The object that I’ll be focusing on for my final project is the personal diary of Sergeant Henry W. Tisdale. Tisdale fought in Company I for the Thirty-Fifth Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry from 1862-1865. At his request, Tisdale’s family did not read the contents of his diary until after his death in 1922. His son’s wife, Margaret, typed the diary from the pen transcripts in 1926.
Tisdale was born on March 9, 1837, in Walpole, Massachusetts. He enlisted in Company I on July 10, 1862, and trained at Camp Stanton. Tisdale was wounded at Fox’s Gap during the Battle of South Mountain, but soon recovered and rejoined the rest of his regiment on February 4, 1863. Tisdale fought in several battles over the next year, including at Vicksburg, Jackson and Campbell’s Station. On May 24, 1864, following the Battle of North Anna River, Tisdale was captured by Confederate forces and was held prisoner. Tisdale’s time as a POW took him to several prison camps, including Andersonville Prison in Georgia, where he was held from June 7 to October 5. While at Andersonville, Tisdale served as sergeant of the third mess of Detachment #76, responsible for 90 other Union prisoners. As sergeant, he was responsible for obtaining rations, roll call, and taking the sick to the hospital. During his imprisonment, Tisdale was recommended for the Medal of Honor, but there is no record of a disposition. Tisdale was exchanged on March 3, 1865, and discharged on June 13.
There are several key findings that could be examined throughout this final project. First of all, Tisdale’s diary contains entries from every month of his career as a soldier, from July 1862 to June 1865. There are very few Civil War-era diaries that are this extensive and still so in-tact. I will explore Tisdale’s early experiences with the war, from his training at Camp Stanton to his encounters on the battlefields. At one point, Tisdale was nearly struck by a minie ball. The bullet had already passed through another sergeant and was on a collision course with Tisdale, but the bullet struck his rifle and lodged into his gun.
Second, I feel that Tisdale’s account as a prisoner of war will be fascinating to examine. Thousands of soldiers that were taken prisoner during the Civil War died, and Andersonville was notorious for being one of the worst Confederate POW camps. The fact that Tisdale survived the entire ordeal is a miracle in itself. In addition, the leadership position that Tisdale was given while a prisoner is very interesting. He was responsible for 90 other Union soldiers. Most prisoners would be preoccupied with keeping themselves alive…Tisdale worried about himself and then some.
Finally, I’m curious to learn more about Tisdale’s recommendation for the Medal of Honor. A man who fought so bravely and served as a leader, even while being imprisoned by enemy forces, deserves some sort of recognition. I’m curious to see if any other soldiers’ stories are somewhat similar to Tisdale’s, and to investigate exactly why there was no disposition regarding the matter.
http://www.civilwardiary.net/diary1865.htm – Primary – This is a link to Tisdale’s personal diary. It is my primary source of information.
https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/south-mountain – Secondary – This contains information on the Battle of South Mountain. Tisdale was injured during this battle at Fox Gap.
https://archive.org/details/thirtyfifthregmass00commrich – Primary – The history of the Thirty-Fifth Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. It also contains a roster.
https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/vicksburg – Secondary – Documents pertaining to the Battle of Vicksburg.
https://www.nps.gov/abpp/battles/tn023.htm – Secondary – Battle summary of the Battle of Campbell’s Station (November 16, 1863).
https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/north-anna – Primary – Information on the Battle of North Anna, during which Tisdale was captured by Confederate forces.
https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/andersonville-prison – Secondary – Information on Andersonville Prison, where Tisdale was held for several months during his imprisonment.
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/4259/4259-h/4259-h.htm – Primary – More information on Andersonville Prison. This source includes specifics on the prison camp, including clothing, mortality, music, illness, escape and freedom.