Guide to the Edward Holcomb Diary, RG 331

Listed by: Paul Martin, Michaelle Nelson

Date:   04/05/01

Date Span: 1863

Size of Collection: 1 item

Biographical Sketch: Private Holcomb served in the 111th New York during the Civil War. 

Scope / Content: The diary contains entries from January 1 through December 31  with details on the life of a common soldier.


The diary cover on year (1863).  The entries occasionally skip days or a week or more.  He does not explain why these gaps were necessary.  Often and entry is a non-diary type entry; for example, some are recipes, names with addresses, or quotations.  Some entries are in pencil, the rest are ink.

In January, he worried about why he was getting no letters from his wife.  He received a furlough to go home.  No comments about it were made upon his return.  February comments concern snowy weather, national news, sending some money to his wife, and politics.  In March, he comments on some of his soldier friends, rations, enemy action, copperhead politicians, picket duty, fellow soldiers being shot by union guards at night, and lack of mail from home.

In April, his comments are on war news, drill, rebel rumors, alerts for expected actions, ration activities, transfer of Gen. Casey to be replaced by Gen. Abercrombie over the division, a friend was arrested for laughing at General Parade review, sending money to his wife after receiving four months back pay, and listing of minor cash transactions.

In early May, he tells of a union Captain being shot by a rebel captive; The Captain then cuts the rebelís head off with his saber and kills two other rebels in a rage.  He hears conflicting rumors about Gen. Hooker, one is a smashing victory with 40,000 rebels captured; The next day Hooker is defeated with great losses.  He hears of the death of Stonewall Jackson.  Complains of lack of letters from his wife.  There are no entries from May 19th until Jun 14th.  His regiment has gone to bull run on June 21st.  On the 24th they march north and arrive at Gettysburg on July 1st.

His unit lost several men in combat over 3 days at Gettysburg.  He got wet on picket duty in rain on July 5.  No entries until Monday, July 13th, when he is in hospital.  Over the next few days the unit marches south through Harperís Ferry to Kellyís Ford.  He is appointed regimental clerk.  He suffers from headaches and takes Quinine, but has stomach problems.  Also through  August, 20 August was the anniversary of his entry to military service.  Still complains of lack of mail from his wife.  There are no entries from September 1st through 10th.  On 12 September he left regiment for Lincoln Hospital at Washington.  Many entries through September are religious in nature, and he is reading religious books.  He is obviously concerned about his medical condition, which involves dysentery.  All entries through October are from Lincoln Hospital.  At the end of October, he is depart the hospital for New York.

On November 2nd, he arrives at home with his wife and children.  Through Nov. 7th, he does some work at home.  There are no entries from Nov. 7th through December 5th.  On Dec. 6th he is back at the soldierís depot, N.Y. City, to return to the hospital.  All entries through the end of December are from the hospital.  His military status is still uncertain.  He hopes to be discharged to go home, but may be sent back to his regiment, or be placed in the invalid corps.  Remaining in the hospital where he is no value is very frustrating to him, and he wants to go home. 

His history after 1863 is unknown.

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