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  • Writer's pictureDerrick

A Tennessee Soldier's Diary from the Peninsula Campaign

Besides writing the book on the summer campaign of the 10th Kentucky Partisan Rangers and its culmination at Owensboro, Kentucky, I have also been working on the Diary of John F. Locke of the 14th Tennessee Infantry. The 14th was one of only three Tennessee Regiments to serve in the Eastern Theater for the entire war. A copy of Locke's diary was given to me by one of my students several years ago, who also happens to be his granddaughter. The original is in possession of Murray State University, and I hope to be able to go see it in person once the book is complete. This project has been a work that I have done on the side. When you have been working on the same topic for over a year, sometimes it is nice to switch gears and think about something else. In this case, it was Locke's diary. If you would like to view his diary from 1861, sign up for the email list. If you already signed up and would like to view it, send me a message and I will be sure to get it to you. It is still a work in progress, and this version omits all the footnotes and extra information I have added. For this week's post, I am posting his entire diary from April to June 1862 to include much of the Peninsula Campaign. In the final version of the diary, I will have most of the people he mentions identified, so stay tuned for that!


1 and 2- Fine days. I am very unwell with cold.

3 and 4- Fine days. I hear HL is better.

5-Fine day. Have General review in PM.

6- Fine day. I wash today. Rained at night.

7- Rained at night. We are all called into line by the long roll and march to General A’s headquarters, where the dispatch was read from Shiloh informing us that the Confederates had gained a decisive victory at that place, but that General AS Johnston had fallen. A great many of the boys get on a spree tonight. I am still unwell, taking physics.

8- Raining, We fall in and start early without rations. Travel 12 miles in deep mud and camp.

9- Still raining. We march on toward Gaines Station, cross a creek that was very high. We pass Gaines 2 miles and camp. It is now turned to snow and we are wet and cold.

10- Fairs off about 10:00, We strike tents and left them, and fell in and march off some 6 miles. Awful muddy and we camp in three miles of Bowling Green (300) Caroline Co.

11- FIne day. Go on, pass through Bowling Green, go on and cross the Mattoponi River, march 17 miles and camp at 3:00.

12- FIne day. Rise before day. Get breakfast, fall in and start. Cross small rivers, camp near Ashland, Hanover Co.

13- Fine day. Get our tents this AM. Find HLC here in hospital, improving.

14- FIne day. I am on guard today in town. It rained on us in the PM.

15-Gloomy. We get ready for marching---Start at 11:00 for Yorktown, pass Hanover C.H. one mile and camp.

16- Warm day. Marched about 20 miles and camped 2 miles of the York R.R. All very tired.

17- Quite warm. March on pass New Kent (1,500) C.H. Made about 15 miles and camped.

18- Warm. Start at hardly daylight, feet very sore. At 11:00 ordered up in quick time. Made 20 miles and camp.

19- Gloomy. Marched on to Williamsburg (1,500 in time of peace) James City Co. Our company is the rear guard. We scour the town to get up all stragglers. We went on 7 miles and camp at Lebanon Church 5 miles from Yorktown. We hear the roar of the cannons on the line that night. The pickets have a sharp skirmish with small arms. (they had sharp fight at Yorktown on the 16th) Not much damage done.

20- Rainy Sunday. Cannons firing all day on the line.

21- Gloomy. Cannons firing occasionally.

22- Rainy. We cook a day’s rations and go on picket at the breastworks. First regiment got a prisoner. We have a low wet land to lie on at night. Times are quiet all night.

23- Fair pleasant. Considerable firing in the PM. We return to camp this PM.

24- Fine day. One drill.

25- Gloomy day. Some firing on the line. The conscription bill read to each regiment. We are paid off.

26- Rainy. We held our elections. 1st LT JW Hagler was elected to the same position, 2nd LT Ed Martin was selected Captain, and WP Horn 2nd and JN Holland 3rd LT., B Williams OSC. Some firing all day and night.

27- Gloomy Sunday. Firing all day on the lines, (Gen S crossed below F’burg April

28th.with three divisions) not in manuscript.

28- Fair and warm. Two drills and parade. Heavy firing on the lines.

29- Gloomy. Some firing on the line---two drills.

30- Quite pleasant. General inspections and roll call by Col. Forbes.


1- Fine day. One drill. We cook five days rations in the PM.

2- The wagons start on at daylight toward Richmond with baggage. Heavy firing on the line. We destroy a quantity of commissaries at the church and leave about 6 PM. This is very muddy road. We lie down to sleep in 2 miles [of] Williamsburg. It rains on us (very hard).

3- We get up and start at daylight. March through town and camp a 1 ½ of town. Eat a snack and lie down for a nap. Drew some [illegible]. Jno. Larapi** here. We still hear heavy firing in the direction of Yorktown. Our cavalry was attacked, who captured 5 prisoners, 2 guns, 60 caissons and several horses. We had two men killed.

4-Fine day. Sunday. Our cavalry under marching orders. All in good spirits; in the evening our brigade was “double quicked” back through some two miles to meet the enemy. Formed line and loaded our guns in rear of fortifications. They did not come and consequently we retired to camp. Cook two days rations and ready to move.

5- Rained all day. We fall in early and march toward Richmond. The mud very deep. We made about 18 miles, all the time expecting an attack on rear of flank. We camp about 6:00. I go on guard. Very tired. The enemy attacked our men at Williamsburg today (didn’t learn the loss) wichin (word??) a victory for our army.

6- Fine day. Cook two days rations remain here all day. Have inspection in PM. 2 hours. By sun we form battle line and stand until dark, then stack guns, lie down and sleep.

7- We march and are attacked near West Point. Have a sharp fight, repulse the enemy with light loss. Col. B. of Texas was killed, Captain Cruseman of Tennessee was wounded with one or two others. We took about 40 prisoners. We then marched back some 4 miles near the main road, took supper and rested two hours and marched all night (15 miles). Arrive at New Kent C.H. at 10:00 on the ****

8- Fine day-----Cook one days rations, lie down and sleep three hours, then march on 1 ½ miles and camp.

9- March ten miles and camp. Fighting in the rear, 43 prisoners brought up.

10- Warm day. The enemy pressing on our rear, we are ordered back, get 1 mile and order countermanded. We march back to quarters and remain in readiness to march. The troops in front of us are marching to rear.

11- Fine day Sunday- Preparations making for an engagement here. Have two sermons in quarters.

12- Fine day---We fall in and hear read the parting address of General Anderson, and also a dispatch from Gen. Beauregard’s victory in Tennessee, and General Jackson’s victory in Virginia.

13- Fine day.

14- Gloomy. I am very unwell. Kept my bed.

15- Rainy---Our men begin to march again toward Richmond. We start about 12:00 and march until after dark. Very wet and muddy. We cross the Chickahominy River 1 mile and lie down to sleep.

16-Raining---Our brigade is commanded by Col. Hatton of Tennessee. We are sent to the rear as pickets today. The brigade is deployed on each side of the road and remain until 11:00. We then retreat back across the river again. Our company is sent down the river a little to picket.

17- Fine day---Our company is relieved at 8:00 by Co. F. We go register and draw and cook rations and lie down and rest. Our men burn the bridge. The enemy came in sight, our batteries drove them back. We fall in line and load and remain for 2 hours and then march 6 miles and camp. Rations scarce.

18- Fine day. Sunday. We march on 3 miles and stop in the PM. March back 3 ½ miles toward the enemy and camp for the night.

19- Raining---- We stay here. The 1st Regiment is on outpost.

20- Fine day. We hear heavy firing on the James River.

21-Fine day. The 7th Regiment relieves the 1st Regiment on picket. Skirmishing in the rear.

22- Gloomy and some rain. The enemy is near us.

23- Fair day---Our Regiment relieves the 7th on the outpost. We have a skirmish today without any serious result on our side.

24- Rained all day. We have another skirmish, right sharp cannon duel. The brigade came near being captured. The loss to our Regiment was 2 killed and 3 or 4 missing. I think the enemy’s loss heavier. We fall back by a circuitous route through the woods. March 2 miles meet reinforcements and lay down to sleep.

25-Find day--- We march out and form line of battle at the edge of an open field (in pines). AT 12:00 we are relieved by another brigade. Return ½ mile on road and refresh and rest a few hours, fall in and march to about 3 miles of Richmond and camp.

26. We move ½ mile. It rained in the PM and at night. We cook two days grub.

27-Still raining this morning---We hear cannonading; there was a considerable engagement on the telegraph road toward Fredericksburg. Our men repulse them.

28- Fine day---We cook two days rations, fall in. Gen. Hatton makes a short speech to us at dark. We march down near Meadow Ridge on Chickahominy River. It takes us all night to march 8 or 10 miles. We lie down about sunup and go to sleep.

29- Fine Day--- We expect an attack, certain, though all kept quiet during the night.

30- We fall in at 10:00 and march back to east side of (3 miles from) the city and camp. It rained very hard in the PM and all night. We can’t sleep; the water covers the ground where we are.

31- We draw rations early and cook. Fall in and march toward Chickahominy. Stop 1 hour or 2 hours and take position in some small pines, then fall in and double quick about 5 miles. We pass President Davis near the scene of action. Take position in front of the enemy. Load and leave knapsacks. We make a charge on the enemy in his trenches and we are compelled to fall back. General Hatton was shot dead. The loss was quite heavy on both sides. I received a slight wound in the hand and went back to hospital 3 miles. It was now dark and very muddy. General Joseph E. Johnston received a right severe wound on the occasion.

Excerpt from the Report of General G.W. Smith

“On learning from Colonel Lee the condition of affairs in Hampton’s front, I immediately ordered Hatton’s brigade and Lightfoot’s regiment to move forward. The troops moved across the field with alacrity, and the precision of their movement in line of battle has been seldom equaled, even on the parade ground. I had not proceeded far into the wood before meeting with General Hampton. In a few words he communicated to me the state of affairs, and instructions were at once given for putting the brigade of General Hatton and Colonel Lightfoot’s regiment in close action. At the same time they were already under a deadly fire in a dense, entangled wood, struggling through the morass, covered with logs and thick bushes. The men continued to advance without firing a shot until coming up with the front line of troops, already engaged, when they too commenced firing, advancing upon the left to within 15 or 20 yards of the line of fire of the enemy which apparently came from the low bank of an old ditch, either a drain or foundation of a fence, very near the surface of the ground. It was already noticeable that the enemy aimed at this line. The generals of brigades, colonels, and other commanding officers were laboring under great disadvantages, the thickness of the woods and undergrowth and the smoke preventing them from seeing more than a very limited number of their men at any one time, while the roar of musketry was almost deafening. Very seldom, if ever, did any troops in their first battle go so close up to a covered line under so strong a fire and remain within such short distance so long a time.

Various attempts were made to charge the enemy, but without that concert of action almost absolutely necessary to success, and the gallant spirits who attempted it were many of them shot down, when the rest would fall back into the line and resume the firing. On no part of the line where I was did the enemy at any time leave their cover or advance one single foot. Our troops held their position close to the enemy's line until it was too dark to distinguish friend from foe. I retired among the last, came off slowly, and was not interfered with by the enemy in any manner.

In this engagement, which lasted about an hour and a half, the four brigades of my division lost in killed, wounded, and missing 1,283, of whom 164 were killed, 1,010 wounded, and 109 missing. Brigadier General [Robert] Hatton was killed…

The personal bearing and conduct of the lamented General Hatton upon the field was gallant, noble, and true to his high social and official character. He fell while bravely and skillfully leading his brigade in the extreme front of battle.”


1- Sunday---Fine weather---I was sent back to Chinboraz Hospital, Richmond, with some other wounded of the brigade. The fight was renewed today with great vigor, which resulted in our favor, wounded coming in all day.

Although originally wounded in the hand, Locke developed "debility" or general weakness and feebleness. Locke would suffer from this ailment throughout the war.

2- Fair warm--- I went to town today. We hear cannonading down the James River in the night.

3- Quite warm-- They’re all getting along well in the ward.

4-Rain today--The casualties of our regiment appeared in the paper today. Which shows 65 killed, wounded or missing.

Richmond Dispatch, June 3, 1862, Page 2.

Richmond Dispatch, June 3, 1862, Page 2.

Richmond Dispatch, June 3, 1862, Page 2.

Richmond Dispatch, June 4, 1862, Page 3.

5-Fine day-- River rose quite high. Our men are in battle line.

7-Rained very hard---Heavy firing on the line.

8-Fair---Some artillery firing heard.

9-Fair, cool for the season---See an account of the assassination of Johnson and Butler.

10- Cold and rainy---Our brigade is on picket. I am quite unwell.

11-Pleasant---All quiet on the lines. Fighting daily expected.

12 & 13-Warm---Heard of General Stonewall’s success in the valley. All quiet on the line. Some reinforcements going to Jackson’s aid. I am very unwell.

15- Rainy---General Stewart taken 175 prisoners and 500 horses and mules. Some firing on the lines.

16-Fair and cool---Jackson still successful in the valley.

17 & 18- Fair and pleasant---some skirmishes on the lines.

19-Fine day---I got to town.

20, 21, & 22-Fine weather---Some skirmishes on the line near Chickahominy.

23-Rains---Some firing on the lines. I leave this hospital and go to brigade hospital two or three miles from town.

24-Wet morning---Some cannonading on the lines.

25-Fine day---Heavy firing today.

26-Fine day---In the PM there was a heavy engagement near Mechanicsville. The ground was closely contested. Four batteries taken by our men, but finally the enemy was routed with heavy loss on both sides.

27-Fine day---The fight was resumed today (Gaines Mill). The enemy is driven back with great slaughter. Leaving large quantities of ordnance, and quartermaster’s stores in the hands of our men. Captain M, Privates L and C, were killed in our company. The brigade suffered greatly in making two long charges through an open field on the enemy in fortifications and succeeded in taking one battery.

28-Fine day---We hear fighting on the lines at a distance.

29 & 30-Fine days---We still hear firing down the James River. Our men taken quite a number of prisoners and officers (138).


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