Edward H. Fitzgerald journals  1834-1852 (bulk 1834-1844)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Edward H. Fitzgerald journals are comprised of two volumes and one document, belonging to a U.S. army officer who served in the Seminole War, the Mexican War, and at several western outposts in California and Oregon. The volumes amount to Fitzgerald's daily journal while traveling with the navy in the Mediterranean, along with sporadic diary entries and poems from his service in Florida during the Seminole war and during his time in Mexico and on the California frontier.

Volume 1 (548 pages) is a private journal, written by Fitzgerald during his service in the United States Navy stationed in the Mediterranean (August 6, 1834-September 1, 1835). Fitzgerald kept detailed daily notes, with commentary, of his experiences on board an unnamed ship commanded by David Conner (pages 1-339). Fitzgerald described the purpose of the diary:

This my private journal is to be merely a register of the events of a cruise as they really happen, & of my sentiments upon those of them that strike me particularly; I keep it at the request of _______ & because perhaps in after years it may be pleasant to recur (sic) to it & refresh my memory with the perusal of those scenes in which I may suffer or enjoy myself (page 1).

Pages 1-366 mainly consist of a continuous daily account of these travels. The ship voyaged from Norfolk, Virginia, to Madeira, Toulon (where they were held in quarantine for cholera), Port Mahon, Marseilles, Gibraltar, Malaga, Barcelona, Genoa, Naples, Valetta, Palermo, Rome, and Paris. Fitzgerald also made many inland trips to Pisa and Florence (see additional descriptive data for Fitzgerald's itinerary with corresponding page numbers).

The second half of the journal, pages 367-547, contains sporadic diary entries, pages of verse (both original and copied poems), short fiction, and other miscellaneous writings from 1839 to 1843 (pages 468-487 are missing). Many of the entries describe his life with the 2nd Dragoons in 1840, and his experiences in Tampa Bay, Florida. In one notable passage, Fitzgerald, while at sea, described memories of being with his family at Christmas. He recalled receiving presents, singing Christmas Gifts with his family, teasing the younger family members, and watching his mother cook turkey, sugar plums, hot coffee, rolls, and mince pie (pages 409-413).

In addition to the journal entries, Fitzgerald made several lists throughout the journal. Three lists are official in nature: page 9 contains a list of the officers on board the ship; pages 398-399 contain a register of captains, 1st lieutenants and 2nd lieutenants for the years 1841-1844; and page 566 has a roll for the 6th Infantry, led by Colonel Henry Atkinson, October 26, 1839. Other lists show that Fitzgerald was well educated and a lover of art, poetry, and literature. Page 1 lists over 100 books he remembered reading, including histories of the United States, Spain, and the life of George Washington; novels, such as Ivanhoe and Leviathan; and miscellaneous books, such as a book entitled Tales of my Land Lord, and writings by Voltaire. On pages 392-393, Fitzgerald listed names and descriptions of Greek and Roman gods, and page 456 has a list of "the 7 wise men of Greece."

This volume contains 7 drawings: four people farming and carrying a load on a spit (page 61), 2 ships (pages 69 and 92), a coastal view of an island (page 77), a well-dressed man with a big nose (384), two people in hats (497), and three profiles of men with an American flag.

Volume 2 (30 pages and 200 blank pages) labeled "PRIVATE," is a book of original poems, some with biographical notes, written during the Fitzgerald's time stationed in Florida during the Seminole war, and in Tacubaya, Mexico, during the Mexican-American War. These poems were copied into the volume at a later date, and contain a few annotations and corrections. Of note are two poems written for Mary Elizabeth "Betty" Taylor, daughter of future U.S. President Zachary Taylor.

Below is a list of titles, creation dates, and locations for each poem:

  • Fort Gamble, Florida
    • You may talk of your jewels and spangles, May 1840 (page 10)
  • Fort Gibson Cherokee Nation (Eastern Oklahoma Territory)
    • The Guardian Angel: a German fable, February 26, 1843 (page 12)
    • The Prairie at Evening, March 1843 (page 15)
    • To Miss Betty Taylor, Daughter of General Zachery Taylor, March 1846 (page 19)
    • Selected, March 24, 1846 (page 20)
    • Selected lines, March 28, 1846 (page 23-26)
  • Fort Morgan, Sea Horse Key, Florida
    • Lines, 1842 (page 14)
  • Fort Smith, Arkansas
    • The Thunder Shower, 1844 (page 1)
    • A valentine to Miss. Amelia Hoffman, February 14, 1844 (page 3)
    • The mellow eve to some is sweet (page 4)
    • To Susan Duval, May 1845 (page 5)
    • To Kate Hoffman, February 14, 1845 (page 7)
  • Tacubaya, Mexico
    • Lady (Miss Betty Taylor), February 14, 1848 (page 22)
  • Tampa Bay, Florida
    • Sweet evening, July 1840 (page 9)
    • Lines at Sea, August 24, 1840 (page 17)

After the poems, Fitzgerald copied 4 report extracts from his service in the Mexican War. Two extracts recount the Battle of Contrerasand Churubusco, led by Major General Pillow on August 19 and 20, 1847 (page 27). The other two extracts relate to the Battle of Chapultepec, during which Fitzgerald was Aide-de-Camp to General Pierce, September 1847 (page 27-28).

Finally, pages 29-30 contain a biographical list of places where Fitzgerald lived between his birth in 1815 and his death in 1860. The 1860 entry was written in a different hand.

In addition to the two journals, this collection contains a printed resolution, from the Pennsylvania legislature, honoring Fitzgerald for his service in the Mexican War (May 20, 1849). This document is signed by Governor William F. Johnston from the state capital, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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