"CAME TO KEENE TODAY AND JOINED THE RECRUITS, HAVE TAKEN MY FIRST LESSON IN DRILLING…": EXCEPTIONAL CIVIL WAR DIARY, 1862-64, KEPT BY A SERGEANT IN THE 9TH NEW HAMPSHIRE VOLUNTEERS
(CIVIL WAR) PARTRIDGE, Henry Franklin. Civil War diary. New Alstead, New Hampshire, 1862-64. Two volumes. 12mo (3-1/2 by 5-1/2 inches), original full limp black morocco, flap closure, all edges gilt or marbled. Housed together in a custom clamshell box. $4900.
Fascinating Civil War diary written in pen and pencil from 1862 to 1864 by a sergeant in the 9th New Hampshire volunteers, chronicling his service from enlistment to medical discharge and offering glimpses of many of the major battles of the war including Antietam and Vicksburg.
This is the Civil War diary of Henry Partridge, who was a sergeant with the 9th New Hampshire Volunteers. This diary traces his association with the 9th New Hampshire from July 23, 1862—when he joined the new recruits at Keene for training—to the end of his engagement in the war. In May of 1862, Washington sent out orders requesting a new regiment of infantry; New Hampshire responded in the affirmative. In June and July of 1862, recruits were enlisted. By August, the 9th New Hampshire had been formed out of the 975 men mustered.
Partridge was one of the earliest to respond to the recruitment drive. On August 15th, Partridge writes: "Today we have been to the city and got mustered into the United States service, received $20 of our bounty and uniform." Both Partridge's drill training and the journey—by boat and rail—to Washington proved relatively tolerable: "Last night I took my blanket and slept on the upper deck of the boat…" However, it was quickly followed by the reality of military life, including tents, bad weather, and long, pointless marches: "Expected to go into a battle but the rebels took another route." September proved livelier, with Partridge catching a glimpse of General Burnside and, more importantly, with his troops encountering Confederate forces at Antietam: "After about two hours of fighting we gained the bridge… a piece of shell hit me on my left arm, made it pretty sore."
The 9th New Hampshire incurred massive casualties during the war. Battles such as Antietam and Vicksburg took a huge toll. Moreover, the first 12 pages of the second diary volume lists Prisoners of War, many of whom would perish from disease in Confederate military prisons. Partridge notes his own vaccination to prevent smallpox in the diary. Also, Partridge witnessed a major event that resulted in even more deaths: "A locomotive blew up at the depot here today killing and wounding quite a number, some of them 9th N.H. boys." The 9th New Hampshire was attached, at various times, to the Army of the Potomac, the Army of the Tennessee, and the Army of the Ohio, all of whom saw considerable action.
Toward the end of the diary, Partridge's exhaustion becomes evident—he ceases to be a regular chronicler of his experiences and entries become quite sporadic. On June 18, 1864, he writes: "Lay in the pits till noon then made an advance. I was wounded while going in with a solid shot and was carried to the Div Hospital." Partridge spent the next month in the hospital, commenting about the care afforded him by the Sanitary Commission and the Christian Commission. He writes of his recovery, records the wounded being brought to the hospital, and includes the story, over several entries, of his attempts to stop a soldier, Smith, from bleeding out, only to record his death a few days later. On September 30, shortly after returning to service, Partridge writes: "Back up march about 10 o'clock went on the left of the line found the Johnny's in strong works which we charged on about 5 o'clock and got repulsed. I was wounded in the left hip and the knee." After months of recuperation in the Div Hospital, Partridge was furloughed and returned to New Hampshire. By the end of the war, 409 of the original regiment had died, over half of those due to disease and most of the remaining from war wounds.
Henry Partridge's service was sufficiently valorous to merit space in Edward Oliver Lord's History of the Ninth Regiment: New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion (1895). Relating details from the battles for Petersburg and Poplar Grove Church in 1864, Lord writes: "In the charge on the enemy's works on the 18th, the Ninth was subjected to a very heavy fire. In the course of the engagement, a solid 12-pound shot came through the woods, struck a tree, recoiled to the group, rebounded just high enough to strike Sergt. Henry F. Partridge of Company I on the right hip, throwing him to the ground by the force of the blow, and then rolled some distance farther before finally ending its career. Partridge was carried to the rear for dead, but recovering consciousness was taken to the hospital and rejoined the regiment on the 10th of September. At the Battle of Poplar Grove Church, September 30, Partridge was again wounded, this time through the left hip, and was again consigned to the hospital. Thirty years have slipped away since those memorable days, and Comrade Partridge still enjoys telling the story of how the Confederates wasted their lead." According to the Newton Genealogy, Henry Franklin Partridge was not a born New Hampshirite—he was actually born in Illinois, but spent most of his life in New England. On December 15, 1864, shortly after the completion of these journals, Partridge married Susan Newton at Keane, New Hampshire, though the couple eventually moved to Massachusetts, where Partridge passed away in 1935. Owner inscriptions of Henry Partridge. The first volume of the diary contains assorted ephemera in an internal pocket: a short manuscript love poem; manuscript tag from a pair of socks sewn by a New Hampshire woman; owner inscription of "George R. Green, Dorrville, R.I." on a partial leaf from a calendar dated January 1, 1863; an May 1864 pass for Partridge from the U.S. Cen. Hospital in Annapolis; a printed card with Heb. 4:15, 16 printed on it (on Jesus' sympathy for a fellow sufferer); punched train ticket to Burlington, Vermont; and newspaper clipping of advertisements and poetry, including several poems about death.
Only occasional soiling to interior, expected wartime wear to bindings. Extremely good condition.