The latest addition to the University of Tennessee Libraries’ digital collections provides an intimate look into the daily life of a Civil War soldier. Three journals kept by Union soldier Henry Pippitt describe life in Company G of the 104th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, which fought in battles in Nashville and Franklin, Tenn., during the American Civil War.
The diaries are the property of the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum in Loudonville, Ohio, which has allowed the UT Libraries to digitize the journals and make them available online. Pippitt settled in Loudonville after his discharge from the infantry, and the diaries were donated to the museum after his death.
“We’re grateful to the museum for allowing us to digitize these diaries,” said Melanie Feltner-Reichert, head of UT’s Digital Library Initiatives program. “This is exactly the type of project we like to do: We’re preserving the integrity of the artifact while making the content and appearance of the original documents available to scholars everywhere.”
UT Special Collections librarian Jennifer Beals says that Civil War materials are one of their specialties, so when the Pippitt materials appeared for sale a few years ago, UT Libraries eagerly purchased the journals. Later, Beals says, they discovered that the journals had been stolen from the Fisher Museum and promptly returned them.
“Sadly, stolen historical documents pop up all too often,” Beals said. “With the Pippitt diaries, we thought we’d discovered some rare gems of Tennessee history that perfectly matched the strengths of our special collections. We were thrilled to have purchased the diaries, and then dashed to learn that the documents were stolen. But this digital version is the next best thing to having the documents here in Knoxville.”
The Pippitt collection is unusual in that it covers a Civil War regiment’s entire term of service. Thus, it constitutes a history of the 104th Ohio as well as a glimpse into Pippitt’s life as a soldier. He enlisted into the 104th in August of 1862 as a private and mustered out in June of 1865. His journals describe battles, troop movements and camp conditions. He also writes of foraging for food, his unit’s reception in towns that they passed, men wounded and men taken prisoner.
Pippitt’s journals are no less poignant for their brief, straightforward reporting of daily events. They attest to both the horrific and the mundane aspects of war. For instance, the following entry records Pippitt’s experiences on February 22, 1865 (spelling of selected words has been normalized for ease of reading, but capitalization is from the original):
“To day Colonel Jordan was appointed Provost-marshall of the City of Wilmington and the 104th to do Provost duty. We crossed Cape fear river and passed into the City. The Band struck up Yankee doodle. The Streets were crowded with citizens and drays. We went to the outskirts of town and went into barracks. There eight of our men prisoners here who starved to death & two who are just alive.”
Visit http://dlc.lib.utk.edu/pippitt/ to view the digital copies of Pippitt’s journals.