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    "they swarmed forth like bees from a hive with shooting rifles"

    U.S. Marine Corps Civil War Diary Kept by New York Native Ploudon Huggins. Contains numerous pages (6.25" x 7.75", in ink) beginning August 31, 1864, and ending May 2, 1865. Huggins was aboard the USS Monadnock during much of the two Battles of Fort Fisher and gives his detailed account in this diary. Twice in the journal (once on a front endpaper and once in his December 18, 1864, entry) the worried young soldier gives instructions on what to do if he should be killed: "If any thing should happen to me I request that some of my messmates should Send this book and the contents of a small bag inside my black bag together with my watch ring and clothes to the following address Ploudon Huggins, Waterville, Oneida Co., N.Y. and oblige Ploudon R. Huggins."

    Ploudon Huggins (1843-1914), who has written "P. R . Huggins, U.S. Marine Corps 1864 & 5" on a front endpaper, was the son of a school teacher. He left his home at Waterville, New York, on August 31, 1864, to enlist in the Union army. His first entry from that day reads, "Left home for New York had a pleasant trip through with the exception of not being able to obtain a sleeping place on board the boat down the river." He enlisted the next day "in the U.S. Marine Corps for 4 years and was sent to the Marine Barracks on Flushing Avenue Brooklyn." He also claimed his bounty that day, the relatively large amount of $1800: "Received $1800 dollars Bounty. $500 of which was paid down by Mr. McKowan of Waterville for which I paid him $50 for the use of the money. This money was deposited with the commanding Station untill I go to sea[.] this is to prevent any Bounty jumpers from getting their money and then deserting." Huggins breaks down the sources of his large bounty, "$300 U.S. Bounty $1,000 Town bounty $500 county."

    Already by September 3, the young marine had become "somewhat used to Barrack life. Like it very well as yet - perhaps because it is a novelty for me. The order of exercises for the day is at 5 a.m. Revellie at 5 ½ a.m. roll call at 6 a.m. fall out for drill at 6 a.m. have breakfast at 9 a.m. drill untill 11 a.m. dinner at 1 p.m. then drill from 3 p.m. till 5 p.m. then supper at 6 p.m. roll call again at 9 p.m. lights out at 9 ¼ p.m. this is the order untill you are suficiently well drilled to go on guard."

    On October 26, Huggins "headed for sea and came up with the Monitor Mondanock [USS Monadnock] who was lying at anchor opposite Fort Lafayette." For the next several weeks, the Marine writes his activities aboard that vessel, noting on December 18 that the warship was ordered to join Admiral David Porter's North Atlantic Blockading Squadron near Wilmington, North Carolina. Knowing that a battle was inevitable at Wilmington's Fort Fisher, Huggins worried in his December 18 entry that "there is certainly a possibility that I may never live to make another entry in this." Yet he didn't want to appear "downhearted or nervously gloomy in view of the coming conflict"; instead, he was very confident of the outcome: "I can have no doubts as to the final termination of the conflict. It is thought or rather estimated that from 500 to 600 nine inch will be at one time be brought to bear upon the enemies works besides these are a large number of Rifled guns of various calibers..."

    The two battles fought at Fort Fisher (December 1864 and January 1865) were, together, one of the largest amphibious operations in U.S. history before World War II. The first Union attempt to take the Confederate fort began on Christmas Eve. "At 11 a.m. we got at work and pelted away at them for 4 ½ hours. When we had expended all of our loaded shell and were ordered to withdraw out of range and load others. Thus far we have had nobody hurt... The fire which was directed against the Fort was terrific and the showers of sand & exploding magazines testified to its accuracy." After the naval bombardment on the fort, the ground assault began: "Admiral [David] Porter then directed our Capt to take up a position just under & close to the stern of the new Ironsides." For two journal pages, Huggins reports details of the Union's unsuccessful attempt to take Fort Fisher, including news of the "Rebel flag" that "[Benjamin] Butlers skirmish line" took.

    For the next two weeks, there was little fighting, but on January 13, 1865, the battle was renewed with a second attempt to take the fort. Huggins engaged in the battle that day where he "fought untill dusk received no damage." At 9:30 a.m. two days later, the Marine, along with 8,000 others, was "marched up the beach to within muskett shot distance from the fort and ordered to lie down. We lay there for at least 1 hour while the fleet were showering shell over us[.] at a signal the fleet ceased firing and we charged upon the fort[.] up to this time we had not seen many men in the fort but so soon as the shell from the fleet ceased to fall into the fort they swarmed forth like bees from a hive with shooting rifles and opened a very destructive fire upon us[.] after several vain attempts to get over the parapets we were ordered to fall back." The battle continued, with an attack "by Braxton Bragg on our rear." The next day, Huggins and two other Marines were "looking at the damage done by our shell" when they were "blown violently in the air and I was landed outside the stockade . . . I received no injury worthy of note although rather badly bruised. The loss of life in the explosion was nearly as large as in the preceding days fight." (It is interesting to note that Huggins' handwriting for that January 16th entry is drastically different than for other days, certainly the sign of a shaken soldier.) The Union won the battle and the fort.

    Still slightly bruised, Huggins left the Monadnock on January 25. For the next three months, he continued recording his war-time experiences in his journal, ending it and his war service on May 2, 1865, at the Charlestown, Massachusetts navy yard. Only days earlier, he had recorded on April 18: "heard of the Assassination of President Lincoln and also of Sec. Sewards danger." Ploudon was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps. He married in 1870 and worked in the insurance business for the rest of his life. Included in the journal are clipped newspaper articles about the battle at Fort Fisher. The journal has fragile binding and spine; marbled boards are well-worn.

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