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Leslie, Joseph (fl. 1863-1864) [Diary of Joseph Leslie 18th regiment, Pennsylvania Cavalry, Company D]

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC01185 Author/Creator: Leslie, Joseph (fl. 1863-1864) Place Written: [various places] Type: Autograph manuscript Date: 4 January 1863 - 7 December 1864 Pagination: 1 v. ; 14.5 x 8.5 cm.

Leslie was a prisoner of war for about 19 months, starting on 11 August 1863, when he describes being captured 5 miles from Stafford. He was paroled in the spring of 1865. He spent time in Libby, Danville, Macon, Charleston, and Florence prisons. Entries detail the daily events of the prisons, including camp conditions, escapes, brutality, rations, arrival of new prisoners, fights among the men, a "Negro performance" (17 October 1863), and other occurrences. Several pages in the diary have names and regiments of different officers from New York, Ohio, Michigan, etc., who were prisoners with him. Includes several pages of Libby Prison expenses/accounting of what he paid for crackers, paper, tobacco, bread, onions, soap, and other items. There are nine pages of Union and Confederate generals who died or were killed in action with their place of death including, Chantilly, Antietam, Gettysburg, Wilsons Creek, Shiloh, Manassas, Vicksburg, Corinth, Perryville, etc. At the back are 12 pages of poetry and verse Leslie composed while in Libby prison. Notations include mentions of Castle Thunder, Blockade runners, Jefferson Davis, soup bones made into rings, vermin and lice, Confederate beer, bread, etc.
Entries for 3-5 July 1863 mention fighting at Gettysburg. On 12 August 1863, a day after being captured, Leslie writes, "Arrived at Fredericksburg 6 a.m. after 25 mile march. Was introduced to General Fitz-Hugh Lee, took breakfast with General Lee." He arrives at Libby Prison the next day. On 22 May 1864 he records being at Macon, Georgia, Prison, Camp Oglethorpe. Recounts an escape plot involving tunnels on 27 and 29 May 1864. An excerpt dated 11 June 1864 details his witness of the death of Lieutenant Otto Gerson at Macon, Georgia. Beginning on 26 November 1864 he recounts in detail an escape attempt he made with Lieutenant Harry Wilson, " ... succeeded in making our escape , after reaching the wood we secreated ourselves till dark ... " Mentions being led by a Negro guide. Captured again by a factory owner on 2 December 1864 and goes to the prison camp at Florence, South Carolina. The last entry states that they arrived at Florence to see 1,000 of their men leaving for exchange.
Excerpts:
[5-22-1864] "Chaplain prayed at service for President of U.S., Tabb, the commander of prison became offended as he had broken the rules set forth about this subject."
[5-29-1864] "9 a.m. great excitement, guard called for Tabb about a tunnel Tabb seized a gun from a guard, cocked it, and told Maj. If he did not obey his orders he would blow his brains out, then threatened to turn artillery on prison and blow us all to hell."
[6-2-1864] "Tabb removed as commandant replaced by Capt. Gibbs, Tabb had a prisoner bucked & gagged, left in hot sun entire day."
[6-10-1864] "All Generals, Cols., Lt. Cols., Majors were removed from the prison, sent East."
[6-11-1864] "…Great excitement was created about 8 O'Clock by one of the guard shooting an officer while at the spring, the ball entering under the left shoulder passing through both lungs, and coming out at the left side…the name of the murderer is Richard Balcher or Barrett…[Lieut.] Gearson lived six hours…"
[11-28-1864, after his temporary escape from prison] "…About 5 o.c. three Negroes came in to the wood where we were secreated for a load of rails. Lt. Wilson went to them, told them who he was and wanted something to eat. Soon after dark they brought us some corn bread, sweet potatoes & possum meat…"

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