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Anderson Family Site:

Harmon Anderson Diary:

About the diary

This version of the civil war diary of Harmon Anderson is an edit of the transcription created by Margaret McKinney Brown about 2007 and distributed to the great-grandchildren of Harmon Anderson: John McKinney, David McKinney, Richard McKinney, Mary Ann McKinney (all children of Harmon's grand-daughter, Mary Holmes Anderson McKinney); Richard Anderson, Mary Lou Anderson Hornaday, William Anderson (children of Harmon's grand-son, Haramont Nathaniel Anderson, Jr); and Jonnel Anderson Fagergren and Janis Anderson Scorrar (children of Harmon's grand-son, John Harmon Anderson).

Margaret provided some annotation to the diary as well as including material obtained from various libraries and web pages. Some of these have been included with this version and others left out in order to keep the copy relative short and focused on the words of Harmon Anderson as he recorded his experiences while serving in the Union Army and his imprisonment at Camp Sumter prison camp near Andersonville, Georgia

The image that appears at the top of each page was taken November 1, 2008 at Andersonville by Richard Holmes Anderson.

Introduction

Margaret McKinney Brown, Harmon Anderson's great- granddaughter, transcribed this diary from the original. Margaret provided annotation to the original text in the form of maps that show the path followed by Harmon Anderson upon his return to active duty in 1863 with Company C of the 110th Ohio Volunteers. I have included these maps as figures in the edited version

Harmon had enlisted August 27, 1862 at the age of 38 and had presumably spent time with the Union Army before the dates covered by this diary. We have no definitive information on this other than the official record of his enlistment. Harmon was captured by the Confederate Army on Friday, May 6 at the Second Battle of the Wilderness by Gordon Bryon of Johnson's Division. He spent several days traveling south, all the time expecting to be released or paroled. Instead Harmon was transported southward, eventually arriving at Camp Sumter near Andersonville, Georgia at 1 p.m., May 24, 1864. He observed his 40th birthday at Camp Sumter in June of that year. He was moved from Andersonville (Camp Sumter) on September 12, 1864 where he continued to be held outside of Macon, Georgia. Harmon was finally paroled with two comrades on November 27, 1864. He arrived home on December 23, 1864 – what a wonderful Christmas present that must have been!

The first part of Harmon's diary talks about the weather, the duty to which he was assigned, his struggles to stay well and how food was prepared. As the Army of the Potomac, to which the 110th Ohio Volunteers had been assigned, came closer to battle, the talk turned increasingly to religion and to Sunday sermons and evening prayer meetings that a number of the enlisted men managed to put together. A few officers did join them in these events.

Once Grant took command of the Army of the Potomac, the routine changed dramatically. Now Harmon writes of inspections, target practice and close order drill as the men were prepared for battle. Marches to picket duty are described as are several skirmishes. We eventually come to the description of what today we call the Second Battle of the Wilderness, where Harmon was captured on May 6, 1864.

After his capture he was conveyed southward through Virginia, North and South Carolina to Georgia, finally arriving at Camp Sumter near Andersonville, Georgia. He arrived at the camp on May 24, 1864, shortly after the initial work on this camp was completed in the early summer of 1864. The conditions at the camp were deplorable, but seemed at least to be tolerated initially. Harmon notes increased fighting among the men and remarks upon the general lawlessness and absence of any kind of religious activity or morality among the prisoners.

In the summer of 1864 he notes the opening of the new part of the camp and the capture and trial of the infamous raiders who had been preying upon their fellow prisoners. Later he notes the hanging of these raiders.

Throughout these early days in the camp Harmon records how many new men are brought in and how the conditions in the camp continue to deteriorate with the arrival of each new group. He also notes the number of men who die each day or week and are taken out to be buried. He describes the deadline inside the prison stockade and the death of at least one man who was shot when he crossed that line.

Toward the end of his stay at Camp Sumter he becomes increasingly despondent and irritated by the lack of action on the part of the Federal government to lead to their release and to improve the deplorable conditions in the camp. Food is a constant issue for Harmon and the lack of adequate nourishment led to a severe case of scurvy, a condition that later provided the basis for his invalid pension from the government.

As the Union prisoners began to be moved out of Camp Sumter, Harmon's anguish and displeasure increases dramatically. Parole was always thought to be an option by the prisoners. Harmon begins to complain about the inaction and presumed loss of parole opportunities. He was finally moved with a group of compatriots to a camp near Macon where he is held in conditions that include what he described as intentional starvation to convince the captives to swear allegiance to the Confederacy so that they might receive an increase in rations. Harmon refused to do so and seems to have suffered for this refusal.

The diary closes with travel home to Ohio and the opportunity to once again eat good meals. I recall my grandfather, Dr. H. N. Anderson saying that the diary was really not too interesting because all that was mentioned was the lack of food and the terrible sanitary conditions. Certainly this theme dominates the later pages of the diary, but there is also chatty commentary upon life in the Army and about his family, comrades and his religious experiences. I leave it to the reader as to which of these views prevails.

Versions of the Diary

In the original introduction to the transcription Margaret describes the condition of the diary (the first two pages were farm records, the written pages were fading badly and several pages were loose and inserted among the bound pages of the diary) and how she faithfully transcribed the spelling and syntax of the original. The reader will note that there are map sketches by Margaret to show where Harmon went during this time. Margaret also added some items from web pages at places in the transcription which I have not included here. In addition to the words of Harmon Anderson, his youngest son (our grandfather, Dr. H. N. Anderson) added notes or commentary on many pages. These are included by Margaret as italicized phrases.

Since Margaret transcribed the diary I have created versions of that transcription in various forms. The first version is a bound hard back version -- only a few copies of this were made as it turned out to be quite expensive.

I copied the original transcription and placed it in digitized, machine readable form so that it may receive wider distribution. I have combined the original pages in an effort to reduce the number of pages needed to produce the final document.

In the past year I took this version of the diary to create several formats: a stand-alone web (HTML) document; a version in Word document format; and a PDF version.

Finally, in 2010 I was able to have the original diary in my possession. It had been given to Margaret McKinney Brown by her sister, May Ann in whose possession the diary had been since the death of Mary Holmes Anderson McKinney. I took on the task of scanning the diary and creating a facsimile to go with this transcription. The original diary has been returned to Margeret McKinney and she intends to pass it on to her son, Newton Brown.

Copies of these versions have been included on this CD in addition to the version that appears in these pages;

During my visit to Andersonville National Historic Site in the fall of 2008 I had the opportunity to talk with Fred Sanchez of the National Park Service and offered to send a copy for inclusion in the research library at the Andersonville National Historic Site. The Museum was given a copy of the published hard back version.

 

Richard Holmes Anderson
Denver, Colorado
September, 2012

 

Diary Sections: May 23, 1863 to January 1, 1865:

Anderson Family Site: