The diary of Basil H. Messler (1834-1916) spans the time period of February 27, 1864 to January 30, 1865. Most of this time was spent in Vicksburg, Ms. and along the portion of the Mississippi River between that city and Greenville, Ms. Messler began life in Dayton, Oh. His family moved to Canton, Il. in 1852. The events that led to Messler's enlistment remain unknown at this point. He waited until he was 30 years old before joining the Union Army at Fort McClellan in Davenport, Ia. After he was mustered out of the army he was married to Mary J. Whitehall in 1866. He went on to attend Lombard College and eventually became a dentist in his hometown of Canton. Messler retired after decades of practice due to poor health.

The diary represents a day-to-day account of events while enlisted in the Mississippi Marine Brigade (initialed M.M.B. in the diary). The Mississippi Marine Brigade, commanded by Brigadier General Alfred W. Ellet, was an amphibious company that patrolled the river protecting area plantations from Rebel raids. Within the diary are many allusions to Messler's family and friends, documented only by initials. Most of the references ending in the letter "M" refer to family members. At times Messler does spell out full names. The transcription of the diary is faithful to Messlers spelling and punctuation. The transcriber's notes appear in square brackets [ ].


[ Februry&March, 1864 - April, 1864 - May, 1864 - June, 1864 - July, 1864 - August, 1864 - September, 1864 - October, 1864 - November, 1864 - December, 1864 - January, 1865 ]

February and March, 1864

April, 1864

    • April 3-11 Vicksburg. Drilled, captured prisoner and shot cattle for beef
    • April 12-20 Patrolling the Mississippi by boat
    • April 21-28 On scout boat through Greenville, Grand Lake, Ford's Landing, then Vicksburg
    • April 28 - May 3 Patrolling with other troops

May, 1864

    • May 4-7 Travels on the Yazoo River
    • May 7-12 Time in Liverpool and Yazoo City
    • May 12-14 Confederate attack and sickness
    • May 14-17 With troops and friends in Yazoo City
    • May 17-20 Travels through Liverpool Heights and Vicksburg
    • May 21-24 Haircut in Vicksburg and patrol boat life
    • May 25-29 Picking dewberries and rounding up cattle to feed the troops
    • May 30 - June 2 Visiting Illinois regiments

June, 1864

  • June 2-4 Learns the J Adams boat of the M.M.B. was attacked on June 2
  • June 4-7 US Steamer Adams back from a battle. Skirmish in the Bayou
  • June 7-9 A raid into the countryside. Burned towns of Columbia and Senna
  • June 10 A raid along the Sunflower river
  • June 11-16 Results of the raid, travel back to Vicksburg
  • June 17-21 Camplife in Vicksburg, visit with friends in the 11th Illinois Cavalry regiment
  • June 21-25 Rafting expedition up the Yazoo river
  • June 25 Struggling through the bayou in search of apples and peaches
  • June 26 - July 1 Cleaning the boat and visiting friends in the Illinois 72nd regiment
  • July, 1864

  • July 3-4 Battle near Reading and on the Port Gibson road near Coleman
  • July 4 The battle continues; surrounded by rebels; fighting alongside Black troops
  • July 5-9 Skirmish in Port Gibson, orders to reinforce Gen. Dennis at Black River
  • July 10-13 Skirmish near Champion Hills, bodyguard for a Ms. B and southern female college
  • July 13-15 Took six rebel prisoners near Utica, fired on by enemy at Gray Gulf
  • July 15-19 Attacked in two places at Gray Gulf, took prisoner a rebel Major and Colonel
  • July 20-23 Camping along the Mississippi River, on guard duty at night
  • July 24-25 Marching on to Goodridge and Lake Providence
  • August, 1864

  • July 26-August 6 Took buggy rides through town, voted mess cook for camp
  • August 7-11 Received release papers, Mississippi Marine Brigade is dissolved
  • August 11-16 Continuing celebration, visited friends in 72nd Regiment
  • August 17-27 Mississippi Marine Brigade consolidated with others, all soldiers reassigned
  • August 27-31 Reported to new commander, appointed Commissary Sgt. of 1st Battalion Calvary
  • September, 1864

  • Sept 1-7 Deals with extreme heat in Vicksburg camp, visited 72nd Regiment, feeds troops
  • Sept 8-11 Promoted to Corporal of Company F Marine Regiment, waited for a Rebel attack
  • Sept 12-25 Very sick with chills, taken to hospital, sent back to camp after a week
  • October, 1864

  • Sept 26-Oct 2 Still sick in bed, seen by two doctors, finally well enough to write letters
  • Oct 3-11 Health improves, but then worsens with a headache, returns to the hospital
  • Oct 12-20 In hospital for another week, then discharged, on leave for three days
  • Oct 21-31 Still on leave from duty, applied for clerk in post commissary
  • November, 1864

  • Nov 1-10 Finally reported back to duty, received goods for the commissary
  • Nov 11-21 Received news that President Lincoln was reelected, all troops celebrated
  • Nov 22-30 Went to a New Orleans restaurant for Thanksgiving, met several high-ranking officers
  • December, 1864

  • Dec 1-9 Relieved of all duty to rest for two weeks, prescribed to take pills and wine for illness
  • Dec 10-17 Seen by doctor, requested a furlow but was rejected, continued with pills and wine
  • Dec 18-30 Back in hospital for Christmas, Mississippi Marine Brigade is to be mustered out
  • January, 1865

  • Dec 30-Jan 2 Relaxed, wrote for enjoyment, Negroes celebrate 2 year anniversary of their freedom
  • Jan 3-11 Left the hospital, reported to the commissary for duty
  • Jan 12-23 In commissary, another company mustered out, eagerly awaited release papers
  • Jan 24-30 Went to the hospital to visit friends, also visited 50th Regiment
Civil War Diaries
Troops movement of the 8th Illinois Volunteer Infantry 1861-65
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