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Diary of Elsie Caroline Duncan Hurt

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Mike Cody sent me a copy of the entire diary. I am traveling right now and won't be able to do much with it this week. However, I will find a way to make it available to the rest of the group. Grandpa and C.D., I will get you copies of the parts you don't have next week.

John

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Mike Cody sent me a copy of the entire diary. I am traveling right now and won't be able to do much with it this week. However, I will find a way to make it available to the rest of the group. Grandpa and C.D., I will get you copies of the parts you don't have next week.

John

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OK, here goes. The first instalment of the Diary of Elsie Caroline Duncan Hurt is now available at the link below. I'll post a total of about 10 instialments with a new one going online every few days.  I've also posted a map of the area that C.D. identified as the most likely location where Elsie and her family lived in 1862. C.D. and I have have walked over this land and found almost all of the geographic features that Elsie describes in the diary. You can get an idea of the location of this property in relation to the national park by looking at the inset in the lower right corner.

The Diary: http://www.shiloh.make-my-day-easier.com/Elsie%20Diary%20Book%20I-1a-notes.pdf

Map of Eastern Rock Hill: http://www.shiloh.make-my-day-easier.com/EasternRockHillMap.pdf

I apologize for the quality of the diary, but this is what I have. There are some transcription errors and some lines missing at the bottoms of pages, but I think we can all find plenty to read and comment on. And... please DO comment. I want to know anything you know, think or believe about the contents of this diary.

Thanks,

John

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the diary gets much better. but it already gives an insight in the way the people around shiloh felt about the war. we use the term northern war of agression as a light hearted jab at our yankee friends, but as the diary testifies this was the truth to a lot of people in the south. I think the diary should be presented in her own words. the words may be a bit offensive to some folks but at the time it was written this was the truth as she saw it. when I first read the diary I was not exactly pleased to find that my g.g.grandfather was a loyalist but I had suspected it. and as it turned out he was more neutral than pro-union. I don't know when Elsie typed the diary up but it is evident that there was little editing as displayed by some of the youthful exurberance that shows through.

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Powerful reading.  C.D.: "I think the diary should be presented in her own words. the words may be a bit offensive to some folks but at the time it was written this was the truth as she saw it..."  I agree with you 100%.  Sanitized history isn't history at all.  You have to take the warts and all if you go looking into the past.

Jim

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I agree with C D and Jim, post the diary as is.  That's the beauty of it.  Read it the way she wrote it.

Ron

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Well, I just spent 20 minutes on a long post. While trying to figure out how to make a correction in preview, I must have hit a wrong key, because I wiped out everything. It's too late to start over tonight.

Grandpa

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Here's the second section of Elsie's Diary, but first, take a look at this photo of William Daniel Lafayette Duncan.

http://www.shiloh.make-my-day-easier.com/WDLDuncan.jpg

He was the son of William Carroll Duncan, Elsie's half brother. They both rode with Gen. Forrest. You'll meet William Carroll Duncan later in the diary. This picture was provided by SDG member anniekee who is William Daniel Lafayette Duncan's great-granddaughter.

Now for the next section of the diary--a look at the Battle of Shiloh through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl:

http://www.shiloh.make-my-day-easier.com/Elsie%20Diary%20Book%20I-2a-notes.pdf

As you read it, you'll see notes and questions that I've added. Please comment on those or anything else that strikes your fancy. Specifically, please consider these points:

1. Elsie tells a story of a woman who spends three days (Sun-Mon-Tues) huddled in a cave with her daughter and granddaughters. Do you know of any other stories about local civilians and how they survived the battle.

2. In that same vein, Elsie reports that her half sister, "Middie" (or Milberry) was inside the cabin on Duncan Field during the first day of the battle. Have you ever seen evidence that would confirm or deny this information.

3. Also, have you seen evidence that would confirm or deny Elsie's report that Gen. Beauregard, Gen. Lew Wallace and one other unnamed Union general were all inside the Duncans' house at different times on Tuesday, April 8?

John

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John,

I know this is a great find for you personally, but in another sense it's a great find for all of us, and I sincerely appreciate you sharing it with us. I've been reading through both files and ended up spending far more time than I expected, even writing down notes about several things. I'll post some more thoughts later, but for now, I think at the very least you have the makings of an excellent magazine article, even a book.

Concerning your question about Lew Wallace, my guess is that he did not visit the house on April 8th. That's too soon after the battle to me for a Union division commander to be venturing that far beyond the Union lines, especially with the southern army still in the area. But he could very easily have done so during the advance toward Corinth. It could be that Elsie's memory of seeing him ran together with seeing other officers, and thought it had all occurred on the same day. I don't know of course, but that would be my guess about it.

A couple of questions for you and C.D. - First, when you visited the area where they stayed during the battle, were you able to find the nearby cave of which Elsie writes in her account? Is it still there, or do you know?

Second, it appears from her account that the home in Duncan Field was a two-story structure. If this came up elsewhere I may have missed it, but I always thought that house was just one story high. Do you know about this one way or the other?

I think it's marvelous that you and C.D. were able to locate the site of the house where they stayed during the battle. What's on the site now?

Just for fun, I've linked in a satellite view of the area from Yahoo Maps, zoomed in on the approximate site of your ancestor's property, based on the map you included for us...

http://maps.yahoo.com/#mvt=h&lat=35.09051&lon=-88.363802&zoom=18

 Just as an FYI for everyone else, if you look closely you'll see a small black 'x' just to the right of the name of McNairy Dr in the center of the map. I think that's pretty close to where the property is located, going by John's map. Just to the left of that you'll see what looks to be a dirt road looping up from McNairy Drive and then back down to it. That looks to be about where the orchard was located that Elsie mentions in her account. You can zoom in and out using the controls on the left of the map, to see the relation with the park.

Great stuff, all this. Thanks again.

Perry

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Perry: I was looking at the map you posted the link to & it is a great resource because you can scroll all over the park. The map is a great lead in to a question that arose from reading "A Narrative of Military Service by William B. Hazen. Hazen was a Colonel under Buell commanding the 41st Ohio & other troops on April 7. On he morning of the 7th they were south of Pittsburg Landing and east of the Hamburg Road. The troops under Hazen advanced south for a while & then moved in a westerly direction and wound up in a field with high fences and a clump of houses. This field would be east of the Corinth Road and would appear to be just west of the East Corinth Road and north of the Purdy Road - East Corinth Road intersection. I am curious to know if anyone knows who might have lived in these houses. I will try and look at your map again and the map in the book to try and verify the location of where Hazen thought the clump of houses was. He also mentions burying the dead of the 41st Ohio Volunteers south of the Purdy Road & south and east of what I think is the Purdy Road- east Corinth Road Intersection. Sharon

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Sharon,

You refer to the Purdy road/Eastern Corinth road intersection and you say to the west of the Eastern Corinth road. This sounds like the Duncan farm buildings.  I do not believe any other farm was in this area to the west of the Eastern Corinth road as this area was the fields of the Duncan farm.  However,  to the east of the Eastern Corinth road and above the Purdy road lies the Daniel Davis Wheat field. Could be the field you seek?

Ron 

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Perry,

As I've read and re-read the diary, I've come to realize that almost every eyewitness account I've read about the Civil War has been written by a soldier. The thing that makes this one so fascinating is that it shows the events through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl.

About Lew Wallace... I think you're probably right about her getting the days wrong. The more I study the diary, the more I come to believe that Elsie wrote much of it long after the battle. At one point she speaks of having talked to David Reed during the establishment of the park--and she doesn't seem to indicate that it was a recent conversation.

On the cave... Actually, there were two caves. C.D. and I did not explore the caves. We figured we were pushing our luck with the ticks and chiggers and didn't know what we might find in a cave. Besides, we didin't have a flashlight. However, we plan to give it another look when we're there in October for the Shady Grove Cemetery cleaning.

On the Duncan Field cabin... I don't know, but I've always imagined that the second story was more of a loft than a story. However, I'm afraid that my impressions about that cabin grow from a couple of old drawings that would have been completed well after the battle and probably bear little, if any, resemblance to the actual structure.

As for the site... there wasn't much of anything to see. We pulled the truck off the road and walked through some brush to a power line right-of-way. On your satellite view, that's the cleared strip through the trees that runs east/west north of the road. Beyond that, we headed into the woods and down a hill to a creek, spring, two caves, a level area where a cabin could have been, etc. It helps that C.D. roamed that area as a child and has an idea how it looked through a child's eyes.

I hope to get the next section posted tomorrow afternoon.

John

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Sharon,

Hazen's brigade took part in an attack through the Davis Wheatfield about 11:00 a.m. on the 7th that overran Hodgson's Washington Artillery, before getting thrown back by a Confederate counterattack, and my guess would be that this is the field in question. In fact, we had a discussion a while back about exactly which outfit it was that overran this battery as well as Harper's Battery a bit to their west. There seems to still be some controversy about the whole thing, as it was a very confused situation. Something new for Shiloh. :D

Those satellite views are great, aren't they? I prefer Yahoo Maps to Google Maps for some reason. But yes, it's a great resource.

Hazen's brigade included the 9th Indiana, which was the regiment in which Ambrose Bierce fought. Somewhere on here is a link to a walking tour that Bjorn put together, allowing you to re-trace Bierce's steps while reading his account of the battle. It's very good. Here's another link to it...

http://www.ambrosebierce.org/journal3skaptason.html

You'll find another link at the end of Bjorn's introduction, that opens a pdf file with the actual trail guide. This would probably dovetail very nicely with what you're reading right now from Hazen's book.

Perry

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Sharon,

Almost forgot - here's a link to those Shiloh maps from the CivilWarLandscape.org web site....

http://www.civilwarlandscapes.org/cwla/states/tn/sh/tm_time/sh_day2f.htm

You can start with the 5:00 a.m. map and step your way through the battle, following Hazen's brigade. At the bottom of each map you'll find a link that will take you back to the main map page for April 7th, where you can move on to the next map in the sequence. Or you can just hit your Back button.

Also, here's a link to the monument location system on the NPS site, opened to the page where you can input whatever unit you want to check....

http://www.shilohbattlefield.org/unitsearch.html

 Just input the information, and you're off and running. :D

Perry

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John,

Yes, I kept having to remind myself that this girl was 9 years old at the time she's writing about. That's a lot for a little kid to go through, but she seemed to stand up to it incredibly well.

The account does read more like a memoir than a diary to me, yes. Could be some sort of combination perhaps. She seems to mix past-tense and present-tense quite a bit, and I don't know if that's because she's basically re-living the events in her mind as she's writing about them, or if the rest of the account is more or less re-written around something she had written down closer to the time of the battle. I'm really bad about mixing my tenses myself, so maybe that's one reason why it caught my attention.

I noticed that reference to Reed, but it appears to be transcribed as "Major Bead." That's probably a misread of the original entry, or maybe my eyes aren't very good. :D She said he was with Buell's army though, but if it was Reed, then she probably just remembered that wrong.

In fact, the reply she quoted Reed as giving to her question struck me as kind of odd. But there were actually several things from the journal that I wound up jotting down notes about, mostly just observations. I'll post some of them here in a bit, although some of them might not go over too well with everyone. :)

Perry

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Perry,

You're right about her reference to "Major Bead." I may be making too much of a leap there to get from there to David Reed since she puts him with Buell, but I become skeptical every time I see the letter "a" typed in this manuscript. At any rate, my real point is that she spoke to this "Major Bead" a good 30 years after the battle. It also may help to know that her obituary, published in the Memphis Commercial-Appeal on August 24, 1943, states that she "was working on a novel" drawn from her experiences "at the time of her death."

The manuscript we have today may very well be one of those lifelong unfinished projects. Maybe she took notes at different times throughout her life and was still trying to get it all pulled together when she had a heart attack and died at age 90. I can relate to that. Since I first read Shelby Foote's novel almost 50 years ago, I've believed that I would one day write a novel about my family's experiences at Shiloh. (Three of the four main branches of my family crossed paths there.) 

I'm looking forward to seeing your observations. Here's the next instalment. (I've started giving them titles. Click anywhere in the title below.)

Book I, Section 3:

“Wreckage in its wake” (May through December 1862)

“When the Yankees marched away, we were left entirely without any protection. We were left to the mercyless (sic) raiders whose aim was to steal and destroy everything in their path.”

 

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John,

I suspect that "Major Bead" is in fact David Reed, and that she simply thought he was in Buell's army for some reason. I'm not betting the farm on it, but I'd bet a couple of bucks. ;)

It sounds like you might be right about this being an ongoing and unfinished project for her. Maybe you can carry the baton the rest of the way. A story about the battle from the civilian point of view is something that hasn't been done, and you've sure got some good material for it.

On those observations, here's a few of them, below, pretty much as I wrote them out as I was reading Elsie's account. Before posting them, I'll make mention of something, and just to let you know John, none of this is directed at you, or for that matter, anyone else here. It's just a general "this is what I think about things" kind of post.

So with that said, I believe very strongly that we are not our ancestors, meaning that we can't be held accountable, or receive credit, for their decisions and actions, anymore than they could be held accountable for any of our decisions or actions today. The one is obviously silly, and I personally think the other is as well.

I say that because when I express an opinion about someone from the war, something they did or said or whatever, it isn't meant to be a reflection on any of their latter-day relatives. You take people as individuals. Even so, I've had a fair bit of experience with people becoming offended by something I've said or written about their ancestors, even if in a "guilt by association" sort of way, almost as if I was attacking them personally. That may happen here as well, but I just want to say again, that's not the purpose. The war and much that is associated with it still generates strong feelings, and I fully understand that.

I agree that folks from the 19th Century should be allowed to 'speak in their own words' as others have said. I do think we have to try and see things as they really were as much as possible, and hear what folks from that era had to say about it. It's simply that we also get to have an opinion on what they said, how they acted, and what they believed. That's what this is about for me.

So anyway, concerning the first two parts of Elsie's journal that John has posted for us, here's a few things that struck me. Some of them are serious, some are just sort of humorous....

On page 6, she mentions that enough children lived in the area to open up a school, which was done. She then says they "got a man teacher," which is immediately followed by this statement: "The country was still wild."

I don't know if that was meant to be humorous, but it just struck me as funny. :D

On page 9 is another gem: Her grandmother was brave (and after reading what Elsie wrote about her, it's darn hard to argue with that), but her mother was braver, "for she married a hardshell Baptist preacher with twelve living children."

You can tell she very much looked up to her mother though, and from what she writes, it was with good reason.

Also on page 9, she has kind of an unusual statement about how her father only believed in slavery "in a small way." She then added that he only owned "a few" slaves who were "well taken care of."

I'm not sure how someone believes in slavery in a "small way," but I suspect that she may have been somewhat uncomfortable with this subject, and perhaps a bit unconsciously so. That's just a guess of course, but the picture she paints of her family's slaves is one of the stereotypical "happy darky," and she apparently feels compelled on several occasions to defend that image.

I'm not suggesting that their family slaves were abused somehow, although simply being a slave is actually a form of abuse. But I'll leave that alone. I guess my point here is that the slaves may have had a somewhat different take on the whole matter. They quite often did, and quite often much to the surprise of their owners.

On page 10, John tells us that the 200 acre tract of land that included Duncan Field was referred to as "Pleasant Land." Not sure I could think of a better name for it. It's very appropriate, and considering what took place there in April 1862, it's about as ironic as "Shiloh."

On page 13, Elsie says she is grief stricken that her new baby brother was not a girl. With five brothers already I can see her point, but the whole passage, including how she asked her nurse, Margie, what they could do about it, makes for great reading.

On page 13 & 14, it struck me how the text suddenly changes from past-tense to present-tense when she talks about the approaching war. It's as if she has gone from remembering things to re-living them. This happens several times.

I'm very bad about this myself, and it's usually unconscious with me. I think it happens because I’m trying to put myself in the situation I’m writing about, and doing that often makes it feel more real. So without usually meaning to I end up writing about it as if it’s happening in the present, after I had started out writing about it in the past-tense. I wonder if the same was true for Elsie when she was re-living the battle in her mind.

I also don’t agree with the idea that writing about past events in the present-tense is necessarily wrong, even though it might be wrong grammatically. But I think it helps bring the past more alive. Makes it feel more "real," instead of simply being words on a page. It helps make a connection with the people who actually went through the experience, or at least I think it does. That’s more important to me than being "grammatically correct." (It does drive my sister nuts though.:))

On page 15, a careful reading of the words to Ben's little song belies Elsie's claim that their slaves were "happy." Tolerant of a situation they could not easily change perhaps, but not happy.

On page 17, Elsie voices the typical southern perspective on the coming of the war. Basically, it was all the North's fault. :)

On page 19, she describes hearing adults talking about the coming of the war and what it would mean when it arrived. This line especially is noteworthy to me - "I would listen with fear in my heart when I would hear them talking about the abolitionists coming and the Negros rising and killing their white folks."

This strikes me as a good example of the contrast between what white southerners wanted to believe and what they feared might actually be true. If southern slaves were really "happy go lucky" as Elsie had earlier written, and as long been claimed by defenders of the Old South, why would there be fear of those same slaves "rising and killing their white folk"? Why were things like nightly slave patrols considered necessary in many areas of the South if the slaves were happy and content? Just something that I think is worth considering.

On page 23, Elsie tells how upset her mother became upon learning that James had decided to join the Confederate army. After she finally calms down her husband says he’s going too. Imagine what that must have been like for her. Frantic about her teenage son going off to war, and then her husband says, "me too."

Elsie says that her mother sat down and claimed she could stand no more. This is a pretty vivid moment to me, and Elsie has a good take on what followed for her mother - "Little she dreamed of the terrible things that she was going to go through with later. I believe it was her great faith in God that brought us through those trying times. She stayed there alone with her little children and faithful nurse, one a baby."

That’s a tough hand to be dealt, but she faced up to it.

I’m a big believer in the idea that each of us is emotionally and mentally stronger than we often give ourselves credit for, and here to me is an example of that. We can often take more than we think we can stand, and many of us have learned this lesson the hard way. Unfortunately Elsie and her mother did as well. But they came through it as best they could.

It’s also more proof to me of a couple of other things. First, that when it comes to human experiences, time is not that relevant. We can relate to other people and their feelings and experiences no matter what century they lived in. And second, that history always has things to teach us that relate to our own lives, even if we don’t immediately realize it.

On page 24, Elsie talks about being a "strong child," and how her mind "seemed to be far ahead of my age." No doubt. She was forced to experience things no child should have to live through. It sounds as if she handled them remarkably well. I’d also guess that having an emotionally strong mother as an example didn’t hurt.

On page 25, an unconsciously ironic statement - "Men who fought because they dared to hope for freedom."

Well, there's more, but that's far more than enough for tonight.

John, I haven't had the chance to read the 3rd part yet, but l'll try to do so very soon. It's a good account.

Perry

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As is usual I have an opinion, it appears as though Elsie had kept some type of journal or diary if you will but she had some type of written record which in later years she started to compile adding comments and remembrance's as they came to her. therefore some of what you read is written as a child and other parts are memories that that entry triggered as she rewrote it. either way this book is a true treasure. the caves that are spoken of in the diary are more cellar than cave as attested to by Elsie's entry regarding her father covering it with logs and making a trapdoor down into it. as a child I ate pears off of what was proably some of the pear trees that were there when Elsie was. you can't see it now but at the time Elsie lived there it was a beautiful site, it didn't start to become overgrown until the 1950's.

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On the subject of the Duncan Field cabin, the image in my mind is largely influenced by the drawing at this link:

http://www.frankleslie.com/thesoldierfull/272.jpg

I have no idea of the accuracy of drawing or if it is even intended to show the Duncan Field cabin. It looks to me like Gen. Rousseau's men crossed Duncan Field in the approximate vicinity of the cabin at about 10 a.m. on Monday. A lot of you have studied the troop movements much more carefully than I have and can probably tell us if that's accurate. 

Also, I've set up a place at WordPress to consolidate the sections of the diary. From now on, we'll only have one link to keep up with. The one below will take you to a page of links to all of the sections currently available. Just click on the title of the section you want to see. I'll upload another one in a couple of days.

http://shilohdiary.wordpress.com/

John

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It's interesting to see that yahoo maps only missed hamburg by 5 miles, chambers is a little better proably only 1/2 mile. hamburg is approx.5 miles east of the shown location. chambers approx. 1/2 mile east north east of shown location. also if you look close you can just make out part of the old road that went down to turner's ford. P.S. the turner's were part of grandpa's heritage.

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This doesn't really pertain to the recent posts, but on page 7 (microsoft word) or page 16 (typed text) there is mention of "Aunt Nancy" and a red box questioning if she was a Duncan.  I'd say no. "for we all loved Aunt Nancy and we children were always glad when she came to see us. Like all the old slaves she loved the little white children."  I'd say "Aunt Nancy" is a slave.  No clue on Darrie.  Lists her as a little "yettow" (yellow?) girl.

 

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Good catch, GrandpasDaugter. I must not have been thinking when I wrote that note. The Nancy I mentoned was Elsie's half-sister, not her aunt, and Elsie clearly identifies "Aunt Nancy" as a slave. The word "yellow" likely identifies Darrie as a mixed-race child. Thanks.

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I'm having a time problem with the end of part 3.  Page 62: "The new year came in (1863)." On page 64 she writes: "It has been almost two years since the shilak battle."  Did I doze off and miss a year?

Jim 

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