A Gem of a Diary

NH Civil War Gal

Forum Host
Feb 5, 2017

Go to this link to see the diary and read the rest of this amazing post. Amazing how great things come from the littlest acts at the time.

"Several weeks ago, I was contacted by a member of a large Midwestern Civil War round table following my Zoom presentation. “I am in possession of an original diary of a First Lieutenant of Company G, 21st Illinois who was captured at the battle of Chickamauga and taken to Libby Prison before being exchanged,” the email read. Those of us who are serious about reading, researching, and writing history understand the importance of first-hand accounts, especially those written in real time. When corroborated by other primary sources, diaries provide us with intimate insights into important historical events. When presented with such news, my initial rush of excitement is usually tempered by experience. Most diaries feature pedestrian content: daily weather briefings, reports on the soldier’s latest bout with illness, and camp hijinks. Mundane details have historical value but do not set my heart racing; however, this diary was different.

Late in life, Songer summarized his first year of service. He enlisted at Xenia, Illinois in early May 1861. “To say that we were a green, awkward set of men would be stating it in mild form,” he recalled. Songer and his brother Samuel joined Company G, 21st​ Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Once ten companies had arrived in Springfield, the men elected Captain S.S. Good of Company A as colonel because he was “a tall man of military bearing” and his company had been the first to report. The officers quickly realized that they had made a mistake in selecting Good, as he was lax in enforcing discipline. In late May, they promised Governor Yates that they “would reenlist for three years if we could get a competent colonel to command us.” Yates promoted a mustering captain to colonel to replace Good. His name was Ulysses S. Grant.

Grant marched “an unruly set of men” to Quincy, Illinois, rather than transporting them via rail “as a good way to discipline” them. “I don’t think there was an officer but what really feared him, and if they did not, they sure respected him,” Songer remembered. In early August, a few weeks after Grant had been promoted to brigadier general, he visited the critically ill Songer in the hospital. Songer’s fellow officers expected that Grant, being a West Point graduate, would be made a general officer soon, “but little did we think of him ever being promoted as he was later.”