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    [Peninsula Campaign]. Union Soldier's Diaries Written by James B. Edgerly, 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. Two diaries of Edgerly, written legibly in pencil and bound in leather, with one, 2.75" x 4", covering the year 1861, and the other, 3" x 5.5" covering the year 1862.
    The 1861 diary includes intermittent recordings of Edgerly's activities, expenses, and his enlistment in the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. Before his enlistment, his recorded activities consisted primarily of working as a clerk, visiting friends, and traveling and playing with his local band. Occasionally Edgerly notes the weather. For example, on Friday, February 8, he wrote that "This is the most tedious day in my remembrance. Thermometer stood at thirty degs. below zero this morning." Surprisingly, Edgerly mentions very little about the dire political situation in the country, except that on Monday March 4, he wrote that "Abraham inaugurated." Entries in the dairy become more regular after October 26, when he "went to Concord & was mustered into the service of U.S." and paid "$10.00 for uniform." Three days later, he wrote that his regiment "left Concord this morning for Washington." After arriving in the nation's capital, Edgerly fit in some sightseeing. On November 18, he noted that he "went into Washington - visited White house, Capitol, Patent office, Smithsonian institute, etc." In addition to touring sites in an around Washington and the drudgery of picket duty, Edgerly and his fellow soldiers had some time for fun and games, particularly on December 25, Christmas Day, when they "had foot race - wrestling match, greased pig" and "springing."
    See more entries from the diaries on line in the extended version.


    More Information:

    Edgerly's 1862 diary contains more extensive entries, many concerning McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, at least up through August, the month in which he mustered out of his regiment. The diary commences on January 1 with Edgerly in Camp California in Fairfax County, Virginia, finding himself "on the Sacred Soil of old Virginia" and setting up winter quarters. The first several months of 1862 were fairly quiet for Edgerly and his regiment and the dairy reflects this, with entries concerning the mundane day-to-day experience of camp life, marches, the weather, and letters written and received. On Wednesday, January 28, Edgerly marks his birthday: "Am twenty eight years old today, but owing to the stormy weather, I don't have much of an opportunity to celebrate." By the end of March, Edgerly's regiment was on the march toward Richmond and in contact with Confederate soldiers, as the following entries attest:

    March 25: "Marched toward Warrenton at an hour's notice. Encamped about two miles beyond Manassas Junc."

    March 26: "Started early and marched till five P.M. encamped just across Cedar Creek which stream we were obliged to ford."

    March 27: "Pushed on early in the morning and marched till nearly night. Drove in the rebel pickets. Threw a few shells to drive the rebs back to Warrenton. Forded two streams, one knee deep, the other higher, Band played while going through."

    March 28: "Continued to march. Went about a mile and a half when we discovered rebel cavalry in the edge of woods half a mile distant. Found a Bowie knife. Sent a couple of shells which caused them to scatter lively. We could occasionally see them at every opening till about four P.M. when we came in sight of a Fort which opened on us and made some good shots but injuring no one. our batteries briskly returned the fire."

    March 29: "Having driven the enemy across the Rappahanock last night, they burned the bridge (which was the object of our mission). we returned to the first good camping ground for night. Returned to the camping ground which we occupied Thursday night taking along quite a drove of enemy beef."

    By April, Edgerly and his regiment were marching toward Yorktown, Virginia. On April 15, he recorded in his diary that "a tremendous force" was "gathering for the battle of Yorktown." On May 3, he reported that the "rebels left Yorktown this A.M. before daylight. A portion of our army are in pursuit of them. They left all their cannon (some wooden) and spiked them." Edgerly diary includes daily reports of his regiment's movements toward Richmond, reporting on May 22 that they were "within fourteen miles of Richmond." By the end of May, his regiment participated in the Battle of Seven Pines or Fair Oaks, with his diary entries reporting on the fighting and the bloody result of the inconclusive engagement.

    May 31: "Fair Oaks supposed to be five or six miles from Richmond....Ordered at 4 P.M. to advance in a hurry - all hands - We hear firing, both artillery & musketry - very brisk. Marched till eleven, made a cup of tea & slept on a stretcher outside a house used for a hospital in which are quite a number of men wounded in the battle today."

    June 1: "Started for the battle ground at 3 A.M. got in at sunrise & find dead & wounded lying on the ground - we began to collect them till the battle commenced this morning. The rebels concealed themselves in a thick swamp in the woods till our brigade ran almost upon them when they opened a terrible fire - our brigade suffered severely. Gen. Howard and two of his aides disabled...& many other officers were wounded and disabled."

    June 2: "Firing ceased before noon yesterday we worked hard bringing off the wounded. Saw Gen. McClellan yesterday for the first time - he told our men to hold their position two hours longer and 'twould be alright."

    June 3: "A great many wounded are being sent off by R.R. today - It looks rather rough to see the surgeons take off legs and arms & stack them in piles."

    On June 25 the Seven Days Battles commenced and Edgerly provided a daily account of the fighting.

    June 25: "Our left wing advanced about half a mile & held their position. Second N.H. lost in killed & wounded eighteen out of our Co. of forty two, which was the principal loss of the Regt. Nineteen Mass lost about forty killed & wounded - Our batteries kept firing most all day."

    June 26: "Battle of Mechanicsville. We heard constant and very heavy fighting in the direction of Porter's Division commencing about noon and continuing after dark. By order of Gen. Sumner bands along the line played for an hour or so."

    June 27: "The firing is resumed early this morning. Battle of Gaines Mill"

    June 28: "Ordered to move but didn't leave ground till early next morning backward....Battle of Chickahominy"

    June 29: "Savage's Station. Attack by the enemy in strong force but our troops rallied & drove them back. At night we fell back again & marched till 3 A.M. This makes two nights in succession without sleep. Battles of Peach Orchard and Savage's Station"

    June 30: "Charles City Cross Roads - White Oak Swamp. Our army are just across a muddy creek & have destroyed the bridge. The men have lain down mostly to get a little sleep. About ten A.M. the enemy opened a terrific fire of batteries upon us. The [?] became general along the lines & ended about 9 P.M. Our side giving the last fire."

    July 1: "Battle of Turkey Bend & Malvern Hill. Our forces commenced a retreat about one A.M. & brought up in a large field where they were put in position to receive the enemy - A few shells from our side brought out their batteries. The engagement lasted all day and resulted in a total route of the enemy."

    The Seven Days Battles ended General McClellan's Peninsula Campaign. A week later Edgerly wrote in his diary that "Abraham Lincoln visited us excited by McClellan & other Gens. of the army. He was received with great feeling by the troops." After August 8, when Edgerly recorded that he "Mustered out of service of U.S.," the dairy returns to a entries concerning Edgerly's journey home and a return to the civilian life.

    These diaries provide an fascinating insight of a soldier's view of the Union Army's ill-fated Peninsula Campaign of 1862. The dairies are accompanied by research material on Edgerly and the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, as well as a transcription of highlights of the 1862 diary.

    James Bartlett Edgerly (1934-1922) was born and died in Farmington, New Hampshire. He enlisted in the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry on September 12, 1861 as a musician. On October 26, 1861 he was mustered into the infantry's band and he mustered out on August 8, 1862 at Harrison's Landing, Virginia.

    The 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry was organized in Concord, New Hampshire, and mustered in on October 22, 1861. The infantry, involved on many of the Civil War's major engagements, including the siege of Yorktown, the Battle of Seven Pines (or Fair Oaks), the Seven Days Battles before Richmond, the battles of Malvern Hill, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg, and the siege of Petersburg, suffered more casualties than any other infantry or cavalry unit in the Union Army. The infantry mustered out of service on June 28, 1865 and discharged on July 8, 1865.



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