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    Rare 1864 Andersonville Diary

    Rufus S. Read's 1864 Andersonville Diary. Although little is known of Rufus S. Read, we do know that he was born in 1840 in Philadelphia and mustered into the 31st Pennsylvania Volunteers, Company K of the 2nd Pennsylvania Reserves, on May 27, 1861. Although he served as a musician the first year of his military career, he enlisted as a soldier on April 14, 1862, and served well with the 2nd Pennsylvania through Mechanicsville, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and more. Read was discharged December 21, 1862, to enlist in Battery M of the 2nd U.S. Artillery, Cavalry Corps Horse Artillery, 1st Brigade, where he served honorably at a number of important battles including Stones River and Gettysburg. On June 11, 1864, during the Battle of Trevilian Station, Read was captured by Confederate forces and arrived at Andersonville Prison 18 days later, where he it is believed he stayed until the end of the war.

    Offered here is the diary Read wrote just prior to and during his imprisonment at Andersonville, considered one of the most despicable and intolerable of the Civil War prisoner camps. Beginning February 14, 1864, and ending March 19, 1865, Read's diary provides first-hand detail of his involvement in the Battle of Todd's Tavern (May 7-8, 1864), the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House (May 8-21, 1864), the Battle of Yellow Tavern (May 11, 1864), and the Battle of Trevilian Station/ Louisa Court House (June 11-12, 1864), where he fought alongside General George Armstrong Custer until his capture and subsequent imprisonment.

    Written in a 3" x 5" leatherbound journal with approximately 100 lined pages, each brief entry provides a wealth of information about the battles Read was involved in and the depredations of life at Andersonville. A few excerpts follow:

    Battle of Yellow Tavern (May 11, 1864): "... the enemy again at our rear. Marched all day and about 3 o'clock we were stopped by a force of infantry and arty & cavalry, was fighting in our front & rear, one gun was captured by our men in the rear & two in the front by the 1st Michigan was led astray by a guide and several torpedoes exploded in our line of march. on the night of the 11th we passed through the second line of fortifications within two miles of Richmond after capturing three pieces of artillery and a large number of prisoners and releasing 400 of our men."

    Arrival at Andersonville (June 1864): ". we are now in an awful place about 15 acres of ground with a mud puddle running through; our tents are part of a blanket. our rations are meal and bacon daily. such a horrible place for men to live in was never known. it is actually so crowded here that one can hardly move about & the smoke from at least five thousand little pitch pine fires is awful. My pencil cannot write the explanation of how we suffer."

    Life at Andersonville (July 1864): "I will state a few prices. flour $1.00 per pint, potatoes $3.00 pr doz, 5 cts for a cup of sour meal water called beer. we all witnessed this afternoon the hanging of six of our men who had murdered a fellow soldier for his money. There is a great many of our men dying here just from neglect. weather last night & this morning is very cold and many have suffered for the want of clothes .There are men here with not a thing to call their own but one pair of pants & a shirt for they have been robbed of everything."

    Written in pencil and in ink, some entries are quite faint but most are legible. The journal lacks the rear cover and presumably several of the final pages, however the latter portion of the book was used by Read for notes, lists, addresses, and so on, so we can assume that all entries concerning Andersonville are intact. An intriguing and revealing first-hand review of life as a Union prisoner at Andersonville. Rare and desirable!

    Condition: Very good. Rear cover and several final pages missing. Hinge weak. Heavy wear to edges and corners of leather cover; leather missing from spine. Textblock lightly age toned.


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    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    29th-30th Sunday-Monday
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