(Virginia and Maryland: 25 January-2 June 1862). 153 x 100 mm. (6 x 4"). 58 leaves, about 20 lines per page (final 17 pages are an informal ledger recording various items and prices).
Original black leather wallet-style binding, front pastedown fashioned into a pouch. With one hand-drawn map and a couple small illustrations. Leather noticeably worn, head of spine with a little loss, pastedown pouch and hinges fairly worn, several leaves coming loose and a few ripped out (probably by the original owner), contents with general light soiling and staining, occasional ink smudge, but the writing entirely legible, and overall the condition very respectable for an inexpensively made item subjected to hard use.
This is a first-hand account of the Civil War as experienced by a private in the Union army, describing the movements of his Regiment around Virginia and Maryland, including the First Battle of Winchester, encounters with the rebels, and his time spent in a hospital recovering from pleurisy. On the front flyleaf is the ownership signature of diarist John G. Staysa, noting his hometown of Clara in Potter County, Pennsylvania. According to genealogical records, he would have been about 21 at the time he penned this account. The diary commences on 25 January 1862 with Staysa stationed near Hancock, Maryland, a strategic location on the Potomac River bordering West Virginia. The Battle of Hancock, part of "Stonewall" Jackson's campaign to disrupt the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, had taken place only three weeks before, with the Union soldiers outlasting the Confederate artillery and their attempts to cross the river. Over the next few months, Staysa records the daily goings-on from his point of view as a common soldier, commenting on everything from the weather to the various circulating reports of rebel activity to the failing health of much of the regiment. Staysa spends the better part of March in the hospital in Frederick, Maryland, where he comments on the number of wounded and sick coming and going. (Of the approximately 620,000 soldiers who died in the Civil War, an estimated two thirds perished as the result of illness and infectious disease, prompting some historians to refer to these killers as the "Third Army.") Staysa recovered, and on April 4th writes that he has left for Winchester, Virginia, on the first leg of what would become a long march through the Shenandoah Valley, with Jackson's army close on the Union's heels. Included in this section of the diary is a roughly drawn map of the "gap in the mountain" taken by Staysa's Company near New Market, Virginia. The final major event recorded here is the First Battle of Winchester on May 25th, in which Staysa describes his involvement in the Union retreat from Strasburg, Virginia, all the way back to Williamsport, Maryland. The diary ends shortly thereafter, on 2 June 1862. Besides its obvious value as a first-hand record of this early and strategically important moment in the Civil War, this diary is also a touching personal account by a soldier of modest background and education. In between the countless marches and reports of skirmishes, we see glimpses of who this young man was and the quiet moments that gave him comfort, such as receiving a letter from home, getting a visit from a kind lady during his hospital stay, and tasting fresh pork for the first time after a prolonged period of deprivation. (ST15620)
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PJP Catalog: NY20BF.046