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Marshall Hotels

Texas | Columns | Bob Bowman's East Texas

A Civil War Journal

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
In early 1861, W.W. Heartsill of Marshall, Texas, marched off to war with W.P. Lane’s Rangers of the Confederate Army. During the four years, one month and one day that he spent at war, Heartsill managed to keep a diary of each day.

Throughout his service, he carried with him a small memorandum book with this notation on the flyleaf: “If I am killed, or if by any mishap this book is lost, please send it to my father, A. Heartsill, Louisville, East Tennessee.”

When Heartsill filled up one of the books, he sent it home to Marshall for safekeeping. “Scores of times, I was as wet as water could make me, as these books bear evidence. Sometimes my book would come all to pieces after a soaking, and as it was being written with a pencil, I had to retrace with a pen when the opportunity was offered.”

Heartsill’s journals are mirrors of camp life and the trials and pleasures he endured as a private in the Confederate ranks.

When he came home, he began printing the pages of his diaries, completing the work in 1876.

Heartsill’s recollections show war in its horror and occasional moments when the soldiers in Lane’s Rangers laughed at the antics of their fellow soldiers.

In November of 1861, Heartsill wrote: “Today, we attended the funeral of a soldier, a solemn, sad duty.”

On Sunday, July 11, Heartsill wrote that Confederate and Union troops clashed near the Arkansas River with only 4,000 Confederate soldiers facing “70,000 of the Yanks.” During the battle, the Confederates’ hospital was set afire, “killing two of our surgeons and a wounded man who was being operated upon by the surgeons.”

“Such agony, such, such horror and so many deaths; how many of our brave comrades perished in this frightful tragedy, heaven alone will reveal.”

During the battle, Heartsill wrote than Lane’s Rangers “are not recognized as Confederate soldiers, but will be teated as guerrillas from the fact that we are an independent company.”

On July 12th, Heartsill wrote that,”oh, how hungry we are.” He said “we all are supplied with a liberal breakfast composed entirely of river water.” At noon, he said, “we receive the same for dinner that we got for breakfast” and in the evening, the Rangers finally got “a good supply of fat bacon and hard tack, which is the only food that we have had for 84 hours.”

The Rangers were captured by the Union troops and loaded aboard a ship with Arkansas soldiers. “Every man is looking for news about an exchange (for Yankee soldiers held by the South).”

Heartsill made it through the war and he and his fellow soldiers were mustered out of service on May 20, 1865, in Harrison County, Texas.


© Bob Bowman
March 7, 2010 Column, Modified December 17, 2012
(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 50 books about East Texas history and folklore.)

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