Diary, Merritt Hager Smith, 1863 (Ms2008-037)

Dublin Core


Diary, Merritt Hager Smith, 1863 (Ms2008-037)



The Civil War diary of Private Merritt Hager Smith of Company G, 97th New York Infantry, a member of the regimental band. The diary entries span the entire year of 1863. The first entry finds Smith receiving orders to proceed to Belle Plain Landing, Virginia to assist Lt. Louis Rowan, the regiment's quartermaster. Smith describes his work, the relative comfort in which he lives, recreation, the weather, homesickness, prayer meetings, sutlers, and makes many references to frequent and excessive drinking by various officers. Smith mentions attending Lincoln's grand review of the 1st Army Corps on April 9. Later that month, the regiment began marching northwestward, frequently changing camp, and Smith writes of the difficulty in marching and the conditions of the various camps. On July 1, the regiment arrived in the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania area. Smith describes the area, provides a brief synopsis of the news he has heard from the battle and mentions speaking with a group of Confederate prisoners. As the army again moves to camps southeastward, Smith notes the many towns and villages through which they pass. He writes of news received via newspaper and word-of-mouth but makes few references to specific battles; nor does he make any significant mention of the regimental band's activities. A history of the 97th New York includes in its roster a Private Merritt A. Smith, who enlisted in Boonville, New York on December 16, 1861 at age 19. According to his diary, Smith was born June 28, 1842. Census records indicate that he was the son of Julia Smith of Turin (Lewis County), New York. Smith notes himself a member of the regimental brass band, and Civil War rosters include a Merritt H. Smith who served as a second class musician in the band of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 3rd/1st Army Corps. No further information about Smith could be found.

The 97th New York Infantry (also known as the Conkling Rifles) was organized in 1861 with men recruited from Herkimer, Lewis and Oneida counties. It was mustered into U. S. service on February 18, 1862, under command of Colonel Charles Wheelock. The regiment saw its first action at Cedar Mountain on August 9. Among the battles in which it fought were Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, The Wilderness, Petersburg, and Appomattox Courthouse. The 97th New York was mustered out of service on July 18, 1865 near Washington, D.C.




Bibliographic Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: Merritt Hager Smith Diary, Ms2008-037 - Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.