|Egbert Oswald HIXON (later Hicks)
Civil War Diary
March 27--Aug. 11, 1862
Transcribed by Alice and John Robinson
(EOH's g-granddaughter and her son)
With Notes by Carol Botteron (EOH's g-g-granddaughter),
with whose kind permission this material is posted at the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry web site.
During this time the Army of the Potomac, under the command of Major-General George B. McClellan, moved against Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy. This "Peninsular Campaign" is generally considered to have been a loss for the Union.
Egbert Oswald HIXON was born in Medway, Mass., in 1824. His parents were Isaac HIXON (a Revolutionary War veteran) and Persis ADAMS. He married Electa Louise MORRILL, daughter of Isaac MORRILL and Julia RICHARDSON. Their children were Egbert Augustus (b. 1849), Lloyd Adams (b. 1851), Harriet Peck (b. 1855, ancestor of Alice and Carol), Almyra Louisa (b. 1857), and Isaac Alfred (b. 1859, d. 1861). EOH worked as a bootmaker. While he was in the Army, his wife took the children to Cleveland, Ohio, where she could support them by working in her sister's millinery shop.
EOH (as he signed his letters) enlisted on or before April 15, 1861 (when President Lincoln called for troops) as a private of Company D, 8th Mass. Regiment, "Minute Men of '61." After his term of duty expired on August 1, 1861, he re-enlisted as a private of the First Company Massachusetts Volunteer Sharpshooters, known as the "Andrew Sharpshooters" (after John A. Andrew, governor of Massachusetts 1861-66 and an Abolitionist leader), who were attached to the 15th, 20th, and 19th Regiments of Mass. Volunteer Infantry. He reportedly deserted Sept. 4, 1862. He later re-enlisted in Ohio under the name Hicks (see letters and notes on them).
Too bad we don't have an earlier diary of his. He might have been with the 15th when some musicians, who were expected to double as stretcher bearers, refused to submit to ambulance drill. They were placed in a stockade on no rations until they complied.
John Robinson has a photograph that is probably of EOH before the war. A photograph of a group of soldiers taken in June 1861 (during EOH's service with the "Minute Men of '61") lists EOH among the soldiers.
The Andrew Sharpshooters wore forest-green coats and hats with the standard gray-blue army trousers.
The diary is about 3" by 6" with a paper cover and shows a week on each pair of facing pages, so each entry is quite short. The writing is very hard to read in many places. The pages after August 11, 1862 are torn out.
DIARY E. O. HICKS WEDS. JAN. 1, 1862
WEDS. MARCH 26, 1862 -- DIARY KEPT BY EGBERT OSWALD HICKS DURING SERVICE IN CIVIL WAR
[Note: The name "Hicks" implies that EOH or someone else labeled the diary after he left the Sharpshooters and moved to Ohio.]
[note: Some of this money may have been gambling debts; note "played Bluff all day" on May 10. The amounts of money were probably cents rather than dollars. "Cobucan" may be Coleman, and "Leubett" may be Leavett (Jerome); both were in the Sharpshooters.]
paid Hutch 30.50 "
Came on board MAMIR South America last night. Said to be going to Fortress Monroe. Fair weather.
[note: MAMIR may be steamer. See Sat. 29. Fortress (or Fort) Monroe was the base of operations. A fortress encloses a town. For that reason, the U.S. Secretary of War changed the name of Fortress Monroe to Fort Monroe in 1832, although the U.S. post office did not change the name on its records until 1941.]
loaned Williams .15 " John Galbreth .25 On board steamer SH going down the river with 2 vesels in tow. Weather cool.
[note: "Williams" may be Samuel Williams, "Galbreth" may be Gilbreth. SH may be SA meaning "South America," see Fri. 28.]
Snowed hard all night. Two inches of snow on deck this morn. Going down the river mighty slow. 9:00 o'clock P.M. just arrived at F. M.
[note: The Monitor's famous battle with the Merrimack had taken place on March 9.]
[note: General McClellan reported that there were 85,000 troops. Secretary of War Stanton said 108,000. Lincoln mentions this in a letter (April 9, 1862) chiding McClellan for inaction. McClellan had planned to take Yorktown in a quick battle, but a month-long siege ensued.]
Went to see cousin Wm. Adams in the Mosart Reg. he is homesick ___?___. they say we are going to move tomorrow. Weather fair + beautiful on guard had some oysters out of the boat.
[note: William Parismun Adams: his father was Obadiah Adams Jr., brother of Persis Adams (EOH's mother). According to Genealogical History of Henry Adams of Braintree, by Andrew N. Adams, p. 675: "William Parismun [Adams], b. in Medway, May 23, 1828; m. Sept. 1852, Caroline C. Pleasant of Springfield, Mass., [she] d. in Milford, Mass., 14 June 1883. He enlisted June 21, 1861, in Co. G, 40th Mozart Regiment of New York; d. at Harrison Landing, Va., 18 July 1862." The Mozart Regiment consisted of companies from New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. From their history: "Adams, William P. Age 30 years. Enlisted in Milford, Mass., and mustered in, June 21, 1861, at Yonkers, as Private in Co. G. Died of congestive fever, July 18, 1862, at Harrison's Landing, Va." (Congestive fever means malarial fever.) EOH consistently spells Mozart as "Mosart" so that is probably how it was pronounced.] [note: During the Civil War a regiment had a paper strength of 1200 men, but many lost more than half to disease before seeing action. Regiments were recruited and officered by the governors of the states. Instead of sending replacement soldiers, the governors organized new regiments for political reasons. A regiment was probably commanded by a colonel. A company is a smaller unit, commanded by a captain. EOH's "Com" probably stood for company (see April 1).]
Started this morning about 8 moved along terrible slow. I never saw so many troops on a march before. Got at (?) Big Bethel + bivuaced. I saw Gen. McClellan.
(Tues. 8 no entry)
[note: Attempts to find a Greenwood mansion or plantation on the maps have been unsuccessful.]
had 2 letters Thurs. eve. morn wind NE some flakes of snow / most all of the boys have camped in the woods // also some signs of fair weather the sun is trying to shine. 4 P.M. the sun is out weather cool.
[note: Both sides used tethered balloons for observation.]
Morn warm. one year ago today I was in Fannel Hall Boston. The whole com (?) are out + the batteries are fast they keep it up good. 5 P.M. sergeant Morton just got wounded in the thigh, pretty bad.
[note: "Fannel Hall Boston" must mean
Faneuil Hall. The "Minute Men of '61" reported there on April 16, 1861. It was
built in 1742 and has been used ever since as a meeting hall and marketplace. The name is
usually pronounced "Fannel." EOH's home town, Medway, is about 20 miles
southwest of Boston.]
[note: "sergeant Morton" may be Sgt. Henry L. Martin who is recorded as being wounded in April or May 1862.]
Morn warm __?__ the batteries have been flaying (?) all night. just got our pistols. My No. is 31007, Roberts No. 20685. Start out all day our boys are shooting the rebs __?__.
[note: The sharpshooters provided their own rifles, 20- to 70- pound muzzle-loaders with telescopic sights. An expert could load and fire (from a rest) in two minutes. Wonder if some collector has his pistol? No "Roberts" in the roster.]
Morn. two alarms last night, heavy fireing for a few minutes don't know certain what it amounted to. warm muggy weather with ticks aplenty.
[note: Pickets are soldiers posted forward of a position to give warning in case the enemy approaches.]
Morn raining it rained all day + all night. very still not but very little fireing all day got some wet + cold.
[note: "Mel Littlefield" may be David M. Littlefield of the Sharpshooters.]
beautiful morn one squad went out this morn I did not go till after dinner relieved those that were out
[note: William F. Bartlett of Haverhill.]
Morn cloudy heavy fireing last night went out on the woods but __?__ nothing weather cool + has been so all week.
[note: No report of this was found; maybe it was a different unit.]
Morn cloudy. they say that they are going to commence the attack(?) tomorrow. our men have been down in a rifle __?__ __?__ N. Orleans taken
[note: "They are going to commence the attack
tomorrow": McClellan had been constructing siege-works, believing that the
Confederate forces were much more numerous than they really were.]
[note: "N. Orleans taken": the Federal fleet arrived at New Orleans on April 25 and effectively conquered it; the US flag was raised on April 29.]
Wet stormy. infirmary(?) have taken our house (?) __?__ hospital. Moved our tents. looks more like a camp than it has before __?__ left camp Benton.
Sun. 4 morn:
[note: "the rebs have left + gone + our forces are after them": when McClellan's forces entered Yorktown they found that the enemy had quietly departed, leaving "Quaker guns" (logs on wheels) in the fortifications. The Union forces pursued the Confederates northwest and caught the rear guard near Williamsburg, where there was a battle continuing into the 5th, slowed down by rain and mud. "Secech" refers to secessionists, meaning Confederates.]
Morn rainy. slept in a secech tent. it rained all day in torrents + till 12 o'clock at night. The secech left lots of torpedoes in their works + blew up some of our men, a d--d cowardly act.
[note: "torpedoes" were what we would now call mines.]
Morn weather fine. 2 o'clock P.M. getting ready to move, don't know where. Went on board steamer Eagle about 8 o'clock P.M. slept on deck. first rate. the moon shown bright it was a beautiful night.
[note: "played Bluff": a variety of poker?]
Warm + dry. our camp is getting dusty. It is reported that the Merrimack + Norfolk is taken. Franklin's Drill has moved toward Richmond. don't know when we shall go.
[note: On May 9, "Confederate forces evacuated Norfolk, Virginia.... the loss of this major base was a severe blow... C.S.S. Merrimack was left without a port from which to operate and it, too, would have to be disposed of." (Civil War Day by Day Desk Diary) Franklin's Drill probably should read Division.]
Morning hot + dusty nothing new. Any quantity of rumors -- but don't know what to believe; the boys are talking about getting home; it is getting hot. I hope what we have to do we shall do it soon.
[note: Many Union soldiers died of malaria during this campaign.]
Morn. Got orders to move. Started about 7 - hot marching. Came about 9 miles + camped in a wheat field. Got our tents so we have good quarters. hot muggy weather. don't know how long we shall stop here.
[note: Tammany Reg. was the 42nd NY Infantry Regiment. EOH sang bass in the choir of the Congregational Church in Medway. Maybe he attended a Catholic service this day.]
it was cold last night and this morn + cool nice weather. all the troops have got orders to be in reddiness to march, without blankets + with 60 rounds of cartridges; the order was ___?___.
[note: The Civil War was the beginning of the US Army tradition of discarding gear to save weight, hoping to replace it later from friendly or enemy sources. Note that EOH still did not have a blanket on the 28th.]
term(?) ended about 4 P.M. rained hard all night + this morn. No news that is certain. There are lots of rumors afloat. one is that Yanks has been defeated + another is that France + England are going to do something awful.
[note: France and England were inclining toward the Confederate side until Lincoln made slavery an issue by his Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862.]
morn started about 4 o'clock + moved about 4 miles to the right + laid in the woods all day. we had no blankets + I caught cold + was about sick all day.
[note: The battle May 31-June 1 is called "Fair Oaks" and "Seven Pines." The Union forces repelled several Confederate charges but did not enter Richmond.]
(Read John KIMBALL's report on the Battle of Fair Oaks.)
warm this morn. they are burying the dead; it is an awful sight. they say the Rebs are leaving Richmond but I don't believe it. laid around all day. the Rebs fired 2 or 3 shells just at right. had an awful thunder shower in the night it rained hard.
[note: Emery Richardson might have been a cousin of EOH's wife. Emory Richardson was a Pvt. in Co. F, 11th Mass. Infantry Rgt. He was 43 and a machinist from Medway when he enlisted on June 13, 1861. He re-enlisted on Feb. 28, 1864 and deserted June 17, 1864 from a hospital having at some point been transferred to Co. K. John H. Munroe was a Pvt., Co. B, 7th Mass. Infantry Rgt. He was 28 and a carpenter from Fall River when he enlisted on June 15, 1861. He deserted Jan. 20, 1862(?) at Washington, D. C. Scurvy was a danger. There is a record of Southern and Northern skirmishers fighting for control of a blackberry patch.]
this morning it rained hard. got our tents up so it don't trouble us much. the rebs shelled us last eve. wrote home. it was cold last night.
[note: By a computer calculation this eclipse occurred on the 12th, beginning about 12:45 AM Eastern time (of course this was before time zones) and lasting about an hour. If this is correct, EOH had missed another day in his diary, but he didn't mention it.]
morning nice. went to the brook + had a good wash all over. the talk last night was that we was going to have a fight today don't see it yet. the moon shone beautiful. there was no alarm.
[note: McClellan stayed near Richmond in a bad position, bordered by malarial swamps, expecting reinforcements that never came. After a raid on June 12 by Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart, McClellan worried about the safety of his communications and decided to change his base.]
Morn was hot. it was very quiet all night. we are expecting an attack today. there has been no shelling this morn yet at 10:00. very quiet all day. had a shower.
[note: On June 25, McClellan advanced closer to Richmond. The fighting went back and forth for several days but the Union forces finally had to retreat, partly because they had no good cover while the Confederates were in thick woods. This battle is called "Gaines's Mills," "the Chickahominy," and "the first battle of Cold Harbor."]
warm. they talk of having a battle -- heavy firing on our right. Towards night it was terrific, they say our folks got the best of them.
[note: At Malvern Hill, the retreating McClellan chose an excellent position and damaged the Confederates so badly that they gave up the pursuit. "Moved again in the night" to Harrison's Landing on the James River, defensible and easily supplied. The previous week's retreat is known as the Seven Days.]
morn: begun to rain about daylight + rained all day + all night. We all got wet through. Nothing to eat. mud knee deep. all in a heap. (Want to go home.)
[note: After the Seven Days, Lincoln placed General Henry Halleck in command of all Federal armies. Halleck ordered McClellan to abandon the Peninsular Campaign and to unite with the forces in northern Virginia.]
there was a salute fired. Another hot morn, laying around in the shade. Went over to the Mosart Reg. staid a while. Got wet through going home.
[note: "Jon" looked like a name but maybe it says "Saw." William D. Daniels: musician, band, 18th Mass. infantry Rgt. He was 43 and a farmer from Medway when he enlisted on Aug. 1, 1861. He was mustered out Aug. 11, 1862 (All regimental bands were discharged on Aug. 11, 1862 by War Department order considered more a burden than a benefit to the army.)]
foggy this morn but cleared off finally. nice cool day. went down to the river. tried to buy something to eat, but could not. went down again after dinner to fire off our guns.
[note: he may be referring to people selling food etc., see the 12th. Or maybe gambling.]
another hot. nothing new. dull music: hot enough pleasant evenings. My health is good. Thank God for that.
[note: William Adams died of malaria. Note "many of our boys are sick" the next day. The official record says Adams died on the 18th but EOH's diary implies the 17th; maybe EOH had lost a day again. EOH may have written to William's wife; he got a letter from her on Aug. 9.]
cooler this morn. nothing to do but loaf around. A good many of our boys are sick + every where(?) around the hospitals we can see the dead laid out almost every morn.
[note: Cap Chamberlain--thought this might refer to a somewhat famous Massachusetts captain Samuel Chamberlain but dates of service do not match. "Cap" likely a nickname rather than a rank.]
Morn pretty warm but not very. We moved our camp about 50 yards from where we were before: into the woods. We have got some tents again. Looks more like a camp.
[note: "M. Phipps" not in Sharpshooters roster; probably Martin Phipps 7/28.]
Morn. Went + had a good shower bath, it done me good. Wrote a letter to __?__ W. Fisher but it won't do any good. It looks like a storm. No news of interest I know of.
[note: EOH may have been writing to try to get a discharge. Maybe Fisher was a Congressman?]
warm + pleasant. not very not. the sun has been clouded part of the time. doing nothing. no money. no clothes, laying around lonesome as the devil in a crowd.
[note: EOH was almost 38 years old, and most of the soldiers were in their early 20s so he may have had little in common with them.]
Morn cool + pleasant. it grown hotter towards noon. Saw one of the 11th Reg. band, his name is Daniels from Medway, is going home in a day or two. Wish I was going.
[note: Note on Daniels on July 11th. Medway was EOH's home town.]
Nothing to do + nobody to help me. Warm weather. Some of the time it is very warm. had a letter from my wife last eve. Wish I could see her but don't think I shall at present.
[note: EOH was now 38 years old, older than many of the generals.]
what it will amount to I dont know. I hope we shant make any movement until cooler weather. they say we have got to take sharper rifles.
[note: "Gen. Gorman": Willis Gorman (1816-76), former Col., 1st Minn. Infantry Rgt. He was the brigade commander from March to October 1862. Many of the Sharpshooters were disgruntled; quite a number deserted.]
the div. started last eve for Malvern Hill we had orders to go top but did not have to + I am glad for it is very hot.
[note: McClellan began to withdraw on Aug. 14.]
[Here the diary ends.]
[The second battle of Bull Run (Aug. 29-30) was a major loss for the Union. Antietam (Sept. 17) was a minor victory but the bloodiest day of the war. Captain John Saunders, commander of the First Sharpshooters, was killed at Antietam, apparently by his own men.]
Sources for notes:
Arnett, Bill: electronic mail Jan. 18, 1997 about the time
of a lunar eclipse; he used the "Starry Night" program on a Macintosh.
Civil War Day by Day Desk Diary 1987/1862. Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia, 1955
Fair, Charles: From the Jaws of Victory (Simon & Schuster 1971)
Floyd, Fred: History of the Fortieth (Mozart) Regiment New York Volunteers (Boston, F. H. Gilson, 1909)
Heseltine, John: looked up some facts and provided the reports on the actions of the 15th Mass.
Jackson, Rossiter: "McClellan's Peninsular Campaign" in The Great Events by Famous Historians vol. XVIII (The National Alumni, 1905)
McClellan, George (General): "The Peninsular Campaign" in America: Great Crises in Our History, Told by Its Makers (VFW, 1925)
Nason, George: History and Complete Roster of Massachusetts Regiments, Minute Men of '61 (Boston, Smith & McCance, 1910)
Copyright 1998 by Carol Botteron.