Jacob van Zwaluwenburg's autobiography contains discussion of his experiences during the Civil War along with an account of his childhood in the Netherlands and America. He discusses his family, schooling, and religious upbringing in the Hervormde Kerk (Reformed Church in the Netherlands). He describes the ocean voyage and Erie Canal journey which brought the family to Michigan.
Van Zwaluwenburg describes his wartime experiences in the 16th U.S. Infantry, from his humorous efforts to volunteer through the end of his enlistment. He provides particularly detailed descriptions of the battles of Shiloh and Stones River and the fighting around Chattanooga. His account centers on the experiences of a private and strays little into the fields of politics and the evaluation of generals. Although there are a few geographical and chronological errors, the account provides an interesting view of the common soldier in the regular army.
The journal is in both manuscript and typescript; however, the two are not entirely the same. The typescript copy, 36 pages long, follows the manuscript copy, 33 pages long, with only minor differences until page 18 of the manuscript and page 22 of the typescript. From this point the copies differ greatly, although they cover roughly the same events. The manuscript is incomplete, lacking an ending.