University of Delaware Library

Smith, James E., fl. 1864.

Pocket diary

1864 January 1-1864 May 5

Descriptive Summary

Identification: MSS 097, Item 059

Creator: Smith, James E., fl. 1864.

Title: Pocket diary

Inclusive Dates: 1864 January 1-1864 May 5

Extent: 1 v. ( 44 p.) ; 15 cm.

Abstract: This diary was kept by a member of the 56th Regiment Massachusetts Infantry, possibly named James E. Smith, from January 1 to May 5, 1864, during the U.S. Civil War.

Language: Materials entirely in English.


MSS 097, Item 059, James E. Smith, Pocket diary, Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware.

Shelving Summary

Item 059: Shelved in SPEC MSS 097


Special Collections, University of Delaware Library / Newark, Delaware 19717-5267 / Phone: 302-831-2229 / Fax: 302-831-6003 / URL:


Purchase, 1950.


Processed and encoded by Evan Echols, February 2009.

Materials Available in Alternative Format

A digitized copy of the journal is available at the University of Delaware Digital Institutional Repository.

The collection is open for research.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note

James E. Smith served in Company I, 56th Regiment Massachusetts Infantry of the United States army in 1864. His date of muster was February 4, 1864, and is listed as having died November 6, 1864, in Danville, Virginia.


Massachusetts Adjutant General’s Office. Record of the Massachusetts volunteers, 1861-1865. Published by the Adjutant General, under a resolve of the General Court. Boston: Wright & Potter, 1870.

Scope and Content Note

This diary was kept by a member of the 56th Regiment Massachusetts Infantry, possibly named James E. Smith, from January 1 to May 5, 1864, during the U.S. Civil War.

The author begins the diary by describing his enlistment in Provincetown, Massachusetts, during which spirits were high and after which the new recruits were paraded through town "bunting flying". He continues by describing the process of drilling and mustering in Provincetown. The author notes that he is photographer musician in civilian life, and a bugler in the army. By April, his unit had left Massachusetts and marched to Camp Holmes in Annapolis, Maryland. They then marched south into Virginia. He describes life in the army as harsh and unpleasant with rations being scarce. The entries end abruptly after May 5, in which he states that he had endured a hard, thirty mile march to a point near the Rapidan River in Virginia. This date and location coincides with the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5-6, 1864) in which the 56th Massachusetts participated.

This small, bound pocket diary was published in 1864 and the first 20 pages of the diary contain a 1864 almanac a chart of railroad distances and time by rail from New York City, a table of stamp duties, population statistics, and information on tides, postage rates, and moon phases. After these pre-printed statistics, the entries begin. The diary has a protective leather cover with a clasp to secure the cover when closed. In the front of the diary there is an impression where, at some point, a flower was laid in along with the note "Mattie R. Alwood 20 years old 20th day Sept. 1863." There is a list made of items "to carry to war" as well as a list of cash accounts settled. In the back of the diary there are simple mathematical calculations, most likely made by the author. The diary also contains a laid in photograph from Trask's in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The date 1863 and the name J. E. Smith are handwritten on the back of the photograph. A three cent stamp is also attached to the back.

This collection gives insight in to the rapid process of recruiting and deployment of soldiers during the U.S. Civil War as well as the harsh living conditions these soldiers were subject to. It demonstrates how quickly enthusiastic recruits would go from the relative comforts of home into combat and the depths of misery.

Selected Search Terms

Personal Names
Smith, James E., fl. 1864--Diaries.
Corporate Names
United States. Army. Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, 56th (1863-1865)--Diaries.
United States. Army--Military life--History--19th century--Diaries.
Geographic Names
Provincetown (Mass.)--History--19th century--Sources.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Sources.
Form/Genre Terms

Related Materials in this Repository

This item forms part of MSS 097 Diaries, Journals, and Ships' Logs collection.

Publication Note

University of Delaware. Library. Self works : diaries, scrapbooks, and other autobiographical efforts : catalog of an exhibition, August 19, 1997-December 18, 1997 : guide to selected sources.Newark, Del. : Special Collections, Hugh M. Morris Library, University of Delaware Library, 1997.

Detailed Contents List

Pocket diary, 1864 January 1-1864 May 5   [Item 059]

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