Frederic Olmsted's journal contains an account of his service with the Union Army’s 23rd Connecticut Infantry, which was attached to the defenses of New Orleans and the district of Lafourche, Louisiana. The journal is 3"x5" and is made up of brief, almost daily entries.
For January and February, his entries describe the daily life of a Union soldier while not engaged in active combat -- foraging for food, hunting, and endless drilling. Beginning in March 1863, he was involved in overseeing slaves on several sugar plantations near Houma, Louisiana. His responsibilities included shipping hogsheads of sugar and barrels of molasses, retrieving runaway slaves for return to the plantations, and sometimes delivering punishments. If he had any qualms about his duties, they are not recorded in his journal. An entry for March 14, 1863, reads: “this morning I was sent by the captain to take a Negro up to Gibson plantation and see the negro whipt 50 lashes. stayed… and had a butifull dinner.”
On June 22, Olmsted took part in a battle at Brashear City (now Morgan City), Louisiana, where he and other Federals were taken prisoner. After their parole on June 25, 1863, Olmsted described being marched to the point of exhaustion in the sweltering heat, with many parolees dying on the journey. The Union men were held briefly at the Belleville Iron Works before making their way to Ship Island, where Olmsted noted that the rations were scarce and that they lived in tents on the blazing sand. On July 29, Olmsted wrote: “This morning went into the woods 9 miles from camp for wood, had to float it down to camp by wading up to our arms in water. Sun so hot that we burnt our legs to a blister but love of country overpowers all this.” Olmsted departed Ship Island on August 4, traveled upriver to Cairo, Illinois, boarded a train for Indianapolis, and eventually made his way back to Connecticut. He returned home sick and exhausted. “I had not been shaved in over 8 months, my wife did not know me at first, but I am overjoyed to meet her and my little boy. I am ragged and dirty, have an old straw hat with only a part of [the] brim, am entirely worn out with my army service.” (August 25, 1863). On September 5, Olmsted traveled to New Haven to obtain his discharge papers, and ended his service with the Union Army.
The journal also includes several brief entries regarding financial accounts; one notation from July 3, 1889, records a meeting in Bridgeport; and a separate document gives Olmsted permission to “pass the lines at all hours.” On a "Memoranda" page at the end of the diary is a very brief note concerning an A.W.O.L. fling on November 23.