The Diary of Hannah Ditzler Alspaugh (Page 2)
Excerpts from her diaries, published in "A View of Historic Naperville," from The Sky-Lines, articles by Genevieve Towsley, published in the Naperville Sun Newspaper. Consent to reprint graciously given by Sun Publications, July 20, 1999. Thanks beyond words to Sun Publications and Ms. Towsley for this wonderful contribution! The original ledgers amounted to 500 pages. All notes in italics are Ms. Towsley's comments. Please read additions and corrections submitted by family members.
The War Years...
Hannah was only 13 when the war began, but in later years she remembered well the impact of the news. Entries in her journal tell her recollections:
"One never-to-be-forgotten night in April, we got the news that Fort Sumpter was fired on and war was declared. It was when the little girl Cascelia was so sick with scarlet fever. Neighbors had come to watch by her bedside at night. People were everywhere on the streets, all talking about the war . We felt as if the enemy was right here upon us. Sue and I were out at the pump and we were afraid when we heard wagon wheels. It was the dreaded signal for war; and in April, President Lincoln called for 75,000 soldiers.
"...we would read the war news out loud and I distinctly remember the horrors of Bull Run and other battles.
"On September 18, Eli (Hannah's brother) enlisted for the war. A number of our town boys went in Co. E, 8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment. Father marked the date on the almanac. Mother felt dreadfully sad. The regiment encamped at St. Charles, and John Farnsworth was their Colonel.
"One time, my parents and I went to St. Charles to spend a day with Eli and the rest. In October, the regiment was ordered to Washington and were gone three years.
"In August, 1861, father, mother, and Eli Richerts drove down to Blackberry (?). Sue and I were alone and a schoolmate friend, D.R.W., used to come evenings to see how we fared. One eve the Shellberger house was on fire, and he came in great haste, thinking it was ours. Blessings on such a good thoughtful friend." (This is Hannah's only reference to her early interest in the young man who later wrote her many letters while marching with Sherman. In no place in her journal does she reveal his name, but calls him "my soldier boy." Since he often spoke of his sister Mary, he probably was Mary Weaver Richert's brother. throughout Hannah's life he had a special place in her heart and memory.)
"In August of 1862, Capt. Joe Naper died. Naperville was named after him. There was a very large funeral; all the town attended. I was in their yard and wrote the whole history to Eli. There were over 100 teams in line.
"On Sept. 2, 1862, another regimented company of our town boys left for the war. It was the 105th Ill. Infantry. Many of our schoolmates went, and we could hear crying in many houses. Cousin Ed Richert went, and our next door neighbor Bill Hughes. and Henry Norton put his arm over our picket fence and bid us all goodbye...Poor fellow, he never came back, but sleeps in the Chattanooga National cemetery...I remember seeing them start from the Court House Square (Central Park), and hearing the drum and fife as they marched to Wheaton to take the train. We had no R.R. then. My kind friend D.R.W. was among them, and Chas. Studenroth and many other schoolmates."
Since Hannah began keeping a diary in 1863, the remaining accounts presented here were written at the time of their happening. However, the journal from which they are taken contains only copies of that early diary, plus Hannah's reflections or additions that were written when she was nearing the end of her life in her 80's!
"January 29, 1863- Received letter from D.R.W. - a soldier in Sherman's army. Dreaming dreams of the future!
"June 6, 1863- Letter from Eli at Stoneman station in Virginia.
"June 8,- Heard the sad news Harry Freeman was killed in battle before Vicksburg.
"June 13- Today is mass meeting at Wheaton. I went down town to see the 80 teams start out- all decorated with flags and flowers. Went with the rest. A large crowd. Good speeches. Good time- 8 or 9 thousand people there---Sue's beau, Aaron Butts, was there in a fine top buggy, so when the meeting was over I waS privileged to ride home with them.
"June 28- After Sunday school, Libbie Good, Sarah, and I took a walk to see where they are grading for the railroad that will run through Naperville.
"June 29- Letter from Eli- written June 23, near Aldie, Va. Here is a copy:
'Dear Hannah: Since my last letter, we travelled some distance over the old state and had some hard fighting. From Catlet Station we come to Manassas and Bull Run. Stayed one day at Aldie. Here some of our cavalry had some very hard fighting. Then on again, all the time drove the Rebs before us. At Ashley Gap their cavalry made a stand. After a couple of hours of repeated charges, and our artillery piling in shot and shell, we drove them through the Gap.
'Shot, shell and balls flew thick and fast about me, yet our Heavenly Father has saved me from all harm. Two were killed out of the regiment; some dozen wounded. The enemy suffered heavily. The field was scattered full of dead horses and men...
'Mother, trouble yourself not. I trust God is with me and will deliver me from all danger...
"July 7- In the evening there was great rejoicing down town. Every bell was rung, guns were fired, and a display of fireworks. Vicksburg is at length taken!
"July 16- At last, a letter from Eli! He is safe after the great battle of Gettysburg. God be praised! Here is a copy of his letter:
'Gettysburg, Penn. July 1
Hoping that I may get a chance to mail a letter I will drop you a line-
'Westminster, Md. July 3
'The above lines I wrote at the place dated, but these miserable Rebels never let us to ourselves. The morning of July 1, our Co. was on picket. All was quiet, so I thought I would write. Had just commenced when the picket on post reported the enemy advancing. We mounted and went out to the line. Waited the approach of the Rebels. When they came nigh enough we fired and fell back a ways. Still they advanced- came in strong force. Our Cav. Div. was drawn up in line of battle and received them. We held them at bay until one Inf. came up. A general battle ensued and was raging all day long.
'The enemy had all Inf., and, of course, we Cav. could do little. some of us dismounted and took it infantry style. I was on foot and kept behind fences and trees and fired.
'The battle raged all that day as well as yesterday and today. A most terrible battle. Our horses had nothing to eat in four days, so our Div. came to this place yesterday. Are in camp here- once again in America, as the boys say. How different from Va. The people all are Union. As we came along up from the Potomac, each town we passed through had flags flying and citizens crowding the streets. The ladies waved their hankerchiefs, and the air was rent with cheer after cheer. Made me feel homesick to see how happy free people were.
'As we advanced on Gettysburg, the Rebels fell back and, oh, how glad the people were! On street corners fair misses collected and sang "Star Spangled Banner" for us as we passed, and there were roaring cheers.
'We went in camp a little beyond town and I then went back in town to buy little articles. Ladies on the streets with baskets filled would give us all the pies, cakes, and goodies we wanted...I stopped at a house where seminary girls boarded. They gave me a bouquet and sang songs to the accompaniment of the piano- all for my benefit, dirty and rough as I was. How sweet it sounded!
'The tears of joy and gladness of the people of Gettysburg have suddenly turned into tears of sadness. Our lines had to fall back to this side of town, and the Rebs were on the other, so the city was in between two fires. Some of the houses were burned and demolished. The women in town took the wounded in their houses and took care of them. children walked the streets with pails of water and gave to the boys. This evening I heard that our men drove the Rebs; took lots of artillery and many prisoners. Our loss in officers is heavy and severe.
'I am well and in good spirits. Mother do not trouble yourself. Goodbye,
"July 22- Two 8th Cavalry boys- Morg Hughes and Sam Bond- came home as escort for body of General Elon Farnsworth who was killed at Gettysburg. Morg came to tell us about Eli and the battle, and how General Farnsworth was killed. (Was he the Farnsworth who was colonel and commanding officer of the Camp at St. Charles?)
"Oct. 5- Got a letter from my soldier boy-
'Nashville, Tenn. Oct. 2
'Dear Friend Hannah-
I received your kind letter this morning and hope I will be blest with more...
I get along first rate in this southern travelling. Tim passes fast...
I am having a good time at present. I go to all the churches. Went to a Negro meeting the other night. They were having a glorious old time among themselves. One of the darkie women came around and shook hands with all of us soldiers. This was the first time I shook hands with a black woman, except Sybil Dunbar in Naperville. (!!)
I wish you could be here.
'Your friend D.R.W.'
Most entries for 1864 are about school, church, spelling bees, and sleigh rides. School terms ended in March in those years. On March 25, Hannah writes: "This is the day we all prepared for. Had examinations, then stood in class and read compositions, and , when all done, sang and left the room. In P.M. were all dressed in pink and white, with wreaths and badges of myrtle and evergreen and roses."
A letter from Eli tells of severe fighting:
'Harrison's Landing, Va. May 16.
You surely heard of the great battle going on here in Va., and of the Cavalry expedition in the rear of the enemy. On the morning of the 4th we crossed the Papidan river and each day had to make reconnaisance to find how the enemy lay. On May 9, the whole Cavalry Corps started on the desperate expedition around Lee's army. After the 2nd day's march, we had to fight the Rebel Cavalry in our rear and front as we went along each day.
Our horses had no grain when we started; ourselves only two days' rations. Some nights we marched all night; others we were obliged to rest the horses as well as ourselves. Several times in the morning the enemy would throw shells among us.
We passed through the outer works around Richmond. At daybreak the enemy poured in grape and canister and volleys from small arms...After a half day's fighting we were obliged to cross the Chickahominy to north side; passed through Mechanicsville, from there to Bottom's Bridge. Crossed to south side again, and came to this place under protection of the gun boats.
Many of our men were half starved. Here transports met us with rations and grain. We lost some men but we captured 200 prisoners, (209 of our men were prisoners in Reb hands) destroyed three trains of cars, railroad depot, and seven days' rations for Lee's men.
I hope we may be successful this summer and wind up the war. Pray God that He may protect me from harm. Only four months more and I may be on my way home. (He enlisted for three years only.)
An affectionate goodbye from your absent son and brother,
"May 20, 1864- The railroad is in operation now. Last everning we were surprised to see Aunt Hannah and Emma come on the first train. Have seen several freight trains of 80 cars and 6 passenger trains go through..."
As Hannah Ditzler progresses from adolescence to young womanhood, her journal entries reflect her many moods. The close of the Civil War, Lincoln's assassination, dedication as a teacher in Naper school, romantic attachments, and religious experiences- all are recorded.
"May 30, 1864- I got a letter from my soldier boy...near Kingston, Ga.
I shall relate why I could not answer your letter sooner. We were on the march toward Resaca, where the Rebels were. Found them pretty strong, but we had a heavy force and were bound to take the place...
Our first trial with the Rebels came Sunday when our Brigade was ordered to take the advance. March in line of battle till near the Rebels' fortifications. Had orders to fix bayonets and charge the fortifications. We started on double quick, and then you ought to have heard the shells and balls whistle. The Rebs opened on us, but no stop to our charge. Up we went and drove them out of their first fortification. Captured four of their cannon and a few prisoners.
Our Regt. was then ordered back to form a new line. Found we had 44 wounded and 4 killed- but none you knew...The loss of the Brigade was 450 and of the Division about 1000. The hillside lay full of the wounded...I helped one off the field that was shot in the knee, and another shot in the right side...
Hannah I have long been wanting to see an armed Rebel. I have seen him, and am surprised I got out of the fight so lucky...I hope I never have to go into a battle again...
The report is the Rebs are in a valley not far from here and we will see them this P.M. Please excuse the writing. We have to sit in the open air and write on the ground. Write often.
Your true friend D.R.W.'
"June 12, 1864- The cornerstone of the Catholic church was laid today, so our Sunday school was slim. Afterwards we went over there. A great crowd was there. We girls were in the old church when a man with a contribution box came around. We all put in pennies."
"July 22,- Got a letter from my soldier boy, written July 14, 10 miles from Chattahoochee river:
'July 14, near Chattahoochee.
After driving the enemy from Kenesaw mountain by a flank attack, we followed them the next morning. Got our artillery on them, but they soon replied which made it a hot place for our Reg. We kept down low but not all the shells passed over us...Our battery made the Rebs retreat. We followed, and they are now across the river.
Henry Norton was out on the line yesterday. He says they and the rebels made an agreement not to fire, and they keep up a conversation all day. The Rebs come over every day- bring tobacco and trade for most anything. Some stay an hour or two; others swear they won't go back again. They have a great many deserters...
The fighting is not so much fun as it is bragged up to be...
I remain your true friend,
"July 27- News came there was a great battle at Atlanta, where our 105th regiment is. In the afternoon Eliza Norton came by here crying and told me her brother Henry is severely wounded in the left arm. Sam Barr wounded in head. Henry Zentmeyer mortally wounded. Lieut. Kinley, Sarah Rogers' husband, mortally wounded in lungs. Mrs. Norton felt very bad. I could hear them moan and cry over there. Heard, too, that Henry Reinhold was killed and Mr. Gushert starved in Richmond prison. Oh dear! What dreadful news we hear of the war! And how my heart beats to hear how fared my soldier boy!
"July 29- Heard the 17 Reg is taken prisoners by guerillas. John Daniels was scalped!
"Aug. 3- I rode on train to Chicago- first time from Naperville.
"Aug. 17- Heard Henry Norton died. His folks feel dreadful bad. Oh Henry, you have died a noble death for your country, and we will never forget you.
"Sept. 22- Little Fred Dudley brought us a note from Dann Gross, saying Eli has reached Chicago and is at the Soldiers' He will come home Saturday!
"Saturday, Sept. 24- There was a big crowd waiting at the depot. At length we heard the puffing and saw the smoke of the engine, and all pressed forward on the platform. How many anxious eyes were waiting for their soldier boys!
After the train left we saw two men walking, and we followed, but Eli was not one. We returned on the dark and muddy street, and I heard cousin Eli Richert say "Here he is, Hannah", and in a moment we were in a loving embrace- my soldier brother and his little sister! Such hand shaking then...When we came home Mother was wild with joy. Thank God, Eli is safe at home again after three years of Army life.
"Nov. 22- Eli clerks in Scott's store. Sue went to Chicago today.
"Nov. 24- Thanksgiving Day and also Sue's wedding day. We went to church. Little did I care about my sister's wedding (to Aaron butts who had courted her several years). None in our family went as she will marry in Chicago at Aunt Hannah's. She waited until Eli came home from the war, and now he don't even go to her wedding...(As I grew older I realized this was a downright shame. They were married at aunt's home by Rev. Walker. Aaron's family went. Sue wore a blue dress and that is all I know. They came back to Naperville in a Pullman Palace car that the train happened to be pulling.) There were hints in many entries of the rivalry between the two sisters, and of Sue's frequent spoiling of Hannah's good times. (Both Eli and I attended their silver wedding in Chicago. We could not go to their golden wedding in Hood River, Oregon.)
"Dec. 31- At noon cousin Elmira came and told us the sad news that cousin George Richert died of lung fever. He was stationed in Memphis and burial is there. I can't believe it. He was home on furlough only a little more than a month ago, and left with a good-bye kiss. aunt Betsy is grieving...
"Jan. 3, 1865- Went to Nick Stenger's funeral- over 70 teams in the cortege out to the Catholic cemetery. Letter from my soldier boy:
'Savannah, Ga., Dec. 27, 1864
'It has been over a month that we have been cut off from communication. We have traveled over 300 miles through most every pine forest and swamp in Ga. But I have never had a better time in the service. Hardly a day passed but what we had chicken and sweet potatoes. We lived on the country and that was on the top shelf! We came through a great many towns and destroyed an immense sight of buildings and R.R. that will break the Southern Confederacy to repair...
'We started before breakfast, when ordered to march on Savannah. The Rebels had left in the night and by noon we were camped in and around the city. They left over 200 of their large cannon and ammunition.
'I hope the war will soon end. It is hard to leave one's loved ones at home. I had none to leave, but am hoping to gain some fair one's affections when I return,
Your friend- D.R.W.'