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Diary of a Tar Heel Confederate Soldier


"We are all boys between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one."

Louis Leon joined North Carolina's Charlotte Grays in April 1861. He was to serve throughout the war and spent considerable time in Virginia. Captured at the Battle of the Wilderness on May 5, 1864, he spent the war's last months imprisoned at two notorious facilities: Point Lookout, Maryland and Elmira, New York. He published his war-time diary in 1913.

May 5—Moved this morning, feeling for the enemy, and came up to them at noon, five miles from the Run, in the Wilderness. It certainly is a wilderness; it is almost impossible for a man to walk, as the woods are thick with an underbrush growth and all kinds of shrubbery, old logs, grapevines, and goodness knows what. My corps of sharpshooters were ordered to the front. We formed in line and advanced to the enemy. We fought them very hard for three hours, they falling back all the time. Our sharpshooters' line got mixed up with Gordon's Brigade, and fought with them.

In one charge we got to the most elevated place in the Wilderness. We looked back for our brigade, but saw it not. Just then a Yankee officer came up and we took him prisoner. Some of Gordon's men took him to the rear. Six of our regiment, sharpshooters, myself included, went to the right to join our regiment, but were picked up by the Yankees and made prisoners. We were run back in their line on the double quick. When we got to their rear we found about 300 of our men were already prisoners. The Yankees lost very heavily in this fight, more than we did. Although we lost heavy enough, but, my Heavens! what an army they have got. It seems to me that there is ten of them to one of us. It looks strange that we could deliver such fearful blows, when, in fact, if numbers counted, they should have killed us two years ago. In going to their rear we passed through four lines of battle and reinforcements still coming up, while we are satisfied with, or at least have no more than one line of battle.

Louis Leon's diary, first published in 1913, may be read in its entirety or downloaded for future reading online as part of the Google Book Search project.