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    The diary of Lt. Magruder of the 15th New York Engineers, with content on the Battle of Fredericksburg

    [Battle of Fredericksburg] and [15th New York Engineers]. Major James A. Magruder Diary, dated July 5, 1862-July 12, 1863, together with General Orders No. 14 and a Lieutenant Cyrus B. Comstock ALS. Major Magruder's daily entries contain information about his work as a Union engineer during one year of the Civil War. Of particular interest are his entries around the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11-15, 1862). The diary measures 3" x 6". The hard covers are well worn with some soiling. Some fragility.

    James Magruder enlisted as a major in October 1861 at the age of forty-five. He mustered out on July 8, 1863, as a lieutenant colonel. From July 1862 through July 1863, the 15th New York Engineers participated at Harrison's Landing, the Maryland Campaign, the Rappahannock, Campaign, the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Mud March, the Chancellorsville Campaign, Banks' Ford, the Gettysburg Campaign, and more.

    Magruder's name appears on the front pastedown. Annotations that aren't part of daily entries include officer names; lists (such as a list that has the names of company commanders); and notes on dimensions of unknown objects. The diary begins at "Camp on James River" on July 5, 1862, only days after the Battle of Malvern Hill, on the James River: "Commenced work on Fortification." Through much of July and August 1862, Magruder and others worked on fortifications at Harrison's Landing, Virginia, but Magruder and the regiment moved often, working in locations such as Fort Wagner, Fort Baker, Fort Davis, and Fort Dupont. He often includes lists of ammunition at the forts where he worked. For example, he notes on September 9, 1862, that there were "No Hand Granades at Fort Meigs. Sand Bags wanted."

    Magruder's entries on the days before the Battle of Fredericksburg include notes about cutting timber for railroads, selecting "a place to throw a bridge" across the Rappahannock River, and finding a "place to lay pontoon bridge." On December 11, the day the battle began, he "commenced the abutment, bridge nearly finished without interruption from the enemy. The enemy pickets keeping their position on the opposite side of the river during the throwing of the bridge. At 8 ¼ a.m. just as the last bay of the bridge was being laid they rapidly ran forward ascertained the exact location of the bridge & hurriedly retired behind houses & barns nearby, in a few minutes the body of the enemy about 200 appeared on the brow of the hill about 200 yards above the bridge and opened fire on us. 5 men of ours were wounded and the boats pierced in many places by the discharge. The firing was returned by our reserve companions with much Spirit & also by the artillery. . . . the enemy driven off and the bridge completed at 9 a.m." Magruder continued his narrative by giving details about conveying the infantry across the river. The lieutenant was busy for the next several days. On the next day, he "commenced building abutments for Pontoon bridge." On the 13th he built more pontoon bridges. On the night of the 15th, Magruder and his men were busy throughout the night laying new pontoons for the Union Army to use to cross the river. "At 6 a.m." the next morning, "the order arrived to take up the other bridges." The bridges were gone "when the enemy commenced firing on us from the opposite side of the river." This diary includes much more information and is worthy of further research.

    The General Orders No. 14 (one printed page of a bifolium, "Headquarters Engineers Brigade, Camp near Falmouth, Va.," May 13, 1863) were issued by orders of General H. W. Benham praising the Engineer Brigade for gallant actions "during the late movements of the army across the Rappahannock." Some foxing and separations along the central horizontal fold.

    Lt. Cyrus Comstock's ALS (one page in pencil, n.p., November 24, 1862, on Army of the Potomac letterhead) informs Major Magruder that "Gen Burnside desires that you will load up and fit out the balance of the bridge train." Comstock became chief engineer of the Army of the Potomac in 1862. Minor wrinkling.


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    Auction Dates
    April, 2015
    9th Thursday
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