Battles and Baseball: A New Yorker’s Red River Campaign Diaries
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“[2/11/64] This forenoon had a game at ball, knocked the ball to pieces & had to stop...[2/12/64] had a game at ball. Towards evening had another game at ball...
Pair of war-date diaries of Wheaton J. Race, Company H, 114th Regiment of New York State Volunteers, incredibly detailed content on marching, daily camp activities and news, rumors, and more, fighting and retreating (“on the skedaddle”), and contains ink ownership signature of Race. The 114th N.Y. served principally under Nathaniel Banks in Louisiana, capturing Port Hudson on July 8, 1863, fighting in the failed Red River Expedition, and was reassigned to the Eastern theater in 1864. [CIVIL WAR].
W.J. Race, Autograph Manuscript Signed, Two Pocket Diaries, 1863-1864, with daily entries; 3 ½ x 2 ¼” and 6 x 3”, original black morocco; With, W.J. Race, Signed Book, The Holy Bible, inscribed, “Corpl. W.J. Race Co. H, 114th Regt N.Y. V. Harper’s Ferry, Va. Found March 17th 1864 while on the march up the Teche district. State of Louisiana.”
“[2/9/1863] Started for Brashaer City...pitched our tents & viewed the plantations. Eat several orenges ...[2/24/63] had Co. drill of bayonet exercise the first lesson we have had... [3/12/63] W. S. Willis died 7 oclock PM, Co. H 114Reg N.Y.S. Vol... [4/1/63] A rebel boat reported to be up the Bayou... [4/4/63] The rebs came down to see what was going on. Battery fired out, then long roll beat which routed us out double quick. Soon all was quiet again... [4/10/63] Rebel pickets shot one of our cavalry horses. Some firing from our fort which drove the rebs back double quick... [4/12/63] Reb battery opened on us we hid in a ditch. Batteries kept firing until night then we all retired... [4/13/63] I was detailed to help bury the dead & take care of wounded. Hard fighting all day took several prisoners... [4/14/63] I was with five others left behind to hunt for the dead that was not found yesterday... [4/21/63] Yesterday there was nine prisoners brought here & tonight we were put to guard them... [4/25/63] My co. came along this morning with 169 prisoners... [5/19/63] Last night stayed in the dooryard of the rebel Brig. Gen. Pratt. The report is that there is a band of guerillas below here... [5/22/63] Last night stayed to an old planters house. They shut their darkies up stairs & they called out the window... [5/31/63] Had orders to report to Gen. Weitsel on the right wing. We were held in reserve in a piece of woods. Rebels shelled the woods... [6/5/63] Our batteries burnt some rebel buildings which got the rebs skedaddling... [6/11/63] 25 of our Co. were detailed to clear out a ditch so our troops could advance nearer to the rebels fortifications. Rebs fired on them wounding two or three ... [6/14/63] Five Co. of our Regt. relieved the 8th VT they with out other five Co. was taken to the left to make a charge on the rebels breastworks. Col. Smith mortally wounded. Capt. & First Lieut. of Co. G killed & several others wounded... [7/8/63] Today Port Hudson was surrendered to our forces. I traded meat & hardtack for sugar with the rebels. Very warm. 4 oclock P.M. shower. ... [7/9/63] This morning we marched into the fort stack’d arms & lay around untill 4 P.M. took steamer St. Maurice & started down the river. … [8/8/63] This morning our gun boats opened fire on the rebel works which lasted about an hour... [10/17/63] Nigger reported that guerillas was in front. Doubled quick to the front found nothing but our cavalry... [11/13/63] Col. Per Lee gave us an order to get wood off Gov. Mouton wood pile to build a fire with ... [12/25/63] Today have done nothing celebrated Christmas...”
“[1/13/64] I took Gen. Weitzels orderly (a prisoner) to the division head quarters to the adjutant General to see what was to be done with him. He released him & went back to camp... [2/3/64] This afternoon the citizens of Franklin hoisted the stars & stripes. The battery fired a salute & our brigade ...went down to give them three cheers… [2/6/64] we was reviewed by Gen. Emery on the 26th of January. Only passed in review once quick time... [2/11/64] This forenoon had a game at ball, knocked the ball to pieces & had to stop...[2/12/64] had a game at ball. Towards evening had another game at ball... [2/23/64] This forenoon had a game at ball. Corpl Fillet was ordered down to the 8VT to arrest a nigger who threatened to shoot another nigger. This afternoon had another game at ball... [3/5/64] This afternoon got another ball & had a game at ball... [4/1/64] very disagreeable marching on account of the wind & dust. Lots of stragglers fell out on the way... [4/8/64] The cavalry has skirmished in front all day. About four oclock the rebs made a stand. This evening sharp firing was heard ...[4/9/64] On the skedaddle. The battle of yesterday the 13th A.C. was engaged & got badly cut up & skedaddled in disorder. The first Div. of the 19th A.C. was then ordered to the front. They checked the enemy & held their ground...19th A.C. covered our retreat... [4/10/64] Still on the skedaddle. Before we started yesterday a cavalry man was arrested & brought to head qts. & on the retreat I was put in charge of him & rode his horse... [4/11/64] The 19th A.C. stood their ground on the 9th at Pleasant Hill & whipped the enemy drove them back took 380 prisoners, then fell back to this place... [5/18/64] Last night the rebels came down on the opposite side of the bayou & fired into us. Our Co. was called to arms. No damage done... [6/10/64] This afternoon I was sent with a file of men to arrest men that was firing off their guns. Got down there found a whole Regt. of cavalry & the Colonel told me he had orders to do so by his Brigade commander. So I came back & reported to Gen. McMullen. He thought it very strange... [6/25/64] Was reviewed by Gen. Reynolds out on the field... [6/26/64] bout a watch of a nigger for $5.00... [7/12/64] cast anchor off Fortress Monroe lay about half an hour had orders to load up ... start for Washington... [9/4/64] This morning a nigger driver got mad at a white driver reported him to Capt. Mann. I was sent with a file of men to arrest him. He told his story to the Capt & he released him... [9/21/64] Found Winchester full of wounded men. Heard that my Lieut (Breed) was killed & a number of the boys wounded... [10/11/64] Ten pieces of rebel artillery went down this PM captured Sunday ... [10/21/64] Lt. Goshin sent me down town with a file of men to arrest Tom (the blacksmith) & bring him to his quarters for being drunk & not tending to his work. Lt. tied him to a tree for three hours ...”
Wheaton Race, from Oxford, New York, enlisted as a private in August 1862, into “H” Company of the 114th N.Y. Infantry Regt. he was promoted to corporal on July 1, 1863, and was mustered out in June 1865. The 114th N.Y. was organized in Chenango, Cortland, and Madison Counties, in upstate New York. Interestingly, the game of baseball is said to have been invented by future Civil War General Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, New York, forty-eight miles from Race’s hometown of Oxford, in the 1830s.
Both diaries have extensive observations on the war; we have not yet read them in their entirety.