The Lewis Simonds journal contains brief entries, written almost daily and covering January 14-October 6, 1864, while Simonds was stationed in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia with the band of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps. Early entries describe Simonds' daily life while at Camp Nelson in Jessamine County, Kentucky. He had a great deal of free time; the activities he recorded primarily consisted of reading, writing, "playing B[ack]gammon" (January 28, 1864), and rehearsing with the band. He also noted weather conditions, illnesses among his brigade, and other scattered activities.
Simonds frequently mentioned his musical pursuits and band-mates. In addition to fastidiously documenting his rehearsals, he wrote that the band performed at such occasions as a funeral (January 19, 1864), a dress parade (April 15, 1864), an inspection (August 14, 1864), and a flag raising (January 23, 1864). He also recorded the times when band members received new instruments or repaired existing ones. However, he did not provide the names of songs played.
He also wrote tersely about several battles, though as a band member, he frequently experienced them from a distance. On the Battle of the Wilderness, he wrote, "our Division got engaged.… Rebles broke our right line at six in evening we had to skedaddle…" (May 6, 1864). He also briefly described fighting at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse and noted that he helped pitch several hospital tents for the wounded (May 19, 1864). At the Battle of Cold Harbor, Simonds reported that "the Brigade went into the rifle pits," adding "the Band fell back to the teams as usual" (June 4, 1864). The brigade also experienced a great deal of fighting during the Siege of Petersburg, beginning in mid-June 1864, which he documented repeatedly as "heavy firing," without further comment. Although the diary does not provide much detail on military engagements, it sheds light on the daily life of an Army musician and many aspects of his service.