Civil War Diary of Thomas Michael Blackwell
Thomas Michael (T.M.) Blackwell kept a journal during the four years he served in the Civil War. The family has a portion of the 1862 journal/diary in his hand writing and also a typed copy. It is quite a family treasure. The diary appears to have been written to Agnes, his wife. On the last page of the part that we have, T.M. wrote: "I am lonely tonight without you."
Thomas Michael Blackwell (called T.M.) was a Methodist minister and a physician. He married Agnes Lenora Carolina Rice in Lauderdale County, Tennessee, on March 1, 1842. They moved with two children to Houston (Chickasaw County), Mississippi, around 1846.
T.M. and his sixteen year old son, Thomas John (T.J.) enlisted in the Confederate army at the beginning of the Civil War and served until the end of the war. We have copies of both of their war records and copies of T.J.'s pension questionnaire and application.
T.M. kept a diary throughout the war, but so far the only part of the diary that we have is a 76 page journal written from August through December, 1862. The diary is written with a quill pen and walnut stain. The hardships that T.M. endured did not seem to dampen his Southern patriotism. He was a very good writer and vividly described the discomforts endured by the soldiers but managed at the same time to keep a very good sense of humor that surfaces throughout the pages of the journal. He also wrote in detail of the horror that he saw. His experiences as a surgeon in the war no doubt influenced his choice of words.
The following are two stories T.M. Blackwell's diary that tell a personal side of the Civil War.
Of a new regiment, he wrote: "The troops from Baton Rouge arrived today with Col. Orr at their head, and a dusty and tired set of men as I ever saw. Poor fellows, many of them have died on the battlefield and others must soon follow by the 'wasting hand of disease', to the common grave of 'all living'."
On October 28, 1862, he wrote of news of his family in Tennessee. "Today had a visit from my brother, Joseph, whom I have not seen for near two years; Find him in the cavalry regiment of Col. Jackson (?); learn from him that he has been in thirteen skirmishes and battles, since his enlistment. By him heard directly from my father & family; as also from my wife's father & family; & now I make this record of the treatment which those two men have received at the hands of the federals, as a part of the private, & in many cases, unwritten history of this war. A squad of federal soldiers went to the house of my father, living in Lauderdale County, Tennefer, broke open his smoke house, took out all of his bacon, meal, flour & lard, sugar & coffee, caught every chicken, goose, turkey & pig, and when the old gentleman demanded that they should leave his children something to live upon, they left him a shoulder and medling of bacon & a pick of meal, utterly stripping his house of every thing that they could use & to finish the job, seized upon his horse, the only one he had left, & only returned it when told by him that if they took his horse, they should take his dead body along with it, when they cursed him & told him that they did not want his dammed old horse if they had to be troubled with his dammed old carcass.
So much for the treatment which my father received. My father-in-law, J.P. Rice, living in Tipton County, Tenn., near Mason Depot, on the Memphis & Ohio Railroad, his family consisting of himself & youngest daughter, Eliza Green, was visited by part of Gene Hurlbert's division, which encamped near his house, they stripped his floor of the carpets & tore them in pieces, scattering the fragments about the house & yard; took his daughter's drapes & gave them to the negro woman on the place; broke up his furniture; voided thin excrements into his wheat grainy & mixed it all through the grain, so as to spoil it for use & made his parlor & bed rooms a place to evacuate their bowels; took off all of the Daguerreotypes (photos) of members of the family, among them, that of the mother & two sisters of the family, who had been dead for some years - after doing all the mischief about the house, they destroyed all of the poultry & everything about the yard & farmstead ... Truly, this war, by our enemies, has been waged against our people, with savage barbarity ... And gentle reader, the general who was in command of this Division of fiends, was a son of the South, born and raised in the State of South Carolina ... Surely, a peaceful & just God who rules the destiny of men, cannot & will not suffer such brutality to be successful in this great struggle for human freedom & the sacred right of self government. But enough, & I turn my thoughts to home & my loved ones those from whom I have heard, by Jno Tubb, & I am happy that they are all well. May God ever have them in his holy keeping & shield them in the hour of danger."
1997 Spring Family Tree Newsletter
The 1995 summer newsletter introduced the T. M. Blackwell Civil War diary, a family treasure. He kept the diary (memoranda as he called it) for the four years of the Civil War. The following are excerpts from the 1861 portion that reflect the war conditions and also provide insight into what type of person T.M. actually was. The portion below is copied exactly as it was written and punctuated by him 135 years ago.
August 10, 1861 - Jackson, Miss. My life to support and defend, that action of the state. But I do not propose in these memoranda to write of politics, for there are those more capable than myself of doing justice to the subject; therefore I proceed to pen down my personal adventures...
November 1, 1861 - near Corinth Heard from home to day, the letter was mailed on yesterday & reached me to day. Quick work & speedy travel. Glad to hear all well; wish I was home to night to hear my little Bud prattle & talk to my little boys & hear them talk & tell over all of their boyish plans & troubles. But, alas, here I am sitting on the ground scribbling away & for what purpose I do not know. But I suppose, that these memoranda may afford amusement to my children & grand-children; It is bed time, so I will close up & go to bed & dream, it may be of home, or it may be of being caught or killed by the Yanks, which event, I hope will never take place, as I would rather go home before I go to Yankee land or to Kingdom Come - So good night.
December 5, 1861 - T. M. was near Coffeeville, Mississippi and had not eaten for nearly two days. He wrote: ...The next alternative was to endeavor to get something to eat from the citizens of the place. But alas! There were no citizens in the village. All had left, for fear of the enemy. While looking around through the village we met with my cousin J. L. Gause, a member of Genl Lordis staff to whom I applied for some assistance or relief in my extremity; but was told by him that he, also, was in a like destitute condition with myself. He, however, generously pointed out to me a stony chicken in the Court house yard which he said he had just started to kill, and kindly offered to relinquish his designs on the life of the forlorn chicken for my benefit if I would use it, which offer of his being declined by me, we separated & I next saw him with a dead fowl in his hand as he walked off in the direction of the vacated Hotel which was being occupied, for the present, by Genl. Lordis as his headquarters...
T. M. then writes for a few pages about the actual battle with the Yankees and wrote:
The enemy had fled, leaving 86 of his number dead & 37 wounded. Our los was five killed & twelve wounded. After the fight was over we were marched about a mile in the direction of Coffeeville and encamped for the night on that portion of the field where the battle first began. Near the place where our regiment was stationed for the night lay the body of a Yankee by the name of J. N. Porter who was killed under the following circumstances, part of which we learned from some of the prisoners which we had taken. Before leaving his home in Kansas, Porter had facetiously told his friends that he intended to catch a live rebel & put him in a cage & take him around, a la Menagerie, for the purpose of exhibiting the animal. Among the skirmishes thrown out by the 23rd Mississippi regiment was a youth, quite small for his age, of sixteen (16) years. The Yankee had fired at the boy from behind a tree & missed him, whereupon the young
Mississippian, boldly advanced upon him from under cover, & while in the act of shooting, the Yankee still remained behind the trunk of the tree from which he had first fired, and having a Colts revolving Rifle fired upon the boy and stuck him on the head, the ball running around on the outside of the skill & knocking him down & his gun firing at the instant but without effect. Observing the Yank approaching him, the boy, recovered from the stunning effect of the shot, sprang to his feet and gathering his gun in the right hand, sped with the swiftness and agility of a deer to the rear & the Yankee, highly delighted & in great glee, began to pursue for the purpose of capturing him and shouting at every bound to the top of his voice, Stop you damned rebel; stop you damned rebel, ran up within forty yards of our line and in from of the company which the boy belonged before he discovered his danger, which was not until the company rose to their feet, (they were lying on the ground as were all of our troops when we are not engaged in the fight), when throwing himself behind the body of an oak tree he called out to the company to surrender. Scarcely had the words escaped his lips when the fire from the company sealed them in eternal silence & he rolled over with his body & head pierced by twenty seven (27) bullets. So much for the Yankee show of a live rebel as it was intended, boastfully to be carried out by this Kansas Jay Hawker.
© 2007 Dena Marshall