Excerpts From the Diary
of a Union Officer in the Civil War

September 1864

First Lieutenant Wilson DeGarmo of the 33rd Iowa Volunteers made the following entries in his pocket diary while stationed in Little Rock, Arkansas. The dates follow the style of the diary.

Information provided by the publisher, James J. Purcell, Blank Book Manufacturer, in the diary includes 1860 Census figures for the United States. The total population was given as 31,647,859 and the total slave population as 3,999,283. The population of Arkansas was 331,710 and its slave population was 109,065.

Lieutenant DeGarmo also used the diary to keep records of his correspondence and spending. He recorded that his mess fee for August 1864 was $7.00 and that he borrowed $1.05 from S. Potts on October 29. The ink has turned dark brown but his writing is still quite legible after 130 years. There are, however, a few places where the handwriting itself is not easily deciphered. Those are noted. Eccentricities of spelling and punctuation have been preserved.

Wilson DeGarmo Thursday, September 1, 1864
On duty at Fort Steele. The morning foggy & cloudy. Clear by 8 O'clock. The remainder of the day warm. A rebel raid anticipated. Guards strengthened tonight.

Friday 2
On duty at Fort Steele. The day was clear and very warm I think the warmest of the season. The guards strengthen tonight again in view of the rebel raid anticipated.

Saturday, September 3, 1864
Done nothing today, but lay around the quarters all day. Clear and warm but not so warm as yesterday. The same (unreadable) tonight as last night.

Sunday 4
Done nothing today. Remained at quarters all day. No Preaching. No nothing. A good air all day & quite pleasant.

Our Regt. ordered out to the rifle pits between 10 & 11 O'clock at night -- I go with them.

Monday 5
This morning I was with the Regt. in the rifle pits S.W. of Pemitec (?) . I leave them there about 9 O'clock go to Fort Steele. On duty there and with the detail from there untill 4 P.M. & with a fatigue party in the bottom by 1st Mo. Bat untill dark. The Regt. goes to camp 12 past 3 P.M. The weather hot. Considerable fir aspect* of an attack.

*(writing small and cramped "fir aspect" or "prospect" are best guesses)

Tuesday, September 6, 1864
Go to Fort Steele at 6 A.M. but no detail reports. I go again in the afternoon but still no detail. The excitement concerning an attack here has greatly subsided.

Weather very warm.

Holland return from Pine Bluff with his detail.

Wednesday 7
On duty west of town near the river with the details at work on the fortifications. Receive news of the capture of Atlanta. The sun shines very warm but there is a pretty good breeze - A little shower at 5 P.M. Ate dinner with Col. Whipple.

Thursday 8
On duty the same place as yesterday. - Weather warm Cloudy part of the time Two showers in P.M. The last about 4 O'clock when it rained very hard at Camp but not very much where I was. H. Dorman had a congestive chill tonight.

Friday, September 9, 1864
On duty at the same place again today. No news of importance of any kind. Some cloudy today but when the sun shone out it was very hot.

Saturday 10
Quit work about 1 O'clock went to camp and remained the balance of the day. Weather very warm. Major General Mower arrived at Little Rock last night One year today since our forces took possession of this city.

Sunday 11
Done nothing today. Read one of Beecher's sermons - a very good one - was about quarters all day - No preaching in camp. Not anything else of note. Weather warm & clear.

Monday, September 12, 1864
On duty again at the little fort in the bottom. Quite cool in the morning but hot in the middle of the day.

Was at the penitentiary to see T. Moyers. Had a chat with Mrs. Canaday. Come home through town & got to camp very tired.

Tuesday 13
On duty at the fort in the bottom. Got dinner at Canadays. Weather clear and pleasant.

Wednesday 14
On duty at the Fort in the bottom. Got dinner again at Canadays. Quite cool in the morning but hot in the middle of the day.

Thursday, September 15, 1864
On duty in the bottoms fort - part of the day at Fort McKingy (? approximate spelling) and part of the day at Fort Summers - Cool in the morning but quite hot in the afternoon. See the 3rd Kansas battery Also Lt. Haston. Our Regt. had inspection today.

Friday 16
On duty with the fatigue party on the fortifications -- most of the day west of the Semetery - Was present at a Negro burying -- Quite cool this morning but warm in the after part of the day.

Saturday 17
Worked in the forenoon - west of the grave yard - done nothing after dinner - was at town in the evening. Cool in the morning - warm in the middle of the day.

Sunday, September 18, 1864
Blacked my shoes, put on a paper collar and went to Campbleite church in the forenoon heard a pretty good sermon. Took a walk in the afternoon - had preaching at camp in the evening - weather very pleasant.

Monday 19
Worked on the fort west of the grave yard. Northern papers in town with cheering news. The morning quite cool   the day pleasant.

Tuesday 20
Worked west of the grave yard. Nothing new today. Cool morning but pretty warm in the afternoon.

Wednesday, September 21, 1864

Everything about the same as yesterday.

A rumor today that rebel Shelby was at Pilot Knob Mo.

Capt. Comstock came in about 10 O'clock P.M. having come up with a rebel flag of truce.

Thursday 22
Work on the fortifications west of the grave yard. The weather pleasant. Capt. Comstock reports that P. L. Suiter died Aug. 6th.

Relieved of my duty on the fortifications.

Friday 23
I remained at camp all day. had the pleasure of a visit with Capt. Comstock - helped to drink a bottle of brandy with him and other officers.

Weather pleasant. Rained very hard in the night about 11 O'clock.

Saturday, September 24, 1864
I go on picket for the first time for over two months have quite a pleasant tour of picket duty.

Nothing of notice transpired.

Weather pleasant. Had to go on Picket in full uniform for the first time.

Sunday 25
Got in from picket about 10 Oclock. I done nothing the balance of the day.

Our chaplain preached for us in the evening.

Weather pleasant.

Got a letter this morning from L. M. at Nashville Tenn.

Monday 26
At camp all day or nearly so. Was on a board at Brigade Head Qrs to affix the rent of rooms occupied by said Head Qrs. Was informed today I would be detailed to take command of Company "B" The morning Cool the day pleasant.

General SheridanTuesday, September 27, 1864
At camp all day - after attending Div. guard mounting at 8 in the morning.

Hear that Sheridan (photo at right) has whiped Early in the valley and also a rumor that Mower has overtaken Price. Rained very hard in the afternoon.

Wednesday 28
D.O.H. had a team hauling logs for a cabin to winter in -- I was about camp in the forenoon but went to town in the afternoon Weather clear but cool - called pleasant.

Thursday 29
I went out in the forenoon to look for brick. Went back in the afternoon to get them.

The weather cool but clear & quite pleasant.

Sheridans Victory over Early confirmed and published in the Little Rock papers. But nothing from Mower.

Friday, September 30, 1864
I assume command of Co. "B" and Exchange Invoices and receipts with Harter for the property. It rained hard last night - in the night - has rained nearly all day today.

D.O.H. is on picket roster in my stead - as this was my day.

Wilson DeGarmo at this time was 1st Lieutenant in Company H and Joseph J. Harter, according to the Iowa 33rd Infantry page of the Keokuk Civil War Soldiers Web site, was 1st Lieutenant in Company B.

A portrait of Major General Mower (39K) can be found in the Library of Congress's American Memory collection.

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Comments may be addressed to Larry Pearson, lpearson@pobox.alaska.net