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    Union diary with Port Hudson, Louisiana battle content

    Union Soldier's Diary of John Winsor, Company G, 26th Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. Notebook, 4" x 6", 200 pages (104 blank), leather cover over boards. With daily entries by private Winsor covering the period from September 10, 1862 through to August 8, 1863. The last eleven pages record deaths in the various companies of the 26th Connecticut Regiment.
    The 26th Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry was organized at Norwich on November 10, 1862. The regiment left the state for New York on November 12, and from there sailed for Ship Island and New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 29, arriving December 16. The regiment was attached to General Thomas W. Sherman's Division, Department of the Gulf, to January, 1863, and to the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 19th Army Corps, Department of the Gulf, to August, 1863, during much of this time engaged in the assault on Port Hudson. The regiment was mustered out on August 17, 1863.

    Having received the diary from his brother Ira on November 17, 1862, Winsor's entries spanning the period September 10 through November 19 were recorded after the fact. Winsor wrote that on September 10 he "enlisted to day for nine months in the army of the United States of America. I went into barracks on the 15th of the same month at Norwich to drill in the school of the soldier." Winsor and his regiment left Connecticut on November 12 for New York and he began his dairy on November 20. On November 23, he wrote of "a row over poor grub." According to Winsor, "We have had it for many days and presented the case to the Col. He used his influence to change the present arrangement of affairs, but failing the soldiers took it in hand this morning and were succeeding quite well when Col. [George P.] Bissell, commander of the port, appeared and with unearthly efforts endeavored to suppress it but failed. He drew a revolver which was wrested from his hand and stamped into the dirt. He commanded us to disperse and go to our quarters but we refused to obey until we received them from our Col., whose sentiments were of our side, then we started which caused Bissell to think we respected [Colonel Thomas G.] Kingsley more than him which he very much disliked."

    Winsor's regiment arrived in New Orleans on December 16, 1862 and were attached to General Thomas Sherman's Division in the Department of the Gulf under the command of General Nathaniel Banks. Winsor took sick soon after arriving and was in and out of the hospital for the next several weeks. Besides the state of his health, he recorded the weather, daily routines of camp, receiving letters with news from home and, occasionally, military news. Things began to heat up at the end of May when General Banks prepared for the Union assault on the Confederate stronghold of Port Hudson, Louisiana, and then move on up the Mississippi River to aid General Ulysses S. Grant in his siege of Vicksburg. Winsor's entry for May 20 mentioned his regiment's marching orders. "Our regiment received marching orders, and all sick in the hospital who cannot go with the reg. are to be sent to the general hospital. The convalescents were to pack and journey with their representative regts. The 26th C.V. struck tents...boarded the ocean steamer Crescent....I was a convalescent and according to orders packed my knapsack and boarded the steamer, soon after which an order for convalescents to remain behind was issued, but it came too late to prove a benefit to us. Those who had not boarded left behind." On May 21, the day before the Union siege of Port Hudson commenced, the steamer reached Baton Rouge. On the May 22, noted Winsor, "the Crescent was again heading the way toward P.H. We sailed to Springfield Landing and again disembarked, varying with us our knapsacks, which were now ordered on board again to go to Baton Rouge while we to the field of action....We then fell in regimental line with overcoat, rubber blanket, two days rations, 100 rounds of ammunition-right faced and obeyed the order forward march....We marched from six to eight miles when Co, G. and B were ordered back to the landing to support a battery...and an hour after our whole regt. were under similar orders. I fell out by the way being unable to keep pace with my co. from weakness, and was an hour and a half behind it." At midnight on May 23, Winsor's regiment, "all but Cos. G & B were ordered nearer the front, the latter being retained to guard the 21st Regt. battery." The next three days were devoted to marching. On May 27, Winsor recorded that "Shells from the enemy came in our midst-endeavoring to introduce conversation by shrieks and sighs, that sounded harsh to our unaccustomed ears, and made them truly quite unwelcome visitors. We were soon ordered from the open field where we had lodged the night previous into a strip of tangled woods between us and the enemy and were soon commanded to evacuate these and enter a strip still nearer to the foe. At 2 o'clock P.M. we were ordered to prepare for an attack on the enemies breast works. Volunteers were called for, to construct a bridge across a ditch twenty feet wide-nearly filled with water-which, being under the parapet, behind which the rebs were screened, and which too it was demanded of us to scale. About two hundred volunteers were obtained from the different regts....Each volunteer with a broad and a stern determined heart started upon perilous mission, but ere he had measured half the distance between him and the place for action, was met by a volley of musketry, solid shot and shell, that shook the strongest nerve and...the stoutest heart, and most daring, to seek a shelter, or hide his frame by lying 'supinely upon' his belly....The 6th Mich. Followed the storming party, and the 26th C. V. then, and behind came the 15th N. Y. V. who without thought or care killed not a few perhaps of our own men by careless firing. The colors of the 26th C. V. went nearest the rebel parapet, and the nearest men found dead was one from that regt. Generals Sherman and [Neal] Dow were wounded, also Col. Kingsley, and Capt. Stenton of Co. G, was killed....About one hundred and fifty were killed from our regt. (26th C.V.)."

    General Banks' assault on Port Hudson failed and, as a result, he embarked on a long siege, in which the 26th Connecticut participated. After days of digging rifle pits and building works for batteries, Banks' attempted another assault on July 14. On that day, Winsor wrote this entry in his diary: "Another Deathly charge by our, and other regts. Our co. had seven wounded." This assault, too, failed and the siege continued. On May 30 Winsor recorded that another assault that he and his men considered suicidal had been called off. "We were ordered out by Gen. [William] Dwight who was intoxicated to make a charge on the enemy, which if it had been effected would have proved fatal to nearly every man of the 26th C.V. but as Providence would have it, the order was...countermanded by Gen. Banks." On July 9, within days of the fall of Vicksburg, Confederate forces at Port Hudson surrendered. On that day, Winsor wrote the following in his diary: "Surrender of P. Hudson at 2 o'clock P.M." The next day, according to Winsor, "Started at 4 A.M. to take possession of the surrendered fort. Entered at 10 A.M. whistling 'Yankee Doodle.'"

    Winsor's diary ends with an entry dated August 8, 1863, in which he recorded his arrival home upon the end of his service. He was honorably discharged a week later.

    Condition:
    With heavy wear; the front cover and first two leaves (four pages) are detached; spine worn with parts of leather gone. Several signatures are loose from the spine. There is a grease or water stain of various sizes that affects primarily the bottom left hand edge of most pages, without affecting the writing.


    More Information:

    On the first four pages of the diary, Winsor wrote out this semi-humorous statement on November 17, 1862. "This book was bought by Dr. Ira C. Winsor brother of the writer and presented to him to keep an account of the most prominent events which occur during our nine months campaign at war with the Southern Confederacy. I therefore the recipient of this gift do render to the well known donor my sincere thanks for his generosity and hope that this book may serve him with many interesting incidents for contemplation after my return..Perhaps a few words about the author of this book would not be out of place and also satisfy the queries of future ages in regard to his promotion as high private at the foot of the front rank, and his sudden fall to the rear bile [pile?], & the author therefore do declare that as far as my memory correctly extends that I was born in Sterling Conn. on the 18th of May 1843. The war between the Northern and Southern portions of the United States, having continued with unlimited severity for many months, I.fearing.speedy termination of this running contest should take place insisted that what was left of our bleeding country might be saved from the devouring jaws of hungry jealously, and thinking it would take me no longer to settle peace.and stop strife and commotion and all such other proceedings as are an annoyance to those who are accustomed only to the quiet scenes which transpire in a land of peace, volunteered for but nine months. And in my own estimation I have offered my services for a sufficient length of time. For I have been in camp but two months and the prospect is fair for a speedy close of the present existing war. But enough of this until the war is ended & it is known that it is done by my own influence."

     

    John Winsor (1843-1906) was born in Sterling, Connecticut, and was studying medicine at Berkshire Medical College at Pittsfield, Massachusetts, when the Civil War broke out.  He enlisted in Company G, 26th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry on September 10, 1862 and was mustered in on September 26. He was honorably discharged as a private on August 17, 1863.  He later served in the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry.  After the war, Winsor resumed his medical studies and graduated from Berkshire Medical College in 1865. He practiced medicine in Sterling, Connecticut, until 1870, when he moved to Fiskville, Rhode Island. He later lived in Anthony, Coventry, and Quidnick, Rhode Island, where he died of tuberculosis.   In 1878 he joined the Rhode Island Medical Society. He was listed as a registered pharmacist in Coventry, Rhode Island from 1882-1893.  In 1896 he was president of the Pawtuxet Valley Medical Association.  He served as the medical examiner for Kent County, Rhode Island, for 20 years. Winsor's brother, Ira C. Winsor, served as an assistant surgeon in the 9th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. 

     



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