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Civil War Diary

James Edwards Wilson Civil War Diary


James Edwards Wilson was born 11 October 1839 near Russellville, Franklin County, Alabama. He was the son of a Scotsman, Bryce Wilson and his wife, Mary Anne Edwards. When the war broke out James was a senior at the University of Mississippi, but he immediately left school to participate in the cause. After the war he returned to school and was graduated in June 1866.

James married Miss Josephine Allen in 1865, and she bore him seven children in the next few years. After she died he married a friend of his sons, Miss Margaret McLellan, and they had four children, one of which died at birth. The other three became life- long residents of Lake County, Florida.

James and his young family became winter residents of Leesburg beginning about 1908 when his doctor advised him to winter in a warmer climate for his health. He lived to be over eighty-one years and died in Leesburg on 21 March 1921. He was interred in the family cemetery in Russellville, Alabama.

During the incidents which occur in this diary James was in the 16th Alabama Regiment (Infantry). Probably soon after returning to Russellville in May 1863 he reenlisted in the 11th Alabama Regiment (Cavalry) where he served as Adjutant until the end of the War. He was wounded at the battle of Murfreesboro, which is the injury he refers to in the diary. His brother, Bryce, died in November 1864 from war injuries. The brother, Charles, enlisted in 1863 and served until the end of the war. Another brother, William, not mentioned in the diary, died in a Civil War prison in August 1863. A fifth brother, Walter, also served in the War.



(prob) Tullahoma, Ten., March 23rd 1863, Monday

There was a general review of Gen Hardie Corps today. It was a glorious sight! The reviewing officer was Col Johnston, son of the laminted Albert Sidney Johnston & President Jeff Davis & ADC. After the review was over two Regts drilled against one another .. Tenn against La. The 17th Ten Regt, Col Marks against the 20 La, a French colonel. La beat Ten. The 20 La is the best drilled Regt that I have ever seen. There was a great deal of money bet on the two Regts. Gen Joseph E Johnson, Lieut Gen Wm J Hardie, Major Generals Jno C Breckinridge & P. R. Cliburn were present, besides a great many Brig Gens. There were a great many ladies present, some from Huntsville.

March 24th 1863, Tuesday

Today has been a rather dull day after such a brilliant one as yesterday was. I am in commanmd of the company today. Drilled the company about two hours this morning. It is raining this evening and I have to remain in my tent. I have a chimney to it, but it will smoke me in spite of all I can do. I will try and remedy it tomorrow. Capt Smith was in to see me this evening. We had a nice game of drafts. I beat him badly. I have studied my taktics a little this evening.

Tullahoma, Ten, Wednesday, March 25th 1863

I did not go out on drill today, had to make out a descriptive roll of every man in the company and state opposite his name what battles he has been in and how he acted. In short, had to write the history of every man in the company from the time he joined the com- pany up to the present.

Thursday, March 26th 1863

There is quite a change in the weather this morning, ice is 3/4 of an inch thick. I fear the fruit is all killed. We had a skirmish drill this evening. It would have amused you to have seen us strung out through the woods for over a mile and going through all the move- ments as though the enemy was right in front of us. At one time marching in retreat in double quick time, at another time charge the enemy who we imagined were in the woods before us. I have remedeed my chimney, it does not smoke at all. Have nothing to eat except corn- bread and fat bacon, but can do fine on that. Hope to hear from my sweetheart tomorrow.

Friday, March 27th 1863

The clouds have all dispersed and it is now clear and cold. I am officer of the guard today, am not allowed to sleep any at all to night. The inspector General inspected our camps this morning at 9 o'clock.

We hear nothing from the enemy these times. They have certainly fallen back from Murfreesboro. It is rumored here that a Division of the VA Army is at Knoxville & that Gen Longstreet is to take command at this place, that Gen Bragg has been ordered to take command of the Department of the gulf at Mobile, & that Gen Buckner takes command at Vicksburg. I hope that it is all true, though I have implicit confi- dence in Gen Bragg. Gen Bragg said a few days since that this was emphatically the Soldiers war, that the Officers deserved very little credit for Southern victories, only for disciplining their men and showing them what they had to do. That when the fight commenced it was then the strong arm of the privates that was depended upon.

3 o'clock. It has clouded up and is now raining. What a change. This reminds me of the uncertainty of all things. At one moment we may be full of life. At the next nothing but cold clay. One of Capt Smith's company this morning (Westley Patterson). He came to this place with me, a stout and active youth, but now he lies stiff corpse.

In accordance with the proclamation of the President we had no drill today but endeavored to keep it as though it were Sunday. Parson Kimble, Chaplain of our Regiment, preached this evening. I could not go to hear him as I was in command of the guard, and had to remain at the guard house all the time. We have no prisoners now to guard. I released four this morning by command of the Officer of the day.

Saturday, March the 28th

It rained all night last night, it was a bad night on the guards. It is reported this evening that Mrs Gen Bragg is dead. I expect it is true, she was very sick last week. Rumer says that Gen Forest has captured 800 more Feds between Franklin and Collumbia. I was very much amused at two men that I had arrested this morning for a little misde- meanor. I asked them several questions and soon found out that they were conscripts and that they was badly frightened. I told them that I thought that I had better put them in the guard house and keep them for several days. One of them remarked that I could do as I pleased and that if I did put him there it would be through ignorance, meaning that he was ignorant of his duty. I turned them loose, having advised them (part missing).

Sunday, March the 29th 1863

The 800 Yankees that Gen Forest took at Nolinsville have arrived at this place and will start for the south today. It is reported that Gen Rosecrans is falling back to Bolingrun. I do not believe it though. Forest took twenty Yankee women also at Nolinsville. They are at this place in the guard house. They are real Abolishonists. One of them has two negro children. One of the guard offered her $600.00 for the two but she refused to take it. *

Monday March 30th 1863

It sleeted very fast this morning for more than four hours making it very disagreeable outdoors. Our meat is out and we cannot get any more for two days, have to live on bread and water until then.

Tuesday March the 31st 1863

This month is about to go out like a lion. The ground is covered with snow and the north wind is very cutting. If a man sticks his head out of his tent he is glad enough to take it back. There are a good many of the boys out snowballing and whenever they see a man stick his head out of a tent he is sure to be hit in the face. I have just sent to the commissary to get some provisions. I am in command of the com- pany today again. There was a big battle this morning. The 16th Ala Regt went over to the camp of the 45 Ala and made a charge on them and took them prisoners, but released them upon condition that they would join in with them and help them whip out the balance of the Brigade, which they agreed to. They both went to the 45th Miss next, well armed with snowballs and found them out awaiting them. The 16th and 45 Ala soon made them surrender and having parsled them, went on to the 32 Miss. Here they met their match. They were nicely equal in numbers and the 32nd were ready for them. They fought hard. The 32nd captured the 16th flag twice but it was recaptured both times. They finally drove the 32 back into their tents where they raised the flag of truce and surrendered. The 16th, 45th Ala & 32nd Miss all went over to whip out the 33d Ala. They were in line of battle, having thrown out one company as skirmishers. They soon drove in the skirmishers though and were about to charge on the camps when the 33 arose up from behind logs and stumps and with water buckets full of balls charged upon the three Regts and for awhile they drove them back, but soon the 45 Ala captured their flag and then they commenced falling.

Wednesday April 1st 1863

The weather is clear and cold today. We had another skirmish drill today. I hear that Col Roddey has been ordered back to North Alabama. Received a note from Brother Bryce today dated Feb 25th 1863. It came by underground RR. He was nearly well, expected to start for Camp Chase that evening.

Thursday, April 2d 1963

Weather still clear and cold. We had a Brigade drill today. Col Wood is acting Brig Gen of our Brig. Col Crittendon drilled our Regiment. There was an April fool sent here today. Viz: that four gunboats had come up to Tuscumbia landing and was attacked by our cavalry and that two were captured and two sunk, 400 prisoners cap- tured. signed A.F. Day. The boys were all greatly rejoiced at first but they soon found out that it was April Fool Day that had telegraphed to the Huntsville paper. I do not think that (part missing) and (part missing) captured. It would have amused any one to have seen them bringing off the prisoners. Two strong men would get hold of their arms and if they did not want to go, would drag them through the mud and snow. They also had their infirmary corps to bring off the wounded and if they say a man running back they would catch him and two stout men take hold of him one by each rist & leg and would carry him along until they came to a mud hole or branch of water and let him fall in it. One Regt, the 32nd Miss, had out all of their negroes to help them. Some of the 16th caught one of them and liked to have pelted him to death. The 33d Ala after fighting for near an hour surrendered to the rest. And then there was a general exchange of prisoners & the fight closed. Col Adams of the 33d Ala Regt went out and guarded the prison- ers as they were brought in. I could not take a part in the affair on account of my wound. Not being able to throw a ball. My arm has improved very slowly. I can use it but little better if any than I could when I left home.

Friday April the 3d 1863

Nothing of interest transpired today. We had another Brigade drill today. I acted Adjutant. I drew my rations today. The follow- ing is what I drew for 3 men 7 days
8 lbs bacon vinegar 1 qt
7 1/2 lbs beef lard 3 lbs
8 lbs flour sugar 2 lbs
17 lbs cornmeal salt 1 lb
1 qt molasses rice 3 lb
That is the rations for 3 men for 7 days which costs $6.00

Saturday April the 4th 1863

I am officer of the guard today, have four prisoners in the guard house. I do not know what the charges are but they are await- ing a courts martial. Lt Smith has returned to Co.

Sunday April 5th 1863

I sit up all night last night, had to arrest four men last night, but turned them loose with the promise that they would go to their tents and be still.
It is reported here that the enemy whiped Gen Morgan pretty badly at McMinville (TN) yesterday and captured 800 of his men. Also that Gen Whorton has capured 1000 of the enemy at Unionville, and that Gens Floid and H Marshal now occupy Perryville, Danville and Harrodsburg. Three weeks today and nothing from home.

Monday April the 6th 1863

We celebrated this day as the anniversary of the battle of Shiloh. Parson Kimball preached a surmon to the Regt today. 3 conscripts left Capt Smiths company last night.

Tuesday April the 7th 1863

Nothing strange today. 32 conscripts arrived today. We only got one of them. Most of them went to Cos "I" & "E".

Wednesday April 8th 1863

I was in command of Capt Smiths Co this evening & morning while on drill. It drilled very well. There was a very amusing order read on dress parad this evening. It was the charges against one L. Butler of the 9th Miss Regiment for cowardice on the 31st of Dec 1862 when the Regt was ordered to advance while in front of Murfreesboro. He left the field and did not c (part missing) and (part missing). (He) was ordered to the front to take a position, he carried a spade with him to entrench himself and when the Reg was ordered to another position he still carried his spade with him, and when the Regt was again halted he commenced diging another hole to get in. This conduct called forth such remarks as Lookout boys Butler is entrenching, there is going to be a fight etc. He was cashiered. Gen Preston was on the court mar- tial. He was very eloquent in his favor, he made a long speech. Said that he was the bravest man that he had heard of, that he wanted to hold all the ground that he occupied. I sent up a statement of my claims for 2nd Lt in Co "C" this morning to Gen Hardee.

Thursday April 9th 1863

Capt Smith got his papers assigning him to duty in north Ala today. He leaves tomorrow.

Friday April 10th 1863

Gen Wm J. Hardee corps was out on review today. It was another one of those grand reviews. The reviewing officer was Lt Gen Polk. He is a very fine looking man. I think he is one of the finest looking generals we have. After the review the generals and their staff had a kind of a tournament. One of Gen R. Cliburns staff was considered the best rider. After that was over there was a horse race. Gen Hardee and Gen Breckinridge were the judges. Wm Breckinridge, son of the Gen, was one of the riders. The first time they ran out even. The second time Willie Breckinridge beat. Some of the men who were wounded at Murfreesboro came in today. They say that Brother has been sent to Camp Chase, also Maj McGaughey. Brother was nearly well when he left Murfreesboro. They say that they were treated very well while they were in Murfreesboro, but after they left there they were treated like dogs. That their rations were issued to them by negroes.

Saturday April 11th 1863

Drilled in Battalion drill this evening. Was i (part missing) inspector this (part missing).

Sunday April 12th 1863

This is a real April day. The sun shines brightly one hour and the next we have a shower. I hear that Gen Wood & staff have arrived from north Alabama. He has not resumed command of his brigade yet. Mr Rud of this Regiment who was left as a nurse at the hospital at Murfreesboro has just got in. He says that he left Brother at Camp Chase 2 weeks ago today. He says that he was entirely well. Maj McGaughey also was at the same place and doing well. He says that Brother Bryce stopped in Louisville Ky two or three days. That he got the clothes and money that Mr Oldham sent him in Nashville. He says that the Yankees searched them for money but got but one $ from Brother. He hid the balance. The Major & Brother & nurse were sent up without a guard. They get everything they want this draw, rations of bacon, beef, flour and coffee & sugar & all kinds of vegitables. Confederate money is worth 40 cents in the $ in Cincinatti. Mr R says that Mr Oldham is doing a great deal for the Southern soldiers. He says that the home that the Maj and Brother staid at was crowded all the time that they were in Louisville. Harvey Sargent came down one day ahead of Mr R. I expect he has gone home.

Monday April the 13th 1863

Gen Hardee drills the 16th Reg Ala Vol today. I think that Co "C" is the best drilled com in the Regiment. I think that I will get the praise. I received a note from Brother, he was well. I drew $20000.00 today to pay off this regiment. Will have a goodeal of trouble. I am acting Quarter Master for Regt.

Tuesday April 14th 1863

I payed off Company "E" today. It took $910.65 to pay it with- out the officers. I also paid Lt Ride for one month service. I have heard that a cartel has been agreed upon for the exchange of (part missing). I have (part missing) one target made for each Co to prac- tice shooting. Have to paint something like a man on it. There is a report here that Gen Vandorn has quit taking prisoners. That Capt Freeman was taken prisoner and assasinaited, and that we quit taking then. Capt Freeman commanded a battory in Forrests Command. His bat- tery was captured and recaptured.

Wednesday April the 15th 1863

I received a letter from home today, the first one that I have received since I left home. H. Sargent arrived here today. He looks badly, is applying for a discharge. I have payed off 9 of the compa- nies, it has taken nearly all the money that I drew to pay off the men.

Thursday April the 16th 1863

I have finished paying off the companies today. It took 19075 dollars to pay them off. No news today.

Friday April 17th 1863

350 men from this Regiment were detailed to work on the breast works today. I did not go out. I have payed off several extra duty accounts today. Money is out. The Regts of Woods Brig are out shooting at targets every day now. Gens Hardee, Cliburn & Wood were out today looking at them shoot. Gens Cliburn and Wood shot several times. Gen Wood beat him.

Saturday April 18th 1863

I drew 5000 $ more this morning to pay off the Officers of this Regt. Have paid them nearly all off. Lt J. B. Bean, Co "H", returned to duty today. I received a letter from home.

Sunday April 19th 1863

Col Lowrey of the 32 Mississippi Regiment preached to us today. He is a very good preacher. Nothing from the front.

Monday April 20th 1863

I have finished paying off this Regiment, officers and all. It took about 26000 $ to pay it off. I have turned over all the papers and receipts to Lt McGhee this evening. Gen Wood made a short speech to the officers on dres parade this evening. The Regiment collected tonight and went around and called on Col Wood for a speech. He came out and made a short speech. He told the men if they ever met with one who had deserted from this Regiment to shoot him down and he would stand between him and danger. And would travel a hundred miles to defend him and spend every cent he had to clear him.

Tuesday April 21st 1863

I was in command of a "fahgan" party of fifty men this morning to work on the fortifications. We had not worked more than two hours before we were ordered over to our drill ground to clear of a piece of wood land for a sham battle that is to come off next Friday be- tween Gen Cliburns & Breckinridges Divisions. They had a sham fight today. I witnessed a part of the fight. It was very amusing.

Wednesday April 22d 1863

It rained today. We have turned over to the Q.M. all of our tents, kept 6 flies to ever 100 men. I don't like it much either these cold nights.

Thursday April 23rd 1863

Had an election in Co "C" for 2d Lt. Smith & I were candidates, Smith beat me. He has not been examined & assigned to duty yet. We left Tullahoma today, marched 7 miles and camped for the night. I have not got a blanket along (part missing).

Wartrace Friday April 24th 1863

We arrived at this place today at 12 o'clock. Have not put up our tents yet. It is said that the enemy has fallen back to Murfreesboro.

Saturday April 25th 1863

Nothing of interest today. Lt Smith has been assigned to duty as 2d Lt of Co "C". He has not stood an examination, and in my oppinion can not. We have orders to cook one day rations. I do not know what is up.

Sunday, April 26th 1863

I visited Gen Cliburn today on business concerning my appoint- ment. He told me to make out a statement of everything that had been done and forward it to him.

Monday April the 27th 1863

I am officer of the guard today. There were three conscripts deserted yesterday and two last night, 2 from Co "C", one from H, 1 from "E" and 1 from Co "F". It rained nearly all night. No news from the front.

Tuesday April 28th 1863

I have today made out a statement of my case showing how I came into office and how I am about to be swindled out of it and will for- ward it to Gen Cliburn asking for justice.

Wednesday April 29th 1863

I received a note from Maj T.B. Roy this morning requesting me to report to him at Gen Hardees Quarters, which I did. He wanted to know if I would accept the appointment of 3d Lt in Co "C" which I declined to do.

Thursday April 30th 1863

We have news that the Yankees occupy Courtland Ala 12000 strong & are destroying everything as they go.

Friday May 1st 1863

A dispatch from Col Roddey today stated that Gen Forest has whipped the Yankees out of Courtland.

Saturday May the 2nd 1863

I wrote home today and will send the letter by H.G. Sargent tomorrow. I went down to preaching tonight. Dr Petway preached one of the (part missing). There (part missing) going on here & has been going on for over a week. Last night there were forty or fifty seekers. No converts as yet that I have heard of.

Sunday May 3rd 1863

Parson Kimball preached today. There were a good many mourners up again today. Harvey Sargent started for home this morning. He is discharged on account of having one of his arms amputated. We have more good news from north Alabama.

Wartrace Tenn Monday May 4th 1863

We have news here today that the big fight in Va has commenced & that Gen Stonewall Jackson is in their rear. Gen Forrest has cap- tured the 1700 Yanks who were cut off. They were making their way to Rome Ga, were in about 40 miles of Rome.

Tuesday May 5th 1863

Gen Forrest captured the 1700 Feds who were making a raid on Rome Ga & carried them to Rome. He was received by the citizens with great rejoicing. Over two thousand ladies were out to cheer him. The vanguard of the enemy got in two miles of Rome and were met and repulsed by the citizens.

Wednesday May 6th 1863

I had an invitation to attend a picknick out in the country about three miles from our camp today. I declined going, not having a horse and the day being unfavorable. I learned today that Lieut Tip Oats was killed in the front that Col Roddey had last week in north Ala. Gen Stonewall Jackson has lost one of his arms, had it amputated and is doing well. So says a dispatch to Gen Johnson. Gen A.P. Hill & Heath was also wounded. We have gained a glorious victory.

Thursday May 7th 1863

This is a very disagreeable day. It is cold enough for an overcoat. There is no pleasure in remaining in a tent or in siting over a fire for it seems that I will either freeze or be smoked to death. I miss my chimney now very much. The news from north Ala- bama and Va is confirmed in todays papers. The Yanks are doing a good deal of mischief in Mississippi.

Friday May 8th 1863

Gen Vandorn was murdered in Collumbia yesterday by Dr Peters, cause not known. Peters is still at large. The Provo Martial at Tullahoma has orders to have him arrested if possible. The weather has cleared off again but it is still quite cold. The protracted meeting is still going on here. Col Wood preached tonight. There has been several (part missing)

Saturday May 9th 1863

I am today declared a private. I return to my original company "H". I do not think that I have had justice, Wm H. Smith being a nephew of the Woods, they begged him through. I could not have passed an examination otherwise. I intend trying to be transfered to Col Roddeys Command (Cavalry).

Sunday May 10th 1863

I learn that Gen Stonewall Jackson was wounded by his own men and that two of his staff were captured while standing over him. Capt Wm Hodges got in this evening. He saw a man in Chattanooga who told him that Brother Bryce & Maj McGaughey would be here tomorrow evening.

Monday May 11th 1863

I sent up a pass to visit Gen Hardee today. I visited Gen Cli- burn today. He says that I have been treated unjustly but that he does not think that I can well improve my present position and advised me to let it drop. I heard this evening that Gen Jackson was dead. Would not be surprised if it were so. Brother did not get in today. I look for him tomorrow. He and Maj McGaughey are at Chattanooga.

Tuesday May 12th 1863

I had an order to report to Maj Gen Cliburns Hdqrts this morning. He offered me the position of Jr 2nd Lt in Co "C" which I declined to accept for private reasons. He then told me that I was a citizen again and could go when I pleased.

Wednesday May 13th 1863

I have gotten everything fixed up to start tomorrow morning. Brother Bryce came in this evening. He is not entirely well yet. He also goes home tomorrow morning. He has a thirty days furlough. I have a haversack full of letters.

Huntsville Ala Thursday May 14th 1863

I left Wartrace this morning at 1/2 past 8 o'clock. Arrived at this place, met Mr Donnigan. Called on Maj Hamilton tonight. Had a very good supper tonight, am putting up at the Venable house on account of convenience, tomorrow having to leave at 6 o'clock in (part missing).

Friday May 15th 1863

I left Huntsville this morning at 6 1/2 AM. Arrived in Decatur at 8 AM. Could not get a horse or hack, had to hire a 2 horse wagon and try and get home in it. Left D at 10 1/2 and traveled 28 miles. Staid at Mr Bolings.

Russellville Ala Saturday May 16th 1863

I arrived at home today at 3 o'clock. Found all well. The Yankees had played the devil with everything. Took all of the horses & mules except two old no count ones. I arrived just in time for strawberry- ing. Had a fine mess today. Do not know when I will go down to Rods.

Sunday May 17th 1863

I have remained at home all day today. J. C. Harris, Wm East, H. Holingsworth, T. Clay & Jos Hillman were out to see me. I ate the first vegitables that I have seen today. Mother had onions, potatoes, peas & radishes for dinner.

Monday May 18th 1863

I walked into town today. Met a good many of my old friends. Among the nr Mr Freeman who gave me a letter that he had carried over a month. I distributed out the letters that I had. I then called on Miss Betty Bright.

Tuesday May 19th 1863

Brother Bryce started to the army again this morning to try and get Father's horses. Expects to be back in about a week. It was reported here today that the Yanks were right on us again. I went out on a scout and found it to be a mistake.

Wednesday May 20th 1863

It was reported that the Yanks were in town today but it proved to be some of our own cavalry who shot at citizens and had the whole neighborhood frightened. I went to call again (part missing)

Thursday May 21st 1863

I went up to Newburg today to hunt me a horse. Could not find one. Wm Freeman came home with me this evening. He is a Lt in the 40 Thieves, Capt Warrens Company.

Friday May 22nd 1863

I bought me a fine pistol today, Colts navy. Gave 100 $ for it. Have been practicing some today. Made some good shots. Drove the center once 35 yds.

Saturday May 23rd 1863

I went out to Mr Beans this morning to bring Jns pony. Mr B was not at home. I have not got a horse yet. Mr Alexander is with us tonight. It is now 11 1/2 o'clock.

Sunday May 24th 1863

I sent Brother Charles up to Mr Beans to buy me a horse.

Information transcribed in 1988 by
Glorianne Fahs,
1307 S. 8th St.,
Leesburg, FL

See also The Wilson Bible





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