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36 Diary Entries of a Kentucky Civil War Soldier Before the Battle of Shiloh

Updated: Mar 14

For Sam Cox, and the men of the 17th Kentucky Infantry, the days and weeks after the fall of Fort Donelson were, of what some might consider, a sort of rest, along with the usual "hurry up and wait" of military life. The regiment encamped near Fort Henry before moving to Pittsburg Landing. This week's post will not give us any fighting, but we will see a very interesting look at camp life and some of the emotions felt by young men being away from home and loved ones for the first time. Sam is always anxious for a letter from home, especially his sweetheart, Josie.


If you would like to read his experiences at Fort Donelson and his first time being under fire, click HERE.



"An Unfinished Fort" by Andy Thomas. This image depicts Federal troops landing at Fort Heiman, but is a scene that Lt. Cox would have frequently seen.


February 18

We have spent the day in arranging our camp, and a bad day it is, too, for it has been raining all day. We look forward to better days.


19 Feb

Nothing worth relating today. Wrote a letter to Josie (His sweetheart).


20 Feb

Having nothing to do today, I wrote a long letter to sister Mag, Ree Glover, F.M. Allison, and J.C. Skillem. I gave them description of the battle from beginning to end.


21 Feb

This is a beautiful morning; the blue birds are singing in every bough. It reminds me of spring and when I heard them I felt as though I would soon return to my friends, for I felt that the war was over. However, I greatly fear that there is no such good luck.


I am of the opinion that we will, at an early date, march on Nashville, Tenn., or Columbus [KY]. As far as I am concerned, I would prefer remaining here for I have "seen the elephant" and am willing to go home and marry.


Lieutenant [William] Keith (Paradise, Muhlenberg County) appointed Captain of Company G.


22 Feb

It has been raining all day and nothing doing in camp.


23 Feb

This has been a beautiful day but nothing worthy of note has occurred. We had Sunday morning inspection and immediately afterwards went to divine services.


Lieutenant [Thomas R.] Brown (Louisville) appointed commander of Company K [I] in place of 1LT Finis H Little of Company C.


24 Feb

The weather continues to be good. Verge and I went hunting today; found no game but accidentally fell in with a few of the fair sex of Tennessee, and we were so smitten with them that we lost our road and wandered through the woods several hours before we reached our camp. Learned today that our Brigade has been transferred to another Division and suppose we will go to Fort Donelson in a few days.


25 Feb

Paymaster arrived last night and has been engaged in paying off the 25th Kentucky today. I supposed, or at least hope, he will come here tomorrow. General Crittenden's Division passed up the Cumberland this morning, destination, I learn, is Clarksville. I mailed a letter to Josie today.


26 Feb

Nothing doing in camp. Major Lowry, U.S. Paymaster paid us off today up to January 1, 1862.


The weather continues good. A great number of our men have become sick on account of bad water.


27 Feb

Have remained in camp all day.


28 Feb

We had a review today preparatory to pay.


1 March

Made out my muster rolls today, also my monthly report.


2 March

Having nothing of importance to do today. I have been ammusing myself by playing a small game of "draw". Won $7.50.


3 March

Nothing worth relating today.


4 March

I learned today that we are now in the 3d Brigade in the 4th Division, with General Hurlbut. I received orders to day to issue 40 rounds of cartridges to our company. I suppose we are preparing for a march, as there are troops passing up the Tennessee River by the thousands.


5 March

Struck tents this morning and failed to move, on account of the roads. Pitched tents again this evening.


6 March

We again received orders to move, and by noon we were on our way to the landing which was three miles. Arrived within sight of the boats, but there being a slough to cross, we were compelled to remain where we were during the night.


7 March

Remained in camp until late in the afternoon when we were ordered to move to the boat. We arrived on the bank, and our boat not being there, we pitched our tents, and retired for the night, as we supposed but to our very great surprise awoke in the water, it having rained very hard during the night.



"The View From Fort Heiman" by Andy Thomas. This depicts the attack on Fort Henry, but the scene of flooded ground and camps is probably similar to the camps of the 17th Kentucky while staying here.


9 March

This is Sunday, and a more lovely day the sun has never shone upon. One month ago today, I shed a tear when I separated from the one I love. That month has been to me an age. Could I but call back that moment. I would be happy, but alas, we have parted and maybe for the last time.


Today we embarked on board the Steamer New Uncle Sam. Two regiments on board; 25th Indiana and our 17th Kentucky.


10 March

We have been waiting for troops to embark.


11 March

This morning we were soon steaming up the beautiful Tennessee River and what an imposing spectacle; 95 large steamboats all loaded with troops, numbering one hundred-thousand men. Some boats have two regiments on board.





12 March

We arrived this morning at Savannah, Tennessee, a small town on the left bank of the Tennessee River. Here we found a great many boats and one or two gunboats. It was reported this morning that the enemy was in strong force a few miles above, where upon, a strong party was sent out. They have not as yet returned.


13 March

Nothing worth noting has occurred today. Why we remain here the Generals only know. Last night a light was discovered in the direction of Corinth, Mississippi. We supposed it to be the town on fire.


14 March

At Savannah still. This evening some thirty or forty boats moved up the river, their destination unknown to me. The men seem to be in high spirits, although it is currently reported that the enemy is only a short distance from us with equal if not superior numbers.


15 March

Nothing of importance today on the Steamer at Savannah.


16 March

Wrote a letter to Josie.

It appears that we will never get off this crowded boat. We lost two men last night, one in company B and the other in Company E.


17 March

All were in a stir this morning, having received orders to disembark. Came up to Pittsburg Landing where we disembarked. At this point, the Rebels made a stand, but were routed by the gunboats. I was led to a spot where our men, as well as the enemy were buried. They were buried about four inches beneath the earth; the nose and hands of some are being entirely naked. It is actually a shame to think that neither army pays no more attention to the dead.





18 March

We are once more in camp about one mile from where we disembarked yesterday. Last night it rained very hard, and we didn't arrive in time to pitch our tents; consequently, we were compelled to take the rain.


19 March

We have been employed today in arranging our camp, pitching our tents, etc. The ground we have selected is on a ridge surrounded by valleys, from which we get the pure water boiling up from the earth. The health of our regiment is some already better. I attribute it to the pure water.



Cloud Field


22 March

The weather continues gloomy, the clouds heavy and portending of rain. We have not as yet pitched our tents. There being so many troops disembarking that our wagons can scarcely get to the water; consequently, the delay.


23 March

Nothing of importance today. We have inspection in the morning at ten o'clock, on Sunday.


Another long and weary week has passed away and is now numbered with the countless ages that have ceaselessly rolled on into the dark and gloomy abyss of the might past; yet, the dark cloud of war, cruel war, hangs like a pall above and around us, almost entirely excluding the natural sky above us. That cloud seems to increase rather than to decrease. Oh, how long will it last?


24 March

I received a letter from my dear Josie and answered it almost immediately. The lines seemed to cheer my drooping spirits, which have rendered me almost unfit for duty. I wrote to A.S. Morton, Henry Nall, and my dear mother. Sent letters to Rev. Kinsolving.


Passed the inspection this morning. We received, on yesterday, five days rations with orders to hold ourselves in readiness for a march.


25 March

We had, this morning, Company drill and, this afternoon, Battalion drill. Weather cloudy with appearance of rain.


Prepared for picket this morning and reported to headquarters, but was informed to our great gratification that our services were not required. We returned and had Company drill, and at three o'clock had Brigade Review.


26 March

Nothing of importance today. The weather is fine and very warm.


27 March

Nothing worthy of note today.


28 March

Nothing of importance today.



For Sam Cox, and the rest of the men of the 17th Kentucky, the next few days would radically change their war experiences as they would be in the thick of the fight for two days during the Battle of Shiloh. If you would like to follow Cox's Shiloh experiences, there are two options:


-Sam Cox's Shiloh Diary Entries-Click HERE


-Analyzing Sam Cox's Shiloh entries with other sources-Click HERE


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There is history that needs to be remembered.  

Lost and forgotten.  Too many stories from our past have collected dust on bookshelves, or have been left behind with previous generations.  Join me as I piece together the tales about the 1862 Western Kentucky Summer Campaign in Laid Low in the Dust, and John Locke of the 14th Tennessee.

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Derrick Lindow              Owensboro, Kentucky            derricklindowauthor@gmail.com

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