Apr 13, 2023 - Sale 2633

Sale 2633 - Lot 56

Price Realized: $ 3,250
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 1,500 - $ 2,500
(CIVIL WAR--ILLINOIS.) LeRoy Salisbury. Diary of a lieutenant who fought at Chickamauga and was wounded at Missionary Ridge. [74] manuscript diary pages plus [11] memoranda pages, signed on front free endpaper. 16mo, original limp cloth, worn; one leaf detached, minor dampstaining. Various places, 25 August to 25 November 1863

Additional Details

"The taking of Mission Ridge will be recorded in history as one of the greatest feats of the war."

LeRoy Salisbury (born circa 1840) of Elgin, IL had been a clerk before enlisting as a corporal in the 36th Illinois. By the time this diary began, he had been promoted into the officer ranks. After a month of hard marching, the regiment fought at the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia. They were held in reserve on 19 September, but the next morning he had just a moment to write: "Rosy has changed his lines some & is now ready for them. They have commenced fireing to our left, & I guess the ball has opened." That evening he described the ensuing carnage: "They flanked us on our left & was cutting us all to pieces. . . . One line in front of us gave way & they came rushing down on us like an avalanche. We were then obliged to brake & run, every man for himself. Ran back on another ridge of hills & tried to rally the men, but it was of no use, as they could not be stopped there. . . . Got in a safe place & halted. There were only 125 out of 298. Our camp had two killed & six wo'd. . . . Went out about 5 miles to save Granger's ammunition train, which we did by the advance, going into the Rebel lines not knowing they were there. . . . Our brave Brig. Gen'l Lytle fell dead while leading a charge. . . . Capt. Mitchell was wounded but got off the field. I had to take command of the Comp., which numbered 10 non-com off. & 6 privates. . . . We were routed completely & driven back but not whipped, for the men did not have time to get into position before being overwhelmed with large numbers of the enemy."

Salisbury captured the shaken tone of Rosecrans's defeated army as they retreated on 22 September: "To our great astonishment we were to fall back to Chattanooga & if we had not the greatest confidence in Rosy, we would think we were whipped. . . . I cannot tell the reason for his falling back without is to delay the battle until Burnside joins him." The Union army spent the coming weeks more or less besieged at Chattanooga. On 5 October Salisbury's regiment assumed picket duty: "We went out before daylight as the rest have done, so as not to draw their fire. . . . Some of our officers were talking together near the picket line when crack! went a rifle & the ball whistled close to their heads. They have a peculiar hatred to officers & will fire on them every chance they have, but will not fire on the privates." Faith in Rosecrans continued through at least 7 October: "Gen'l Rosy came around toward night . . . . He looks quite cheerful & healthy. The old fellow has a big head & well filled. He is the man of the whole army." A change in command was reported on 22 October: "I understand Rosy has been superceded by Grant. He is to command the whole Dept. & Thomas to command two Corps. The boys all feel bad to have Rosy leave, but have confidence in Thomas." Supplies began to grow short: "Starvation certainly stares us a little in the face, but the boys realize what is at stake & grumble but very little. They are satisfied to get the corn away from the mules. Sometimes the mules & man have to fight to see which will have it, though & no mistake" (26 October). On 1 November, "it is impossible to get anything & it really looks as though we might starve."

The Union men began to lift the siege with the 23 November Battle of Lookout Mountain, and then the 25 November Battle of Missionary Ridge: "The order came to charge & away we went pell-mell & took the first line of works with all their skirmishers. . . . Contrary to orders we pushed on up the ridge in the face of musket balls & grape & canister. . . . Every man was for himself now & all striving to see who would be up first. . . . When about halfway up I was struck by a musket ball in the right thigh & dropped me. I could go no farther. I laid till they succeeded in gaining the top, then a happier being never lived than I. I thought not of my wound for they were on the ridge & the victory was ours. The taking of Mission Ridge will be recorded in history as one of the greatest feats of the war." Salisbury was carried back to the hospital and announced that "the future, for a short time, in my diary will have to be a blank." He wrote no further entries, but survived to be discharged in January 1865. Salisbury was a better than average storyteller with a good sense of detail--and he was in the thick of some pretty serious fighting.