The back cover of this diary declares it to be "a copy of a Rebel diary." The copy was made in 1888 by "J.P. Reynolds, formerly a Capt. in the 19th Mass." from the original, at that time, in the possession of Mrs J. C. F. Because it is a handwritten copy of a handwritten manuscript, the transcription may have errors. For example, the name "Stallard" is written as "Stalland," and the name "Thorburn" as "Therburn." This could have been the mistake of Hall or Reynolds, or both. A single drawing on the first page of the diary is a Christian cross with the letters IHS.
This is a short diary covering a 43-day period between August 10th and September 20th, 1861. It starts the day John B. Hall, Jr., first arrives at "Camp Braxton" near Aquia Creek, Va., joining his younger brother Marshall and several other friends from Fredericksburg. They do not see combat during this time, but fill their days with drills, standing guard, and waiting for something to happen. John spent a good portion of his leisure time reading moral philosophy, the Bible, the works of Goldsmith, and history books (Napoleon and Charlemagne), although he did read Edgar Allen Poe's "The Gold Bug" while on furlough in Fredericksburg. He and some of the other soldiers formed a "Philos Lodge," where they engaged in frequent discussions. He also attended the prayer meetings held in one of the mess tents. Chess was popular, and after playing three games in one day, he decided to cut back on the amount of time he spent at the chess board.