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150-year old Confederate diary gives up its secrets to volunteer code breaker

James Gandy, libarian for the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. displays the text of the 150-year old diary kept by Confederate Army Lt. James Malbone. Malbone wrote parts of the diary in a home-made code to keep private...

Eric Durr, New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (Oct. 8, 2014) --A university professor who is also a former government code breaker, and a retired college financial aid director teamed up to transcribe and decode the secrets in a 150-year-old Confederate diary discovered in the collections of the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, New York.

The Military Museum is administered by the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs, the state agency which oversees the New York Army and Air National Guard.

Written in 1863 and 1864, by Confederate Army Lt. James Malbone, an officer in Company B, 6th Virginia Infantry, the diary records information about Soldiers in his unit, items he's bought and sold, his African-American slaves, the faithlessness of other officers' wives, Confederate deserters, women, and military movements.

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North Carolina Confederate Stephen Dodson Ramseur

North Carolina Confederate Stephen Dodson Ramseur-  I Was Mortally Wounded In The Battle Of Cedar Creek

He graduated from West Point at age twenty-three in June 1860. And went on to command the Ellis Light Artillery. On May 20, 1861, Ramseur’s artillery was posted on the State Capitol grounds during North Carolina’s secession debate. When the convention approved secession, Ramseur’s battery announced the historic moment by firing its cannons.

He served with distinction in 1862 and 1863, received a promotion to brigadier general, and suffered wounds three times. He also fell in love with his cousin Ellen Richmond and they married in 1863. During their months of separation, the couple wrote many loving letters to each other. Ramseur earned a promotion to major general for leading an attack that saved the Confederate army at Spotsylvania Courthouse in May 1864. While he was fighting in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley in the summer and fall of 1864, Ellen was at home awaiting the birth of their first child. On October 16, Ramseur received news that his wife had given birth and that all was well. But the message did not say whether the baby was a boy or a girl. Three days later, Ramseur was mortally wounded in the Battle of Cedar Creek, without knowing that he had a daughter.

He died of battle wounds on October 20, 1864, after sending his love to his family and requesting that a lock of his hair go to his wife. Federal troops returned his body to a boyhood friend, Confederate major general Robert F. Hoke. Ramseur’s body lay in state briefly in the capitol at Richmond, then went by train home to Lincolnton. Ramseur’s family was crushed by the news of his death. His widow, Ellen, and three-week-old daughter, Mary, could not travel from Caswell County for the funeral. Ellen Ramseur never remarried and wore black mourning clothing for the rest of her life. She remained with her family in Caswell County until she died in 1900 at the age of fifty-nine. Mary Ramseur never married and died at the age of seventy-one in 1935.

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Capt. Frank W. Nelson

Capt. Frank W. Nelson, Now 93, Vividly Recalls The Charge That Made Immortal The Names Of Those Gallant Men In Gray Who Dared The Impossible 

  • Richmond Times Dispatch  September 28, 1936

Fifteen thousand men took part in Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. Today, so far as is known, only one of those men is living. He is Captain Frank W. Nelson of A Company, Fifty-sixth Virginia Infantry, Colonel W. D. Stewart, Garnett’s Brigade, Pickett’s Division, Longstreet’s Corps.

Captain Nelson is 93 years old (he was born Christmas Day, 1843), but he is erect, and he can still tell in thrilling detail the story of that glorious display of bravery on July 3, 1863, that ended in wanton bloodshed. “My division is almost extinguished,” Pickett wrote his wife a few days after the battle. “I was ordered to take a height, which I did, under the most withering fire I have ever known, and I have seen many battles.”

Although he spent much time defending his chief, General Longstreet, Captain Nelson’s account of the famous charge is graphic and awe-inspiring: The deadly stillness of the hours of waiting before a battle, “when the men lay in the tall grass in the rear of the artillery line, the July sun pouring its scorching rays almost vertically down upon them … the awful silence of the vast battlefield was broken by a cannon shot that opened the greatest artillery duel of the world.” All the horror of this losing battle with death can be felt as one listens to this aged man tell his story.

"Had we taken Cemetery Hill (the object of the attack), we could never have held it. Those who reached stone wall saw the Federal reserves in countless thousands in the rear of the defending line. Our failure to a great extent can be laid to General Lee’s one fault—he left too much to his subordinate officers. Our brigade reached Gettyburg at twilight of the 2d, and orders were issued for us to cook three days’ rations. It did not take this to tell us that a great battle impended. We had breakfast before daylight on the 3d and by dawn were in line, ready for whatever came.

"We were in Peach Orchard by 5 o’clock, and lay there for many hours. The Federal cannon on Culp’s Hill and Little Round Top, which we could have taken the previous evening without firing a shot, enfiladed [sic] our column, doing much damage. Of course we had no way of replying to these shots. The three Virginia brigades of Kemper, Garnett and Armistead were touching each other. The first named contained about as many as the other two combined. The absence of General Stuart and his cavalry had much to do with our failure.

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Alonzo Cushing to receive Medal of Honor

The White House has announced that a Union Army officer killed at the Battle of Gettysburg will receive the Medal of Honor next month in a White House ceremony. 

The decision to honor 1st. Lt. Alonzo Cushing, originally of Wisconsin, brings a successful end to a campaign by Cushing's descendants and Civil War buffs that began in the late 1980s with a series of letters to then-Wisconsin Sen. William Proxmire. 

Congress granted a special exemption last December for Cushing to receive the award posthumously since recommendations normally have to be made within two years of the act of heroism and the medal awarded within three years.

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William Died Waving His Sword And Shouting “Victory”

Thomas Issac Duvall & William Duvall-
 William Died Waving His Sword And Shouting “Victory”

Thomas Duvall (left) and William Duvall (right), along with brother Henderson, enlisted in Company C, 3rd Missouri Infantry on December 10, 1861, at Richmond, Missouri, after prior service in the Missouri State Guard. William was promoted to lieutenant on May 8, 1862.

The Duvalls fought at Carthage, Wilson’s Creek, Lexington, Pea Ridge, Farmington, Iuka and Corinth. On October 4, 1862, Lieutenant William Duvall was killed during the Confederate attack on Corinth, trying to plant the Confederate flag on the Union fortifications. Lieutenant Colonel Finley L. Hubbell, 3rd Missouri Infantry, recorded in his diary that William died waving his sword and shouting “Victory.”

Thomas Duvall and his brother Henderson were later killed at Champion Hill, Mississippi, on May 16, 1863.

Image Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield; WICR 30171

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Gettysburg Mystery - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's family

Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow- Painting Of His Three Daughters Found On Gettysburg Battlefield

When the Civil War ended in 1865, the poet was 58. His poems were popular throughout the English-speaking world, and they were widely translated, making him the most famous American of his day. His admirers included Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, and Charles Baudelaire. 

This copy, plus frame, of Thomas Buchanan Read’s painting of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s three daughters was found at Gettysburg after the July 1-3, 1863 battle. It was not found on, or close to, any soldier’s body, so no one knows who was carrying it. The three children are Alice (top), born September 22, 1850, Edith (left), born October 22, 1853, and Anne Allegra, born November 8, 1855.

Maine Historical Society-

Charles Longfellow- Son Of Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


In 1863, he ran off to enlist as a private in the Union Army during the Civil War, and eventually received a commission as a lieutenant in a cavalry regiment. Miraculously, he survived a bout with malaria and what could have been a mortal gun shot wound to his back, which he received while on campaign in Virginia. The bullet traveled across his back, nicked his spine, and exited under his right shoulder. He missed being paralyzed by less than an inch.

He knew his father disapproved of him fighting, but went anyway. He wrote a letter to his father saying, “I have tried to resist the temptation of going without your leave but cannot any longer.”

Charles Longfellow went on to become one of the earliest American tourists in Japan. His journal offers a rare picture of the Asian nation opening up to the world after centuries of isolation. Charles was independently wealthy with inheritances from his grandfather, Nathan Appleton and his mother, and spent the rest of his life traveling the world. He died in 1893, in Cambridge from pneumonia and is buried in the family vault in Mt. Auburn Cemetery. The souvenirs of his travels and his uniforms and accoutrements from his service in the Union Army are at Longfellow House in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Texas Jack Vermillion

Texas Jack Vermillion-Civil War Enlistment Photo- Well known for his participation with Wyatt Earp in the Earp Vendetta Ride after the Clantons had killed Morgan Earp in 1882.

He was a Confederate civil war veteran and fought under the command of General J.E.B Stuart 

Jack eventually wound up in Kansas in the late 1870s. He went to Tombstone, Arizona, from Dodge City, Kansas, where he possibly previously knew the Earps and also perhaps Doc Holiday He was listed by Virgil as special policeman (i.e., deputy city policeman) June 22, 1881. This is the day of the large Tombstone fire of 1881, with which Virgil had to cope as acting city marshal; the date suggests that Jack is one of the extra men Virgil hired to help cope with looting, during and after the disaster.

The origin of Texas Jack, Vermillion’s nickname, is unknown, but he is first listed by this moniker on a wanted poster, for shooting a man during an argument at cards. When asked about why he was called Texas Jack, he replied “Because I’m from Virginia.”

Vermillion did not accompany Virgil Earp as a member of the protective squad which escorted him to Tucson, March 20, 1882. Instead, Vermillion joined the vendetta posse March 21, 1882 in Tombstone, a day after the killing of Frank Stilwell in Tucson, thus Vermillion was not one of the 5 men indicted for Stilwell’s killing. Vermillion may have participated in the Earp posse more as friend of Holliday, who was also a Methodist and fellow southerner. Note that Holliday’s father had also served as a Confederate soldier. 

He returned to Virginia 1890. Being a Virginian it is believed he got the nickname Texas Jack because he preferred to ride horses from Texas.

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Father's Day has roots in the Civil War


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Fathers Day In America Has Ties To The American Civil War

Father’s Day was founded in Spokane Washington at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas, Its first celebration was in the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910. Her father, the Civil War VeteranWilliam Jackson Smart, who was a sergeant in the Union’s First Arkansas Light Artillery, and a single parent who raised his six children there.

After hearing a sermon about Mother’s Day in 1909, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.

It did not have much success initially. In the 1920s, Dodd stopped promoting the celebration because she was studying in the Art Institute of Chicago, and it faded into relative obscurity, even in Spokane. In the 1930s Dodd returned to Spokane and started promoting the celebration again, raising awareness at a national level. She had the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the holiday, for example the manufacturers of ties, tobacco pipes, and any traditional present to fathers.

A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday was introduced in Congress in 1913

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