Thaddeus Carleton journal  1863
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The majority of entries in Carleton's diary concern the routine matters of daily life in a small New York town, including births, illnesses, and deaths, domestic chores, sending "goodies" to the soldiers, sleighing in winter, trading daguerreotypes, killing rats, and visiting friends and relatives. Other entries, though, enable one to track the course of the war and its effect on the lives of those on the 'home front.' Thaddeus is a faithful recorder of the names of local men who were casualties of the war, whether injured or dying in combat or suffering from disease, and he takes care to note the soldiers arriving home after being discharged or furloughed for convalescence or rest. Two soldiers returned home as prisoners 'paroled' by the Confederates, but Thaddeus suggests that, in reality, they may have deserted after their release. Throughout the journal, Thaddeus' greatest concern seems to be the well being of his relatives in the service.

Current events occasionally attract Thaddeus' attention. He responds strongly to news of the Emancipation Proclamation, the fall of Charleston and Vicksburg, the siege of Port Hudson, the anniversary of the fall of Fort Sumter, and the Battle of Gettysburg. While his reactions are somewhat stereotypical in their patriotism, his interest and desire to serve seem genuine. Many of the war reports he records in his journal turn out to have been nothing more than rumors (e.g., the fall of Richmond and the capture of Jefferson Davis), and following several such rumors, Carleton becomes considerably more cautious in accepting war stories. The red tape involved in soldiers' or relatives' applying for and receiving back pay and pensions is a recurring theme.

A few other incidents are noteworthy. On 22 May, a quack doctor who claimed to be the grandson of Ethan Allen and to be able to cure Thaddeus of his 'contracted cords' arrived in Churchville and offered to help. Having taken his fee, Dr. Allen took to the road, leaving the uncured Thaddeus understandably bitter when, on 20 June, he received word that Allen had been seen in a nearby town boasting of success in curing Carleton. The bloody suicide of Schuilar Bromley (29 May), young resident of Churchville, also attracted a fair amount of Carleton's attention for a time.

On the political front, Carleton's commentary on the Republican victory in the November elections is unusually tinged with emotion: "the poorest, meanest armed rebel in the insurgent army is a good man by the side of the best of [the copperheads]. for has he not the spunk to march up to the cannons mouth and boldly assert their claims, while they are, crawl around (copperhead) like and strike your back in the dark, but their punishment is drawing nigh."

While Thaddeus is not a naturally gifted writer, and while his writing in neither richly detailed, stirring, nor insightful, his journal provides a continuous and dense coverage of the daily activity of a family on the 'home front' in New York. While his reactions are often muted, in the end, because of the regularity of entries and the presence of an occasional more descriptive passage, a complete picture emerges of the experiences of a would-be soldier and his community.

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