Private Hobbs’ Diary: “The weather continues delightfull. . . .”
Alexander Hobbs was a private in Company I of the 42nd Massachusetts Infantry. It would be Hobbs’ and his messmates’ misfortune that Company I was one of the three companies of that regiment that eventually occupied Kuhn’s Wharf on the Galveston waterfront, and came under attack by Confederate forces in the early morning hours of New Years Day, 1863. Hobbs kept a diary that encompassed his experiences, which is now part of the collection at the Woodson Research Center at Rice University.
My colleague Jim Schmidt has highlighted Hobbs’ account of the Battle of Galveston, and used it as a source in his outstanding recent book, Galveston and the Civil War: An Island City in the Maelstrom, but Hobbs’ entire account of that period is worthwhile, being a privates-eye-view of a military campaign that ended disastrously. Over the next several posts, then, I”ll be sharing Hobb’s story as he and his company make their way south, into the Gulf of Mexico and on to Texas. I’ve broken Hobbs’ narrative out into paragraphs and added a few images that illustrate his story, but his original spelling, punctuation and syntax remain.
We pick up Hobbs’ account on December 3, 1862, as he and Company I board the transport Saxon at Brooklyn, New York.December 3 At 5 P.M. went on the transport steamer Saxon  with three other Companys but being too crowded A was removed the Quincy the regiment all embarked on four steamers the Saxon, Quincy, [Charles] Osgood, and , two of the Steamers were old and did not look safe one company to be put on the [sic., Shetucket] and after considerable were finally transferred to the Saxon  December 5 At 8 ½ AM, the Pilot came on when we weighed anchor and down the harbour past Sandy Hook and out sea we are in [General Nathaniel] Bank['s] Expedition and sail under sealed orders but expect to go to Fortress Monroe Soldiers in Hobbs’ sister regiment, the 41st Massachusetts, write letters on the the deck of their transport as part of the Banks Expedition. From Frank Leslie, Famous Leaders and Battle Scenes of the Civil War (New York, NY: Mrs. Frank Leslie, 1896). December 6 Blowing a gale with a heavy sea most of the men are sick and as the ports had be closed it was very disagreeable to stay below and too cold to stay on December 7 A rough night wind still blowing passed Cape about 1 A.M. the men still sick turned them on and cleaned the ship we are in the Gulf Stream and the water is almost a blood heat but the wind blows very cold. The orders were opened this morning and we find our to be Ship Island December 8 The Weather is growing mild and the men are recovering from the sea sickness with an appetite which threatens to devour at one meal most of them are because they get enough to eat and the cooks are mad and stove will not draw December 9 The weather is and goes on well except the grub they do not give us enough of except hard bread and that we cannot eat many of the men express the desire that the pirate may take us December 10 Weather warm and pleasant three men in irons today for stealing meat last night our Capt tore the stripes off a corporal for being concerned in the robbery and disobeying orders Made land on the of Florida and saw a gun boat
The transport steamer Che-Kiang, another vessel in the Banks Expedition, collided with (or was intentionally rammed by) a Confederate schooner off the Florida Reefs on the night of December 11, 1862. The schooner sank, and her crew escaped in a boat. Che-Kiang continued on her way, with some damage, eventually discharging her troops at Ship Island, Mississippi. From Frank Leslie, Famous Leaders and Battle Scenes of the Civil War (New York, NY: Mrs. Frank Leslie, 1896) December 11 passed a wreck on the shore with a tug boat discharging her cargo  at 5 P.M. entered Key West to get coal and water Key West is now used by the U.S. Government to store provisions it is a small village and to us who had never been at the south the trees and fruit looked really pleasant The men worked at night taking on coal and water some of the boys went on shore and got oranges Lemons Coconuts & December 12 Left this morning for Ship Island in company with two other transports a fair wind and pleasant weather December 14 the weather continues the men are in high spirits except at meal time they have not yet got to living on Army rations we get mush sometimes which we consider a luxury the men who have money to spare go to the second table in the cabin they have that can be got on land we have on the Col. I.S. Burrell and quite a number of the staff officers they probably thought this the safest ship and she has so far been all we could wish She is the same as was used by Gen Butler as his flag ship in his to New Orleans
Ship Island, Mississippi, which was used as a primary Union rendezvous and staging area in the Gulf of Mexico. From Frank Leslie, Famous Leaders and Battle Scenes of the Civil War (New York, NY: Mrs. Frank Leslie, 1896).
December 15 Arrived at Ship Island this morning was brought to last night by a shot from a gun boat a Lieutenant on and examined our papers Ship Island is a low Sandy place with a few government Gen Butler took it from the Rebels last winter we see the forts where he found the wooden guns. Three or four are encamped on the Island waiting transportation the ship that brought them from Fortress Monroe being too large to go up the Mississippi 4 P.M. After getting coal we left for New Orleans
 Saxon was a relatively small, 413-ton screw steamer, built at Brewer, Maine, opposite Bangor on the Penobscot River in 1861. She was first registered at Boston, but would spend much of the Civil War under charter to the U.S. Army as a transport. She would continue in civilian for almost three decades after the war, before being abandoned in 1892. Mitchell, C. Bradford, ed. Merchant Steam Vessels of the United States, 1790–1868 (The Lytle-Holdcamper List), (Staten Island, New York: Steamship Historical Society of America, 1975), 196.
 Companies D, G and I, along with regimental staff, traveled aboard Saxon, and were the only part of the regiment to make it to Galveston. Cos. A, B and F, on Qunicy, arrived at New Orleans on December 29; Cos. C and H, on Shetucket, arrived at New Orleans on January 1; and Cos. E and K arrived at New Orleans aboard Charles Osgood, also on New Years Day, 1863. Dyer’s Compendium, Pt. 3, 1263-64.
 This may be a reference to another steamer in the expedition, Mememon Sanford with the 156th New York Infantry aboard, that was wrecked and lost on Carysfort Reef, near present-day Key Largo, early on the morning of December 10, with no loss of life
There’s lots more to come.__________