTW, I haven't totally figured out the spam guard at Blogger. So, if you've replied to my blog and i have't replied, it's just that i haven't had the 10 hours free to figure it out.

Best Wishes,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My US Civil War Reading List

Well, I'll take a break now from Will's Civil War narrative, and suggest some reading, some books about the War, its soldiers and the people of both camps. This is not light Holiday reading to be sure. Perhaps make it a New Year's resolution to read a couple of them this coming year.
So here goes...

Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War, Civil War Poems, Herman Melville.

Jefferson Davis's Generals, Gabor S. Boritt, Ed.

Confederates in the Attic, Tony Horwitz.

Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, E.B. Long, Ed.

Sword Over Richand, Richard Wheeler.

The Civil War, Witness to War, Harold Holzer.

Tennessee's Civil War Battlefields, Randy Bishop.

The Civil War Battlefield Guide, Frances H. Kennedy, Ed.

The Timechart History of the Civil War, James Arnold & Roberta Wiener, Eds.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War, H.W. Crocker III.

The Civil War, Shelby Foote.

So go forth and read! And tell me what your favorite US Civil War book is.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Young Union Soldier

On 28 May 1861, in Indianola, Iowa, the twenty-four-year-old Will Newlon from Winterset, Iowa, enlisted into a small group of Volunteers called the “Union Zouaves of Winterset.”[1] On 8 June 1861 at Keokuk, Iowa, he writes:

Today we were sworn into United States service for three years; I felt the present occasion.

Will was mustered into Company G, 3rd Infantry Regiment, Iowa Volunteers, as a private.[2] Two years later, 7 April 1863, as a Third Sergeant, he received a medical discharge at Jackson, Tennessee.
The war veteran then returned to Winterset, Iowa, and married his sweetheart, Lydia Philbrick.[3] The couple farmed in Madison County, Iowa, and surrounding counties, while Will sold real estate and worked in local government.[4] He later served as editor and publisher of the Winterset Sun in the late 1800s.[5]
Will and Lydia raised a large family, of which nine survived. Mary, a middle child, was my grandmother. She married Army 1st Lt. Clarence Roy Green, who was killed in the First World War,[6] and bore a son by him, Willard Newlon, my father.

An Account of Will’s Passing
Will died suddenly at the age of 65 in 1902 riding home after work one day. The following quote from a newspaper article gives a poignant account.

Wm. Newlon Dies of Heart Failure
While Driving to his Barn

...Wednesday evening he had eaten his supper and drove up town after his mail. He went to his office for a few minutes, and then drove home, stopped at the barn...
...Mary Newlon, the fourteen-year old daughter of Wm. Newlon, saw her father drive into the yard...after supper. She always helped her father put the horse away, and called to him that she would be with him in a moment. Getting no answer she ran to the buggy and saw her father leaning backward. She called her mother, and when Mrs. Newlon reached the buggy she saw at once that her husband was dead.[7]

Letter to a Friend
Headquarters, Keokuk
3rd Regiment, Iowa Volunteers
Company G, Captain Ogg[8]
June 31st, 1861
Dear Lydia,
After drilling six hours beneath a scorching sun, yet gently fanned by the welcomed breeze from off the rolling tide of the Mississippi, from whose surface the soldier’s ear is ever & anon saluted with the arousing whistle of the gliding steamer. I, with willingness of heart & surrounded by a host of gabbering ducks, will exert my power to concentrate my thoughts for a few moments to this communication.
I received your kind response of June 16th with the greatest of pleasure. I was glad to hear that you ladies enjoyed yourselves so well since we left. For the Boys, in their communications, say that it is the loneliest place they ever saw.
I anticipate you had a grand time at the festival. At least if you did not, it was not my fault. Ice cream and strawberries are luxuries, indeed. Yet, we have those with many other things daily.
I wish Susan knew the wonderful secret and I doubtless will tell her, if she will remind me of it, on my return from the war.
The steamer Jeanie Dean arrived a few minutes ago & brought intelligence to the effect that there had been a fight both in Missouri & Virginia in which a member of our Boys was killed.
Terrible indeed that the patriot should be killed by the traitor. Oh! How my blood boils to think that I am not there to pour out my vengeance upon the villainous traitor in the way of buckshot & bayonet. Oh! How eager we are to meet the enemy on the field of contest, that we may determine our future destiny. Every setting of the sun beneath the western horizon only increases our anxieties to hasten the conflict, which will tell the tale forever.
I go not upon the field of battle in my own strength, but I go trusting in Him who guided the armies of Israel, knowing that “The righteous shall inherit the land & that the wicked shall be cut off forever.”
A difficulty arose here last night in which a man drew a pistol; fired it at his antagonist, missing him & shooting an innocent man in the head.
We drill 8 hours per day. I think, at this rate, by the time our three years are up, we will understand all about soldiering, don’t you think so?
Remember the address, Keokuk, 3rd Regiment, Company G, Captain Ogg.

[1] History of Madison County Iowa, Dr. M. R. Tidrick et al, editors, Union Historical Company, Des Moines, 1879.
[2] “...and the state [Iowa] sent a larger proportion of its men to fight in the Civil War than any other state except Massachusetts – nearly eighty thousand of them.” Varhola, Michael J. Everyday Life During the Civil War. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books, 1999. p.220. 
[3] Lydia Ann was born 25 April 1845 in Wabash County, Ill., to Dr. David and Mrs. Drusilla Knight Philbrick.
[4] Clerk of the District Court, Winterset, Iowa, 1881-85.
[5] The Sun was later bought by Jacob Morgan and changed to the News, from an undated, assumed to be 1902, newspaper article. Dates of Will’s tenure not determined.
[6] Near Badonviller, France, 27 May 1918.
[7] From an old newspaper clipping in transcriber’s library. N.p., n.d. Someone had written in the margin “1902, Died at age of 65 yrs & 5 days” It is presumed then that this news article was dated 25 June 1902, since Will’s birthday is the 20th. 
[8] A.S. Ogg, as a member of the Society of the Army of the Tennessee, Captain Ogg was instrumental in establishing the Shiloh National Military Park, Charles E. Shedd, Jr., “History of Shiloh National Military Park”, United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1954. Available from

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Diving right in

Since this is my first blog posting, I should start off with a few details to guide the reader (perhaps I'll one day use the plural) in what I'm planning on doing and saying over the course of the next months, and, who knows, over the years. So here goes.

This is primarily a U.S. Civil War blog. I may write about other things from time to time. The photo you see on my profile is not me, but is of my Great Grandfather, William Clark Newlon (1837-1902). The writings will be mainly his words (in Italics), his description of the events of his days as a Civil War soldier.

And, one other thing before we get started. I'm cutting and pasteing from a transcribed version. So, if you notice a little glitch here and there ( like the font or the footnote placement), that's probably the reason. 

Will Newlon chronicles his Civil War experience in two journals written between April 1861 and August 1863. Infantry soldier Newlon describes his move west from Iowa through Missouri, and then down to Tennessee. Between these events, Will pens the tedium and daily suffering of being a Civil War soldier, the drilling and parades, the cooking and camp making, the cold and the rain, the fighting and the loneliness.

Will’s first journal begins just prior to his enlistment, then, shifts to his arrival, for the winter, to Benton Barracks, outside St. Louis, Missouri. By that time he and the 3rd Iowa Infantry had traversed Missouri twice; they had engaged in at least two skirmishes (Hagor’s Woods and Shelbina),[1] and had fought in the Battle of Liberty.[2]
The second journal picks up where the first leaves off - Benton Barracks. Will begins his story as his regiment prepares to travel down the Mississippi River. He writes of the Battle of Shiloh and the scramble back to Pittsburg Landing.[3] The journal ends five months later, from his Jackson, Tennessee, hospital bed, where he recalls the Battle of Davis Bridge over the Hatchie River, Tennessee, where he lost his right leg to a canister shot.[4]

Project & Mission
In the fall of 2000 I had finished transcribing second journal, an eight- by 12-inch account ledger bound book. It had been a two-year project - to transcribe all 125 pages, some too faint to read, of my Great Grandfather’s journal, the one he had carried with him from February 1862 to April 1863. This second journal describes the first-hand accounts of a soldier’s life, the boredom, and the physical and mental suffering endured.
The journal had been stored in my garage along with other items from my father’s estate. I thought that someday I would transcribe it. I finally ran out of “excuses” in 1998 and took on the project, a long-delayed mission.
For the Civil War historian, his three-page account of the Battle of Shiloh, verifies the deployment and battle movements of certain troops. A copy of Will’s journal account is in the Shiloh Park archives. Will’s description of the Battle of Davis Bridge is only half a page. Yet, his short narrative puts the reader right on the battlefield. His battle account and his wartime photo are now on display, as a trail marker, at the Davis Bridge Memorial Park, Pocahontas, Tennessee.
In the spring of 2002, my sister discovered another Civil War journal, believed to be the first one Will had written, among the effects of Mary Newlon Green, Will’s daughter. The journal covers pre-enlistment, April 1861, to Benton Barracks in January 1862. It is this journal that contains the following excerpt on the Battle of Liberty. 

[1] Hagor’s Woods may be the present day Hager’s Grove near Clarence, Missouri, Shelby County, or Hager’s Woods in Lewis County. Mina Chittum, Chillicothe History Society; George R. Lee, Historian, Lewis County Historical Society. Shelbina is a small town 20 miles east of Clarence.
[2] Battle of Liberty, aka Battle of Blue Mills Landing, fought 17 September 1861 in Clay County, Missouri, is often confused with the Battle of Blue Mills, Jackson County, Missouri, in 1864. Kevin M. Fisher, Clay County Archives & Historical Library, Inc., Missouri.
[3] Battle of Shiloh, 6-7 April 1862, Hardin County, Tennessee.
[4] Battle of Davis Bridge, 6 October 1862, Hardeman County, Tennessee
    This first journal book measures roughly four inches wide by six inches long, with a half-inch spine, and contains 74 leaves, 148 pages. The cover material is made of a black, rigid cellulose material with an imitation leather appearance. “DIARY.1861.” in gold lettering, is embossed on the front closure flap (Appendix I).
    One might describe the journal as a pocket ledger book. It contains a calendar and other pages noting information for the user. The publisher did not print page numbers throughout the book. Fortunately, Will writes the page number in the upper right-hand corner of most pages.

On the back of the third leaf we find “Rates of Postage,” a guide for domestic and international mailing. Here we learn that a letter weighing a half ounce or less will be delivered “to any part of the United States, not over 3000 miles” at a cost of three cents, California and Oregon, ten cents.
The printed calendar dates begin on the front (the right) of sheet four with “TUESDAY, JANUARY 1, 1861.” printed at the top of the page, followed evenly down the sheet, by “WEDNESDAY 2” and “THURSDAY 3”. Will starts numbering the pages here with “1st in the upper right corner. This is the standard pattern of the printed, journal calendar section.
On the last page of the calendar section, a left-hand page, “Tuesday 31” is printed two-thirds of the way down. The next journal sections have headings of “MEMORANDA,” “CASH ACCOUNTS” and “BILLS PAYABLE.”
In the back of the journal book the endpaper and end sheet form an accordion-type file for letters, receipts and such. In them, we find a hand-written and incomplete family birth/death record, a red G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) ribbon, the photo of young Will, an 8” x 11.75” folded sheet of lined paper containing the following text, presumably written by Will after the Civil War:

Journeyings of 3rd Iowa in Missouri

Left Keokuk for Hannibal, Mo., Sat., June 29, 1861
Left Hannibal for Utica, Mo., July 1
Left Grand River for Brookfield, Aug 7
Left Brookfield for Cameron, Sunday, Sept. 15th
Arrived at Liberty, Sept 16
Battle Blue Mills, Sept. 17
Left Liberty, Sept. 21 – Camped that night at Smithville.
Marched to Parksville on Mo R[iver], Sept 22 – To boat for
Arrived at Ft. Leavenworth, Sept. 23
Left for Wyandotte, Kansas, Sept. 23
Left for Kansas City, Sept. 26
Left for St. Jo[seph], Oct. 18
Left for Quincey, Ill., Oct 19
Left for St. Louis, Nov. 9

A newspaper clipping:
Last Sunday the Grand River Township Sabbath School Convention was held at Macksburg. It proved to be one of the most interesting township conventions ever held. W. C. Newlon delivered a very able and interesting address. Richard Price also took part in the exercises.[1]

The first leaf, the flyleaf, is a heavy, medium-brown kraft paper, much like the Journal’s endpapers. On the recto page or front of this leaf, William writes:

Wm C. Newlon’s

                  Book, Winterset, Iowa