[Various locations, including Ship Island, Ms.; aboard a steamer on the Mississippi River; New Orleans; and Washington, Franklin, Brashear City, and Port Hudson, La. December 15, 1862-July 7, 1863]. 48pp. 12mo. Contemporary limp calf, manuscript title on front cover reading "H.E.L. C. D. 114 Regiment N.Y.S.V. December the 10th 1862." Minor wear and staining to covers. Occasional soiling to text, one leaf partially torn away, likely by Leach himself. Overall very good. Item #WRCAM55903
An engaging Civil War pocket diary in which Horatio E. Leach of the 114th New York Infantry records his experiences in Louisiana during a pivotal time in the Union's Trans- Mississippi campaign. The diary is a vital, up-close account of the Union army's movements through Louisiana in the summer of 1863, culminating with the victory at Port Hudson, which helped tip the balance of military power in favor of the United States. Horatio Leach writes every couple of days about his location, his health, unit activities, and records detailed battle content. Just before the first entry in the diary, Leach writes a short note about himself, which reads: "Horatio E. Leach born in Eaton April 18, 1841. He enlisted the fifth of August eighteen hundred and sixty two under Captain Morse for three years...." In his first entry, dated December 15, Leach writes that he has landed at Ship Island in Mississippi, a popular staging ground for Union troops coming from the east and heading for the western theater of the war. After landing on the island, Leach and his unit "Pitched our tents in the sand - it is not a very fine place here on this island." Leach and his unit drilled and worked at Ship Island for the next ten days, until he was ordered to board the steamship Pocahontas on Christmas Day, heading for New Orleans. During the short trip, Leach spies a sugar cane plantation and orange groves from the steamer, which arrived in the New Orleans- area town of Carrollton the next day. Leach's unit camped a mile inland from the river at Carrollton, and continued to drill. Over the next month-and-a-half, Leach writes in his diary only sporadically, as he was taken ill and spent significant time in a military field hospital. Leach mentions one brief battle report in mid-February, 1863. On February 15, he writes that some of his "boys went on the gunboat over night and the rebels fired seven shots but did not hurt them, two shot the boat but did not damage our men fired one shot the men there scattered." The next two months are almost exclusively given over to entries about Leach's ill health. As with numerous soldiers serving in Louisiana, Leach apparently contracted dysentery. Entire pages of his diary during this time are filled with short daily entries all reading a slight variation on the same issue: "I am unwell with the diarrhea" or "I am unwell and it [the weather] is pleasant." The action begins to pick up starting on April 1, when Leach writes that "our boys were all called out today to fight the rebels. The report was that the rebels was coming down the river but after that they all got out there and there was no rebels. Se we get April fooled pretty nicely." The next day, after breaking camp and being ordered to march to Brashear City, they actually encounter the enemy: "at five o'clock in the afternoon our boys were called out in the night thinking they had got to fight but it was nothing only the rebels were a chopping on the other side of the river. The battery fired a few shells over there to stop them." Leach records quite a bit of marching across western Louisiana during April and May, 1863. He reports on the marching, making camp and building camp fires to keep warm, and about the food they have or in some cases find along the way. This includes coffee, crackers, cornbread and milk, eggs, goose, chicken, blackberries, and beef. During this two-month stretch, the 114th New York participated in the Teche Campaign, and were present at Fort Bisland, Jeanerette, Newtown, Opelousas, Berne's Landing, Franklin, and other places before the Siege of Port Hudson in late May and June. On May 17, Leach and his unit camped at Washington, Louisiana, a small village about seventy miles west of Port Hudson. Over the next week, Leach's regiment marched east toward Port Hudson, meeting up with other regiments and "a long string of teams loaded with negroes" on May 23. Leach writes that "we had to go in the rear today it took about three hours for the team of negroes get by us. The team is some five miles long. At night we passed them so as to get to our wagons. It is the awfullest sight that I ever see in my life." Leach writes a brief entry from Franklin on May 25, Brashear City (modern-day Morgan City) the next day, then received orders to "move again" to New Orleans. On May 29 Leach "went aboard a steamer and started at seven for Fort Hudson." Leach's unit camped at Port Hudson on May 30, where they would remain through the end of the time represented in the diary. Over the course of the next month and into early July, Leach and his regiment participated in one of the defining events in the Union's Louisiana Campaign - the Siege of Port Hudson. On June 1, Leach writes that "We went last night and rolled some cotton to make headquarters for the general. Bill Macomber went away from camp yesterday and today came back with his thumb off. He [said (obscured by an ink blot)] that a piece of shell hit him but we think that he shot it off a purpose for his gun is shot off and there was nothing where he was to shoot at. The rebels keep throwing now and then a shot at us to scatter us. Our artillery has fired some too. We move first before night toward the center and stayed overnight. The rebels throw some shells over here...." Leach writes almost daily during the month of June, often with some report of the battle going on at Port Hudson. The more notable entries from Leach over the course of June and early July are as follows: June 2: "I am well today and it is pleasant. Sharpshooters are too weak. Once in a while they shoot back some of the ball came to where we are a laying down, but have not hurt anyone yet. At night the rebels fired some shells at us but did not hurt anybody." June 4: "I am on picket today. We have not seen many rebels today. The rebels threw a lot of shell in the night and our boats threw some shells into the fort. We could see the shells as they came into the fort. They look very nice in the air." June 5: "The rebels are a firing some this morning, they do not get up and fight for the sharpshooters will pick them off as fast as they show their heads. The rebels fired some shells at us this afternoon and our men fired some back at them....The rebels did not shell us in the night...there was twenty five of the rebels that come to our lines and give themselves up." June 9: "The sharpshooters have fired some this forenoon and the mortars have fired some this afternoon and set a building on fire. The mortars fired every few moments all night long. One of our company got wounded in the shoulder this afternoon but not dangerous. The ball hit a pick axe that he had on his shoulder and flattened the ball so that it did not go in his shoulder of any consequence. It hit shoulder blade and stopped." June 10: "The sharpshooters are pretty quiet this morning but the mortars are to work a little at night. There was twenty five men detailed of each company in our regiment to go and chop. We was sent into gulf to clear it out so that our men could go through to the rebels breast works. The rebels had fallen all the trees on both sides of the gulf so it was quite a job to clear it out....We was busy to work and the first thing that we knew a lot of rebels fired a volley of balls right in among us and another as quick as possible. Some of us hid behind stumps and logs and some run the first thing for we had nothing to fight with but after they had fired two volleys we all started back to where we would be safe and where our guns was stacked. The rebels wounded but one man in the back....the boys that were ordered out midnight to go over to the rebels breast works. The rebels fired at them but they got right up close to their works and laid down until morning. The Lieutenant of Co. A got wounded and our Captain got scratched on the hand with a ball, that was all that got wounded at the breast works. Some of the boys did not get until night. They [were] in a dtitch through the day time for fear the rebels would shoot them...." June 13: "I went to the sutler and got some ink and paper so as to write home. I paid fifty cents for a bottle of ink and forty cents for a quire of paper and it is small size and not the best quality either. The artillery fired fresh past just before noon and they drove the rebels out of their breast works. At one point the 75 New York charged and drove them farther and the rebs got into line and just then the artillery give them grape and cannisters....the 75th hold the breast work now. Our men have gone over with a flag of truce. We don't know the result yet. The result was that the rebels did not surrender at twelve o'clock." June 14: "We started for the rebel works. The 75th and 8 Vermont were there when we got there. They had made two charges but were repulsed both times. When we got within a short distance we made a charge and were repulsed and we lay down and in a few moments we made another charge and had to stop and lay down so that they could not shoot us all for they had shot a good many of us already. We held our ground until we was relieved by another regiment." June 15: "Out of the five companys that went into the fight there [were] 113 killed wounded and missing, there is 87 killed and wounded." June 18: "There has been considerable firing tonight along the lines. The Colonel died at midnight. His death was caused by the bullet that hit him. He was a very fine man, he was kind to the boys of his regiment and he was brave." June 26: "Porters fleet came down here too. There has been a good deal of cannonading this afternoon and evening." July 3: "We planted a gun close by us today then fired a few times and the rebels back at us. They did not hurt anybody. Our guns fired until they stopped. The rebels guns noise and the sharpshooters on both sides were not idle when the cannons firing." July 6: "It is pretty quiet today today. The rebels keep coming out of the fort every day now." Three days later, after hearing that Vicksburg had fallen, Confederate military leaders surrendered Port Hudson. The combination of Vicksburg and Port Hudson under Union control, and the Union victory at Gettysburg the same week, served to turn the war decisively in the Union's favor. In the last three pages of Leach's diary, he records both the letters he wrote and received during his service time. Horatio Leach's diary includes vital firsthand accounts of the Siege of Port Hudson, and alludes a couple of times to the presence of negro troops in the Union Army in Louisiana. The diary stands as an important and unique record of one New York soldier's service in the Trans-Mississippi West, with stark accounts of battle and interesting content on the daily life of a Union foot soldier.