Lincoln Presidential Library obtains diary of Civil War POW
Illinois soldier sheds light on army life, treatment after being
taken prisoner at Chickamauga
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[November 05, 2013]
SPRINGFIELD -- A diary detailing
the life of an Illinois soldier during the Civil War and his
movements after being taken prisoner has been donated to the Abraham
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
The diary belonged to Thomas C. Davis, who joined the 38th Illinois
Volunteer Infantry in 1861, when he was 28, according to records
obtained through the Illinois State Archives. His small,
leather-bound diary records his thoughts as the 38th marched
hundreds of miles south, through Tennessee and Alabama.
It also describes how he and fellow prisoners were shoved into
overcrowded trains and given meager rations after being captured in
the Battle of Chickamauga.
"Nothing to eat but two small crackers today for each man but
some of the prisoners makes the barracks ring with Union songs,"
Davis wrote in late September 1863.
His "Journal of trip into Dixie" was donated to the Lincoln
Presidential Library by one of his great-great-grandchildren, Greg
Pendleton of Maryland.
Diaries like the one kept by Davis provide valuable insight into
the lives of Civil War soldiers and prisoners of war. They give both
historians and the public a firsthand account of the war and its
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"The library is honored to receive this item of much historical
importance, and we plan to digitize its pages so that Davis' words
will never be lost," said Kathryn Harris, library services director
at the presidential library.
War records obtained by Davis' family show that he was taken to
Libby Prison in Virginia after being captured, and from there he was
transferred to a filthy, overcrowded prison in Danville, Va. From
there he was sent to the notorious Andersonville prison in Georgia,
where thousands died from scurvy, diarrhea and dysentery. Davis fell
ill but was taken to a prison in South Carolina and released
sometime in December 1864.
Davis married Mary Wilber on March 19, 1865, and they had seven
children. He served as a postmaster in Iowa before moving east to
Delaware and then Maryland. He died July 15, 1915, at the age of 82.
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
file received from the