Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Zophar Skinner and the 2nd RI Infantry at Gettysburg

Last summer I wrote in this post about a visit I made to Gettysburg and the Civil War battlefield monuments for the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry.  My 2nd great-grandfather, Zophar Skinner, was in Company C of the 2nd RIV (Rhode Island Volunteers). He enlisted in the unit on 5 June 1861 and mustered out on 17 June 1864. Zophar was not yet 18 when he enlisted. His 20 year old brother, Joseph Godfrey Skinner enlisted on the same day and mustered into Co. H of the 2nd RIV. Youngest brother, Henry Skinner, was only eleven years old and  he might have envied his older brothers marching off to war.
Zophar Skinner
My father's cousin is Zophar's grandson and knew him when he was a young boy. He has the powder horns that Zophar used during the war, and also a small diary that Zophar kept for the year 1863. The diary is a small leather-bound book not much larger than a pack of cards, around 5" x 3".  Each page covers 3 days, with 6 short lines for journaling. The diary is in quite good condition but the ink on many pages has faded too much to be read.
Zophar Skinner's diary for the year 1863
inside cover of diary
"Zophar Skinner
Co. C. 2nd reg. R.I. Vols.
Valley Falls,  Rhode Island
Enlisted June 5th, 1861.
2nd Brigade 3rd Division 6th Corps"
Zophar recorded the weather every day and briefly detailed his activities.  He mentions writing and receiving letters, drawing rations, drills, inspections, dress parades, and marches among the daily occurrences.

Gettysburg

The decisive battle at Gettysburg, PA occurred over the 3-day period of July 1-3, 1863. The battle began before Zophar's unit arrived in mid-afternoon on the 2nd day after marching all night with only brief stops for breakfast and dinner. When they arrived at Gettysburg, they were held in reserve near Little Round Top and probably fell asleep in exhaustion. Zophar, in his diary, claimed they had marched 42 miles in the last day and a half, and they marched 140 miles in the six days since they left Centreville, VA on June 26th.

Below is a transcription from the diary for July 1 - July 5. I have tried to retain original spelling, spacing, and punctuation.

Wednesday, July 1
"Showery all day. drawed one days rait-
ons. packed up at six this evening and took
the road to Gettysburg and marched all
night. Gen. Wheaton took command of ou-
e Division this Evening"

Thursday, July 2
"Plesant all day stopt one hour for bre-
akfast and one for dinner. passed tho-
rgh Middletown and arrived at Gettys-
burg at three this afternoon. distance
was 42 miles."

Friday, July 3
"Cloudy all day. got up at two this mo-
rning and got breakfast. Our brigade was
detached to the 12 Armee cops. went to
the right of the line of battle and back
again. sharp shelling by the rebels.Charles
Powers was killed this afternoon by a shell".

Saturday, July 4
"Showery all day. got up this morning at
7 and went to the front reserve for pickets
the rest of our Brigade was digging rif-
le pits. relieved at half past seven th-
evening by the 10 regiment Mass Vols".

Sunday, July 5
"Showerly all day. got up early this m-
orning and joined our Corps. rested a sho-
rt time and started after the rebs they ha-
ving left during the night. halted at d-
ark. Distance five miles. my Company was
detailed as rear guard".

The Union Army, under General Meade's command pursued the Confederate Army as they moved south back into Maryland and then across the Potomac River and into Virginia in the days following. Zophar's unit crossed the Potomac on July 19th. It is hard for me to imagine what this young man saw and experienced during the Gettysburg battle and throughout the War. The diary does not reveal Zophar's emotions or state of mind but is very straightforward. What a time he lived through.... And in the end, I wonder if his little brother Henry was grateful or envious that he was too young to go to war like his older brothers, Zophar and Joseph.

2 comments:

  1. Having access to this diary must be a blessing for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Linda - It was amazing to hold it for the first time - that and the powder horns.

      Delete

Spam comments have increased tremendously as of late and I've turn the word verification back on. Sorry about that to those who would like to leave a real comment!