Seth Kaller, Inc.

Inspired by History

Other Civil War and Reconstruction Offerings

More...


Other Gettysburg Offerings

More...

Diary of Massachusetts Soldier Twice Captured—at Second Bull Run and at Gettysburg
Click to enlarge:
Select an image:

marched to Gettisburg 10 miles...about 1 ’clock in afternoon went in to the fight. It was a hard one & was taken Prisoner as was 40% of my reg and the rest was either killed or wounded.

Shoemaker Calvin Conant was a private in Company G of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry when he was taken prisoner at the Second Battle of Bull Run on August 30, 1862. For the next three months, he was at home in Massachusetts waiting to be “exchanged” for Confederate a prisoner. He rejoined his regiment in December, after missing the Battles of Antietam and Fredericksburg. He participated in the Mud March and the Battle of Chancellorsville but was taken prisoner on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, soon after joining the battle. He spent the next six weeks in a parole camp outside of Philadelphia before rejoining his regiment in mid-August 1863.

[UNION ARMY—GETTYSBURG] CALVIN H. CONANT. Manuscript Diary, August 1862-December 1863. Standard format leatherette pocket diary written in both pen and pencil. 142 pp., 3 x 4¾ in.

Inventory #24007       Price: $5,500

Excerpts

August 30, 1862: “Fight at Bull run I was taken Prisoner

August 31: “I was held a prisoner now under guard they give me nothing to eat.

September 1: “still with the Rebels they offer me nothing to eat.

September 2: “under guard as usual I am getting very hungry

September 3: “was Paroled and sent home by the way of Fairfax hence to Alexandria

September 4: “I am on my way to Washington hearing my Reg is here I am goin to it found it on Halls Hill concluded to stop all night

September 5: “left my Reg and went on my way to Washington in company with 4 boys of the 2d Mass Reg arived in the Cittie about noon saw Col Leonard, and several more of my Reg

October 22: “Took the cars for Baltimore thence to Philadelphia and on to Boston fare cost me 12 dollars and 50 cents with what I spent for Victuals on my way

October 23: “arived in the Cittie of Boston at 5½ oclock in the morning after getting a good Breakfast and having a Bath went round the cittie and over to Charlestown here I saw Mr. Wm J. Best[1] in the Navy yard went back to Boston and over to Roxbury and returned to Boston took the 6½ oclock train for Stoneham saw I saw H. M. Foss[2] in the B & M depot arived at my fathers house about 8 oclock took all by suprise found all well and glad to see me am tired as a dog

October 25: “Went to Boston and Reported my self to the Adjt Gens office was told to report every 10 days till I received notice I was exchanged

November 28: “Went to work shoemaking mad 4 pairs of Womens shoes

November 30: “today is Sunday I have attended church all day the first time for a year and a half

December 4: “Made 4 pairs of shoes in the forenoon and loafed in the afternoon

December 6: “come home snow up to my knees got home at noon found a letter from Susie read and answered the same also received notice I was exchanged and was ordered to report in Boston on the 9th

December 13: “got here to Philadelphia this morning left for Washington arived there at 3 oclock was put in to Barracks at the Soldiers rest

December 23: “got sick of this camp and went down to the Paroled & Exchanged Prisoners Camp near to Alexandria

December 31: “Started for my Reg in the Stemer Young America arived at Fletcher Chappel where the reg was at about 4 clock

January 1, 1863: “was in Camp had to build me a house to live in

January 20: “Ordered to march come in and marched rainey day

January 21: “wet and raney last night Lieut stayed with me in my tent all night started at 6 to march very muddy marched all day

January 22: “I camp in the woods near the Rappahannock river Lieut lives with me

January 23: “Started back for our old camp arived there at 3½ oclock wet as the Devel with nothing to eat[3]

April 2: “Reviewed by Gen Hooker at Fletchers Chapel cold and Windy got all dust

April 9: “Plesant was Reviewed by President Lincoln at Aquia Landing come back to camp about 5 oclock then went out on Picket

April 30: “was lying on the bank of the Rappahannock very severe shelling in the eve

May 1: “on the bank of the river march up above Fredericksburg to Chancellorsvill

May 2: “was out to the front upon the right could not get a bit of sleep was throwing up trenches

May 3: “Layed in the trenches all day and night very hard fighting to our left

May 4: “was in the trenches and went out on a Recornortring party consisting of the 12 & 13 Mass Reg and one Battery had 5 men wounded

May 5: “was in the trenches rained hard at night we commenced to evacuate the place

May 6: “was on the other side of the river near Falmouth rained hard all day we drawed our ration of whisky[4]

June 12: “come in from Picket last night marched at 6½ oclock went about 25 miles

June 17: “left early in the morning went nearly to Veiane [Vienna?] a distance of 15 miles I left my knapsack on the road

June 29: “started at 4 in the morning went through Middleburg to Emetsburg a distance of 25 miles was very tired stoped a mile beyond the town which was a pretty Village

June 30: “moved a mile to the other side of the town and went into camp

July 1, 1863: “marched to Gettisburg 10 miles here we arived about 2 ’clock in afternoon went in to the fight it was a a hard one & was taken Prisoner as was 40% of my reg and the rest was either killed or wounded.

July 2: “was inside of the rebbs lines they are very kind to us we are about 2 miles from the town. there is fighting still going on & I can’t decide who is getting the best of it.

July 3: “heavy firing commenced at day light and was kept up all day. We were got into line and paroled all who wished to take it. Co.s A. B. & D. refused.[5] 57 of us excepted. At 5 o’clock we started for Carlisle went about 5 miles and stoped for the night

July 4: “started at daylight and got at Carlisle about 3 oclock staid all night in town any where we could find a good place

July 5: “took the cars and rode till we got to west chester passing through Harrisburg Lancester and sevral more very pretty vilages arived at Chester about 9 oclock in the evening was put on the fair grounds to stay all night & got a house to sleep in

July 7: “Was in camp and in town our camp guard has come it consists of two companies belonging to the Invalid Corps they are large hearty looking men one company consists of drafted men from New Jersey I am of the opinion that this Corps is a splendid place for Bummers and dead beats all look better fitted for the field than some who are compelled to be their there are large strong and in fact good able boddied looking men generaly they are I instructed by the officer of the day not to let a man out of Camp if any attempt to go to shoot the offender but they wont seaze old soldiers who have shared in the hardships of many a hard fought battle

July 11: “In Camp and out of Camp went off and got all the Cherries I could eat we drawed two days rattions they are begining to get things straitened out

July 15: “Plesant day was in Camp all day drawed Soft Bread for the first time and fresh Beef both were very good

July 16: “Hot day with some showers felt sick all day eat nothing at all sent down to town Sargt Wright for a Canteen of Whiskey to celebrate the Second Anniversary of my enlistment

July 26: “Exceeding Hot day I got a Pass to go to town went out a Blackberrying in the afternoon and in town in the eve got a Canteen of milk for my supper had preaching in Camp but I was not there could not get any liquor in town to day

July 31: “Went down to town and had a Picture taken and bought me a new shirt cost me 1.50 got back to camp at eleven clock at night

August 12: “Left Camp & went to Philadelphia there took the cars for Baltimore plesant ride all the way rained in the afternoon

August 13: “Arived in Baltimore this morning about 4 oclock went to the Sol. Relief Asso had a good Breakfast of boiled Ham Coffe arived in Washington about 5 clock after waiting on the road all day ran over a horse that got off the train and came near throwing the train of the track but was discovered by some of the boys in time to save the train which was a long one 40 cars

August 15: “Left Washington went to Alexandria and then to my Reg which I found Rappahannock Station on the Balt & Ohio RR arrived about dark

September 13: “Rained all last night now it is quite muddy all of my bread got wet dont taste well at all Inspection at 9 oclock a large Cavalry force have gone over the River on a Reconnaissance can hear heavy firing

September 15: “Co G presented Lieut C. E. Horne[6] with a new sword he returned his thanks in the shape of 2 qts of Whiskey Lieut Whitney[7] also gave us 2 qts and the boys got gay we also received a good ham from Capt Cary[8]

September 19: “Cool but plesant was a camp guard the Court martial of 5 of my Reg was read on dress parade Sentence to be shot next Friday in presence of Div[9]

October 2: “went out to the Picket post last night at 12 oclock and went on post down to the river side from 5½ to 8 oclock I am within a 100 roods[10] of the Reb Picket come on to rain at noon and rained hard the rest of the day did not get relieved till dark started back to camp through the woods on my own hook like to got lost finely got in about 8 all wet through and all muddy turned in for the night

October 10: “we are now near the ford (Germania or Mortons) below Raccoon’s ford on the Rapidan ordered to go in to Camp got all fixed up for the night, when about 7 get orders to pack up it is quite dark and we are on the march and like to be all night

October 11: “packed up at eleven and marched to Kellies ford on the Rappahannock and went into the trenches on the North side had to ford the river which was up to my ass in water

October 12: “Warm day we are behind the rifle pit with one Company of S.Shooters can hear heavy firing up I should judge in the vicinity of Warenton the Pontoons come up we draw fresh Beef

October 13: “Packed up at 12 oclock last night and marched to Warrent Juncktion arived about 10 stoped and made coffe and had a good breakfast wagon train going by on the run rebs close to our heels went to Catlitts Station & on to Bristo stoped about 2 miles beyond Bristo marched today about 23 miles got in to Camp at 9

October 14: “Started a little after sunrise and marched to Centersville my Reg was used as flankers got in here about one oclock stoped and was ordered to Pack up after we had got something to eat and some had piched their tents my Reg deployed as skirmishers and we advanced about 3 mile toward Bull Run halted a little after dark and stacked arms laid down ordered to be ready to start at a moments notice I am tired as a dog[11]

October 24: “rainy day marched at 8 oclock every thing all wet went to Bristoe Stattion distance about 12 miles had to ford a creek knee deep got all wet wood is scarce encamped on the ground where the 2d corps fought the rebs on our retreat

October 25: “quite a plesant day last night was rather cool we are now in the same place as last night I find a goodly number of Rebbel Graves one spot I notice 8 in a row all of Co. K. 48 N.C.[12] sevral Capt & Lieut buried here drawed 3 days ration of Bread Coffe Sugar and one of Pork

October 27: “I can hear heavy firing in the distance we are in the same Camp among the graves some 200 or more all around

November 7: “Marched at daylight went through Catlitt Warrenton Junk. & down near to Kelleys ford can hear heavy firing we have probably Marched 12 miles now in Camp

November 8: “Packed up and marched to the river crossed at Kellys ford on Pontoons and marched to near Brandy Stattion went in to camp made about 12 miles to day

November 15: “we get our pay to day I receive $2600

November 26: “marched at 7 this morning crossed the Rappahannock & the Rapidan rivers and went in to camp late at night am very tired set-up & boiled potatoes & made Coffe had a rough thanks giving this year we are ordered to march at 4 in the morning I am a guard

November 28: “we are now out on picket in front of the enemy the pickets keep up a continual firing we are reserve rained this morning and it is cold expect to get in a muss to morrow & am all wet through

November 29: “cool morning we are in the woods now pretty smart Picket firing this place is called the Wilderness no cannon firing today

December 1: “went back to the left next to the 3d Corps layed all night We commenced to fall back toward the Rapidan got 2 days rations to last 5 days

December 7: “very cool I am a guard Co drill this morn we begin to build Shanties

December 31: “revile at 6½ oclock this morning moved our camp about 80 roods up in the woods and commenced to build log houses to day we are mustered for 2 months pay November & December wood is not very plenty such as is required to build but we have struck out on a Shantie rains hard all day every thing all wet Col Batchelder[13] has got his furlow every Body looks blue

Historical Background

The 13th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was formed in mid-July 1861 at Fort Independence in Boston under Colonel Samuel H. Leonard. Two weeks later, it left for Washington. It was attached to the Army of the Potomac. From August 1861 to March 1862, the regiment was assigned to patrol and outpost duty along the upper Potomac River. In March and April 1862, the 13th Massachusetts participated in the pursuit of General Stonewall Jackson’s forces in the Shenandoah Valley. It fought in the Battles of Cedar Mountain and Second Bull Run in August 1862, and at South Mountain and Antietam in September, and at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December.

In 1863, the regiment took part in all of the Army of the Potomac’s major campaigns and battles, including Chancellorsville in April and May, Gettysburg in June and July, and the advance to the Rappahannock in November. In 1864, it guarded the Orange and Alexandria Railroad until April, then took part in the Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House in May, Cold Harbor in June, and the siege of Petersburg until the middle of July, when it returned to Boston, where the regiment was mustered out on August 1, 1864. Throughout its service, the regiment lost 4 officers and 117 enlisted men killed in battle or mortally wounded and an additional 40 enlisted men by disease.

Conant’s experiences provide an excellent illustration of the parole system in the Civil War. Lacking any means of dealing with large numbers of captured troops, both the Union and the Confederacy relied on the traditional European system of parole and exchange of prisoners. The terms called for prisoners to give their word not to take up arms against their captors until they were formally exchanged for an enemy captive of equal rank. Parole was supposed to take place within ten days of capture. Initially, as in Conant’s case, parolees were sent home and could even resume their occupations. As this prospect encouraged some soldiers to allow themselves to be captured, the authorities established detention camps, as in Conant’s second parole experience, where they could be held until they were exchanged.

By 1864, the parole and exchange system had collapsed, in part because the Confederacy refused to exchange black Union soldiers and in part because the Union realized it was prolonging the war by returning Confederate veterans to battle. This breakdown led to the massive prisoner of war camps, most notoriously Andersonville in the South and Elmira in the North, where thousands of prisoners died.

Calvin H. Conant (1841-1908) was born in Stoneham, Massachusetts, and was a shoemaker there in 1860. He enlisted in Company G of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry on July 16, 1861. He was taken prisoner at the Second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862 and again at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. He was paroled each time and had to await formal exchange before being re-assigned. Promoted to corporal on June 1, 1864, Conant was mustered out on August 1, 1864, in Boston. By 1870, he worked in a shoe factory in Stoneham. In September 1873, Conant married Susie L. Yardly in Stoneham.  By 1900, Conant was widowed and lived with his two daughters in Stoneham.


[1] William J. Best (1840-1893) was a seaman aboard the USS Pawnee and the brother of John Best, a private in Company G of the 13th Massachusetts. In June 1861, William was wounded in the Battle of Mathias Point on the Potomac River and had his left leg amputated below the knee.

[2] Henry M. Foss (1843-1900), a shoemaker, joined Company G of the 13th Massachusetts in July 1861. He was wounded in the thigh at the Battle of Antietam, returned home, and was discharged in January 1863. He died at the Soldiers’ Home in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

[3] From January 20-23, 1863, General Ambrose Burnside attempted an abortive offensive later dubbed the “Mud March.” President Abraham Lincoln replaced Burnside in command of the Army of the Potomac with General Joseph Hooker on January 26.

[4] The Battle of Chancellorsville from April 30 to May 6, 1863, was a Confederate victory.

[5] On that very day, July 3, 1863, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton issued General Orders #207, declaring paroles in violation of general orders. Any soldier accepting such parole would be returned to duty and punished for disobedience to orders.

[6] Charles E. Horne (1838-1902) was also a shoemaker from Stoneham, Massachusetts. He was promoted to 2nd lieutenant in July 1863 and wounded in the neck at Gettysburg in July 1863. Perhaps this sword presentation was in recognition of his actions at Gettysburg. The following year, he was promoted to 1st lieutenant in March and wounded in May at Spotsylvania Courthouse, where he lost his right arm. Horne was taken prisoner and confined at Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, until September 1864, when he mustered out.

[7] Samuel C. Whitney (1828-1894) was a machinist from Stoneham, Massachusetts. He mustered in as 1st sergeant in Company G and received promotion to 2nd lieutenant in December 1862, and to 1st lieutenant in May 1863.

[8] William Howard Cary (1830-1901) was a druggist from Boston. He mustered in as a 2nd lieutenant in Company D and received promotion to 1st lieutenant in February 1862, and to captain of Company G in December 1862.

[9] On Friday, October 25, Daniel Sullivan of Company E of the 13th Massachusetts was to be shot for desertion. The Boston Evening Transcript reported that he was shot for the crime of desertion and “the others who were to be shot today were respited by the President.” Another member of the 13th Massachusetts, however, wrote home that “the man that was to have been shot in our regiment Friday has been reprieved.” Sullivan’s sentence was commuted to six months imprisonment, and he was sent to the penitentiary in Albany, New York, in December 1863.

[10] A “rood” is an obsolete unit of measurement equal to between 16.5 and 24 feet; a “rod” is a surveyor’s measurement equal to 16.5 feet.

[11] The Battle of Bristoe Station was fought on October 14, 1863. The Union II Corps under Major General Gouverneur K. Warren surprised and repelled a Confederate attack by the Third Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia under Lieutenant General A. P. Hill. Although outnumbered two-to-one, the Union troops inflicted nearly three times as many casualties on the Confederates, resulting in a Union victory. The 13th Massachusetts was part of the I Corps.

[12] On October 14, at Bristoe Station, the 48th North Carolina sustained 123 casualties. Company K was raised largely in Forsyth County, North Carolina.

[13] Nathaniel Walter Batchelder (1825-1868) mustered in as a lieutenant colonel on July 16, 1861, and resigned on April 15, 1864. From December 15 to 31, Batchelder temporarily commanded the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry.


Add to Cart Ask About This Item Add to Favorites