William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan
Finding aid for
John Byrd Hall, Jr. Diary, 1861
James S. Schoff Civil War CollectionFinding aid created by
Mary H. Parsons, October 2008
John Byrd Hall, Jr. diary
Hall, John Byrd, Jr., ca. 1841-1863
John Byrd Hall, Jr., of Fredericksburg, Virginia, was a Confederate soldier who enlisted in the Fredericksburg Light Artillery (Capt. Pollock's Company Virginia Light Artillery) on August 6, 1861. His short diary, covering a 43-day period between August 10th and September 20th, 1861, describes his time spent at Camp Braxton near Aquia Creek, Va. He did not see combat during this time, but filled his days with drills, guard duty, reading books, a "Philos Lodge" discussion group, prayer meetings, and chess. This diary is a handwritten copy of the original made by Capt. John P. Reynolds, a Union officer, in 1888.
The material is in English.
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
The collection is open to research.
Copyright status is unknown.
Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.
John Byrd Hall, Jr. Diary, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
John Byrd Hall, Jr., of Fredericksburg, Virginia, left his studies at the Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1861, to join the Confederate Army. He was 20 years old. He enlisted in the Fredericksburg Light Artillery (Capt. Pollock's Company Virginia Light Artillery) on August 6, 1861, and served with that unit until his death at Chancellorsville, Va., on May 3, 1863. John was one of thirteen children born to John Byrd Hall (1787-1862), a wealthy druggist in Fredericksburg, and his wife Harriet Stringfellow (1801-1888). When the Civil War began, the two eldest sons, Horace B. Hall (b. ca. 1824) and Robert B. Hall (b. ca. 1829) were also druggists in Fredericksburg. Franklin S. Hall ( b. 1839) was a medical student, and John B. Hall, Jr. (b. ca. 1841) had just started his first classes at the seminary in Alexandria. Two younger siblings, Marshall S. Hall (b. 1843) and Caroline Hall (b. ca. 1845) were living at home with their parents in Fredericksburg.
Franklin, John Jr., and Marshall Hall all joined the Confederate Army. Eighteen year old Marshall was the first to enlist, joining the Fredericksburg Light Artillery on May 11, 1861. Then, in July, Franklin joined the Hanover Light Artillery (Nelson's Company Virginia Light Artillery). And on August 6, 1861, John B Hall, Jr., enlisted in the Fredericksburg Light Artillery. After John's death, his brother Franklin was transferred to the Fredericksburg Light Artillery, so that all three Hall brothers eventually served in the same unit. Both Franklin and Marshall Hall survived the War.
Fellow soldiers who served with John B. Hall, Jr., near Aquia Creek, Va., and who are mentioned in Hall's August 10-September 20, 1861, diary are: John L. Berry, Carter M. Braxton, R.M. Carmichael, William Chewning, Lieut. John C. Eustace, Bob Gordon, Matthew Gregory, Buck Hart, Taliaferro Hunter, Thomas Hutchinson, Ed. Jett, [Robert] Byrd Lewis, R. Semple, Leonard Sparrow, Van Buren Stallard, James Taliaferro, Lewis Thorburn, and his brother Marshall C. Hall. Dr. [Rev. William] Sparrow was one of four professors at the seminary in Alexandria, Va., in 1861. He was in frequent contact with his former student John B. Hall, Jr., after John joined the army. The "Misses Hedgman" referred to in the diary were Lucinda and Mary Hedgman, the teenage daughters of P.D.G. Hedgman of Stafford Co., Va.
The Union officer who made a handwritten copy of John B. Hall, Jr.'s diary was Capt. John P. Reynolds. Reynolds was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on June 1, 1840. He served with both the 8th and the 19th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry between August 1861 and Nov. 5, 1863. After the War, he returned to Salem, where he raised a family. Between 1880 and 1910 he worked as a clerk at the State House in Boston. He died on June 19, 1919.
Collection Scope and Content Note
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.
- Confederate States of America. Army--Artillery.
- Soldiers--Books and reading.
- Soldiers--Confederate States of America--Diaries.
- Soldiers--Confederate States of America--Social life and customs.
- United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
- Virginia--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
- Reynolds, John P., 1840-1919.