The Civil War Letters of Dwight Emerson Armstrong, Part VII

by Susan Martin, Processing Archivist & EAD Coordinator

This is the seventh and final post in a series. Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, and Part VI.

For the last few months, I’ve been telling you about the letters of Dwight Emerson Armstrong of Wendell, Mass., who served with the 10th Massachusetts Infantry in the Civil War. Today we conclude his story.

Things were quiet for the 10th after the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862, which was just fine by Dwight. He did take part in Ambrose Burnside’s Mud March of January 1863, in which troops, artillery, and pontoon trains were trapped in a days-long downpour and got so bogged down in the mud that they had to give up and turn back. But after that disastrous march, the regiment settled in for the rest of the winter at the Union camp near Falmouth, Va. on the north bank of the Rappahannock River. Dwight called the lull “very agreeable to a man whose constitution will bear as much rest, as mine will.”

In early February, ten-day furloughs were granted on a very limited basis, but Dwight didn’t bother to request one because the time would be too short and, as he wrote his sister Mary (Armstrong) Needham, “if I should get there I should’nt want to come back. […] Do you know that it has been almost 2 years since I saw you.”

Of course, by mid-February, Dwight was complaining of boredom. The soldiers entertained themselves as best they could. On 7 March, Dwight and others attended a local “negro meeting,” which he described in detail in a letter to Mary the following day. He found the experience novel and amusing, writing, “I guess I laughed as much as ever I did in the same length of time.”

Apparently, Mary took exception to his mocking tone. (Our collection unfortunately doesn’t include her letters). Dwight replied to her more seriously a month later.

As for what you say about your not laughing, if you had been at the negro meeting I dont believe it. No doubt it was wrong to do it; but I’ll bet, you would have laughed, down in your stomach, all the while. […] No doubt they are sincere in their worship. It is strange, after being kept under, and abused, as they have been for generations back, that they are half as intelligent as they are. They seem to understand what is going on pretty well, and are loyal, and earnestly wish, and pray, for the success of our arms. […] They evidently are impressed with the belief that the good time is coming; when they will all be free and I dont see how any sane person can doubt it. How soon it will be, we dont know but I for one think […] we are only in the beginning of the war.

Dwight admitted that he’d underestimated the resilience, resourcefulness, and determination of the South, although he still believed the North would win the war, if for no other reason than that its army was larger. As he put it, “we have a good chance to break them and have a few left to start again with.”

On 8 April 1863, the Union troops were reviewed at Falmouth by President Abraham Lincoln himself, accompanied by General Joseph Hooker. Dwight had been harshly critical of Lincoln in previous letters, had even referred to him as “mad,” but now found his heart going out to him.

The President looks as if he was almost worn out. Poor man! I pity him, and wonder he is alive, surrounded as he is by such a pack of traitors, and numb skulls, and he the only honest man in the lot. I have scolded, a good deal about him, since he removed McClellan, and wished him in the bottom of the ocean, but was ready to forgive him, when I saw how pale and sorrowful he looked.

The last letter in the collection was written on 27 April. In it, Dwight primarily discussed mundane matters, but he also had this to say about the Confederate army: “If we could only drive them, off from the hills, on the other side of the river, so as to meet on equal terms I should have no fears of the result and have’nt as it is, much.”

Dwight was killed six days later on 3 May 1863 in the Battle of Salem Heights (or Salem Church), Va. He was 23 years old.

Coincidentally, the MHS holds a diary written by another member of Dwight’s company, Private George Arms Whitmore. Here’s an excerpt from George’s diary entry for that day:

In the afternoon we drove the rebels about 3 miles when they made a stand and we had a very hard time. There were 2 killed and we think one wounded. Their names were Dwight Armstrong Wm Ryther killed. And Christopher Megrath supposed to be wounded.

3 May 1863 diary entry
George Arms Whitmore diary, 3 May 1863

William Eaton Ryther was a 20-year-old from Greenfield, Mass. According to a history of the town, he and Dwight were buried on the field together. Dwight’s body was apparently later removed to Locust Hill Cemetery in Montague, Mass., where he’s buried with his parents.

Joseph K. Newell’s history of the 10th Regiment tells us that Christopher Megrath survived the battle and the war, but died in 1869 as a result of the wound he received that day.

Dwight’s sister Mary, to whom he wrote so faithfully, died in Springfield, Mass. in 1887.

The Human Element in War & Disease: The Emerson P. Dibble Papers

By Mary Millage, Reader Services Intern

Mary Millage completed her internship in the Reader Services department in Summer 2019. Her major project was compiling a subject guide for the history of infectious disease in Boston. This blog post came out of that research and highlights one of the collections Mary worked with as part of that project.

 – Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reference Librarian.

Photograph of Emerson Dibblie
Emerson P. Dibble, circa 1918

In July 1918, Emerson P. Dibble was 20 years old, and had just arrived at Parris Island, SC for training in the United States Marine Corps in the midst of the First World War. He was far from his hometown of Southwick, MA, and excited to embark on his new adventure. Ten months later, he was back in the United States after serving in Germany and France and surviving the influenza pandemic. In that time, he had matured a great deal, spent time in numerous military camps and hospitals, and contracted tuberculosis, which would eventually kill him. His letters home during this time are filled with personality, and by reading his words, it is easy to picture this lively young man as he relayed his experiences to his family.

Although his letters primarily cover just a few short years, they provide a human lens through which to examine important topics, such as the First World War and the influenza pandemic. Despite never seeing combat while in Europe, Dibble’s letters describe many aspects of soldiering, from drill to guard duty to the food. His letters shine light on the less glamorous day-to-day features of military life. He writes about many topics that most soldiers could speak to—food, care packages, camp conditions—but that do not fit the typical image of the First World War’s trenches and battles. Throughout his time in the military, Dibble retains his sense of humor and excitement about new experiences. He describes eating watermelon on the train ride to Parris Island, working in the kitchens at a military hospital in Bordeaux, and meeting French girls. He also describes the harsher realities of war: homesickness, worrying about his family, and the inconsistencies of the mail delivery. Across ten months, he matures a great deal without losing his sense of humor and liveliness.

Emerson P. Dibble letter written 27 March 1919,
Emerson P. Dibble to Millie Holcomb Dibble, 27 March 1919, discussing the food at the military hospital in Bordeaux, France

The portions of his letters that most clearly show his maturation are those that discuss the influenza pandemic. Dibble’s letters display the evolution of his feelings about the influenza and his fears for his family back home. At first, he is unconcerned with the outbreak and is convinced that it is simply the common flu. As time goes on and he begins to hear of the seriousness of the outbreak, and especially once he is in Europe and large passages of time go by without letters from home, he becomes increasingly concerned about his family and fearful of hearing that any of them are sick. Despite Dibble himself falling ill with influenza, he is still most concerned about his family and their health. Through these letters, the fear he was feeling and the uncertainty of the time are clear and moving. He even writes to his stepmother, Millie, that if it was not for his fiancé, Olive, he “wouldn’t care a d—n about coming back to the States if either” Millie or his father died of influenza (Emerson P. Dibble to Millie Holcomb Dibble, 18 January 1919).

Emerson P. Dibble  letter discussing French girls
Emerson P. Dibble to Millie Holcomb Dibble, 27 March 1919, discussing French girls

Through his letters, you really get a sense of Dibble and feel connected to him. The happiness and hardships he faced blend together into a compellingly human story. He was bored by the regimentation of the military but felt it was good for him, he frequently used slang in his letters and enjoyed learning French and German phrases, and he worried about his family while urging them not to worry about him. By the time he returns to the United States in May of 1919, you feel connected to this young man, which is part of why the last years of his papers are so difficult to read. When he returned to the United States, he was already ill with tuberculosis, although he did not yet know this. In three years, he was dead. He returned stateside happy to be close to going home and convinced that the doctors would soon cure him. His fast decline is jarring and heartbreaking. He was of his time, a time that was deadly through war and disease. His letters are full of personality and provide us with an unflinchingly human look at the time in which he lived. Although Emerson P. Dibble did not live to be very old, his letters can teach us a great deal about him and the time in which he lived.

From the Papers of JQA’s Diary

by Doug Girardot, Adams Papers Intern

John Quincy Adams, after 1860
Carte de visite of daguerrotype by Brady’s National Photographic Portrait Galleries, [Matthew B. Brady], after 1860
In June, I began my internship with the Adams Papers editorial project at the MHS and started working on the Diary of John Quincy Adams, led by the wonderful Neal Millikan.

There was just one problem: I didn’t care about John Quincy Adams. What’s more, I knew almost nothing about him, apart from the fact that he was John Adams’s son and served as president.

As it turns out, your perceptions of someone change a lot when you read dozens upon dozens of pages from their personal diary. After transcribing and proofreading several months’ worth of his writings and doing web encoding for over a year of entries, I ended up getting to know quite a bit about the ins and outs of John Quincy Adams. Three months or so later, I think JQA, as we affectionately abbreviate him in the Adams Papers, is one of the most fascinating figures in American history.

JQA kept a behemoth of a personal record: his diary comprises fifty-one volumes, which he wrote over the course of 68 years beginning when he was twelve years old. They provide an unparalleled window onto the period between the nation’s founding in the last quarter of the 1700s and the time when a distinct national identity of the United States began to coalesce by the mid-1800s.

Despite the Homeric scale of his diaries, their small details are even more interesting than the grand geopolitical narratives which they convey.

His writings about religion are fascinating, and it’s amazing to glance into what religion looked like in the adolescent years of an independent America. Every Sunday, JQA quoted the readings from church and summarized the preacher’s sermon. Then, he bluntly—and often ruthlessly—critiqued the homilist’s eloquence and speaking style before proceeding to give his judgement on the theological contents and coherence of the sermon itself. About Rev. William Newell, minister of the First Parish of Cambridge, JQA wrote:

“His discourses are sensible and moral, but neither brilliant nor profound. The theological school at Cambridge, is yearly producing several such clergymen, and they are introducing a uniformity of composition and delivery, superior to those of their predecessors of the last age, but which leaves a desire for more variety at least of manner—” (28 August 1836)

Good reviews from JQA—something like the Roger Ebert of his time for religious services—were few and far between.

And while it is intellectually interesting to read about his solemn take on religion, it is outright fun to read words crafted in his decidedly less pious side. Peppered throughout his diary are insults which only a well-traveled, bookish, Harvard-educated, diplomat-turned-president-turned-legislator could concoct. Take this passage from his time in Congress, in which he gracefully provided his thoughts on prospective presidential candidates for the election of 1844:

“Buchanan is the shadow of a shade and General Scott is a Daguerrotype likeness of a candidate—all sunshine, through a camera obscura. . . . M’Lean, is but a second edition of John Tyler—vitally democratic, double-dealing and hypocritical—” (3 April 1843)

While at first it can be challenging to connect with someone from around two hundred years ago, for whom daguerreotype was modern technology, a further look provides glimpses of timeless humanity that makes JQA resemble what he really was—a person.

This comes through in his reflections on the quotidian tasks of keeping up with his correspondence, diary, and speeches, all of which he spent countless hours composing in addition to his regular duties as a statesman. Though JQA may have been a prolific and erudite writer, it didn’t come easily. Many a student in the midst of a paper can relate to his comments regarding backlogged diary entries which he was working on:

“Had I spent upon any work of Science or Literature, the time employed upon this Diary, it might perhaps have been permanently useful to my Children and my Country— I have devoted too much time to it— My physical powers sink under it—” (20 March 1821)

Diary entry for 20 March 1821 by JQA
John Quincy Adams diary, 20 March 1821

More than simply an austere historical figure, JQA strikes me in his writing as a genuinely good person, striving to do what was right. Toward the end of his life, he undertook the writing of a speech to advocate for the abolition of slavery. While it was a daunting and exhausting project, JQA pressed on, determined

“to leave behind me something which may keep alive the flame of liberty and preserve it in that conflict between Slavery and freedom which is drawing to its crisis and which is to brighten, or to darken the condition of the human race upon earth—” (11 April 1843)

Keeping up with his writing might have been a constant source of pressure for JQA, but I am certainly grateful that he did it anyway. Without these invaluable records, he might well have remained just another name in a textbook for me. Fortunately, interning at the MHS has furnished me the opportunity to discover the vibrant, devoted, intelligent, sometimes curmudgeonly, but always loveable character that he was.

George Hyland’s Diary, September 1919

By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services

Today, we return to the diary of George Hyland. If this is your first time encountering our 2019 diary series, catch up by reading the January, February, March, April, May, June, July, and August 1919 installments first!

September finds George still settling into his tenement housing, returning to the James place several times to assist the James family with the moving of furniture and small repairs. His new home, which he rents at $12/month, is above a store run by J.H. Vinal across from the railroad station in North Scituate. “Cars go close by here,” Hyland observes in his Labor Day entry.

Map showing North Scituate railway station, 1930
A map detail showing the location of the North Scituate railway station, 1930. Map from Welcome to the Pilgrims of 1930 (Scituate, Mass.).

The late-summer, early-autumn crops are ready to be harvested and George spends much of his work days in September picking beans, tomatoes, potatoes, grapes, and peaches, and tending to other crops. On the 12th he gets an irritant in his eye — he suspects lime — which becomes “swollen and painfull,” and on the 14th he treats it with a solution of water and boracic acid. On the 26th he eats his evening meal at the home of an acquaintance, Benjamin Briggs, where he approvingly notes that they serve “corned beef that the U.S. Gov. bought for the American troops in the late war in Europe — about 50 million pounds are being sold to the people in this country — it is very good meat.” He continues to play the guitar nearly every night for an hour or longer.

Join me in following George day-by-day through September 1919.

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PAGE 340 (cont’d)

Sept 1. (Labor Day) fog and rain nearly all day. Moved some of my things in to my new home opp. the R.R. station, N. Scituate. Cars go close by here — only about 40 feet from the house. Eve. foggy light rain. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve.

2d. Light rain at times all day. Worked in Mr. James’s house all day — getting his furniture from the chambers and dusting it. Also washed the floors and cleaned the rooms. Moved nearly all my things early in eve. Eve. foggy. W.N.E. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Carried my things there in wheelbarrow.

3d. Worked in Mr. James’s house. Cleaned the stove, sink, and the rooms, set up bedstead, and did other work there. Mrs. Russell Wilder (nee Vera White) called there to engage me to do some work, also L. F. Hyland. Hyland called to get me to pick beans to-morrow. Rain nearly all day and eve. Moved the last of my things from the house early in eve. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Rain nearly all night — W.N.E.

4th. Picked beans 6 hours for L. F. Hyland (7 1/2 bus.) — 1.50. Had dinner there. Walked 1 1/4 miles — rode 1 1/4 miles with Ethel Merritt — in her automobile. Ret. walked 1 1/2 miles — rode 1 mile with Mrs. Fletcher in auto. Early in eve mowed grass and weeded back of and one side of the store — and house — ten. where I now live — also raked and piled it up. Also got some of my tools from a building on James place. Carried some bread and put it where the sparrows can get it to-morrow. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours late in eve. Fine weather. W.N.W. Clear. Warm. Fine eve. Very wet on low grounds now — meadows full of water. Called at Uncle Samuel’s. Sarah has gone back to Campello, and little Elizabeth is there — I gave her a large plum. Got Sarah’s milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Ethel got it.

5th. Worked 6 1/2 hours for Mrs. Russell Wilder X — mowing lawn, trimming rose bushes, weeding flower gardens, and other work — 2.00. Very fine weather, clear; W.S.E. called at Mrs. Mary Wilder’s (nee Bates) borrowed a lawn rake there. The river is bank [sic] full of water — some of it in her cellar. Mowed some grass and weeds back of this house early in eve. Played the guitar 1 hour in eve. Fine eve. W.N.W. (X nee Vera White)

6th. Worked 7 1/2 hours for H. Bruce Fletcher — cutting down trees and proping [sic] up branches of apple trees (they are very heavy with fruit) — 2.25. Mrs. F. and Mr. F. came over to the orchard — large orchard — walked up ret. rode 2 miles with Merton Burbank — in auto truck — he had a load of produce to deliver to their customers. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Hot weather. W.S.W. tem. about 62-88. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve.

7th. (Sun.) In aft. called at W.I. Lincoln’s — 1 1/2 hours. Martha gave me 7 cookies. Late in aft. went to Scituate Harbor — rode to Bay St., Egypt with W. I. Lincoln, Clinton, Merritt, and little Isaah Lincoln, Martha Lincoln, M. L. and I in back of front seat — in auto truck. We went to the Norwell farm. Then I walked to S. Har. Called at Scott Gannett’s place — (on Willow St.) owner of the house where I live now. Met Mary DeWire on Willow St. Called at Mrs. Talbot’s, Egypt. Had supper and spent eve. there. Walked home in eve. arr. 7.45 P.M.

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Sep. 7. [cont’d] A lady boarder at Mrs. Talbot’s gave me some candy. Hot weather to-day. Tem. 65-87 W.W.

8th. Picked beans (11 bus.) 7 1/2 hours for L. F. Hyland — 2.20. Hiram Litchfield also picked beans there — next to my home — the grey cat came there to see me. I had dinner at L.F. Hyland’s. Walked nearly up there. Rode 1/4 mile in school […] with Prescott Damon. Walked back. Got some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Called at Uncle Samuel’s — gave Elizabeth some of the candy the lady at Mrs. T’s gave. Elizabeth gave me 8 pears to carry home. I had 2 N.Y. Sun. papers to bring home — were sent to me by David Whiton, Groton, […]. Very hot weather — tem. 68-90; W.W. While on way home the wind suddenly changed to N.E. with strong breeze. Began to rain just before I arr. home. Thunder Tempest from 6 P.M. to 10:15 P.M. all around here very near at times. 10:30 P.M. another tempest began W. of here. Played on the guitar 1 ¼ hours in eve.

9th. Light rain all day and eve. W.N.E. tem. About 50-57. Did some work at home — repaired the door on the woodhouse. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve.

10th. Cloudy. Very damp and wet. W.E. Worked on the James place 5 hours — mowing with sickle, lawn mower, and shears. J.H. Vinal gave me 1 1/4 pounds of meat last eve. (Lamb.) to fry also gave 2 pails — peanut butter pails — pails with handles — good for water pails. Eve. clou. Played on the guitar 1 1/2 hours in eve.

11th. Worked on the James place 6 hours – I have mowed all over the place — with sickle, shears, and lawn mower and sythe, and worked on the walk — dug weeds out and raked it over. Very damp. W.E. Cloudy. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Eve foggy. Heavy rain late in night.

12th. Mowed front and around the house and picked pears 4 hours for Mrs. M.G. Seaverns — 1.20. Forenoon cloudy — light rain for a short time. Aft. clear, windy. N.W. Eve. clou. to par. Clou. W.N.N.N. Played on the guitar 1 h. 10 min. in eve. My left eye is hurt probably some lime got into [it] from a shelf in one of the rooms here. Picked some tomatoes in my garden late in aft. Also picked 4 good peaches from a tree there — all there was on the tree.

13th. In forenoon mowed lawn and around the house 3 1/2 hours for Mason Litchfield — 65. In aft. mowed lawn and bank 3 3/4 hours for Mrs. Eudora Bailey — 50. Fine weather. Clear. Warm. W.N.W. fine eve. Played on the guitar 1 h. 10 min. in eve.

14th. (Sun.) Fine weather; clear. W.N.W. Late in aft. went up to my old house, got some grapes (red) on the apple tree — W. side of the house. Called at Uncle Samuel’s. Ellen gave me some boracic acid — mixed with water (1 teaspoonfull [sic] to a glass of water) to wash my left eye which is swollen and painfull [sic]. Rode up with Ellery and S.E. Hyland — in auto. Walked back in eve. Called at Andrew Bates’ and bought some milk. Nellie G. Sharpe called here about 8:45 P.M. to see if I will pick beans for L.F. Hyland (her grandfather). She is a lovely girl — is my 3d cousin. Eve. cloudy. Very damp. W.M.W.

15th. Picked beans (6 bus.) 4 hours for L.F. Litchfield. Picked beans and had dinner there — he has let his house and moved into the house in Beechwood. Walked up and back. Began rain at 12:45 P.M. and rained all aft. Got wet. Stopped at Mrs. Merritt’s and bought some milk. Ethel got it. Eve. clou. Very damp. Called at Uncle Samuel’s gave Ellen and Elizabeth 2 peaches from the James place — tree in my garden.

16th. Worked 5 1/4 hours for Mrs. Russell Wilder — trimming edges of walks and digging them up and […] them. Also trimmed next to St. (State Road) — 1.60. Cloudy; W.E. Mr. James arr. At his home from Spokane, Wash. Late in aft. His wife, and his son’s wife came with him. I went there and helped to get their things where they wanted them. Charles also helped them. Fred T. Bailey helped me move the […] sofa bed from the S. front room (where I had put it last week) into the N. front room through very narrow doors — difficult job. The N. room was my music room when I lived there. Mr. James’ daughter-in-law is a very beautiful young woman. Rain all eve. Wind E. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Mr. James brought a dog from Wash.

17th. Worked 6 hours for Mr. James. Made slats for bedstead, moved furniture and etc. Mrs. James and I got the furniture from the garret and set it up. Put up shelves for maps and etc., laid a new carpet on the parlor floor and got everything set up in all the rooms. Weather fair. Warm. W.N.W. Eve. clear. Played on the guitar 1 h. 10 min in eve. Mrs. James lives in Seattle, Wash. born in W. Va.

18th. Worked 6 hours for Russell Wilder splitting and housing wood, cutting up old board and etc. and picking dry beans — 1.80. Fine weather. Cool; W.S.E. Eve. cool. Cut my hair in eve. in an Italian barber his shop only about 20 ft. from here — belongs to same man who owns this house (and store). Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Mrs. Vera Wilder pays me every night when I work for them.

Yesterday the 1st Division Regulars marched through Washington D.C. — they have just returned from Germany.

19th. Worked 7 hours for Russell Wilder mowing and trimming, digging potatoes — 2.10. Fine weather. Clear. Cool — max. Tem. 70. Mr. James called here late in aft. He thinks I have a good place (in the tenement over the store) he looked in all the rooms. His dog came up here with him. Mr. J is 96 years of age — so his daughter-in-law told me. I played on the guitar 1 ½ hours in eve.

20th. Worked 7 hours for Russell Wilder — diging [sic] potatoes, picking beans, sawing, splitting, and housing wood — 2.10. Warm weather.– tem. about 85. W.S.W. late in aft. Went up to Frank Clapp’s place and fed his horse, pig and chickens — he went away to-day — to stay 2 days. Eve. warm. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve.

21st. (Sun.) Very warm weather — W.S.W. tem. About 65-88. In morning went up to Frank Clapp’s and fed his horse, pig and chickens — F.C. arr. Home early in eve. I called there early in eve. He paid me 1.00 for doing the chores. Then I went on to Mrs. Merritt’s and bought some milk. Eve. warm and muggy.

22d. Worked 7 1/4 hours for Frank Clapp — picking tomatoes and tieing [sic] up cauliflowers. F.C. and Mrs. [blank space for name] also worked there. We rode there in his auto-truck. Mrs. [blank space for name] runs it. We came back at noon and went there again in aft. (to his farm in Norwell). Began to rain at 4:20 P.M. Very warm (87) and muggy. Played on the guitar 1 ¼ hours in eve. Ellery Hyland here 1/2 hour in eve. Stopped at Waldo Litchfield’s and bought some milk. Made 2.17 to-day. Had my dinner here to-day.

23d. Light rain at times W.N.W. Cool. In aft. worked 3 hours for Mr. James — setting up furniture and clearing out his storehouse — very dirty place — about 20 wheelbarrow loads of coal ashes and rubbish in

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it. Cleared it to be used as a wood house — also made a platform to put his large oil can on and place to put a lamp — or a small can when getting oil out of it. Rain late in aft. and in eve. Paid the rent for Sept. to-day — $12.00. Paid it to J. H. Vinal — Mr. Scott Gannett told me I could pay it to him, as I am seldom here except in eve. and prob. would not be here when he called to collect the rent for his houses and other places.

24th. Worked 6 3/4 hours for Russell and Mrs. Vera Wilder — mowing lawn and trimming grass around lawn. Made a circular flower garden, chopped up boxes and barrels, and housed the wood, and did other work — 2.00. Fine weather, W.E. Clear, eve. Clear. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Mrs. Wilder called here about 9:15 P.M. and said they would like to have me come to their place to-morrow morning and get a load of coal into the cellar — 1 1/4 tons it was brought there in a large auto-truck and the trucked got mired in the soft ground — and I will have to unload it where it is. 9:25 P.M. rained about 30 minutes […].

25th. In forenoon worked 4 hours X for Russell Wilder unloading and housing coal and filling up […] with bricks and coal ashes. Mrs. Mary Wilder — his mother, gave me 2 nice doughnuts. In aft. Went grapeing — picked 10 qts. of very fine wild grapes. Called at Uncle Samuel’s and E. Hyland’s — Ellery Hyland brought my grapes here in eve. I walked up and back — walked 6 miles — 3 miles through rough, wet and briers and tall grass and bushes. Called at Mrs. Merritt’s and bought some milk — she put in an extra pint — in my pail — fine weather. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. — X 1.20 work for R Wilder.

26th. Worked 8 hours for E. Frank Clapp — picking tomatoes and tieing cauliflowers — his Norwell farm. Carried a lunch — but had dinner at Benjamin Briggs’: they had some of the caned [sic] corned beef that the U.S. Gov. bought for the American troops in the late war in Europe — about 50 million pounds are being sold to the people in this country — it is very good meat. Rode to the farm in E.F. Clapp’s market wagon — I went there alone with the horse and wagon — brought back the tomatoes that I picked. Fine weather — clear — W.N.W. in forenoon. S.E. in aft. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve.

27th. Worked 8 hours for E. Frank Clapp. — picking tomatoes and tieing up cauliflowers. Fine weather. Clear; W.N.E. to S.E. rode up to the farm and back — with the horse — in wagon. Had dinner at B. Briggs; bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Eve. clear. Cold. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Mrs. [blank space for name] gave me a pint jar of tomatoes to take home — she comes up to the farm every day — and works there part of the time — She is E.F. Clapp’s […] and housekeeper.

28th. (Sun.) Fine weather, W.N.E. to S.E. Called at W. F. Lincoln’s in aft. (2 h.) he gave me some grapes. Fine eve.

29th. Picked beans and tied up cauliflowers — 8 hours for E. Frank Clapp — rode up and back with his horse and wagon. Had dinner at B. Briggs’ part of which I carried there. Very fine weather W.N.W in forenoon — S.E. in aft. Clear and warm. W.S.S.W. in eve. Cloudy late in eve.

30th. Worked 8 hours for E. Frank Clapp – [space left blank] Hot weather W.S.W. tem. about 85. W.N.W. and cloudy after 4 P.M. picked beans, carried cauliflowers out of the field — to a place near the gate (35 bus.) E.F.C. and Mrs. [space left blank for name] worked on the cauliflowers — after 3 P.M. I picked and loaded 10 bus. of tomatoes. Went with the horse and wagon — they went in the auto! — They went to Boston with a load. Emma Fletcher — in auto. I arr. house at 7:30 P.M. Played on the guitar 1 h. 5 min. in eve. Had lunch at B. Briggs. Got a […] to-day.

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If you are interested in viewing the diary in person in our library or have other questions about the collection, please visit the library or contact a member of the library staff for further assistance.

*Please note that the diary transcription is a rough-and-ready version, not an authoritative transcript. Researchers wishing to use the diary in the course of their own work should verify the version found here with the manuscript original. The catalog record for the George Hyland’s diary may be found here. Hyland’s diary came to us as part of a collection of records related to Hingham, Massachusetts, the catalog record for this larger collection may be found here.

Across the Rappahannock: The Civil War Letters of Dwight Emerson Armstrong, Part VI

By Susan Martin, Processing Archivist & EAD Coordinator

This is the sixth post in a series. Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V.

We return today to the story of Dwight Emerson Armstrong of the 10th Massachusetts Infantry. About two weeks after we left him, Dwight’s regiment fought in the Battle of Fredericksburg, Va., 11-15 December 1862.

Map of the Field of Fredericksburg, December 1862
“The Field of Fredericksburg,” from The Antietam and Fredericksburg by F. W. Palfrey (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1882)

Dwight described the battle to his older sister Mary (Armstrong) Needham in a detailed eight-page letter, dated 21 December. He’d survived “without a scratch,” but there was no denying that Fredericksburg was a devastating loss for the Union. Dwight told Mary about the perilous crossing over the Rappahannock River via pontoon bridge, under fire, in the bitter cold, as well as the uncanny proximity of the enemy in the dark (“we could hear them cough”).

After the battle, writing from the relative safety of the Union camp at Falmouth on the other side of the river, Dwight was still shaken: “It makes me almost tremble now, when I think what a hole we were in. […] Some one is to blame for all this loss of life; and who it is time will show.” However, he reassured Mary, as he usually did, and with his characteristic humor.

You need not give yourself any trouble about my sufferings; it is not so bad as you imagine it to be. I have got toughened to it, so that heat, and cold, storm, and sunshine, have as little effect on me, as it does on that old bundle of cloaks, and hoods that used to travel around in Wendell [Mass.] with Aunt Sally Taft inside of them.

Dwight may have been “toughened,” but he was also very discouraged. He asked, “What have we gained? I know something of what we lost.” And he wasn’t alone. On 4 December 1862, an article appeared in a Massachusetts paper, the Springfield Republican, written by Springfield’s own William Birnie. Birnie was just back from a good-will visit to Union troops in Virginia. In his article, he described the men of the 10th Regiment as “demoralized,” “disaffected,” and “disheartened.”

His words received some backlash, but judging from Dwight’s letters, they were true. In fact, Dwight was probably quoting Birnie when he called his own regiment “the demoralized 10th.” Dwight was especially angry at politicians in Washington who sent men to fight but took “good care to keep beyond the range of the bullets.” He told Mary that he hoped no more men would be drafted.

I hope there wont a man come as long as things go on at this rate. As long as there is such a set of numbskulls in Washington it is throwing away lives for nothing. […] All he [General-in-Chief Henry Halleck] ever was put in command for, was because he was such a short-sighted old blunderbuss.

It was during this time that Dwight wrote what I think are some of his most compelling letters. First there’s this passage:

I do hope, though, that something will be done to stop this miserable buisness, before many weeks. I beleive if the privates of both armies, could get together, they could settle it pretty easy. The day before we recrossed the Rappahannock, there was’nt any fighting in the part of the field where I was; and our skirmishers, and theirs […] got up a treaty of peace among themselves; each side agreeing not to fire on the other unless obliged to do so. They had a fine time, and appeared to be great friends, for such enemies. It did look odd enough, to see the same men, who the day before were doing their best to kill each other talking together, and swapping whiskey and tobacco, for coffee and salt, and such like.

The day Dwight is describing is 14 December 1862, right in the middle of the Battle of Fredericksburg. The two sides had been firing at each other the day before, but on the 14th there was a lull in the fighting as both Union and Confederate troops waited in reserve on the field. The battle resumed the following day, and the South successfully drove the North back across the Rappahannock.

Now on separate sides of the river—and in spite of orders to the contrary—the soldiers continued their fraternization. Here’s what happened on 10 January 1863:

Our pickets are on one bank, and theirs on the other. Both sides are very peaceable, and I am not particularly anxious to have them go to fighting again. The river is so narrow, where I was, that we could talk with them very easily. When I went on guard down there, I stuck my gun up in the ground, and let it be there. My neighbors on the opposite bank did the same, and we walked back and forth, as pleasantly as though no such thing as war ever cursed the earth. Each side had strict orders not to talk with the other, so we had to keep mum most of the time. I couldn’t turn my back to them without a sort of crawling sensation, as though a bullet might possibly be coming after me, but I dont suppose they would have shot me any more than I would them.

Letter from Dwight Armstrong to his sister Mary
Letter from Dwight Armstrong to Mary (Armstrong) Needham, 17 Jan. 1863

These illicit meetings are confirmed in Joseph K. Newell’s 1875 history of the regiment, “Ours”: Annals of the 10th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers in the Rebellion. (Newell was himself a member of the 10th.) The soldiers even used a small sailboat to exchange newspapers, coffee, tobacco, and personal messages.

Join me in a few weeks here at the Beehive for the next installment of Dwight’s story.

Decoding Black Masculinity: Love & Medicine in the Diary Entries of Edwin Clarence Howard

by Crystal Lynn Webster, University of Texas at San Antonio, African American Studies Fellow at the MHS

“Beautiful morning-as usual, went to see my patients. I am feeling quite depressed in spirits today; what can be the matter with me? I hope it is not love for her who has treated me so badly. Indeed I trust that is fast dissolving. I must endeavor to arouse myself and look on the bright side of everything.”

Edwin Clarence Howard who composed these sentences, was the nineteen-year-old son of a prominent 19th-century African American family. Throughout his personal diary, he reflected on his daily rituals, medical studies, and on love during his time spent Liberia in 1865. In this way, the diary, which is part of the DeGrasse-Howard papers, provides a rare portrait of a Black, highly educated, young man’s life from his own words. Indeed, Howard continually offers the reader sincere glimpses into the interiority of the self. But this insight is veiled in secrecy. Howard composed much of his diary in a code.

At cursory glance, many of the words filling the pages of the diary appear to be written in a jumbled gibberish. This is perhaps why the diary of such an important individual and historical experience has passed from hand to hand and without published record. However, Howard’s code is a rather simple composition; a mere shift to the right of each letter in the alphabet reveals his clandestine message. For example, a commonly written word throughout the diary, “gdq” translates to “her.” It was indeed this word that allowed me to crack the code. Nevertheless, Howard would have expended a rather concerted effort to continuously write in such a code, especially taking care to transition in and out of it in specific moments. These shifts also indicate his own conscientiousness concerning the subject of the code, specifically his love life.

Early in his diary he describes an evening with “her” spent together, in code, “locked in each other’s arms.” Howard utilizes both the alphabetic shift and French to record a conversation in which she confessed, “I am yours.” Throughout the diary, the code is brought out for moments like this spent with her. Howard did not obscure other certain sensitive subjects, like the birth of a child whose paternity was questioned, and he includes the expected father’s initials. The code is most consistently deployed when describing walks, secret meetings, and stolen kisses with “her.” These reflections make up approximately half of the diary. The remaining passages include interesting observations of patients, diagnoses, and experiments while he studied medicine in Liberia.

Howard does not reveal why he chose to conceal these interactions. The reader may never know. Historical context can provide some possibilities. At the time, such behavior between two people who were not married may have violated social rules of engagement. He was also a young African American who was meant to be studying medicine, perhaps not fraternizing with an unmarried (or perhaps married?) woman. Even more so, he was in Liberia, and the racial identity of the woman is not revealed and had she been white, it would indeed provide a very serious incentive for anonymity.

Although the code is rather straightforward, the process of decoding the diary is arduous. The reader must decode both his handwriting and alphabetic shift, a method that is compounded by the fact that he sometimes erred in his own coding. Even still, without the code the diary provides an important personal reflection on African American history, colonization, and medical studies. Perhaps one day an electronic resource or software will make the decoding process of the entire diary simple and complete. Until then, much of Edwin Clarence Howard’s secrets remain secret, except to those with patience and intrigue enough to dive into the joy, heartbreak, and historical significance of an important figure’s life and love.

Abigail Adams’s “curious conversation” with Thomas Jefferson

by Hobson Woodward, Series Editor, Adams Family Correspondence

Volume 14 of the Adams Family Correspondence, published by Harvard University Press, arrived in the Adams Papers offices last month. Spanning the period October 1799 through February 1801, the volume chronicles the final months of Abigail and John Adams’s public service. Among the 277 documents included in the book is one that records a “curious conversation” between Abigail and the family’s former friend and political rival, Thomas Jefferson. The conversation took place at a dinner party in January 1801. A month earlier, presidential electors had cast their ballots. While the official election results would not be announced until 11 February, John Adams’s loss was already widely presumed. Ultimately, it was the House of Representatives that determined the outcome of the election of 1800, casting 36 ballots before breaking the electoral tie between Jefferson and Aaron Burr on 17 February. Thus, the tension of the moment makes the conversation between Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson all the more extraordinary.

25 January 1801 letter from Abigail Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams
Letter from Abigail Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams, 25 January 1801

Abigail enclosed her transcript of the conversation with a 25 January 1801 letter to her son Thomas Boylston, telling him that it “was not heard by any one but ourselves, as we spoke low.” The enclosure relates an impressive exchange on Washington politics, where the president’s wife and one of the contenders for his replacement offered their impressions of a partisan Congress and ruminated on the characters of particular members. The give-and-take was frank, unrestrained. Thomas Jefferson said he avoided attending the House of Representatives, writing, “I am sure there are persons there who would take a pleasure in saying something, purposely to affront me.” Abigail Adams was equally candid, noting, “Some are mere Brutes, others are Gentlemen— but party Spirit, is a blind spirit.”

enclosure, Adams Family Papers, MHS
enclosure, Adams Family Papers, MHS

The conversation then turned to the Senate’s debate over the ratification of the Convention of 1800, an agreement that ended the Quasi-War and resulted from John Adams’s decision to send a second peace mission to France. Thomas Jefferson believed the Senate would not give its advice and consent, a position that surprised Abigail Adams given that mercantile interests favored ratification. If defeat did occur, Abigail claimed the fault would lay with Federalists allied with Alexander Hamilton, who had opposed the president’s diplomatic efforts. “There have always been a party determined to defeat it from the first sending the Mission,” Abigail said, adding, “I Mean the Hamiltonians; they must abide the concequences.”

The conversation came to a close when the vice president attempted to broach the subject of what the House would do about the deadlocked presidential election. There, the First Lady declined to respond. The election “is a subject which I do not chuse to converse upon,” Abigail claimed. Instead, she offered a telling anecdote:

I have heard of a Clergyman who upon some difficulty amongst his people, took a text from these words—“and they knew not what to do”—from whence he drew this      inference, []that when a people were in such a Situation, that they do not know what         to do; they should take great care that they do not do—they know not what.”

To that, Abigail wrote, “he laught out, and here ended the conversation.”

enclosure, Adams Family Papers, MHS
enclosure, Adams Family Papers, MHS

Future volumes of Adams Family Correspondence will include letters between Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson both before and after the breach in their relationship that lasted from 1804 to 1813. The letters provide fascinating insight into the friendship between the Adamses and Jefferson, though none reveal quite the same rapport as Abigail did when she took up her quill to transcribe her “curious conversation” with Thomas Jefferson.

The Adams Papers editorial project at the Massachusetts Historical Society gratefully acknowledges the generous support of our sponsors. Major funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, and the Packard Humanities Institute. The Florence Gould Foundation and a number of private donors also contribute critical support. All Adams Papers volumes are published by Harvard University Press.

“I Never Saw Such Slaughter”: The Civil War Letters of Dwight Emerson Armstrong, Part V

Susan Martin, Processing Archivist & EAD Coordinator

This is the fifth post in a series. Read Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

Dwight Armstrong letter, 5 July 1862
Dwight Emerson Armstrong letter to his sister Mary (Armstrong) Needham, 5 July 1862

I am well, only some tired. I wish I could tell you what has been done here on this Peninsula for the last ten days but it would fill a volume. Many bloody battles have been fought, and it does seem as if it was about time this was stopped. […]  I wish you could have had one look at that battle field just after dark. It was an awful sight. Great streams of fire bursting from the mouths of these ugly looking cannons; shells screaming, and bursting, all around, and a roar like a thousand thunders, continually filling the air, made such a sight and sound as is seldom seen or heard.

These words were written by Dwight Emerson Armstrong of the 10th Massachusetts Infantry in a letter to his sister Mary (Armstrong) Needham dated 5 July 1862. Since his last letter, Dwight had fought in several battles and skirmishes near Richmond, Va., one after the other in quick succession, culminating in the Battle of Malvern Hill. This series of engagements became known as the Seven Days Battles. Union troops were now “taking breath” in the relative safety of camp at Harrison’s Landing on the James River.

The MHS collection of Dwight’s letters unfortunately doesn’t include Mary’s replies, but we know she had some questions, which he answered when he wrote next two weeks later. What had the Union gained in those brutal seven days? Dwight replied, “I dont think we have made out much of anything.” Would they attempt to take Richmond again? Not likely, until reinforcements arrived. What were the prospects for peace? Dwight was understandably cynical.

When there is a union between the Powers of Light and Darkness you may look for Union between the North and South and not till then. […] A few weeks more of such fighting as the last week was, will pretty much use up the present generation.

At just 22 years old, Dwight was now an experienced soldier and had learned a lot. For example, he admitted that he’d underestimated the enemy.

The rebels are no cowards, and mean to fight to the last. They are perfectly desperate in battle, and care very little for bullets. Their Generals seem to care no more, for the lives of their men, than they would for the lives of so many flies. […] They would march their men in 5 or 6 great long lines, one behind the other, straight up to our batteries, that at every moment mowed them down by hundreds, I never saw such slaughter.

The 10th Regiment was stationed at Harrison’s Landing from 2 July to 16 August 1862, when it pulled up stakes and headed north. During the summer and fall of that year, Dwight wrote less frequently, only about once a month, due to the regiment’s many relocations and engagements. He was near enough to hear the fighting at Antietam, Md., on 17 September, but by the time the 10th was ordered to the field, that bloody battle was essentially over. Dwight saw only the aftermath, but the scene made a distinct impression.

I went around on the battle field, after the fighting was over, and the sights beat all that I ever saw. Men lay piled up in winrows and dead horses broken cannons, and everything else; covered the ground. […] I suppose this war is to go on until, all the men each side can raise are killed off, and then they will be satisfied.

A new concern cropped up in Dwight’s letters at this time—his brothers. He was disheartened by the news that his older brother, Timothy Martin Armstrong, had enlisted. Another brother, Joel Mason Armstrong—Mason, as he was called—also enlisted on 5 September 1862, according to that invaluable reference Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War. Mason was a carpenter in Sunderland, Mass., and would serve in the 52nd Massachusetts Infantry until he was mustered out the following summer. You can read a little more about Mason in A Record of Sunderland in the Civil War (p. 14).

However, Timothy never enlisted, as far as I can tell. This is confirmed in a letter from Dwight to Mary on 25 November 1862. Dwight regretted that Mason had gone to war, but was relieved Tim was staying out of it.

I think one out of the three, ought to know enough to stay at home and not come off here to quarrel about politics; that is all the fuss is about any way. It is just like two parties going to town-meeting, and getting into a knock-down fight, about their opinions. Perhaps it was not so when the war first commenced, but it is now.

Both Tim and Mason would live into their seventies, dying in the early years of the 20th century.

It was two days before Thanksgiving 1862, and Dwight found himself even farther from home than the previous year. He realized his earlier optimism was misguided and the war would likely drag on for some time.

I hope you’ll join me for the next installment of Dwight’s story here at the Beehive.

@JQAdams_MHS Celebrating 1 Decade of Diary Entries on Twitter!

by Alexandra Bush, Digital Production Assistant

Screenshot of JQA Twitter page
@JQAdams_MHS Twitter Page

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of the @JQAdams_MHS Twitter feed, which tweeted its first entry from John Quincy Adams’ line-a-day diary on 5 August 2009! The MHS staff has diligently posted one entry every day since, exactly 200 years after each was recorded by JQA, e.g. posting his 5 August, 1809 entry on 5 August, 2009 and so on. Since then we have accompanied him through all manner of wild weather, meetings, portrait sittings, evening walks, trips abroad, political debates, astronomical observations, and more. While JQA’s line-a-day entries aren’t exactly verbose, they provide an evocative look into his daily life.

The journey began in 2009, or 1809 for JQA, on the eve of his tenure as the United States’ ambassador to Russia, where he dined with Czar Alexander I and negotiated and signed the Treaty of Ghent. Next we followed him to London upon his appointment as envoy and ambassador to Great Britain in 1815/2015, marking the beginning of a years-long string of complaints about the dreary weather. JQA became Secretary of State to President James Monroe in 1817/2017, whereupon he returned to Washington, D.C. These past few years have seen JQA firmly establishing his presence in the capitol; assisting in matters of international relations, helping to formally define the borders of the United States, and baring his soul to the world every summer morning during his nude Potomac swims. What’s in store for the future? Only time—or our meticulously digitized, transcribed, and fully searchable web database of each of his diaries from 1779 to 1848—will tell.

Our followers’ impressions of JQA’s succinct line-a-day entries are one of the best parts of this venture. It is wonderful to see how words written 200 years ago can still be impactful today.

@Loiarchives writes:
@JQAdams_MHS Dear JQA, why do I find your tweets so calming? 

@SpiritbearNY writes:
Huh. He felt about his journal, which consumed his mornings, the way many of us feel about our use of social media. At least he was documenting history, though, not rage tweeting about his political enemies. 🙄

@fararelliott writes:
I love JQA – a bath is essential to celebrating Independence Day.

@k59griffie writes:
Another luscious word from the diary of @JQAdams_MHS : “underwitted.” He has given me two great words:  vagarious and underwitted.  I am happy.

Sometimes, though, the voice of a long-dead historical figure on a modern social media site can be a little confusing.

@AngusDoubleBeef asks:
Is this really John Quincy Adams or like a fan account?

Regardless of your views on the possibility of tweeting from beyond the grave, we encourage anyone with a Twitter account to follow @JQAdams_MHS. Join us as we finish out his Secretary of State years and celebrate his presidency in 2025! None of this would have been possible without the tireless work of the members of the Adams Papers Editorial Project, whose long hours of transcription provide us with a constantly growing source of fascinating JQA writings. You can find images and transcriptions of JQA’s diary including line-a-day entries, long-form entries, drafts, and more, on the MHS website. See full page images here and transcriptions of long entries here

George Hyland’s Diary, August 1919

By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services

Today, we return to the diary of George Hyland. If this is your first time encountering our 2019 diary series, catch up by reading the January, February, March, April, May, June, and July 1919 installments first!

August if full of fruits and vegetables from the garden: cucumbers, blackberries, apples and pears, “lettuice,” green beans, turnips, beets, and potatoes. George is also offered a peck of clams that he turns down because “I do not do any cooking” (though on another date he mentions making moss pudding). George is winding down his three month tenancy at “the James place,” with its spacious garden, and toward the end of the month begins moving his belongings into new quarters above J. H. Vinal’s store. On August 10th he has his picture taken. On August 16th he takes the train to Boston and — amidst other errands — attempts to learn why he was not called into service during the Great War. On August 24th a “thunder tempest” rolls through that he reports in his diary was “very destructive … in all parts of New Eng.” Throughout the month, George finds an hour or more most nights to play upon his guitar.

Enjoy another month with George as we close out the summer and head into autumn.

* * *

PAGE 339 (cont’d)

Aug 1. rain all forenoon. Spent forenoon at Charles’s. Had dinner there. In aft. worked 3 hours for Fred J. Bailey’s at N. Scituate Beach digging and filling up a trench. Elmer Ramsdel laid and fitted the pipes (tiles) trench about 45 or 50 ft. long. fin. the job. rode down and back in auto. aft. par. clou. to clear. W.S. at the seashore. 3 seaplanes passed there this aft. low down over the water. Mrs. M.G. Seaverns gave me a banana early in eve. I gave her some lettuice [sic] — from my garden. Eve. clear. W.N.W. Charles called here in eve.

2d. In forenoon worked at home (on James place) mowing with scythe, lawn mower, sickle and shears. In aft. went to Rockland via Norwell and Hanover. Charles, Lucy, Ellen, Uncle Samuel, Irene, and I rode there with George Hardwick — in his large auto. Emeline and Henrietta and Ethel also went there — at Edmund’s. Fine weather, W.N.W. clear, arr. home about 4:10 P.M., then worked on the place 2 hours. Sarah rode from Geo. Hardwick’s place with us — to Charlie’s place — and went back with them (Ellen and Irene). Fine eve. clear, cool. Played on the guitar 1 hour late in eve.

3d. (Sun.) Fine weather – clear; W.N.W. Called at Charlie’s in eve. Then went to Francis Hyland’s and spent part of eve.

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August 1919.

4th. Cut up boxes and housed the wood — 7 hours for Mrs. M.G. Seaverns — 2.10. Hot weather — tem. 74-90; W.S.W. late in aft. picked the first cucumber from vine in my garden — gave it to Mrs. Seaverns. Played on the guitar 1 hour in eve. also worked in my garden early in eve.

5th. Dug up ground in poultry yards for Mr. S. T. Speare – 5 1/4 hours — 1.65. Hot weather tem. 70-88; W.S.W. Played on the guitar 1 hour in eve. Mrs. Ethel Torrey sent me 2 doughnuts this A.M.

6th. In forenoon — mowed the lawn and bank and other places 2 hours for Mrs. Eudora Bailey (did not charge full price). In aft. dug up ground in poultry yards 1 1/2 hours for S. T. Speare — 45. Began to rain about 2:20 P.M. rain heavy at times all aft. and all night. W.S.W. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Mrs. Torrey gave me a qt. of milk.

7th. Very wet. rain until about 9 A.M. cloudy all forenoon. aft. par. clou. W.S.W. warm. In aft. cleared Mrs. Eudora Bailey’s trees of Gipsey [sic] moth nests (eggs and millers). She helped me do it. She is 79yrs of age. Mrs. Ethel Torrey sent me a pint of milk. Her daughter margaret brought it here. Eve. clear. Fine weather.

8th. Fine weather, tem. About 68-87; W.W. very wet in forenoon. In aft. Went nearly to Scituate Cen. to see if I could find some blackberries — got 1 1/2 cupfull. Stopped about 1/2 hour at the old house on mile 8 of […] carried 2 cucumbers and some lettuice to Mrs. M.G.Seaverns’ late in aft. She is 80 yrs of age — to-day. Saw Mrs. W. I. Lincoln at store. Fine eve. cool. Called at Mrs. Irene Litchfield’s early in eve. She came here to get me to repair a bucket — could do nothing with it — not worth repairing — she gave me a piece of choc. cake. Played on the guitar 1 hour late in eve.

9th. Worked 1 hour for Mr. Speare — 30. and 3 hours for Mason Litchfield — mowing lawn and bank — 65. Fine weather; W.W. cool. clear. eve. very cool. clear. W.S.W. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. I also worked 4 hours on this place — mowed and trimmed the grass on the whole place — also dug up some ground and transplanted some late turnips — also thinned out the plants in the rows where I planted the seeds.

10th. (Sun.) Very fine weather. Clear. cool. W.N.W. Went to W. I. Lincoln’s about 12:30. Staid [sic] about 2 1/2 hours — had dinner there. We all had our pictures taken in aft. then I went up to Uncle Samuel’s. Had supper there. Sarah and I went to my home. Sarah with me every minute I was up there. We picked a bouquet of wild flowers and carried them to Mt. Hope Cem. fine eve. arr. Back at 9 P.M. — rode there and back with W. I. Lincoln — He went to Mt. Blue Spring to get a load of water. I made a moss pudding late in eve.

11th. Worked 6 hours for Mrs. M. G. Seaverns — mowing and raking grass — 1.80 fine weather, cool sea breese [sic] — W.S.E. fine eve. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve.

12th. Worked 6 1/2 hours for Mr. Speare — (mowing grass near the house, and made a path around 3 sides of his woods and a path through the centre — bushes, trees, and briars) — 1.95. Also worked haying for 2/3 hour  Mrs. M. G. Seaverns — 20. Fine weather, clear, W.S.E. Played on the guitar 1 1/2 hours in eve. Mrs. Torrey gave me a pint of milk. Mr. Speare gave me a sythe with snath.

13th. Worked 5 hours for Mr. Speare — made another path in the woods and back of poultry yards — bet. poultry yards and a stone wall — 1.50. Sold 10 cucumbers (to sell in his store and markets) 25. (To Job H. Vinal) Job gave me about a pound of Hamburg steak (meat). Mrs. Torrey gave me a pint of milk […] par. cloudy — damp, W.S.E. a few sprinkles of rain in eve. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Rain in night.

14th. Cold storm — W.N.E. rain and mod. gale — 30m. Light rain in eve. W.N.E. repaired some of my clothes. Played on the guitar 1 1/2 hours in eve. Kept a fire in stove all day and eve. Cold for season.

15th. Worked 8 3/4 hours for William Carter (he paid me for 9 hours work) — 2.70. Forenoon misty, very damp, W.N.W. aft. par. clou. (clearing) eve. Clear very fine eve. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Mrs. Carter gave me some tea — enough for several meals. I had none, and worked so late that the stores had all closed when I finished the work — dug up and repaired their driveway — about 300 feet in length.

16th. Went to Boston on 7:55 A.M. tr. Paid $15.00 on a Victory Loan Bond at the State St. Trust Cos. Bank — 33 State St. Also went to the U.S. Custom House to see if I could find out the reason I was not taken into the service of the U.S. Merchant Marine when the country was engaged in the Great War — I signed an application (blank) and filled it out and thought I was to be put into active service but I was not. The officer who had charge of the recruiting is not there now, and I could find out nothing about it but the chief officer who has charge now told me to go to the shipping office at No. 20 Atlantic Av. and prob. they would put me in the service in some capacity, but the war is ended and I do not take much interest in it now, but perhaps I may later on. Returned on the Stm. “Mayflower” to Nantasket. Spent aft. there — Band concert by Carter’s Band of Boston. Went to Hingham on Elec. Car — then tr. to N. Scituate. Fine weather, fine eve. W.S.E. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve.

17th. (Sun,) Par. cloudy; W.S.E. Mr. Bullard called here in forenoon, gave him some lettuice. Cloudy. Mrs. Eudora Bailey called here this A.M. to see if I would like to have some clams — her daughter, Sarah, sent her a half a peck. She said I could have them if I wanted them but I do not do any cooking.

18th. Mowed lawn and raked up apples 1 3/4 hours for E. Jane Litchfield. Had dinner there. Walked up and back. Very damp. Began to rain about 1:45 P.M. Got wet. Staid at Uncle Samuel’s in aft. Sarah and Hester Fish came and played housekeeping. I gave them some choc. candy (5cts). Sold 5 cucumbers to J. H. Vinal this A. M. — to sell in his store. Bought a quart of milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Ethel got it for me. Rain all aft. W.E. eve. clou. Played on the guitar 1 1/2  hours in eve.

19th. Fair. W.S.E. Went up to Uncle Samuel’s — staid 3/4 hour. Had dinner there. In aft. worked 3 1/2 hours for E. Jane Litchfield — mowing and raking grass. 5 hours in all — 1.00. Walked up and back. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Ethel got it for me. Played on the guitar 1 1/2 hours in eve.

20th. Mowed lawn and around the house. 2 1/3 hours for Mason Litchfield — 70. and mowed lawn and trimmed bank 2 3/4 hours for Mrs. Eudora Bailey (6th time) — 2.00. Clear. Warm. W.S.W. tem. About 68-85. I have hired a house to move into when I leave this place. Fine eve. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Sold 11 beets and 1 qt. of green beans to Mrs. M.G. Seaverns this A.M. — 10. Also 4 cucumbers for Sarah — 20. She will have […].

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August 1919

21st. Mowed 5 hours for Mrs. Caroline Litchfield — 1.00. Walked up and back. Had dinner at E. Jane Litchfield’s. Gave Sarah the money (20cts) I got for the 4 cucumbers I sold for her. Hot weather — tem. about 67-86; W.N.W., E., S.W. stopped at Geo. Crosby’s to see his well — over 20 feet of water in it. Played on the guitar 1 h. 20 m. in eve. Late bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s.

22d. Mowed and trimmed grass and did other work for Mrs. M.G. Seaverns — 4h — 1.20. Also mowed a place in a great field — near a very large elm tree (for the young friends of Mrs. E. to have a picnic) for Mrs. Bayley Ellis — 1 3/4 hours — 50. Mrs. Ethel Torrey gave me a pint of milk early in eve. I got a pail of water there. Hot weather — tem. About 67-87. W.W. clear. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Made a moss pudding and boiled some turnips. Sold about 2 qts of apples for Sarah (got 15cts for them) I sold 7 of my cucumbers to J. H. Vinal — 10. and 12 turnips to Mrs. Bertha Bates (nee Hobson) — 10.

23d. Worked 3 hours for Wm. Carter. 90. 2/3 hours for Mrs. M.G. Seaverns, 20. 4 1/2 hours for Mr. Bullard, 1.35. Gave Mrs. Bailey Ellis some lettuice in eve. Hot weather, W.W. clear. Tem. 68-87. Played on the guitar 1h. 20m. in eve

24th. (Sun.) Very hot and muggy, W.S.W. tem. 75-95. Thunder tempest and rain began at 4:45 P.M. continued for 5 hours — 11 P.M. rain has stopped but tempest still continues E. of here. Thun. storms always go from the N.W. to S.E. Boiled some turnips, beets and potatoes (from my garden) in eve. The thunder storm was very destructive. Was in all parts of New Eng.

25th. Rain until about 3 P.M. Eve. clear. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Cut wood 1/2 hour for Francis N. Hyland in forenoon — in woodhouse.

26th. Worked 6 hours for J. H Vinal — 2.00. Had dinner there. J. H. V. and I mowed with sythes — I also trimmed with sickle and shears. Emma V. mowed with lawn mower. I sharpened it. Fine weather. Fine eve. tem to-day about 65-83. Rode 1/2 mile with [blank space] in auto this A.M. (He works for F. J. Bailey) walked back. Played on the guitar 1h. 20m. in eve. Worked haying ¼ hour A.M. for Mrs. Seaverns.

27th. Worked 6 1/4 hours for J. H. Vinal — mowing — 2.00. Had dinner there. Fair in forenoon. Very damp and clou. in aft. Showers at times. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve.

28th. In forenoon moved some of my things into Scott Gannett’s tenement over the store — J. H. Venal’s store. In aft. picked pears 1 hour for Mrs. Eudora Bailey and picked pears 1 1/4 hours for Mrs. M.G. Seaverns — also worked haying 1/2 hour — 45. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Stayed in new house to-night.

29th. Worked 3 1/2 hours for Mrs. Ethel Torrey — improving walk — and trimming grass. — 1.05. In aft. went up to Uncle Samuel’s. Gave Sarah the money (15cts) I got for some apples I sold for her. Rode 1 1/4 miles with Clinton Bates. Walked back. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. E. got it. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Staid in new place to-night.

30th. Worked 2 ¼ hours for Mason Litchfield — mowing lawn and trimming around the house — 65. Very muggy and damp. Light showers in forenoon. Rain all aft. Windy — W.S. Ellen and Sarah called here a few min. in forenoon — Sarah came into the house — to see where I live. They went over to Charlie’s. I called there late in aft. They came back with me — were going to stay this eve. but they got a chance to ride home with Margaret Brown and went back to Uncle Samuel’s. I bought a cone of ice cream for Sarah (7cts). Margaret Brown got it for her. M. B. worked at the Drug Store — where I bought it. Rain until 5 P.M. then began to rain again about 7: 15 P.M. Light rain all eve. Played on the guitar 1h. 25 min. in eve. in my new home — ten. over J. H. Vinal’s store.

31st. Rain in forenoon. aft. and clear 10:30 P.M. cloudy; W.N.W. My lease of the James place (3 mos.) expires to-day, and the rent for this place (ten. Over J.H. Vinal’s store and market) begins tomorrow. (Sun.)

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If you are interested in viewing the diary in person in our library or have other questions about the collection, please visit the library or contact a member of the library staff for further assistance.

*Please note that the diary transcription is a rough-and-ready version, not an authoritative transcript. Researchers wishing to use the diary in the course of their own work should verify the version found here with the manuscript original. The catalog record for the George Hyland’s diary may be found here. Hyland’s diary came to us as part of a collection of records related to Hingham, Massachusetts, the catalog record for this larger collection may be found here.