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Being a tale of the hunt for the identity of a bold adventurer, who hoped to capture a Yankee ship and a lady’s heart.

For 50 years an intriguing diary has reposed in the University of Virginia’s Library—with no one sure of its author. In a detailed account of over 35,000 words, the diarist never once mentioned his own name. We know he was a Confederate sergeant fighting under Maj. Gen. John B. Magruder in the Peninsula Campaign. Dating from January 12 through July 20, 1862, the diary outlines an audacious plot to capture a blockading Union schooner, a move that might have altered the course of the campaign had it come to fruition. Are there enough clues in the diary itself to determine just who he was?

Valuable clues to the diarist’s identity are apparent in the way he approached a superior officer and planned the ship’s capture. Early in March 1862, looking forward to putting his plan into action, he wrote, “A glorious night for taking one of the enemies ships by boarding.” Several days after that he had an interview with General Magruder, who detached him to the signal department. Curiously, however, the sergeant never mentions actually serving in that role; he was instead apparently left free to develop his plan. How could a lowly sergeant have obtained an interview with his commanding general and convinced him to try a daring scheme? And why would he be given such leeway?

Our diarist not only associated with Confederate officers from captains to generals, he moved in exalted social circles. During his time on the Peninsula he started courting a famous Williamsburg, Va., belle, Miss Harriette Cary. He referred to “Miss Hattie” in his diary for the first time in January, when he paid her a visit. Obviously smitten by her charms, he mentioned her seven more times after he walked her home from church, visited and played chess with her.

In his March 11 entry, however, the sergeant was all business. He wrote, “Spent the day until 12 o’c getting things for the Schooners all of which are unloaded & under my orders— took them on the river & anchored our little fleet in the cove under Page’s battery.” This was Captain R.C.M. Page of the Morris Artillery. “Went over in the evening & remained at the point until dark….spent the evening with Lieut. Lindsay—Took supper by invitation with Capt. Higgins.” Captain William H. Higgins, 2nd La. Bn. was Asst. Commissary of Subsistence for General Magruder. The next day he added, “Spent this morning on the beach & schooners— Worked until two o’c rolling cotton.”

On Thursday, March 13, his diary recorded additional hints about his grand plan: “Sent our little fleet over to the cove today to await further orders. Gave Capt. Flemming an order for 15 additional water barrels and ordered them to be filled up.” The following day he wrote, “Got all the grappling Irons, rope & cotton cloth down to the wharf today.”

The next Saturday he sailed for West Point, Va., on the ship Logan, hoping to hire some sailors. He then traveled to Richmond for the weekend. On Monday morning at 7 a.m. he caught a train back to West Point, where he “Spent the bal. of the day making arrangements about the Expedition.” The next day he received the authorization papers he needed to get volunteers from the 1st Louisiana Battalion for what he described as “special secret service.” He wrote, “Will go to camp & get the names of one hundred men tomorrow and have them ready.” The next Wednesday his entry was: “…got orders to get 3 waggons & 30 men to meet up at College Creek Ldg. [Landing] to get 3 launches on the wagons. [George] Tabb went to Groves Wharf after the boats….after a vain attempt to find the channel we returned to camp—the rain & darkness preventing us from keeping off the shoals—The wind is howling….A splendid night for our Enterprise! I regret we are not ready.”

For several days thereafter the diarist was busy recruiting men for his mission and exploring the York River. On March 23 he wrote, “we rowed over in the General’s boat to our fleet and made the sailors take us down to Tues Point in one of the gigs where we boarded the Guard Boat.” (The York River enters the Chesapeake Bay at Tue Point.) He continued, “Captain White brought us up above the Sand box—again taking our gig we came in at dark—We went to within a few miles of the Blockading Str [steamer] which was laying round the point.”

Everything seems to have been going as planned. But the next day General Magruder informed the diarist that four men from the 2nd Florida Infantry had deserted and gone to the blockading steamer. Since the general believed these deserters knew of Confederate plans to board the steamer, he canceled the planned assault.

On April 16, the first real clue to the identity of the author appears. In the entry for that date reads, “This is the eventful day in the history of the 1st La or Dreux Battalion—A year yesterday since we left home.” On April 21, a second clue shows up: “Saw a Mr. Murray in camp today from the Hampton Legion who informs me that Mullie [Captain Thomas Muldrup Logan, Hampton Legion] is well and stationed near Yorktown.” The following day the diarist walked about seven miles. He then recorded, “found Mullie looking very well—He has a fine Company of 98 men—he seems very popular….” Thereafter the diarist mentioned visiting Captain Logan on many occasions.

On May 3 comes the last reference to Harriette Cary, as the Confederate army was evacuating Yorktown. The diarist wrote, “Visited Miss Hat – tie this day—Williamsburg is a stirring place today. One continuous stream of Wagon & Artillery passing through….Our army evacuated Yorktown this night.” The diarist described fighting at Williamsburg and Yorktown. He also detailed how General George B. McClellan’s forces pushed General Joseph E. Johnston’s army closer and closer to Richmond.

Of particular interest to historians is the writer’s eyewitness account of the May engagement at Eltham’s Landing near Yorktown, Va.—the first time General John Bell Hood’s Texans fought in Virginia. On May 6 the diarist marched 12 miles and joined the Hampton Legion near West Point. He wrote:

We were up at Early dawn this day [May 7th 1862] & the brigade (Hamptons) marched down to within two miles of West Point— two co’s of the Legion were deployed as skirmishers on the left of the road—Mullies Co. among one of the two—we worked our way through the woods, heard firing to our right when coming on a cross road we were fired upon—Col. Archer of the 5th Texas regt who thought there was something wrong – & came out to see—his men had fired upon our Co & it was only owning to the coolness of Mullie that the fire was not returned—Col Archer was within 30 yds. of the right of the W.L. [Washington Light] Infantry & twenty guns were leveled upon him before he made himself known to us. After this accident the Texans were withdrawn & placed on the left of the road & our brigade on the right—The Texans had already had a brush with the enemy killing some & losing two of their own men—who were brought out into the road—After deploying on the right & left of the road, it was not long before we heard heavy firing on our left from the Texans & also their yell as they charged the foe—they drove them through the woods to the field beyond—capturing 46 & killing a large number—very soon after this the enemy appeared before us on the right, we had abt. three shots each at them in our Co.—we had no support on our right, being the extreme right of our line of battle, owing to which the enemy moved by & flanking us crossed the fire upon us—the Gist rifles fell back abt. 30 paces also exposing us to the fire on the left—by this time we fell back on a line with the Gist rifles & with a yell moved to the charge but the Enemy had retreated, & we were ordered by Genl. [Wade] Hampton who came up to fall back which we did in good order—The Texans had also fallen back on the other side of the road….Our killed was abt. 14 & 30 wounded—the enemy must have lost 300 men killed & wounded, as the Texans fought like devils, & our legion saw dead Yankees laying all abt. through the woods—We returned to camp abt. 3 o’c—well satisfied with the day’s work— From what we could learn today we fought Genl. Franklins division & Newtons brigade.

Who was this diarist? After reading his journal, Robert K. Krick, former chief historian at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, pointed out that he believed Mullie Logan’s wartime letters were at the Museum of the Confederacy. Thinking that Captain Logan might have mentioned the diarist in his letters, I inquired at the MOC—where I learned that although Captain Logan’s letters are not in their collection, eight letters by his brother, Daniel D’Oyley Logan, are. On hearing that, Krick thought there was a good chance the diary might be by Daniel Logan, and that it might have become separated at some point from the eight letters at the MOC. When John Coski, the MOC’s historian and director of Library and Research, sent me copies of Sergeant Daniel Logan’s letters to compare with the diary entries, it was clear from the handwriting that they had been written by the same man. The mystery was solved.

Now that we knew who the diarist was, it was easy to understand why he seemed to travel in such elevated circles even though he was only a sergeant. His close friend and brother was Captain Logan—who eventually became a brigadier general.


Mary Roy Dawson Edwards, who writes from Schuyler, Va., greatly enjoys ferreting out information in archives.

Originally published in the June 2010 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.