Lawrence Van Alstyne's Diary of an Enlisted Man, 1862-1864
Lawrence Van Alstyne.
"The Day of Jubelo." Photograph shows freed African Americans celebrating in a plantation house. Original illustration by E. B. Bensell, 1865.
Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division
- Sharon Historical Society (Sharon, Conn.)
- Lawrence Van Alstyne, 1839-1923, was a resident of Sharon, Conn., and served in the 128th New York Volunteers and the 90th U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War.
- The journal was kept by Lawrence Van Alstyne, where he recorded his daily military experiences from an enlisted man's point of view as an eye witness to Civil War events. Subjects include his adjustment to the poor living conditions, his move southward by ship and train, training at Camp Millington (Baltimore, Md.), move to Louisiana and the illnesses on board ship, diseases of the troops at Chalmette and then Parapet, La., the battle at Port Hudson, and then time spent at Donaldsonville, La. Van Alstyne was later reassigned with the Corps de Afrique (Corps d'Afrique) and his journal mentions his new duties, giving particular attention to his interaction with the black community, revealing inner prejudice when signing up African American troops. Although his personal views were not progressive, he encountered abused slaves and noted the slaves' great devotion to President Lincoln, who they felt was their only hope of gaining freedom.
- "From among the negroes that came flocking about we found that many of them knew how to cook ... we immediately set out for something to try our new cook with ... I got after a pig which ran in General Mouton's yard ... and had some of the most delicious fresh pork for dinner ... they were more anxious to enlist than we were to have them. Even the women and children wanted to go .... That night they built a big bonfire, and hundreds upon hundreds were dancing about it ... they finally got to singing, Glory to God, and Abe Linkum ..."
(See the NUCMC catalog record) (PDF, 67 KB)