Friday, May 25, 2012

Touched by History - A Soldier's Diary

I'm always on the hunt for old books, ledgers and diaries. I didn't find many at Brimfield this time, but picked up a few along the way.  Back at our hotel one night I discovered that one simple little notebook was actually the diary of a soldier.

"A. H. Leach, Co B 1 Reg Vt. Vol., Chickamauga, July 6, 1898, Ga" 
is the inscription inside the front cover. 

A.H. noted that he was mustered in to service on May 16, 1898 and arrived in Chickamauga on May 23rd.
 There are less than six pages filled with his notes. I didn't take the time to read them that night, but did look at the last page.
The final entry on July 18, 1898:  "...Still sick sick all night..."
I remember remarking casually 'I wonder if he died?'

After arriving home, I read through all the pages. 

He mentioned receiving letters, sending money and pictures home, guarding prisoners...

Tucked in a pocket in the notebook I found railroad receipts for a package that he sent to Sheldon, Vt on July 4th. I can't quite make out his diary entry for that date.

Recently I googled the name A.H. Leach and found a Vermont cemetery record:  "Leach, Adelbert H...25 July 1898 at Chickamauga Battlefield..."  The cause of death wasn't noted so I dug a bit more. (Last year, CG and I visited the Chickamauga National Military Park.  It's a sobering yet beautiful area, best known for it's role in the Civil War.  What I didn't remember was that it played a part in the Spanish-American war as well.)
Here's what I found:
"Thirty years after the war, a camp was established on the old battlefield to train men for the Spanish-American War. The camp was named after Thomas, the “Rock of Chickamauga”. During the brief time the camp was in operation, disease ran rampant here and men died by the score.... ending with more deaths than the American forces suffered during all of the fighting in Cuba"

I then discovered a heart-breaking account of the conditions that A.H. Leach and his comrades endured at Chickamauga.  "...The First Vermont Volunteers did not see battle but did experience indescribable misery through the Nation's neglect.  I am certain the Regiment would have preferred, yes, welcomed, battle to the suffering, heat, poor water, typhoid fever, dysentery, disgusting food and lack of medical equipment at Chickamauga.  Vivid, undimmed by the years, is my memory of the suffering of the sick, their courageious fights to live, and the despair of those trying to aid them.  All honor to them....who went stoically about their duties, half sick, through that terrible experience. Soldiers true, all of them..."  You can read much more of this account from Vermont in the Spanish American War by clicking here.  
Later in the same text, I found this:
"Pvt. Adelbert H. Leach,. Co. B. Fairfield
Died July 25, 1898, at Division Hospital, Camp Thomas, Ga., of typhoid fever...Age 21."

As we celebrate Memorial Day, one of the soldiers I'll be thinking of is a young man I've just 'met' and giving thanks for all who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom.



  1. Such a very interesting post. I really enjoyed it! Thank you!

  2. Wow, that is an amazing find, Jan...I was just riveted reading really brought things to life for me...

  3. Oh, what a sad story. We forget about those long ago soldiers and the conditions they endured. Thanks for sharing.

  4. What an amazing find, and such a sad story. But so wonderful of you to honor that soldier, and remember him on Memorial Day.

  5. Jan, How very touching. Sad to think of all the young men who died in those long ago wars. And the beautiful people who are still giving their lifes for our country and others, in many wars. Happy Memorial Day, smiles, Susie

  6. The find is museum quality, and so hard to find! There are local museums in VA near me who display lots of Civil Warm memorabilia, that don't have such treasures, but do have a lot of things that tell the story of how the soldiers lived, which holds endless fascination for me. I would have gotten goose bumps after reading it, and I'm glad you have it, and hold in regard high respect for this young man who took up arms for his country; war is ugly, and he paid a dear price at such a young age.

  7. WOW! Catching up on all those posts I missed and simply had to comment on this one. Incredible find, absolutely a once in a lifetime find - and it couldn't have happened to a nicer person! So glad that you found this and took the time to research this soldier. How heartbreaking to find your suspicions confirmed about his sickness and dying. At so young an age....yes, how important to remember what these young men sacrificed for our sake. Thank you for taking time to share these memories with us.

    P.S. - We live near Chattanooga, and thus the battlefield is not so far away!!! It IS a beautiful place.


    "Her" and Romeo


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