Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
William J. Moulton Journal, 1862-1863

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, December 1991

Summary Information
Title: William J. Moulton journal
Creator: Moulton, William J.
Inclusive dates: 1862-1863
Extent: 119 pages
The diary of William Moulton is a record of a literate and observant civilian accompanying a friend, Capt. Melville C. Wilkinson, of the 107th N.Y. Infantry, as he traveled from Elmira, New York, to Alexandria, Virginia.
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:

1986. M-2286.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

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


Little concrete information is available about the civilian, William J. Moulton, other than that he appears to have been a resident of Elmira, N.Y., a close friend of Capt. Melville C. Wilkinson of the 107th New York Infantry Regiment, and had a number of friends serving with the 141st New York Infantry. In December, 1862, Moulton accompanied Wilkinson when the Captain returned to Washington to rejoin his regiment, possibly to finalize arrangements for the resignation of his commission. Moulton spent almost a month in Washington, visiting soldiers, seeing the sights, and, at one point, sneaking onto a new ironclad ship moored in the Washington Navy Yard.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The diary of William Moulton is a record of a literate and observant civilian accompanying a friend, Capt. Melville C. Wilkinson, of the 107th N.Y. Infantry, as he traveled from Elmira, N.Y., to Alexandria, Va. The diary is an engaging and insightful record of war-time Washington and the life of officers in the camps defending the capitol. Moulton was simultaneously enthusiastic about seeing the capitol and thrilled at the ability to use his social contacts from Elmira to navigate the maze of red tape besieging the city.

While waiting in Washington for a pass, Moulton visited the Navy Yard, where he saw the ironclad Passaic (called Monitor No. 2), under heavy guard. He managed to board the Passaic simply by ignoring sentries, strolling up to the ship and asking an officer to come aboard. Moulton's description of the ship, however, is intentionally slight, so as not "to give aid & comfort to the rebels." After being asked to leave by an irritated sentry, Moulton roamed around the Navy Yard, and described the bustle of activity there in the manufacture of weapons and munitions. Later, he visited a number of the most popular tourist attractions, including the Patent Office, the Washington Monument (for which he gives a nice description), the White House, and the Smithsonian. In each place, he was careful to note the objects of historical and cultural interest, and most of all, as he put it, the "machinery, machinery, machinery. That's all I have to say." Through the influence of friends from Elmira, Moulton gained entrance to the capitol building on Christmas day. He remained unimpressed with the members of the House of Representatives: "such laziness, such inactivity, such political dishonesty & trickery should make even the members blush."

In one of the more interesting passages in the diary, Moulton wrote of visiting friends in the camp of the 141st N.Y. Regiment. His description of the visit (December 20-21) gives a strong impression of the camaraderie amongst the officers of the regiment and at the same time of the stress and boredom they must felt in a forward camp. Moulton was even (apparently) allowed to go out on picket duty where he overlooked the no man's land between Union and Confederate-held territory, where civilians needed passes even to enter onto their own property. The diary includes less extensive descriptions of Baltimore and Alexandria, of war-torn Harpers Ferry, Norfolk, Fortress Monroe, and Philadelphia.

Moulton's friend Wilkinson was discharged from the 107th Regiment on 23 January, 1863, suggesting that the two may have been visiting Virginia to finalize arrangements for Wilkinson's discharge. In August, 1863, Wilkinson reenlisted in the 7th Veteran Reserve, where he remained for the balance of the war.

Subject Terms

    • Baltimore (Md.)--Description and travel.
    • Bureaucracy.
    • Maryland--Description and travel.
    • Norfolk (Va.)--Description and travel.
    • Philadelphia (Pa.)--Description and travel.
    • Washington (D.C.)--Description and travel.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    William J. Moulton journal,  1862 December 17-1863 January 17 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Partial Subject Index
    Alexandria (Va.)--Description and travel
    • 1862 Dec. 27
    Baltimore (Md.)--Description and travel
    • 1863 Jan. 7, 10
    • 1862 Dec. 18, 27; 1863 Jan. 8
    Camps (Military)--District of Columbia
    • 1862 Dec. 20
    • 1862 Dec. 19
    Christmas--District of Columbia
    • 1862 Dec. 25
    Falls Church (Va.)--Description and travel
    • 1862 Dec. 21
    • 1862 Dec. 20
    Fortress Monroe (Va.)
    • 1863 Jan. 8
    Georgetown (D.C.)--Description and travel
    • 1862 Dec. 28
    Harpers Ferry (Va.)--Description and travel
    • 1863 Jan. 6
    Maryland--Description and travel
    • 1862 Dec. 17-18
    McDowell, Irvin (1818-1885)
    • 1862 Dec. 28
    • 1863 Jan. 12
    Navy Yard (Washington, D.C.)
    • 1862 Dec. 19
    Norfolk (Va.)--Description and travel
    • 1863 Jan. 8-9
    Passaic (Ironclad)
    • 1862 Dec. 19
    Patent Office (Washington, D.C.)
    • 1862 Dec. 26
    Philadelphia (Pa.)--Description and travel
    • 1863 Jan. 11-12
    Picket duty
    • 1862 Dec. 21
    Porter, Fitz-John (1822-1901)
    • 1862 Dec. 28
    Portsmouth (Va.)--Description and travel
    • 1863 Jan. 9
    Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C.)
    • 1862 Dec. 27
    United States. Army--New York Infantry Regiment, 141st
    • 1862 Dec. 20
    United States. Army--Officers--Barracks and quarters
    • 1862 Dec. 20
    United States. Congress. House of Representatives
    • 1862 Dec. 22
    United States. Congress. Senate
    • 1862 Dec. 22
    Virginia--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
    • 1862 Dec. 21
    War damage--Virginia--Harper's Ferry
    • 1863 Jan. 6
    War damage--Virginia--Norfolk
    • 1863 Jan. 8
    Washington (D.C.)--Description and travel
    • 1862 Dec. 18-19, 22-31
    Washington Monument (Baltimore, Md.)
    • 1863 Jan. 10
    Washington Monument (Washington, D.C.)
    • 1862 Dec. 26
    White House (Washington, D.C.)
    • 1862 Dec. 28