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