Well, that's what happened to me while assisting my friend Robert Grandchamp with writing a book about the men [Amazon] who served with my second great grandfather, James Albert Barber from Rhode Island. [This is a photo of us taken at different times at Corp. Barber's gravesite.]
One set of diaries is housed at the Hay Library at Brown University. They were placed there, probably by my family, and I am pleased that they are available to history scholars like Robert so that accurate accounts of the war can be written about. As an educator, I am glad that they are NOT in my possession but available for others to see.
Robert took this photo of the outside of the one diary that is held in the Special Collections of the Providence Public Library in Providence, RI. With permission, Robert photocopied each page and made copies of those pages for me, which I have scanned into a single PDF so that they will be easily read by future generation of my family.[James A. Barber obit]
The week that I moved to my new home, I received an email from Mr. Grandchamp, with an attachment of the TRANSCRIPTION of the diary that is pictured here. Mr. Robert J. Ring, who was then the Special Collections librarian at the Providence Public Library in Providence, RI read and transcribed the diary in its entirety. I immediately emailed him to thank him. He has a new job at Trinity College in Hartford, CT as the head librarian for Special Collections.
After sitting down and reading the entries, I have decided that I can create one blog post per month with the transcriptions of the diaries. The diary runs from Jan 1, 1862 to Dec 14, 1862.
Saturday March 1st 1862
The day comes in pleasent [pleasant] we are stationed in an old log huts situated on the Mary Land shore opposite Ball Bluff with 2 twenty pdr parrots Comande by Lieu Tenant [Lieutenant] Rhoads. We fired several shells at the rebels forts at Lees Burgh.
The day comes in pleasent [pleasant] but we had inspection at 9 ocl by Lieu Tenant [Lieutenant] Rhodes at ten the snow began to fall. Some of the boys stold [stole] a hog and we eat him for dinner.
The day comes in pleasent [pleasant] is warm the rebels began to fire at us from the bluff but done us no damage we gave the 2 fen wheels and they left in a hury [hurry] I been on gard [guard] at the sta
Tuesday Feb 4th 1862 [actually March]
The day comes in pleasent [pleasant] the rebels fire some shels [shells] at our hut from the Virginia shore but did no damage as they had a pnd gun we gave them one or two shells and they left when doing gard [guard] duty.
The day comes in pleasent [pleasant] we at night fired at the rebels on balls bluff, and at one in the afternoon they at once they fire from Conrads Ferry at a canal boat but we routed them from the place.
Friday March 7th 1862
The day comes in pleasent [pleasant] the rebels began to set fire to their buc for the fire lasted all day burnt the mill at conrads ferry [Conrad’s Ferry] and all the wheat stacks then they went into ther [their] forts.
The day comes in pleasant Col Gary an [and] two thou [thousand] men marched in and took command of Lees Burgh. Our Capt and some other Oficers [Officers] crossed at goose Creek river into the old house we uste [used] to shelter.
The day is cold we left our picket station opposite Ball Bluff and and marched [toward] camp made retreat at 8 in am the first section was at the ferry awaitin [awaiting] for orders.
Monday March 10th
The day comes in pleasent [pleasant] we carried our Battery to Edwards Ferry put on the canal boats and left for point of rocks in company with Genl Daved Bragad and encamped at the point of rocks along side of the canal.
The day comes in pleasent [pleasant] we left the point of rocks at one ock in company with the seven Michigan 19 and 24th Masschusit [Massachusetts] regiments.
The day comes in pleasent [pleasant] we left the plase [place] called Sandy Hook and marched on crossed pontoon bridge over in to harpers Ferry proceded [proceeded[ on to reinforce Genl Banks at nine ock on to Charles Town encamped with the First Mary Land redeemer.
Thursday March 13th 1862
The day comes in pleasent [pleasant] we left our Camping ground at Charles Town marched for Winchester till within one mile of Berry Ville there we encamped in the woods on the road side rested all knight.
The day comes in pleasent [pleasant] early we had orders to go back too we marched along in company with eleven thousand Infantry. Among the numbers was Battery A and B of rhode [Rhode] Island marched to Charles Town encamped.
The day is wet and rainy we left Charles Town at nine ocl marched on too Boliver and took up our abode in a Brick house belonged to a NY regiment wh [who]had left the place
Sunday March 16th 1862
The day comes in pleasent [pleasant] we are all in a boil about our rations we have had knothing [nothing] to eat but hard crackers since yesterday but the Mishigan [Michigan]boys gave us some.
The day comes in cloudy there has been some unhuman proceedings to our Lieu Tenant took our buglers bugle from him for being absent without leaf an ordered a knapsack of stones put on his back then tied his hands behind him to a tree.
The day is rainey [rainy]a train of cars crossed over the bridge at the ferry that was destroyed by the rebls [rebels] a short time ago an went to Winchester to carry forage Genl banks.
Wednesday March 19th 1862
The day comes in pleasent [pleasant] we are at Boliver all the troops under Summner had inspection and we drilled with our horses.
The day comes in wet and rainy we are the house we been getten [getting] some clothes I got a pair of boots.
The weather is wet and the strets [getting] are over shoe in mud we expecting to move eve day when ever we have orders from the General.
The day comes in pleasent [pleasant] we Boliver crossed the ferry loaded with battery at Sandy Hook an took the Baltimore and Ohio road for left Sandy Hook at 6 pm.
Sunday March 23d 1862
The day comes in very pleas [pleasant] we pass Annapolis Junction at at sun rise. Then proceded [proceeded] on to Washington we arrive there at nine oclock Am. We unloaded our battery from the cars left it in the streets and encamped by the RI cavalry a short distance from the Capitol.
The day comes in very warm we are all well and Sargen [Sergeant Allen?] Hoar and myself and nine more men was detailed too go down in the City to release the gards [guards] on the guns.
The day comes in pleas we are on gard [guard] at the guns in the City. At ten we carried our twenty pdrs to the navy yard exchange them for 2 ten pdr ordinance guns.
Wednesday March 26th 1862
The day comes in pleasent [pleasant] we left camp near the Capitol went to the coral and got 25 new horses and returned to Camp Cleand [cleaned] our guns.
The day comes in pleasent [pleasant] we have been out on inspection twenty five recruits just arrived from Rhode Island for Battery we started down Washington to the river and stayed there till morn.
The day comes in pleas [pleasant] we loaded our guns on board the Chars Gorge Edward and Ella the cannonneers went with the guns and the drivers with their horses.
Saturday March 29th 1862
The day was cold and rainy we finished loading our horses on board the Chs and went too Elecrandra [Alexandria] too receive further orders.
Cleared off pleasant we Weighed our anchor off Elecsandra [Alexandria] steamed down the river towing the two Chrs we had a fair view of Mount Vernon the great Washington was born and died there to his Com
The day comes in pleasent [pleasant] we Weighed anchor a little below the Rappahannock river proceded [proceeded] on towards fortress Monroe as fast as possible we left the Potomac at the siting [setting] of the sun entered out into Chespeake [Chesapeake] Bay we soon lost view of Land.