Michigan in the Civil War

Renick, John H., 1838-1884.

Photocopies of three diaries (1862-1864). He was in Company C, 2nd Michigan Infantry (1861-1864), and served with Company D, 17th Michigan Infantry (Jan.-Apr. 1864). The diary entries are very short, and concern the weather, and daily activities, such as camp guard, brigade and battalion drill, artillery practice, inspections, dress parade, picket duty and foraging and scouting. He is cook for Company C for a time.

He is a very religious young man, and reads a chapter from the Bible each day as well as attends religious services. He has a "good wash" each day when possible; reads newspapers and books that come to hand; and writes letters. Several times he mentions Professor Howe and his balloon observations; tells of celebrating Washington's Birthday and the Fourth of July with the band and speakers; and describes the building of winter quarters.

The regiment is frequently on the move-on foot, often through mud, and by boat or train. They forage as they go to supplement army rations. In "destitute areas" food is apt to be scarce and army rations reduced. At other times foraging is good and they live well on such things as green corn, potatoes, wild hogs, peaches, apples. He comments on the countryside and the people, and was not impressed with young ladies who "chew tobacco or snuff on a stick. ... Swear, drink whiskey and smoke."

On picket duty they may throw stones at each other, skirmish over a rifle pit, or listen to a rebel band play Dixie. He was in a hospital for some time, and complained of "very poor or no care at all." He mentions the serious fighting that took place at Yorktown, Williamsburg, Knoxville and the charge on Fort Saunders, with heavy casualties and prisoners taken on both sides. Railroad tracks were torn up, and bridges, depots and warehouses burned.

On May 25, 1864 his term of service expired, and he was homeward bound, though not discharged until July 21, 1864. Renick was from Calhoun County, Mich.

The Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka holds the originals of these diaries.