Last week I posted several entries from Captain Howard M. Smith’s personal wartime diary and focused in on his Christmas Day entry about how he and his men celebrated the day. This week we take a look at the next few entries. Take some time to read these as they are a day by day summary of his life as an officer, intermingled with his letters home. Here are some of the excerpts from this week’s entries and letters that stuck out to me.
His letter home dated Friday December 26, 1862 ends on a hopeful note, saying “Fortune has smiled on me and my Company since I have been in the Service, and I only hope it may follow me. I feel sure that when we leave here we shall go into danger, but it seems just as certain that I shall return home all safe and sound.”
The opening words to his journal entry the next day (Saturday Dec. 27, 1862) are “How delusive is hope.”
New Year’s Eve, Wednesday December 31, 1862, he writes “The last day of 1862! What a bloody record this year has. God grant that 1863 may not exhibit such a page!”
On New Year’s Day 1863, he writes “The day has been a beautiful one. Oh, that it might be a type of what the New Year is to be. Everything is quiet in town today.”
This is a unique insight into the life and thoughts, hopes and disappointments of our 19th century protagonist. It demonstrates how much the war is internal as well as external.
I will continue to post more excerpts in the weeks and months ahead.
It will soon be Christmas, and for many of us that means time with family, lots of good food and drink, roaring fires and memory making. However, some of us, probably very few of us might experience this special holiday without our loved ones or the simple comforts of home. Here I share a brief diary entry from Christmas day, December 25, 1862. It was penned by Captain Howard M. Smith of the 1st New York Dragoons in his tent at Camp Suffolk, Virginia. I have provided the previous page as well for a little context, but the Christmas day entry reads:
Christmas in Dixie! To the soldier, there rises no vision of stockings well filled and happy children, with their merry laugh and songs, but desolation and war are all about him. But the fact that he enjoys none of the joys of Christmas at home leads him to think of home all the more. Today all the drills were suspended and the men were allowed to enjoy themselves as they would until afternoon when an inspection took place. During the inspection the band of the 11th Penn. Cavalry serenaded the Regt. There was the usual amount of drinking among the Officers. Fortunately the men were not able to obtain liquor.
Though somber reading before one of the happiest and most significant holidays, it does a person good to be reminded of the past, even one so tragic as the American Civil War. It is also a call to count our blessings, consider the privations of others and strive for peaceful solutions to horrific problems.
I currently have 185 pages from this diary that I will be posting in this blog in the future.