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    Charles H. Tay, 2nd and 10th New Jersey Infantry, Archive of Three Diaries, Carte de Visite Album and Large Charcoal Print. Three war-dated diaries belonging to Captain Charles Tay, who was commissioned into Company K of the 2nd New Jersey Infantry in May of 1861. One year later, he was commissioned into the Field & Staff of the 10th New Jersey Infantry and promoted to lieutenant colonel. He was captured, along with 115 men, at the Battle of Winchester and was imprisoned until February 1865. His diaries are eloquently written and provide excellent details of his daily routines and of his experiences in battle and in prison.

    Tay's 1863 diary includes near daily entries, with records of troop movements, events, and news throughout the country. The April 30, 1863 entry details being surrounded by the Confederates while stationed at Suffolk: "The position occupied by this army - Suffolk, Va. Being besieged and surrounded by the rebels on three sides. We are constantly on the lookout for an attack. The regiment was under army nearly all this afternoon and slept on our arms at night."

    About a week later, Tay's mood was cheery as his troops were successful in repelling the rebels, and it was thought that Hooker's force was getting the upper hand on Lee. His entries from May 4-7, 1863 read: "Our troops were successful yesterday and drove the enemy at every point. During Monday night the enemy evacuated our whole front and marched toward the Blackwater, closely pursued by our forces under Genls Corcoran and Foster who chased them as far as the Blackwater and captured a large number of persons. The enemy who are under the command of Longstreet and D.H. Hier are evidently on their way to reinforce Lee on the Rappahanock who is hard-pressed by Gen'l Hooker although reports say that Genl Stoneman of the army of the Potomac has cut the bridges in Lee's rear so that reinforcements cannot be sent to him...Hooker reported to have surrounded Lee and to be whipping him badly. Newspapers in great demand here and hard to get. A large number of troops left here (Suffolk, Va.) to relieve force Genl. Hooker within a day or two." However, within two days, on May 9, 1863, it was clear that Lee had bested the Union army again: "...The news of the defeat of Hooker and the recrossing of the Rapphannock to his old camps was rec'd at Suffolk today. It caused much gloom among our troops, but was received with manifestations of joy by the citizens."

    A month and a half later, the army stationed at Suffolk was run out by the Confederates. Tay records the evacuation of the city in his diary, with an entry on June 21, 1863 reading: "Suffolk is being rapidly evacuated. Troops are leaving everyday as fast as transportation can be furnished. Owing to the departure of troops our picket line is now extended 4 times its accustomed length." Within two days, the hospital was being evacuated as well. Tay's June 23 entry describes: "Dr. Fitch called at our new hospital in Suffolk and took a glass of wine with Dr. Thomas. All the sick were sent to Fortress Monroe today." By June 26, the 10th New Jersey were the last regiment remaining in the city: "the regiment was ordered to move tomorrow. Ours is now the only brigade left in Suffolk. We are of course worked hard in covering all the roads with our pickets." Suffolk was fully evacuated on the 3rd of July.

    In the following weeks, the 10th New Jersey was sent to Philadelphia in order to support the enforcement of the newly instituted draft. Tay's entry from July 20, 1863 details: "The object of having our regiment stationed here appears to be to protect the authorities while enforcing the conscription act. A riot having recently taken place in New York for the same cause. Two are now to be placed in all the large cities to prevent a repetition of the same kind." Three days later, on July 23, he writes: "Getting very tired of being quartered in the city. This regiment being originally raised in this vicinity the men are very anxious to get leave of absence to go home while our orders will not allow them to do so, this is the cause of much trouble." It appears that the presence of the regiment succeeded in deterring rioting, as Tay's July 24 entry states: "City quiet. Draft progressing and the crowd in camp still as large as ever although every effort is made to exclude everybody except relatives and friends of the officers and men."

    In Charles Tay's 1864 diary, the first half of the entries are difficult to read due to crosshatching by Tay. However, by August the entries are fully legible and provide detailed descriptions of when he and a large group of his regiment were captured by Confederates near Winchester. His August 17, 1864 entry reads: "Marched all last night and arrived at Winchester about 1 o'clock this AM. Troops marched on and our brigade left behind to support the cavalry. About 3 PM the entire brigade was deployed on the extreme left of the skirmish line, our Regt on the left. The enemy skirmish line overlapped ours on the left which was [illegible] and supported by full regiments in line of battle. We having no supports were obliged to fall back slowly which we did fighting hard from one stone fence to another. We checked their advance but after dark they came in on our right, formed in line of battle behind us. Many of the brigade were taken prisoner. I was taken by the Stafford Brigade comded by Genl York who treated me very kindly indeed."

    The following week, Tay and his men were moved further south and housed in cramped, filthy quarters, as his August 24 and 25, 1864 entries detail: "Marched to Staunton, the terminus of the Lynchburg RR...the men, about 370 in number were marched about 2 miles from the town, and encamped, while the officers 16 in number were confined in the common town guard house with rebel prisoners, such as deserters, but were separated by a partition of logs. During the night 13 other prisoners were put in the same room which crowded it so as to prevent all from lying down at the same time. The other 13 prisoners were taken out this morning, leaving us alone, which even now leaves us scarcely room enough to move about. Our quarters are filthy in the extreme and filled with vermin..." Despite this, Tay does relate how the officers were treated marginally better, writing on August 29, 1864: "we have not been sent to Richmond or Georgia as we expected. The Capt said if we wished to take a walk about the town we might do so by having a guard go with us. Very kind in [illegible] but don't think we'll take advantage of this kind offer." Tay then provides a long list of the other officers who were confined with him. The entries for the 1864 diary end on September 8, with the news that he was being sent to Richmond.

    The 1865 diary begins on January 1, 1865, with Tay in very low spirits. His New Year's entry reads: "Prisoner of War at Ganville, Ga with little prospect of exchange. Lt. Murphy & myself being unaccustomed to eat cornbread for dinner on New Years day concluded to omit dinner today. Everything appears to be to be dark and dreary. This is the 4th New Years I have spent away from home and probably the last." Two days later, Tay bemoans having to spend his birthday in belittling and derelict conditions. In his January 31, 1865 entry he writes: "Today I am 29 years of age. This is indeed the most gloomy birth day I have ever experienced. Sick and in prison, far away from home all and I hold most dear, with no prospect of release, in a suffering condition for want of proper food and clothing, no means of getting anything from or even communicating with those at home. All all is calculated to make us in the most disponding state. The right side of my face swollen to a most ridiculous size and most harmful manner by reason of ulcerated teeth."

    On February 18, Tay and a group of other Union officers were transferred to Richmond's Libby Prison. They were finally exchange on February 22, and Tay's entry from that is overflowing with gratitude: "I am now writing this under the glorious old stripes and stars with a most grateful heart to God for his goodness in preserving my life...The experience of the last six months, the most inhuman treatment I have rec'd makes me very anxious to get to my regiment again and at their head to seek revenge for the brutality that many of my men have been subject to." Following his release from prison, Tay returned home for a period before travelling to Philadelphia. On April 15, 1865, he received the devastating news that Lincoln had been killed, and includes a small entry that reads: "The murder of the President of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln last night at Fords Theatre Washington by J. Wilkes Booth and the attempted assassination of W. H. Seward Sec of State causes much grief throughout the country."

    Tay's diaries are full of other details, with entries on skirmishes, personnel changes in the army, and even short remarks on books he has been reading. As mentioned, the archive also includes an album of cartes de visite, with at least two portraits of Tay along with members of his family and others. The charcoal portrait of Tay, measuring 12.75" x 15.75" (sight), depicts him dressed in his Federal uniform. It has been framed to the overall size of 16.5" x 19.75".

    Condition: Diary covers are worn, with some minor chipping to the leather, but the binding is sound. Internal pages are good, with only minor toning and soiling. The charcoal print has some small areas of discoloration, light scratching, and some dampstaining. The CDV album's spine is detached and worn with some chipping. The inner album pages have some areas of soiling and foxing, else good.


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    October, 2019
    26th Saturday
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