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    Civil War Diaries of William. H. Woodring, 13th Illinois Infantry. Two diaries. 1) 3.75" x 6", 51 pages, front and back(3 blank); bound in brown leather, dating from May 2, 1861 to November 19, 1861. Entries in pen and pencil. 2) 4.5" x 7", 49 pages, front and back, (several pages removed); bound in brown leather, dating from January 1, 1862 to May 4, 1862. From there the diary continues to cover events through 1864, but appears to have been written concurrently. Entries in pen. Diaries are housed in custom clamshell case lined in felt measuring 5.5" x 8.25".

    William H. Woodring was born near Easton Pennsylvania in 1841 and worked for the Illinois and Mississippi Telegraph Company before the war. He mustered into Company D 13th Illinois Infantry on May 25, 1861. The early entries are brief and record camp events, their drill schedule, and the state of the rations. On June 14, Woodring wrote "...as Sergt Maj Berry was giving the Countersign to a Guard at the camp Spring the Guards Gun was discharged accidently & killed Berry instantly the Ball passing through his neck. The Ball after passing through came whistling along through the air & struck about 10 paces from my Beat." In July and August, they passed through St. Louis to Rolla, Missouri. On August 14th he writes about their first fight at the Battle of Wilson's Creek and the death of General Nathaniel Lyon. "Our men were chosen by Genl Lyon for his body guard. It was a terrible fight. The Federal Troops numbered between 5 & 6000 men. The Southern army numbered between 24 & 27000. Genl Lyon was shot through the Body. The Ball going in under one arm & out under the other, he...took himself down off his Horse at the same time telling the men to fight on & not give up. He died four minutes after..."

    The latter half of the first diary discusses a typhoid outbreak that killed several in the regiment and his discontent that they were unable to participate in the Battle of Lexington. On September 23 he wrote, "...Col. Mulligan had been defeated at Lexington by McCulloch's forces (Rebels). It was received with such regret & created excitement. Much ill feeling exists in this Regiment because we have to lay here in inactivity while others are fighting our countries Battles. We are all eager to participate either to win or loose..." Woodring got his wish a few weeks later. A skirmish is recounted by him on October 13, "We instructed to go to Simon Creek today...but circumstances prevented for the enemy thought to prevent us from going...about 1 oclock PM about 400 Rebels Rode up...about 70 yards of[f] a company of our Cavalry...Only damage was some Cavalry Horses wounded. The Cavalry...made a beautiful Saber charge & completely Routed the Rebels killing 62...& took 26 prisoners among them is a Colonel..." By late October they met up with General Fremont's force in Springfield ahead of schedule after marching 42 miles in a day. On the 29th he wrote, "...we passed every Regt that was ahead of us...As we came in sight of Springfield Genl Freemont ...was asked...what Regt that was, he said "Why that is my Flying Infantry."

    Woodring's second diary begins on January 1 1862, where he writes "...I wish I was at home with my friends to spend the New Years evening with them But I most forgo the pleasures I once enjoyed for a short time & fight my Countries Battles. Freedom first then pleasures is my motto now." His entries for the next two months continue in this vein. He records his homesickness, their movements around Rolla and the weather. On January 16th he draws a map of Rolla and its surrounding areas. At the end of the month, Woodring was attempting to get a transfer to the telegraph corps and by March 2nd he had secured a position with the telegraph services in the Department of Missouri under Captain George H. Smith. On March 10th he leaves his company, writing, "...I bid the boys a farewell. I was sorry to part with them. It seemed like parting with my dearest friends..."

    By May 4th the format of the entries change. The rest of the diary appears to be written concurrently and recounts his time in St. Louis and, later, Fort Smith, Arkansas. He writes that on January 7, 1863, after a group of Confederates cut the telegraph lines, he was called upon to cross enemy lines to request reinforcements and inform them that Springfield had fallen. "We got word early in the day that a force of about 3000 Rebels under Marmaduke were marching on Springfield... Early in the morning on the 7th the rebels cut our lines both on the East and South this early cutting off our communications with other posts...I reported to headquarters for orders and they were anxious to get word to the dept commander at St. Louis to send reinforcements. I volunteered to go with dispatches along the line east until I could get on the wire provided our commander would furnish me with an escort. He told me to report just before dark and the dispatches and escort would be ready. I got my horse and took a telegraph relay and accompanied by B. bates to assist me we reported at the appointed time...The commandant provided me with an escort of two men (state militia) in charge of a Sergeant and we started on our journey. The Rebs however had strewn the tangled wire along the road making it extremely hard travelling by moonlight and after going ten miles we stopped for the night starting again next morning. The wire was down the greater part of the way. We halted about 21 miles out near noon...then the escort showed signs of weakness, no signs yet of finding cuts, and they determined to return to their command. I was determined to go on however and called for volunteers. To go with me. One soldier responded as also did Brave "Bob" and we started alone on our perilous trip...We had 34 miles to go and rode hard -..." Thankfully, Woodring and his companions only encountered one other group of Union soldiers and were able to arrive safely at headquarters and deliver their message. "...I hurried to the telegraph office and soon was deluged with congratulations by the "Boys" along the line. I was busy long time sending my dispatches, and also had to give...the spial from memory. They had all heard we were captured and Springfield in the hands of the enemy..."

    The final pages of the second diary record the guerrilla warfare that was taking place in Arkansas and the execution of Confederate prisoners ordered in retaliation for the murder of Union soldiers by the guerilla bands. Woodring wrote of the execution, "It was a sad spectacle...The prisoners died heroically. This sacrifice was sufficient. No more murders were committed on the road. It was the saddest sight I witnessed during the whole time of my service." He mustered out on June 22, 1864. After the war, he worked for Western Union as chief operator until his retirement and was present at the reunion of the Society of the United State Military Telegraph Corps. Woodring died August 11, 1925.

    Condition: The earliest diary has .5" loss to foot of spine. Rubbed and worn. Internally rubbed and toned with dampstain at bottom right corner that extends throughout, but does not affect text. The second diary with joints partially split but holding. Signs of early repairs to spine. Spine chipped and worn with losses. Hinges are weak but holding. Some leaves are loose, but laid in. Rubbed and worn. Internally rubbed and toned with some soiling. With strong smell of wood smoke.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2021
    19th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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