By Paul R. Spitzzeri
This is the third post on the Civil War diary of Charles M. Jenkins, who was the only Los Angeles resident to fight for the Union Army during that conflict. The diary, owned by the Historical Society of Southern California, is on temporary deposit with the Homestead Museum.
The second month of Charles Jenkins’ Civil War diary, covering February 1865, opened on the first on a good note, as Jenkins recorded that [original spelling, grammar and punctuation are as written],
This morning at eight oclock Boots and Saddles for a grand review. We went to Winchester and formed on the plain and passed review . . . our regiment was complemented as being the fines regiment in the Devision by Gen Philip Sheridan and his Staf.
Another notable issue that Jenkins reported in his diary came on the 6th when he wrote about the dispiriting news that discussions about bringing the war to a conclusion did not lead to an agreement:
The peace is all nocked on the head and the Rebs comisnors have returned to Richmond and the presadent to Washington.
Then, a couple of weeks later on the 20th, came reports “that Brants vill [Brentsville], Cloumbia and Charlston was taken and the fall of agusta.” As the war edged closer to a conclusion, significant events like these were certainly welcomed with a great deal of excitement by Jenkins and his fellow soldiers.
Another interesting tidbit came in an entry on the 22nd when a correspondent known as “Miss Sarah,” Jenkins wrote, “requested me to write my life in Discy [Dixie] but I have declined.”
For the most part, however, the month was a mundane one of camp life and picket duty. On the 2nd, Jenkins noted he was given five dollars of rations, using two of it for tobacco and “three dolars of Osteer [Oyster] and had a big diner.”
Two days later, he stated that he went to an abandoned camp “to get some boards to make a bunk after a large Sirch I found some pices which I packed on my horse.” The goal, for any lengthy stint in one camp, was to build something more substantial for sleeping than the cold, hard ground. It was also a goal, however, to get regular meals, but that same day, the 4th, Jenkins ruefully reported “Nothing to eate to day as the rations has run out.”
Generally, the snow-filled days were spent playing chess, writing and receiving letters, doing washing, participating in drills and, occasionally, an inspection was ordered.
Something, evidently, was amiss with Jenkins’ romance with “Anie,” as, on the 11th, he stated
Morrell recived a Dream book of fortune teller last night, so I had my fortune told to day which proved to be very good for as the money go but the girll that I love is the Devil.
Three days later, Jenkins morosely observed that, “To day is Valientine and I did not recive no letters.” It probably did not help that rations were not issued until 4 in the afternoon.
Finally, toward the end of the month, the monotony was broken by news that the company was soon to be on the march and that a battle was looming. Jenkins’ entry for February 25 was:
This morning boots and sadles was Sounded and we had to pack our sadles for inspection when that was done we had orders to march on Monday morning we had orders to turn in every thing that we did not want to cary on our horses. I turned in a tent and Blanket.
Two days later, everyone was on the move southward, as Jenkins wrote,
This morning we march. Revle was blown at four in the morning and we marched at nine. We start for parts unknown we travil towards Stanton [Staunton]. We camped South of Woodstock where we went for the rails to make camp fires it is customery to burn.
Then, on the last day of the month, Jenkins recorded:
To day we travil South all day and passed fisher hill where the battle of the Nintheenth took place. To day we passed a rebe that the scouts killed he was laing longside the road very peacible.
The sight of the dead Confederate soldier obviously made a significant impression on Jenkins, given the way he opened his March diary entries…where we will pick up the story with the next post.