Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Lewis Simonds Journal, 1864

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, January 2011

Summary Information
Title: Lewis Simonds journal
Creator: Simonds, Lewis, ca. 1838-1893
Inclusive dates: 1864
Extent: 1 volume
The Lewis Simonds journal contains brief daily entries by Simonds, a baritone horn player with the band of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps for 1864. Included are brief descriptions of the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor, and the Siege of Petersburg, as well as accounts of rehearsing and practicing music with the band.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1997. M-3352 .

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Lewis Simonds Journal, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Lewis Simonds was born June 15, 1834, in Antrim, New Hampshire, the son of Benjamin and Betsey Simonds. In 1860, he lived in Nashua and worked as a bedstead maker. On August 7, 1862, he enlisted as a private in Company F of the 9th New Hampshire Infantry, and the following October, his musical abilities earned him a transfer to the band of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps, in which he played the baritone horn. He remained with that band through the end of his enlistment to June 1865.

In January 1864, Simonds and his band were stationed in Kentucky, but in April, they followed their commander, Ambrose E. Burnside, eastward to assist in the spring campaigns in Virginia. The band played through the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg campaigns, but was mainly posted with brigade headquarters and in the rear of the lines, outside the line of fire, and thus experienced a milder war than soldiers in battle.

After mustering out of the service as Musician 2nd Class on June 10, 1865, Simonds moved to Mankato, Minnesota. He married Henrietta Coombs on September 18, 1871; they had two daughters and a son. The family returned to Antrim, and there, on October 29, 1893, Simonds died suddenly of paralysis and heart trouble stemming from a malarial infection contracted during the war.

Collection Scope and Content Note

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.

Subject Terms

    • Music--United States--19th century.
    • Petersburg (Va.)--History--Siege, 1864-1865.
    • Spotsylvania Court House, Battle of, Va., 1864.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Songs and music.
    • Wilderness, Battle of the, Va., 1864.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Lewis Simonds journal,  1864 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library has the diaries or papers of other Civil War musicians, including:

    • The Octavius Leland diaries
    • The Edwin F. Strong papers
    • The Francis Crayton Sturtevant papers