Michigan in the Civil War

Griswold family

The papers of this Vermontville, Mich., family include diaries of Joseph Bascom Griswold. He first entered the 2nd Michigan Cavalry, Regimental Band, as musician in September, 1861, but was discharged for disability in August, 1862. He re-entered the service as second assistant surgeon in the 4th Michigan Infantry, November, 1864, and was commissioned surgeon in January, 1866. He was mustered out in May, 1866.

His duties were in the Post Hospital at Indianola, Texas, July 1865; in charge of convalescent camp at Victoria, Texas, September, 1865; and Medical Inspector of Central Division, Texas, March, 1866. He had commenced his medical studies in the University of Michigan in 1863, and, after leaving the service, he resumed his studies in the Rush Medical College, Chicago, graduating in 1868. He practiced medicine most of his life in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

There is a diary concerning his year as a musician in which he notes the weather, the days when they played for dress parade and guard mounting, and an occasional serenade for someone such as General Pope. He comments on camp duties, food, a trip down the river, some hospital duties, saying, "This hospital business I detest ... wish I was back in the regiment," his own bout with dysentery; and his wanting to go home. "I'm sick of soldiering. Wish I was out ... but what's the good of wishing."

In the 4th Infantry, he wrote some thirty letters to his sister. He describes quarters, their moves from camp to camp from Huntsville, Ala. to San Antonio, Texas, and caring for the sick and wounded. There is much chit-chat about home folks and affairs; his occasional dinners out with Southern families in which there are young ladies, with perhaps a musical evening to follow; church services; and Christmas southern style.

The diary, which supplements these letters, also tells of social calls, dances, a fox hunt, card games, church services, rides into the country on his horse, drinking among the men, and horse racing in their camp in San Antonio in which his horse is entered. The drinking water is bad, and he is often sick with diarrhea. Mosquitoes bother both men and horses. He comments on food or the lack of it and on camp gardens. He thought some of setting up a medical practice in San Antonio, but instead returned to school.

This collection is available on microfilm for interlibrary loan.

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