The Charles M. Jenkins Diary: January 1865

By Paul R. Spitzzeri

This is the second post on the Civil War diary of Charles M. Jenkins, who was the only Los Angeles resident to fight for the Union Army during that conflict.  The diary, owned by the Historical Society of Southern California, is on temporary deposit with the Homestead Museum.

On January 1, 1865, while still serving a stint in an Annapolis, Maryland, parole camp following his release from the notorious Confederate prisoner of war camp at Andersonville, Georgia, Charles M. Jenkins began to keep a daily record of his activities.

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On that first day, Jenkins reported [original spelling, grammar and punctuation are as written],

To day I and Wm Parker first sargt of the 38 Mass went to Divine Service at the chapel at Parole Camp Annapolis. It was quite cold and the wind blowe very hard.  To day is new years and I wrote a long letter of eight pages to Miss Casebolt for a new year gift.

Lillie Casebolt of San Francisco was to be a regular correspondent with Jenkins throughout the period covered in the diary, including on his late visit to that city after he was mustered out of the service.  The following day, the 2nd, Jenkins wrote,

To day I reported at headquarters and stated that I had lost my furlough on the 16 of Dec.  I expected to be reprimanded but it was all right as my furlough was not out until the third but lost my rashon [ration] money by not having it there was a furnell [funeral] of four soldiers it was very solmen [solemn] and done in due form in millitary stile with eight men and a Corp[Corporal]

After moving to a couple of different barracks at the parole camp, Jenkins was transferred on the 7th back to Company E of his regiment, the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry.  Being in the dead of winter, the marches and traveling in railroad cars as his unit headed towards its destination at Charleston, West Virginia, proved to be difficult.  In one passage, Jenkins related,

they keep us in line for three hours the coldes morning that I ever experiance in my life before we were half frozen before we marched.

It wasn’t just the weather that proved problematic for the 25-year old soldier.  Jenkins, later known for his prickly personality, had some conflicts with fellow soldiers.  On January 14, he was ordered to another camp for duty and stated, “Although I dislike them so much, I will have to obay orders.”  Later that day, Jenkins ventured over to headquarters and,

saw my old friend which wanted me to take charge of a squad of men that were making shingles but I declined he told me that he would detail me and then I would have to.

The next day, when a sergeant at this camp sent Jenkins out for picket duty, which involved a forward line around the camp for its protection against enemy incursions, Jenkins recorded that “I argued the point with him and corp [Corporal] Mosman had to take my place.”

There were, however, occasional pleasantries.  On January 16, after returning from an assignment, Jenkins wrote, “I found two letters one from Anie [Annie] declares that she loves me and that she wants me to return her love.”  Annie was oft-mentioned in later entries, as we’ll see, and on the 17th Jenkins recorded that he wrote a letter “to the Lady that I love.”

Despite his new commitment, Jenkins still found time to take note of other women he came across in his travels.  On January 29, for example, during further picket duty in Charleston, Jenkins noted that the soldiers camped outside two houses and that,

there was three girls in each, the first were not good looking, the others were, but they were rebs, so I was not sated.

As for camp life away from the battlefield, it was a mixture of duties, such as picket or general guard duty, and often long stretches of inactivity.  In those first weeks of the year, mainly because of the wintry weather, soldiers like Jenkins had some activities to while away the hours.  These included visiting friends, of which he wrote that “my friends are so numerous that I do not know who to see first,” reading new and old letters from friends and family, washing clothes, and playing board games.  On January 25, for example, Jenkins recorded, “I have been plaing chess, but was defeated every game.”

Sometimes, the activities were noteworthy, such as the time Jenkins met up “with another friend Old Ford of co M he was full of Whiskey as ever and the same old blohard.”  Another interesting tidbit was the rumor that one of his acquaintances in the service had been reported as “beeing hange” for some unstated violation of conduct.

Speaking of notable conduct, on January 31, Jenkins reported that,

I see a Lady in one of the tents of Co. E, they say it is a sister, but she remains all night.  She must be very affect[affectionate]. Or loving, you Bett.

News of the outside world, aside from letters, was apparently difficult to come by and rumor and fact competed vigorously in the world of the soldier.  On the 25th, Jenkins wrote, “There is great rumers of peace here to day.”  As the war lurched towards conclusion, there were, undoubtedly, near constant reports, or rumors, of the cessation of hostilities and the signing of a badly-desired peace.  In this case, the rumors were just that, as the end of the war was a few months off yet.

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