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No Regrets: The Civil War Diary of David Day
by Pamela Cummings

Category: History/General Nonfiction
Description: A rediscovered gem ... Originally published under the title My Diary of Rambles with the 25th Mass. Volunteer Infantry, with Burnside's Coast Division; 18th Army Corps, and Army of the James by King and Billings, Printers, in 1884. This edition contains an additional editor's preface and editorial comments. Although David L. Day was a "common" soldier he was without a doubt a highly individual member of the Union Army. His diary reflects this. He makes little mention of grand battles, great commanders, or political schemes. He wrote instead of his own experiences, observing his surroundings, his comrades and enemies, his emotions. Everything about the South fascinated him, from the way Southerners persisted in burning their own property whenever his regiment approached, to their farming practices and even their unique way of giving directions. He saw his service in the Army as not only a duty to the Union he loved but an opportunity to learn how the other half of America lived. His years in the South might as well have been an extended tour in a foreign country. And every moment of it held his interest.
eBook Publisher: Amber Quill Press, 2003
eBookwise Release Date: August 2005


7 Reader Ratings:
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Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [406 KB]
Words: 99122
Reading time: 283-396 min.

"David Day was an ordinary soldier in an extraordinary war. His diary is a highly literate and personal story of his life with the Union army. Editor Pamela Cummings enriches this account with footnotes, a bibliography, and a special section explaining the people mentioned in this book. David takes readers from the idleness of waiting to the engagements with the enemy. As his company traveled into the South, readers will see the institution of slavery through his eyes. Although he found the Southern language difficult, he recorded a conversation he had with the enemy, who was a true Southern gentleman. Some of his comments may appear racist by today's standards, but his words contain no malice. David was described as a jovial and very popular man with many friends. It appears that he brought his sunny disposition to these diary accounts. While he did write about various battles, he also included humorous incidents, as well as everyday observations about the world around him. While most readers are familiar with the 'big' battles of this war, David's diary is a startling reminder that all battles were big to those who fought in them. It also seems that normal, everyday events were just as important and necessary for survival as the ability to fight well. Soldiers lived in another world, and the contact with familiar and friendly things was a balm to the soul and mind. David enlisted for three years, partly because of his love of adventure. When he returned home, he was forever changed in body and mind. These words, which he penned during his time as a soldier, will highlight some of those changes, as well as speak to today's readers about one man's contribution to his country. Readers have the benefit of David Day's own words, as well as the insightful editorial comments by Pamela Cummings. The diary accounts are further explained and enhanced by historical facts. This hindsight of history causes the reader to better understand the bigger picture of the war, while at the same time, observing how it affected one soldier's life. David Day's diary is 'his' story, and part of our nation's history. Read it for reference, enrichment or as a reminder of a war fought by ordinary people just like us."--Joyce Handzo, In The Library Reviews


Foster's brigade starts up the railroad for town, leaving Reno's and Parke's brigades to take care of the field. Cautiously we moved along, thinking, perhaps, the enemy may have formed a second line and are awaiting our approach. It soon became apparent, however, that they were making the distance between them and us as long as possible. We then hurried along, arriving at the river where the railroad bridge was burned which crossed into town. The view from here was an appalling one. The railroad bridge, a fine structure upwards of 1500 feet in length, was in ruins and the town was on fire in several places. Dense clouds of smoke of inky blackness settled like a pall over the town, while every few moments the lurid flames, with their forked tongues, would leap above the clouds, and the bellowing of the gunboats on the river, throwing their large shells over the town after the retreating enemy, conspired to make a most hideous scene.

It was near the middle of the afternoon when the old ferry boat Curlew (which a few weeks before I had wished sunk) arrived. On board this, Major McCafferty, with a mixed company of about 100 men, with the colors, crossed the river and landed on the wharf at the foot of Craven street. These were the first troops and colors in the city. After landing we marched up Craven nearly to Pollock street, when we halted. The major did not appear to have any business on hand or instructions to make any, so we waited for further orders or for the regiment to join us.

Here was presented an indescribable scene. A town on fire, an invading army entering its gates, the terror-stricken inhabitants fleeing in every direction. The negroes were holding a grand jubilee, some of them praying and in their rude way thanking God for their deliverance; others, in their wild delight, were dancing and singing, while others, with an eye to the main chance, were pillaging the stores and dwellings. But in the midst of all this appalling tumult and confusion, the boys, true to the natural instincts of the soldier, were looking around to see what could be found in the line of trophies and fresh rations. They soon began to come in with their plunder, which the major told them to carry back, as he should allow no pillaging while he was in command.

Presently Stokes comes along bringing a little package. The major asked, "What have you there?" "Sausages, sir!" "Go, carry them back where you got them from." "I reckon not," replied Stokes, "a lady out here gave them to me." The major was incredulous, but Stokes offered to show him the lady and let her tell it, whereupon the former subsides, and Stokes, with a roguish twinkle of his eye, jams the package into my haversack, saying, "Sausage for breakfast." I was proud of the boy, to see how well he was observing instructions, as I have told him fry might find. Generals Burnside and Foster, with soldiers, citizens and negroes, were putting out the fires and bringing order out of confusion. Company B was quartered in a small house on Craven street, and the boys, although hungry, tired and worn down by the fatigues of the day, made frolic of the evening and celebrated their victory.

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