Who wrote the Cold Harbor diary?

11/1/2012 • Ask Mr. History

In discussing casualties at Cold Harbor, Shelby Foote wrote, "Some went even further in their bloom. A blood-stained diary, salvaged from the pocket of a dead man later picked up on the field, had this grisly final entry: ‘June 3. Cold Harbor. I was killed.’ " (The Civil War: A Narrative, The Red River to Appomattox, Volume 3, p. 290 [First Vintage Books Edition (1986) ©1974])

I have searched Google Books, GenealogyBank, Library of Congress Chronicling America, as well as the Internet, but now where can I learn specifics about the diary referenced. One reference noted that it was widely published in newspapers at the time, but I can not find any such reference with the limited search tools available. Most sources note it was a Massachusetts volunteer , but one says it was New Hampshire or maybe Connecticut. Do you know the origin and location of this diary?


R Lauren "Rick" Verret

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Do you know the origin and location of this diary?

I have been through a multitude of sources and aside from some reference to it being the blood-stained diary of a Massachusetts soldier, I have found no name or unit affiliation for the man who is quoted variously as writing: "June 3, 1864.  Cold Harbor.  I was killed."  "June 3, 1864.  Cold Harbor, Virginia.  I was killed." "June 3, 1864.  Cold Harbor.  I died." Given the fact that so many Union soldiers pinned scraps of paper bearing their names in hopes that their bodies would at least be identified, it is ironic that a diary was not enough to give this anonymous unfortunate a name by which to be recorded and remembered. But then, given the inconsistencies in the exact wording, could that "diary entry" have been apocryphal all along, just to unnecessarily belabor the point about the tragedy of Cold Harbor?




Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
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