Photo of J.F. Roberts
Pvt. John Franklin Roberts
1828 - 1903

"When this you see, Remember Me
Tho many miles between us be"
(Found written on the back
cover of one of the diaries)

Diary sample
Sample of the actual diaries.

Below are some excerpts from my great-grandfathers diaries. Thru them you can get a small glimpse of what everyday life in the Confederate armies must have been like. Most historians agree that diaries and letters are the most accurate accounts of events. While the spelling has been corrected in most instances the grammar has been left just as John F. Roberts put it down some 139 years ago.

The snippets on this page are from
The year of our Lord, 1863.


John Franklin Roberts' Diary-Number Nine
John F. Roberts His Book
Written by John F. Roberts
a private of Co. C,
7 Regt. Miss Volunteers
Six Months in Prison in
Camp Douglas Illinois
No. 9

April 18... We have moved to a new encampment. Here we have a nice place, we fair tolerable well.

May 1... We moved to another camping place. Here we have splendid spring weather. We have moved closer to the breastworks. Can't give you a full history now for had full history wrote on up to the present but I lost my day book so I wil guess at the dates as well as I can.

May 12... We went out to give the yankees a brush. We all went tho there were a good many boys like myself, barefooted tho. We soon fell out of line. We went out 15 miles but soon found that the yanks was too strong for us and we fell back to our camp. Have fine times.

June 27... We got orders this morning before day to be ready to march at daylight. It may be the opinion of most all we were going in front, didn't like this at all. Though I don't do as I like now though. We started at daylight this morning though. We started for Shelbyville for we are six miles in front of picket at this time. I had to march in ranks thru the pike. The way is so rocky. I soon fell out and got behind the brigade. I slept out in the woods. Then I come in on the road and traveled on it at my leisure. When I got Shelbyville the whole army had gone tho. I soon found which a way the army went. I saw several pile of corn which were sold for two dollars a shuck. They either had to sell it or let the yankees get it. The town is in a scare. Some are moving. Others buy my tickets at a reduced price. We knew the yanks would soon be in for there was nothing behind only wheelers cavalry and as soon as we would leave we knew the yankees would make them scarce for the yanks was a flanking us on our right so we had to get away in a hurry or be cut off. I went on the best I could. I soon found our brigade a resting. We all rested a while then moved on tho. We had to go very slow on account of the wagon getting on so slow their way, several hundred, 5 or 7 and constant. Ever once in a while we would fix a broken. I went on ahead and lay down in the woods a piece from the road and went to sleep. When I woke up the sun was nearly down and all of our army gone by. I got up and went on tho my feet was very sore. At last dark overtaken me and I was up to our wagon train. Soon after dark here come the cavalry as fast as their horses could carry them. The yankees found out that we was retreating and the cavalry chased them and run them to the river. As they scattered everyway here they come tailing the wagoners. The yanks was close behind at this news. Everyone rushed forward. I got on as fast as I could. I passed a good many wagons and it dark. At last overtaking two others of my company which was barefooted so we went on until it began to rain. We got in a house til it quit then we travelled on. By this time all the wagons were ahead. We thought that we was alone. At last we went out to the road a piece and lay down on the wet ground and soon was aleep.

June 28... We got up early and moved on. We got up to our brigade that was camped. We stayed here and rested a day. We were four miles from Tulsa. We found out by this time the yanks had stopped.

June 29... We went in Tulsa and went in a line of battle. We lay here one day. Nothing interest happened.

June 30... We got orders to start at a moments warning. We had been fortifying here. First we were going to give battle here but the yankees were flanking us and we had to fall back to bring support. The horn blew to fall in and we started but I soon got behind and lost the brigade so I laid down to sleep till morning under a little shed.

July 1... I got up and found everything. Still only the dead sound of the cavalry horses running. I knew this would not do for me. They said the yanks were close after them and I had to be off or get caught. I saw one of our fire wood pieces burnt and two others burnt in fort ram and one thousand bushels of crackers, a great deal of corn, one well full of bacon and several other things. We soon had overtaken Buckners division. I travelled all the day tho all the division past me tho. I was with the cavalry wagons. They past me constant. At last the yanks were after us. If ever you seen wagons fly it was now. It was now all along the road. was tents, pots, napsacks, blankets, broke down wagons all along the road. I travlled hard all day til dark. At last I heard the drum and heard the band and saw the fire. This revived me. When I got to Elk -River the railroad bridge was burnt but there was another one through Blithes right way their ready to burn it before day. I soon found the boys the way living in a fort.

July 2... We started early today. When I got to a station on the road named Deckard I got on the car for my feet was very sore. I lay here all night, my regt went on. It looked like we had a lazy army when they passed past me by.

July 3... I left here on the cars after daylight for Bridgeport. Our army had to march over Cumberlin mountain tho I went thru it. I got to Bridgeport sometime before the army. Hear all who was sick and barefooted or crippel was ordered on the cars for Chattanooga, Tenn. When I got there I was sent to the camp directly from here. I stayed several days. We faired very bad. Nothing but beef and it so poor til it had too hide on it. We had to boil it one day for the other. Then it was so tuff til it taken of our strenth in our jaws to mash it. We got corn meal. I stayed til I was relieved.

July 7... I went out to where our brigade was encamped. When I come out to my regt. I found the boys all well. The Colonel put me on two days sentry duty. I soon worked it out tho I was awful mad. We recievedd orders to move back toward Bridgeport to stand picket. We had to relieve Jacksons brigade.

July 13... We started to town which is Chattanooga. Here we got on the cars and started. We got to our camping place some 4 miles off Bridgeport. We are in Alabama now. We have a fine time of it here tho we get very little to eat, not half enough tho I recon women can't do any better for I here she is almost done up.

July 16... We have cleared off a camp ground. A nice place, I hope we will stay here, tho I hope the yanks wont come here tho. We caught three yankees spies dressed in women clothes. I guess they will be hung. Tho boys who is on picket catches what fish they want and it coms in a good time.

July 17... Our boys come in. They brung in several fine fish with them which was a site to us soldiers in camp tho at home we could get plenty but in camp beef is our dish.

July 18... Fine weather today. A large detail to go out on picket. I had to go too. We went to the bridge at Bridgeport to stand. We have a fine time of it. This is the beautiful Tenn. river which run high course before us. The people on the other side and our boys would talk across to each other. I see no yankees over there but there may be plenty. What I know, the river is wide here but the brigade is burnt and we are not allowed to fire our our guns at them. For my part it suits me fine. I ain't keen for a rifle no how. I am willing to stay here and let old Rosey stay in Tullahoma. Joseph Johnston is a fighting at Jackson Miss. I hope he will whip Grant there if not we are in a bad fix sure. I fere we are done up but we will fight for dixie as long as we can. We get but little to eat now and way the the boys make the black berries it is for ___???

July 19... We returned to camp this evening. Every one nearly had a handful of black berries. We have fine pies, you better believe it. I here Joseph Johnston has fell back from Jackson Miss. to Meredian and he wont stop there long. The proceedings in Miss. is a damper to my boys. It looks like we had us real quiet for we are lost.

July 20... We come in last evening from picket and have to go out today some six miles to the pontoon bridge to stand picket 3 days at a stretch. We got there at 12 PM and relieved the old guard. We have fine weather now but this is not all. We had to come six miles and no rations but only bread and no berries to get nor fruit tho we will like some. Have if no other way will do we will kill a hog. This is the way the boys does the other evening. Two of the boys went out and killed a hog. They got an armful of cane and wrapped the cane all around the hog and fetched it up to camp. Going to make a bed of the cane. So said they they brought it in, no one suspicionned a thing. Now this is what I call chicanery. What will soldiers get at next. Hunger makes soldiers do things wrong if they were fed would never be guilty of this. Was some sheep close by tho but few is left to tell the story now. We know this is wrong but can't be helped. This is a beautiful country and pleasant to the eyes. On either side of us runs two large mountains which look like a black cloud. I have often lay on my palit and looked at them and wondered at natures works. There is a good many little farmers in the valley but it is too much walled in for me. If this war would end I wood hastly return to see what the enemy has done to my country for my home is now in their hands. We boys can't catch no fish at this place but the boys brought in a hog today.

July 21... It rained last night tho fair today. Nothing of notice has happened to us pickets. I will come in tomorrow then look out corn. I went to our lower pickets today. As good luck wood have it there was a corn field almost in rosin years. I got some half a dozen fine fellows. I eat one raw, coon like. The rest I carried to camp. Our boys say in camp they are a suffering for something to eat. I hear a steamer coming from Tenn. river going down to Bridgeport after iron at Bridgeport the other day. There was two women beg our boys to come over. They said they were our freinds tho none would go over. Our officers would not let us. It was well we didn't for there was 15 or 20 yankees laying concealed there to take us prisoners. How cunning they was. Thought that ladies would or could lead us in the jaws of death but didn't succeed in this. Our provost guards caught ten bush whackers yesterday. One cut one of our men to pieces tho didn't kill him. They wil be hung to a limb sure and they aught to.

July 22... Cloudy this morning. The gnats very bad. Tha are like the yankees, have no mercy on us secesh. The flys dont lack. Bushels of them. No sleep for a man in day time for us. I do belive the flys will subdue north and south in a few more months. The spiders is working day and night a fortyfing against the flys. Tha have been at enmity against each other a long time. I think this war will soon end and we will gain our independence over the ___

July 23... I am on guard today at the bridge. I am afraid the yanks will try to cross while we are on guard. I hear the yanks is a coming on tho we wil kill some before they cross here. I walked thru many a corn field and several young pumpkins stuck to my fingers and when I got to camp I fried them. O how good. We were relieved today at 12 pm. We went to camp tho they was a going to move.

July 24... Moved this morning before breakfast some 1 1/2 miles further from the river. This is a tolerable good place tho water not so good. We have cleaned up and is a stretching our blankets for shelter. There was a apple orchard close by. The Colonel knew we boys would steal them all so he sent and had them all gathered and brought in camp and divided. We soldiers drawed to a peace. Hush, listen at Gabriels horn. I am on guard again. Picket guard to go to Bridgeport bridge. I am now setting on the bank of Tenn. river, a beautiful stream.

July 25... We were relieved today. Nothing strange happened to us. The weather very warm. We got in camp, found all right. It seems like money is plenty. One of our privates give for a watermellon ten dollars. How strange it is men will give such a price when we draw only 11 dollars a month. Most glorious news. I have got me a fine pair of shoes, but leather scarce, only heel and toe letaher. The balance cloth. They will save my feet from rocks.

July 26... Today is Sunday, inspection then we have preaching. Very good congregation tho poor preaching. We are in camp today, no guard duty today. I hear Blythes and the tenth will furnish the guard next week. I have been on picket duty for a week. The men talk like they wont drill, I hope they won't.

July 27... We furnished no picket guard this week only camp guard though they are a'going to drill us like thunder our regiment Are allowed today for to wash our clothes it is high time for we have been on guard a week. There was a detail made out of our regiment of 50? privates one lieutenant two sergeants to cross the Tennessee at Bridgeport to load a steamboat with iron. There was two from my mess. They crossed over and was loading the boat when the Yankees dashed up on them and taken them all prisoners. They killed one or more of our boys and taken a company of sharp shooters prisoners, then dashed off with them. I have not learned the particulars about it yet though I will hear all this evening. It was well that I didn't go for they have had me long enough already and if this is so, they would think so too before they get through. The report has come that but few? Of the boys is caught so I will carry my mess mates their dinner if they are there. 3 P. M. I have just returned from the river. I found no boys there. All the detail had gone up the river on the boat. I will tell how it all happened. Our boys had crossed over the river on the boat and the boat was a'wooding and our detail was out in an old field knocking around when some 15 Yankee cavalry dashed up and began to fire at our boys and the boat. They all run and got on the boat and she shoved off and a company of our sharp shooters begun to fire on them pretty tight and they all run off in as big a hurry as they came up. We lost nary a man. One of the sharp shooters got wounded though slightly. We found blood on their retreat though found none killed.

July 28... I thought we was a'going to have the old Nick played up a time? This morning in our regiment. The boys agreed not to drill all in favor of not drilling would stack their arms. So just before drill the boys begun to cry out "Stack arms". There was five of the company stacked their guns then? Co. C only got one man out though when the horn blew to drill all went to drill only ten or twelve that went under guard. We drilled a figure? then quit. By this time my pass come. I knocked? Out in the country on the Tennessee River two miles. I have the pontoon bridge. I stopped at a mans where I had fixed a clock a few days ago at a ?? old lady. The clock was rocking on. This give me a great name. They told me there was another man close by which had a clock stopped and wanted me to come over and fix his clock. This was in my mind. I went over but I was sorry for it at the first. When I got to Mr. Taylor's he was from home but his wife invited me in. Behold! There was two (of) the prettiest girls I nearly ever seen. I taken me a seat, though I felt wrong in or on a chair sometimes. I imagined that I was an officer. I talked on first one subject or other, though I kept a skinned eye on the girls! I scarcely knew the war was a'going on! At last the old man come in and then dinner come on. I drawed up my chair. Though I didn't know how to use my knife and fork, I tried to eat the best I could, though I soon got full and quit (and) set back. When dinner was over I taken down the old clock and taken her to pieces. The girls gathered around me. I thought I was in heaven or some other seaport! It was a sight to them and they was a beautiful sight to me! I got her fixed and started her to running. This was all right on the square. I got some potatoes from him, though didn't charge him anything. I returned to camp, found all right. I felt so tried, so I went to bed...soon asleep.

July 29... This morning I could hear our boys and the Yankees a'firing at each other across the river. I heard several cannons belching forth. At last all died away. Our boys killed one Yankee, though we lost none. I fear we will have a fight soon. I went out today and fixed another clock. I'd rather do this and fight Yankees. I have a pain in my eye. I seen such an ugly lady, though I guess she can't help it, poor creature! I returned to camp and found the boys in fine spirits.

July 30... All quiet today, only our boys and the Yankees keep firing across the Tennessee River at each other, though no damage is done to us. I guess we will have it tomorrow for we are a'going to plant our battery tonight and shell them out if they commence again. I will come on guard next week, then them blue coat cut throats will be shooting at me. I dread it but I think there will be peace in a few months. The papers speaks of it but they lie so bad we can't believe them.

July 31... This morning is very foggy and I hear no guns this morning. All quite today. No other news. Behold! There has come a brigade of Yankees to Bridgeport and stacked arms! They are on one side of the river and we on the other. I don't like this a'tall! I am no target for them to be a'shooting at! Plug them Scamps I say!

August 1... All quite today. We have to drill today. One company against another for a prize. My company was third best this time. At that we have to go out on picket tonight. We have to stand 3 days at Bridgeport right facing the Yanks. We started a little before night though night over taken us. We passed a detail of men, some 15 splitting up plank to burn the near bridge which is across the slew. The bridge is two hundred and sixteen yards long. They have a barrel of spirits (of) turpentine to help fire the bridge. They will burn it as soon as the Yankees crosses the first river. We found the reserve guard after dark and detailed 30 men and sent over the island to relieve the guard over there.

August 2... I got up this morning, found all still and quiet. I am not on guard today, though I reckon I will come on tonight. One of our lieutenants went close to the water and talked over to one of them that talked friendly. No shooting now is carried on. At first them and our boys kept up a regular fire but the pickets has agreed not to fire at each other. They told our boys to bring over them some tobacco and get some coffee. Coffee is worth 2 cents a pound, whiskey 33 cents a quart. This will do, but plug the Yankees I say!! On our retreat from Shelbyville we burned all the bridges but I guess the Yanks has got it all fixed up by this time for there was two steam cars come to the Tennessee River. The Yankees crowded around them. They was in open view of us. They are in fine spirits...Singing, hollering. They say they don't want to fight us but they are a'going to Chattanooga. I won't come on guard tonight but I will come on tomorrow night shore. I hear no firing on there side a'tall. This pleases our boys you better believe!

August 3... All quiet this morning on both sides. You may think I am a'lying but this pleases me the best! I am proud they have agreed not to shoot at each other. I will be on tonight and if they do get across before I know it, they way I will run to the slew and cross over to our reserve guard is curious? We are a'standing on a island some a half a mile wide. I have good news. I hear furloughs is being given again. I am in hopes I will get one myself, though it seems to me we all will soon go home or (get) killed. They say they will whip us back soon. That may do it for they never undertook anything yet but they done what they undertook to do but that don't (mean) it will (won't?) cost them something. The Yankees has started to put in a pontoon bridge where we burned the railroad bridge. They have several pieces of artillery facing our pickets. They will wake us up when they turn them loose at us! James Halford got a discharge and started home today. I got to send some letters home. Night come on. We fell in and as soon as dark come so they couldn't see us cross the bridge for we had to cross the bridge in the night to keep them from firing at us. There was great piles of lumber on the bridge piled up to burn it. We crossed it as easy as possible though it seemed to me we could be heard a mile! There was 36 yards. We got over safe and struck across the island. We come to the main river and found the pickets. We relieved them. We could see their fires a'burning every where and could hear them talking plain, but you better believe there was no noise on our side a'tall! A whisper there was policy in this I thought.

August 4... This morning found us and the Yankees face to face, only the Tennessee river between them and us. They appeared to be several talking across to us as friends should do. Across the river from me there is a beautiful corn field almost in roastin' ears. The Yankees is cutting it down and hauling it out by wagon loads to feed on. Now this is worse than we do. They destroy every thing in their reach as they go. We will be relieved tonight and go back to camp. I hope they will be peaceful today till we get off. We were relieved after dark and returned to camp late in the night.

August 5... We done nothing today...only slept.

August 6... I washed today. I heard from home today. Lt. Pembel? Come in. I was glad to see the old fellow. I hear the Yanks is a'coming close to my home. They will soon have my county. We drawed our money today.

August 7... We are resting today. I hear of nothing new on hand. We give ??cents a dozen for apples. 75 cents a pound for salt. The money plenty ??? we ??? twelve ??? no dinner nor nothing to eat all day. We got some irish potatoes at six? Dollars a bushel, though we were very hungry. I went to another house and offered ?? price for something to eat all in vain. We went on and as good luck would have it we passed a corn field in roastin' ears. I got? Over and got fourteen ears and we went out in the woods to eat. ?? We eat all but two this way...too much like a coon though it against? Our appetite we went on tired ..????..... very tired. This is the last time I am going out in a ???

August 11... I am on guard today. While the boys is a'drilling, I am a resting!

August 13... We have to go out on picket tonight. Our scouts got two Yankees today. We started a little before night. We got to their reserve guard at dark, detailed out thirty six guards and sent them over on the island I will come on tomorrow night. They are peaceful over the river yet.

August 14... We lay around here all day till night, then I had to go over on the island. We started and it as dark as pitch. We could scarcely see a'tall. We soon got to the guards. 18 went up and 18 went down. I was the last man on the relief down. We started down over logs, pools in ditches. I got my shins skinned up very bad. We got to the lower? Post and relieved them. Part of us had to scout all the time. I lay down and went to sleep. I soon was awoke up. I soon learned we were a'going to evacuate the island. We all left easy as we could. When we got to the slew, I was detailed to carry over a dug out. The bank was steep and muddy and very thickety. We had to hunt up and down the river for some time before we could find them. All this time was spent while cursing and swearing that's rolled through my mind. At last we found them and carried them over. The rest went over the bridge. We went back some a'quarter then halted here. We all got together. It was not long before we could see the bridge in a light blaze from one end to the other. Our sharp shooters was ready to burn it when we passed. In a few minutes a cannon fired at the bridge, then another. They shelled the island all over. Some times they would throw a barrel past us. At last the bridge fell in and all quite again. There was guards placed along the slew before we crossed. So we will rest tonight and come on tomorrow...

August 15... When we got up we found all alive. We lay here all day. It won't be long before I will start on guard. Our company started at dark. We relieved the guard. There was some scouts seen on the island. There was a family lived on the river. When the Yankees begun to shell, they left the house for the shells was flying around their house like snakes in a winter's day. The same? two women and 4 children are a'lying out in the woods like wild rabbits or rats. I feel sorry for them for they will soon go wild. We went on past after dark. Now for the Yanks!

August 16... All quiet this morning. No Yankees in sight of my post yet. We see fine times here only we don't have enough to eat. We started out with two day's rations but our bread all molded and our meat all soured so we have got nothing to eat. I fare very well. I am so much like a coon! I had some salt. I went in a corn field and eat some half a dozen ears of corn. This set me straight. Me and one of my mess mates found a patch of beans which we picked into. We gathered a fine mess and two fine young pumpkins which we gathered and sent on to camp. If they have them cooked tonight I will show you how to eat stolen beans when I get there tonight! It is a'raining now though not hard. I seen no Yankees yet. We kept our selves concealed close for the river is too narrow. They can kill a man over clatter? I forgot to tell you a while back...I bought a fine lot of fish hooks and lines to catch fish while standing picket guard. I fished every night and day when I wasn't on guard and I haven't caught nair a fish yet! I have put up my hooks in my pocket. I have found out this much about it...it is our business to catch Yankees not fish as I rather? Balance? I hear a good many of our men is a'deserting and going home. Some sixty deserted and left for home. There was a guard of cavalry sent after them to fetch them back but when they overtaken them and they had a fight, the deserters whipped the cavalry and went on! I heard two desertered from our regiment last night and went over to the Yanks. Now this never will do! I am afraid we are gone up. I hear Mississippi is a'going back in the union and if she does, I am going home shore!

August 17... We are in or at our reserve camp. All quiet this morning, only our boys still deserting...6 from the ninth left last night...great excitement prevails in our pickets. Every man a'looking ahead and a'crying? out our distances? I hear our boys is a'getting whipped in Virginia. This is bad on us. Still some of the boys is in good heart yet, but I see no grounds for it. If we have much more luck we are gone up I think. We was relieved this evening and went to camp. I am very sleepy shore.

August 18... This is a fair day..fine weather. More deserters I hear of this morning. I don't know what will become of us. I have sent up for a furlough. I hope I will get one for I want to go home. I see no signs for peace only for the south to go back to the union. There is a great many like myself see no chance for us though we will fight them longer than this. Old Rosey (General Rosecrans?) says he will furnish transportation and a suit of clothes to every one who deserts and comes over. He will send them as close home as he can. This is very encouraging if it is true. I want to go home, but I won't do this yet nair(?) time once? I hear this evening there was a company or two left at Chattanooga. What will become of our army? I hear Lee's army is demoralized and ours will soon be. I will stand to the old bloody 7th as long as she hangs together. This is what I enlisted for. Blessed is he who holds out faithful to the end. I will close my epistle.

To be continued
Written by John F. Roberts of Co. C
7th Regt. Miss Volunteers

HOME