Diary Of Corporal Charles Gilbert, 36th Massachusetts Infantry On Hold

Charles L. Gilbert’s Diary begins Sept. 1862 2, 1862 to Feb. 28, 1863. With Appointment and discharge.

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Charles L. Gilbert was a 20 year old mechanic from Worcester, Massachusetts when was mustered as a corporal into Company “E” 36th Mass. Infantry on August 27, 1862.  He was later transferred to Company “H” of that regiment in early 1863. Gilbert was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps on January 5th, 1864 (discharge reads “January 15th, 1864), mustering as a private, into  Captain Allen Shortlidge’s Company “C” 23rd VRC Regiment. He was discharged in Saint Paul, Minnesota on July 13, 1865.

Charles Gilbert’s diary begins on August 2, 1862, and ends on Saturday, February 28, 1863. At that point, the regiment was encamped at Newport News, Va for a six week period.  What occurred with Corporal Gilbert is unknown without his records, so unfortunately at this point, there is a 10 month mystery as to his record with the 36th, and why he was transferred to the VRC?

What is interesting is what the 23rd VRC was doing in Minnesota? Company “C” 23rd Regiment -VRC, reported to Fort Snelling, Mn, under the command of Captain Allen Shortlidge, a veteran of the 2nd Minnesota Cavalry, in the spring of 1864 They remained there through the year of 1865 (were detailed to the Draft Rendezvous, at that post).

The diary is written in pencil, just out of the woodwork, and written in the small black leather bound pocket sized type common to most from this era.  included is Gilbert’s appointment to corporal, signed by the Colonel Henry Bowman, 36th Mass Vols.  and his discharge document, signed by Captain Allen Shortlidge, commanding Co. “C” 23rd Regt., VCR, and Brevet Major William Henry Rossell, 10th U.S. Infantry (breveted for gallant and mer. ser. at battle of Valverde, New Mexico, 26 Nov. 1863).  A CDV of President Lincoln sold by Joseph Ward, Boston; a pirated imaged where the negative was refurbished.

The diary is nearly all legible with the exception of a hand full of words.  The family I got it from had transcribed the contents and printed off a printed copy, making for a quite, informative read.  Gilbert records leaving Boston by steamer, and gives a general description of his travels.  The progression of the regiment, once in the seat of war, begins with passing Mount Vernon, Fort Washington, and a visit to the hotel were Ellsworth was shot. The regiment’s march is recorded town by town and then arrive at Antietam the day after the battle.  Here Gilbert describes “were the Rebels were left just as they shot, counted over 100 in one pile.”  He mentions various reviews by General Burnside, President Lincoln, and McClellan and other officers of the Army.  The regiment “slept on the sidewalk in Frederick…marched towards New Market.” On Friday, Oct. 17, ’62, the company fired their guns for the first time.  More drilling, battalion details, inspections, visits from friends in other regiments, etc.  Nov. 13th. “Gen. McClellan resigned and Burnside took his place.” Nov. 18, “talked with the Rebel pickets across the river, ”  Nov. 23, “…Our cannon shelled the cars that run out of Fredericksburg.”  Nov. 30, “ordered to do duty with Co. H…our supply train was fired on by the rebel batteries…Dec. 1…had to throw up breastworks down by the river.  Dec. 5th Gilbert is not feeling well  and goes to hospital, then back to his tent.  Dec. 11, “in line of march, the orders came for us to start at eight…ordered to take nothing but our blankets, tents, haversacks and canteens. Pack or knapsacks and leave them in camp. We marched down and crossed over on the pontoon bridge in to Fredericksburg about nine o’clock…the orders were fishing the tobacco out of the river, the houses were riddled with shot and shell…” He talks about some of his fellows scavenging in the taking various things.  Dec. 12..”The rebel batteries threw four or five shells which struck near our regt. which wounded four of the New York 79th Regt.” Dec. 13th, “Our batteries commenced to shell the rebels this morning…changed our position to higher ground…all the batteries kept playing to each other.”  Dec. 14, ..Our soldiers charged three times ….but could not take them on account the rebels having such a strong position.  Dec. 16,  “…The pontoon bridge which we crossed was covered with dirt so as to deaden the noise…  Through the rest of the month, picket duty along the river, review from Gen. Sumner, cutting logs for his house-part tent…   Jan. 1, 1863, “…wished a rebel picket a Happy New Year but he did not answer us. We then spoke to a rebel that we saw walking along by the Gas House, but he did not speak, he was an officer and only answered by a salute, some of the rebels has on our overcoats and some had none at all. When they would be relieved they would run and slap their hands to keep warm….whiskey rations…..”  Jan. 10, “…reviewed by General Burnside, our brigade was the last to be reviewed when he passed us we cheered him several times then the other brigades began to cheer..”  Jan. 20,  “Dress parade tonight…Col. Bowman read some orders from Gen. Burnside, saying it was time to make a blow at the rebels who were now weak and that we had made such progress in North Carolina…..” Jan 23, “the pontoon corps and the batteries were stuck in the mud- had to burn thirty pontoon boats. The rebels had painted on a board (the opposite side of the river), Burnside’s arm stuck in the mud.  Horses and mules dying off fast…”  Jan. 26, “General Burnside had resigned, the captain let us read the farewell address, we heard that General Hooker in now in command, also heard that general Sumner and Franklin had resigned.”  Jan. 27, “I went down to the river to wash, the rebels were playing ball right opposite where our picket post. There is also a squad of them digging rifle pits, some of our boys made little boats, which they exchanged papers with them….”  Inspections, to sutlers, meals, mail, camp inspections as well as arms and knapsack inspections, much more info on camp life, people visiting etc.. Moved toward Fortress Monroe.  Feb. 13, “..starting for Newport News by boat…passed a monitor- Nahant…landed and marched up into the fort….our camp is right in line with the Blockading fleet…  A lot of writing about losing his pocket book…confronted another soldier about taking his book, asked others if they saw “Cooper” take his pocket book- got in touch with his captain-much more on this trouble.  Feb. 19.,  “This morning we dug a drain the whole length of the street, and also laid plank sidewalks on each side….” Feb. 21.  “Brigade drills, also one order read for us..to wear a blue piece of cloth one inch square on our caps..”  more of the same, naming officers, generals, etc.  Feb. 28, 1863 (last entry) “…inspected by Capt Draper and Capt Barker after which we were mustered in for two more months pay making in all that they owe us Fifty Two dollars…..”  One page after is a list of articles he drew from the Government (uniform clothing and equipment).

Not a lot of combat, but an informative diary for the early part of the war for this regiment.  From March 1863 to later in the late summer – early fall, Gilbert must have gotten sick, and was transferred to the VRC.  Much more to be gleaned from this diary.  132 full pages.


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