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  • Writer's pictureDerrick

Diary of John F. Locke at the Battle of Fredericksburg

Updated: Dec 6, 2019

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. It is still a work in progress, and it gets way more interesting as the war progresses in 1862. For this week's post (December 2018), I am posting his entire diary from December 1862 to include the Battle of Fredericksburg. In the final version of the diary, I will have most of the people he mentions identified, so stay tuned for that!


1- Rained a little--- I got permission to ride in wagon with H. Banks. I have a desperate boil on my neck. We camp in a thick woods. Jas. N. bought turkey and cooked it.

2- Fine day--- We march on toward Fredericksburg turn to the right and camp near the Old Telegraph Road to Richmond.

3- We march on early to H’s Crossing; turn towards Guiness and camp in woods on a hill. Gloomy day. We are very much fatigued from our march of twelve days. My feet are quite sore.

4- We rest in quarters today.

5- It rained and snowed--- Our rations of flour was not issued today. Some of the boys go 6 or 8 miles in the country and buy some corn meal. HLC bought a ham of pork.

6- Fair--- I see the moon eclipse this morning before day. Company inspection this morning.

7- Sunday--- Fair and cold--- Inspection again today.

8- More pleasant--- Our mess fasted until late in the PM.

9- Cold--- Inspection AM. I wrote to JTU of 33rd Tennessee Regiment.

10- More pleasant--- I have desparate cold; got my side hurt by carrying a log of wood up a hill.

11- Fair--- The enemy commenced laying a pontoon at Fredericksburg; cannonading commenced on the Rappahannock River before day this morning and kept on until 10:00. We see the smoke of some buildings burning in Fredericksburg. We get orders to cook two days rations.

12- We get up before day and get ready to start about sunrise and march down and take our position near a ditch near H’s crossing. We lie all day by very small fires. This is some 4 miles from town. The enemy did not advance today. We fall back 150 yards to the top of the hill and lie down by small fires all night. Some snow on ground. Some heavy skirmishing on the left.

13- Fair warmer--- We fall in early and take the same position we had the day before. The enemy advanced about 11:00 and the fight began with heavy cannonading and picket fighting. Our command was in a small ditch at a fence at the edge of the open ground. The ground was descending toward the enemy. We pounded volley after volley of musketry into their lines, mowing them down as they advanced. They finally flanked us on the left and took quite a number of prisoners from our brigade and others. Those who escaped did it by hard running. I was struck by a spent ball in the first of the engagement. I was taken to the rear. Reinforcements came up in time to drive the enemy back to the river and across. He sustaining heavy loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners. Rodgers and Smith Co. F were killed on the field with many others. ATS, Jake W, and CJH, Co. D badly wounded, also Gus W., Co. E wounded badly. Our loss is said to be 500 killed and 2,500 wounded and prisoners.

The images below pertain to Jacob Walker, referred to as "Jake W" by Locke.

Report of Lieutenant Colonel Lockert, 14th Tennessee:

Sir : This regiment was engaged in the fight of the 13th instant, near Fredericksburg, Ya. About noon the enemy’s batteries in front of our position opened a terrific fire of shot and shell upon us, which was kept up at intervals until about 2 p. m., when three dense columns of infantry commenced to advance upon our position through a large open field in front. We, having taken shelter in a ditch, remained quiet until the enemy’s front line was within 200 yards of our own. The Nineteenth Georgia Regiment, on our left, and the Seventh Tennessee, on our right, commenced firing upon them. I then ordered firing to commence in my own. The firing along the line of your brigade now became general, and had great effect upon the Federal lines, killing and wounding a large number of men and officers and confusing others. The fighting with small-arms had only lasted about ten minutes, when the enemy directly in front of our position took shelter in the railroad cut. We then directed our fire to the left-oblique on a column that was advancing under shelter of the timber there and in front whenever a good shot could be had. In about ten minutes more I noticed that the Nineteenth Georgia Regiment was giving way, but supposed that their supply of ammunition, like ours, had been exhausted. In a few moments, however, Lieutenant [George B.] Hutcheson, of Company C, came up from the left and informed me that the enemy had gained our rear. I determined still to hold our position, and did so until I saw the Yankee line advancing through the small pines on our left. I then ordered my regiment to retreat. We fell back in disorder to the open field in our rear, reformed the few men left, got a supply of ammunition, and returned to our original position, the enemy having been driven back by other troops.

The officers and men during the entire engagement showed great courage and coolness. In fact, I did not see an act of cowardice, and never saw shots better aimed or more effective.

We mourn the loss of a large number of killed and wounded of the best men of our regiment.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

I am, sir, most respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. W. LOCKEET, Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Regiment

Diary Resumed

14- Sunday, Fine day--- I am at the hospital in the woods erected for the wounded from the field. CJH, Gus W, and various others of our regiment died this AM (Captain Brown and LT. Gree, Co. K). The wounded are going to Richmond as fast as the cars can take them. I went back to Old Camps today with JMB and W. McK.

15- Fair and pleasant--- I hear the cannons raring today. My side is quite sore.

16- Rained some before daylight--- The enemy retired across the river last night, our batteries playing on them. Our division comes out here, get their knapsacks and march down toward Port Royal. I hobble on with them. We march 6 or 8 miles and camp among some little pines in an old field after dark. Very cold.

17- Quite cool--- We stay here all day.

18- Fine day--- We move a short distance to timber and camp. Our boys who were captured and paroled got here today. To Wit; JB, WHA, GAS, and EKM, WPH and HLC were wounded and captured. JPB and WWW did not return.

19- Fair and cold--- We remain in quietly in camp.

20- Fair and cold--- I report for duty and stand guard today.

21- Sunday, fair and cold--- All quiet.

22- Pleasant--- Two men from each company on fatigue duty digging fortifications.

23- Fair and warm for the season.

24- Cloudy and cooler--- I go on fatigue and work on the ditches, return to camp about 2 PM. Some of the boys are on a spree tonight.

25- Christmas - Warm and pleasant--- FHL two of the 1st Regiment and I go to Guineas Station to get dinner at Mrs. Thomston’s. We pass the [night] very pleasant. It was night when we got back to camp.

26- Fine day.

27- Warm and cloudy--- We hear of Van Dorn’s victory in Mississippi. We cook a days rations tonight.

28. Sunday, Fair and pleasant---Our regiment goes on picket at 8:00; the moon is beautiful. We hear the enemy’s drums on the opposite side of the river. I go on outpost tonight on the bank of the Rappahannock River.

29- Fin day---We are relieved by the 45th Georgia. We return. Oh what a beautiful scene I witness, standing on an eminence viewing the vast opening to the Rappahannock bespeckled with farmhouses and evergreens. Beyond the river I hear the enemy’s drums, and turning to the South, I hear the beautiful bands of “DIXIE” playing. I go on to camp and get grub.

30- Pleasant day--- All quiet.

31- Cloudy--- Inspection, muster and battalion drill.


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