This is a continuation of the diary of Benjamin H. Ellicott of Baltimore during the events of the Civil War in 1863. During the latter half of July, the famous draft riots broke out in New York City, and later in the month, Ellicott describes a scene of violence in Baltimore. Meanwhile, Lee and his army become elusive, and the second blockade of Charleston is begun.1
The Civil War Diary of Benjamin H. Ellicott continued
As the weather heated up in the summer of 1863, so did the Civil War, with the siege of Vicksburg finally completed, and then the momentous Battle(s) at Gettysburg. Benjamin Ellicott, writing from his home in Baltimore, struggled to make sense of what was happening, in an age when communications were still quite primitive, compared to our instant access to events. Despite telegrams and the telegraph, news was hard to get, and reliable news even harder. Ellicott’s journal shows us how different life is for civilians in a civil war compared to a war fought overseas, on someone else’s territory.1
June 1863. The Civil War has been going on for over two years now, with no end in sight. Benjamin H. Ellicott, watching it all from his home in Baltimore, has written an amazing diary of events.1 His skepticism about official reports and his access to both southern and northern newspapers makes him a valuable observer. And it doesn’t hurt that he was very articulate.
Benjamin H. Ellicott’s Diary for May 1863 is full of very dramatic War News: Confederate incursions into western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the assault on Fredericksburg and the failures of General Hooker and the Army of the Potomac, the battles of Chancellorsville and Spotsylvania, the death of Stonewall Jackson, capture of British vessels by Federal gunboats enforcing the blockade of Charleston, and Grant’s continued assault on Vicksburg.
April 1863 was another very difficult month for the country. The biggest news was “affairs at or around Vicksburg.”
A difficult month in a difficult year. Benjamin H. Ellicott’s diary, continued, brings us close to the trials and tribulations of Americans in the middle of their Civil War.1 Previously, I omitted Ellicott’s comments on the weather, but this time I’ve decided to keep them; they seem to enhance the immediacy of time. It’s February, after all, not August.
I have previously published excerpts from the diary of Benjamin H. Ellicott, describing how he and wife Mary Ann Warford traveled from their home in Baltimore to Flemington, and then Locktown, to escape the difficulties of the Civil War, and how they decided to return to Baltimore after a few months.
The Ellicott Diary continues through the year 1863, describing the events of the War as seen through the eyes of a southerner who supported the Union cause, but disagreed heartily with the Lincoln administration. He was very much in sympathy with the Locktown Copperheads and members of the Delaware Township Democratic Club.
While processing the reams of archived material at the Hunterdon County Historical Society, archivist Donald Cornelius came upon a handwritten diary composed during the years of the Civil War. He was stunned and thrilled by what he found, a personal journal from a resident of Locktown written during those stressful years, 1861-1863. I am equally thrilled that he shared his find with me. Since the Civil War officially ended 150 years ago on April 9th, I would like to share with you the first pages of this fascinating document, written by Benjamin Harvey Ellicott.