South Harwich, Mass. resident Ebenezer Smalley was 25 when he left his Cape Cod home to serve the Union in 1864. It was the signing bonus that prompted him to join, part of the funds needed to build a home for his wife and child.
He didn’t survive. Smalley was sent home to die from wounds the doctors could not heal, seven months after he left.
His diary was recently donated to the Harwich Historical Society..
As he left camp for Bristoe Station on May 4, he wrote this entry after receiving a letter from his wife, Love: “It is a wonderful thread of love stretching all the way from Cape Cod to this place; a tiny paper oasis of happiness amid these acres of muddy misery. It’s kind of strange that I am here right now, sitting on this ration box in the heat and the stink, in the mayhem of horses and uniformed men that are today’s reality, while there in my hand on this bit of paper is green grass, quiet, serenity, comfort and Love—a far away reality.”
As he marched into a battle, he later recorded what he heard: “What had sounded like surf off in the distance turns out to be cannon fire a few miles away, iron surf beating on the soft shores of men.”
When he arrived home on July 4 with what was probably an infected wound to the shoulder, his wife took over the diary entries.
“No better,” on July 5.
“Utter prostration,” on July 10.
“Sinking fast,” on July 14.
“Died this morning at sunrise,” on July 13.