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    Union Diary With Sheridan's Valley Campaigns Content and Description of an Execution

    Union Soldier's 1864 Diary of Corporal George W. Corey of Co. H, 34th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers. A small pocket diary, approximately 3.5" x 5", kept by George W. Corey for the year 1864 with great content on [Philip] Sheridan's Valley Campaigns. Corey has filled an entry for each day, and has laid in additional pages at the end of the diary in order to add detail and extended descriptions for important battles. Corey mustered into Company H on July 31, 1862. He was wounded on May 15, 1864 at New Market; and again on April 2, 1865 at Petersburg. He was mustered out at Richmond on June 16, 1865. A great content diary.

    In small part: "[May 14] Still raining. we received orders to march at ½ past ten and before eleven we were on the road travelling like the old harry. We marched to new market 23 miles in 7 ½ hours. [May 15] We got our breakfast this morning and then pitched tents our company were on picket two hours this mon in front of the Regt. Co.s D, I, & B went out further on picket. [The entry continues in back] May 15th The rebels opened on us with artilary at ½ eleven and we were soon marched near 1 mile back from where we were when we were ordered back. And in a few moments the whole force retreated back to where we went in the first place. We formed line of battle & had to wait only a few moments when the rebels came up. We fought them near one half hour when we made a charge and found that the rebels really outnumbered us and we had to retreat. When we were forming in line I was wounded in the leg, and I walked to the rear near two mile when I got onto an ambulance and rode to [illegible] Jackson. Here I staid near an hour when I got into an ambulance and started for the rear..." Corey's account accurately reflects the panic and confusion in the Union lines, although he is incorrect in stating that the Union forces were outnumbered. In reality, Union forces outnumbered the Confederates by about 50%, but they were clearly outmaneuvered.

    The August 5 entry makes mention of receiving pickles and potatoes from a Sanitary Fair, but he fills one and a half pages at the back of the diary with an account of the execution of a deserter: "The reason that inspection was suspended tonight was that a Deserter was to be executed. The whole command was drawn up in Halen Square (34th in front line) when the coffin was brought in and placed on a knoll. Soon the culprit was marched in the band playing the dead march. He knelt on the coffin the chaplin prayed with him. At a given signal the 12 guns were fired and he fell forward on his coffin dead. He first deserted from the rebels and enlisted in the 23 Ohio. When he deserted from them and went to the rebels. He again deserted from the rebels and came out as a substitute. Fortune brought him to the same Regt. that he deserted from, where he was recognized, court-martialed, and condemned to be shot." Genealogytrails.com lists an Isaac Whitlow as executed by firing squad on August 5, 1864 for desertion. He is listed as a member of the 23rd Ohio. The Civil War database lists an Isaac Whitlow who enlisted on September 21, 1863 as a Private in the 23rd Ohio Infantry, but provides no date and method of discharge. His age is given as 17, and no known place of residence. The database also lists a Confederate soldier of the same name who enlisted as a private on May 23, 1861 in Lynchburg in the 24th Virginia Infantry. No age or place of residence is listed, but it is noted that he deserted on September 1, 1862.

    His entries beginning on August 11 through October are filled with battle content almost daily, and several entries are continued in the pages at the back. What follows is a covering a few days in August: "[Aug. 11] Moved out this morning a little past four. Started in the direction of Front Royal, but we had not gone 3 miles when we heard fireing in the direction of Winchester, and we went that way. [Aug. 12] Moved out this morning at ½ past 7 and marched to Cedar Creek were we arrived about seven. We lay in the woods near an hour and got dinner... [Aug. 14] The 6th army corps back across the creek last night for some reason. Light skirmishing all day to day just over the dreek by some of the 6th Corps. The Lieut.s on picket were fretting all day about the rebels advancing on us & they were not withing 3 miles of us. [Aug. 15] We lay in camp all day. Company drill one hour in the morning. Brigade inspection at 8 o'clock & Dress parade at 6 at night. There was skirmishing all day. Just before dark the rebels advanced their lines but they were soon driven back... [Aug. 22] We fell back to Halltown and arrived here at ½ past 3 this morning (six miles march)/ At 6 we were started again and formed line of battle just west of Halltown and built breast works. Quite heavy skirmishing all day. Crooks is on the left. 19th in center & 6th on the right... [Aug. 23] We lay in line all day. There was skirmishing quite brisk. The boys many of them that were left at Pleasant Valley when we went up the Valley hast come to us to night. We are still building breast works."

    Corey is observant and carefully records not just his company's movements, but also those of the regiments around him. The diary provides a good overview of the Sheridan's Valley Campaigns, but also includes daily anecdotal narrative: "[Oct. 4] I am on street guard again. There was a Captain belonging to Sheridan staff shot last night by some bushwhacker just outside of the picket. There is also a story that some drummer were murdered also, and tonight there is great fires in the vicinity where this was done. [Oct. 5] There was six fires in the town [Mount Jackson] last night between the hours of ten and twelve. but only two of them did any dammage. Each of these burned a barn. The whole regiment were out 2 hours..."

    Corey uses the memoranda pages at the back of the diary to list all of the letters he has received and sent. There are an additional sixteen sheets, with writing on both sides, not part of the original diary, but clearly added at the time by Corey, to expand entries as needed.

    Condition: The leather boards of the diary have only gentle wear; but the tab closure has split (but is present). A few scattered pages have light ink, but generally, ink is bold and Corey's writing is very legible.


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