Newly Online: James A. Goble Civil War diary

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Sometimes our records of historical events come to us from ordinary and relatively unknown sources. All we know about James A. Goble is that he was a soldier in the First Alabama Infantry, and that while he was born in New York, he later lived in Auburn, Alabama, and fought for the Confederacy…before moving back to Massachusetts?

Obviously, Goble had an interesting perspective on the war. At the very least, he defies some of our expectations of Confederate soldiers as well as of Northerners. His “diary,” which seems to have been a narrative composed well after the events it describes, contains an especially detailed account of the Siege of Port Hudson.

Like its well-known up-river neighbor, Vicksburg, Mississippi, this Louisiana port town was targeted in a major Union offensive in 1863. The Vicksburg Campaign is considered a turning point of the war. That’s not surprising, judging from the excerpts given below:

The Heat of Battle (May 24):


Rifles cracking like lightning cannon shot wizing in all directions the air is thick with iron hail. how the enemy give back their guns no longer speak but are silent the Rebels rush on like madened woolves charge with point of baynet thousands of musket shot are fired the action is hot for 15 minutes then the Rebels rush on with a yell and wip them back.


Burying the Dead (May 27):


at 6 Oclock in the evening Feds sent in a flag of truce asking permission to burey their dead & both armies meet & they cheared each other with loud cheers in the meantime twas silant at every point as if by mutual consent shells and [miney?] balls fall thick and fast all around and on our House where two ladies are in for reffuge but as a kind Providence takes care of the innoent so it may be in this case now they have gon to work again with their missels of death on the extreem left where the fight was hottest


North and South, Black and White (May 29):


Many negroes lie dead on the field of battle unburied that old Abe sent South to subdue the rebellious children that are fighting for there rights O wat a stain on the North that can never be rubed out black men against white


Life in a Warzone (June 3):


A shell from Fed gun passed under the floor of a house in town & tour up the floor & 8 persons was in the room & while they was replacing it an other shell came & riped it all to peases & scattered trunk & contents all over the room belonging to one of the ladies but without ingering any one in the room.


“The Cruel Hand of War” (June 5):


this morning smiles fourth with its balmy breezes & nature looks on with a sweet smile the birds warble out their songs of praise to that being who alone can give life & peace to mankind. but alas how awful to contemplate the devastation of man. the cruel hand of war sweeps over us like a raging storm & the once happy land that god gave to man is turned into a howling wilderness.

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