Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Private Hobbs’ Diary: “The weather continues delightfull. . . .”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on January 26, 2013

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.

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December 3
At 5 P.M. went on bord the transport steamer Saxon [1] with three other Companys but being too crowded Co. A was removed too the Quincy the regiment all embarked on four steamers the Saxon, Quincy, [Charles] Osgood, and Chetucket, two of the  Steamers were old and did not look safe one company required to be put on bord the Chetucket [sic., Shetucket] and after considerable excitment were finally transferred to the Saxon [2]
 
December 5
At 8 ½ Oclock AM, the Pilot came on bord when we weighed anchor and seamed down the harbour past Sandy Hook and out too sea we are in [General Nathaniel] Bank['s] Expedition and sail under sealed orders but expect to go to Fortress Monroe
 
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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).
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December 6
Blowing a gale with a heavy sea most of the men are sick and as the ports had too be  closed it was very disagreeable to stay below and too cold to stay on deack
 
December 7
A rough night wind still blowing passed Cape Haterass about 1 A.M. the men still sick turned them on deack 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 destination 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 evrything at one meal most of them are growling because they cannot get enough to eat and the cooks are mad and sware thair stove will not draw
 
December 9
The weather is delightfull and every-thing goes on well except the grub they do not give us enough of any-thing except hard bread and that we cannot eat many of the men express the desire that the pirate Alabam 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 cost of Florida and saw a gun boat
 

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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)
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December 11
passed a wreck on the shore with a tug boat discharging her cargo [3] 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 bord 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 delightfull the men are in high spirits except at meal time they have not yet got acostomed to living on Army rations we get mush sometimes which we consider a grate luxury the men who have money to spare go to the second table in the cabin they have thare evry delicacy that can be got on land we have on bord 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 expiditions to New Orleans 

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ShipIsland
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).

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December 15
Arrived at Ship Island this morning was brought to last night by a shot from a gun boat a Lieutenant cam on bord and examined our papers Ship Island is a low Sandy place with a few government store -houses Gen Butler took it from the Rebels last winter we see the forts where he found the wooden guns. Three or four regare 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
 
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[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] 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

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There’s lots more to come.

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6 Responses

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  1. Caleb McDaniel said, on January 26, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    Hi Andy! Great to see you highlighting the Hobbs diary! I actually have a post on the diary forthcoming on the New York Times Disunion blog, co-authored with Andy Lang—who has also written about the diary here. Should appear in the first couple of weeks of February. Looking forward to your series too! It really is a wonderful source.

    • Andy Hall said, on January 26, 2013 at 8:47 pm

      Hey, Professor McDaniel. I hope this series won’t interfere with that. Looking forward to reading it.

      • Caleb McDaniel said, on January 26, 2013 at 9:01 pm

        Not at all! Glad the source will get more attention. Love to read your site!

  2. S. Thomas Summers said, on January 27, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    My forthcoming book takes he form of jounal entries. It is titled The Journals of Lt. Kendal Everly: A Story of the American Civil War. Thanks for this.

    S. Thomas Summers
    Author of Private Hercules McGraw: Poems of the American Civil War


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