THE CIVIL WAR
Nancy C. Derby Collection

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Record 175/294
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Admin/Biog History Nancy C. Derby was born August 30, 1830. She married George M. Derby in Lancaster, Massachusettes in 1852. The couple came to Oshkosh in 1854. The couple had three known children: William H. Derby, 1855-1882; unknown baby; and Lizza Derby, 1861-1872. Prior to the Civil War, the family moved to Alabama, but returned when the war started. Her husband George operated the Derby & Corran Shingle Mill for many years. He died January 22, 1886. Nancy then married her brother-in-law, Captain Andrew J. Derby on March 1, 1887. Andrew had remained in Alabama to look over the business interests. He may be the same Captain A. J. Derby who raised Company K, 36th Alabam Infantry in Tuscaloosa in May 1862 and fought for the Confederacy. He owned an extensive cotton plantation in Alabama after the Civil War. She died on January 10, 1910 and is burried in Riverside Cemetery.
Collection Nancy C. Derby
Dates of Accumulation 1857-1869
Abstract The Nancy C. Derby Collection comprises three large ledger sized diaries and three folders of misc. documents housed in one small archival box. Her diaries contain detailed information on day-to-day life in Oshkosh and her observations on national issues. There is a great deal mentioned concerning the Civil War and Life on the homefront. The family was living in Alabama when the war began and soon returned to Oshkosh.

Civil War era excerpts from Alabama to Oshkosh:

Sept. 11, [1859] A very warm morning indeed. James has not come yet, but I presume he will come today. Alden Frost went to Livingston [Alabama] yesterday after a run-a-way Negro who was in jail there. His name is Virgil & he is all bit up by dogs & cut up besides by whipping. I wish I was in Wisconsin today-I could bid adieu to the South with a glad heart. James & Andrew came & took dinner with us, James said he would send Crawford after me tomorrow.

[May 18, 1860] I rode up on Andrew's horse to see them firing up the kiln last evening, the poor men & Negroes looked tired. That woman came last night, was down here today to get some yeast. She is a neat pretty looking woman. Andrew went over to see Mrs. Page this afternoon & found her whipping her Negro woman.
[May 22] We started for Eutaw early in the morning got here at ten o'clock-found James had gone to Tuscaloosa after some run-away Negroes. Eliza & I went up in town shopping in evening, just after George started for home. Very warm indeed. Willie had a chill soon after we got here.
[July 5] I was sick all night & have not set up much today. I some think I had a slight chill last night. Very, very hot indeed. George was telling me today that a Negro man & woman dropped dead in the field this [afternoon] above here on some plantation.
July 15 Warm & dry still. There is a good breeze today. Sabbath afternoon. Aunt Rachel [Nancy Derby's hired slave] has some company, her husband & a colored woman from her Master David's. It is all the time Negroes have to visit & they make the most of it. Some of them go to 'preaching' where there is any, but most of them go round from place [to place], but not without a pass for any white man can whip them if he finds a Negro without one.
[July 24] No rain last night but it was windy & cool all night. The trees are drying up & leaves falling like autumn. It is nearly three weeks since it has rained any & the rains we had before did not wet the ground an inch down. Very warm again this evening. I heard up to Mrs. Mc___ that two Negro boys that were carrying water fell dead-this excessive heat is hard on the colored folks.

January 1, 1861. A Happy New Year to all. This bids fair or promises now to be the most unhappy & troubled year of our National life. I hear that preparation for war are being made & hate & malice seems to be the prevailing passions. I cannot & dare not foresee the end.
[March 16] Pleasant. Mary came up to see us in afternoon. I do not feel very strong yet, but I hope to escape the chills. The prevailing opinion now, is that Fort Sumpter will be evacuated next Monday. It may be so but I hope not. It is growing cold this evening & we have a new moon too.
Jan 13 A Rainy Sabbath. James was up in town last night & heard Mr. Rode's company were ordered to Mobile & would go down on the Cherokee this morning, so he & Andrew rode down to the river to see them, but they do not go till Wednesday. The Greensboro Company were on board however, bound for Mobile, & the Eutaw Company are ordered to be ready in ten days. They are preparing & I expect the North is preparing too. Evening. Rained all day & is dark & stormy tonight. George did not come up.
[January 16] A lovely day-the sun shone in all his splendor. We got up very early in the morning & prepared to go down to the river to see the boat come down. We got there just as she was coming down-Mr. Rodes was on her with his company-There were only twenty three of his original company, part of them deserted & he was obliged to take some rough Volunteers. James came on shore, told us he was going to Mobile. He said Mrs. Rodes felt very bad at parting with her husband & Mr. Rodes felt bad to have so many shrink back in time of danger, after he had drilled them all summer. James said it was like a funeral & Tuscaloosa. When the boat went off they fired some guns & hurrahed, but not much enthusiasm was manifested. Mr. Howard rode up in the carriage with us.
[January 26] The ground is covered with snow & it is really cold too-looks like winter out. We are packing up today-getting ready in case a boat should come.
Well I feel sorry after all to leave this country-the people have been very kind to me & they are generally very kind & warm hearted.
Evening. We have all moved up to Mr. Caskey's & are looking for a boat tonight. I hope there will [be] one come soon.
[February 7] We arrived at the [Oshkosh] depot about eleven o'clock last night & found on getting out of the cars it was awful cold. We were nearly frozen just riding up to the Adams House. We went in & warmed us then started for Algoma. We found the folks abed & asleep-no fires & it seemed gloomy enough to us just leaving summer weather.
[April 18] Stormy-Snow & sometimes rain. Almost like a winter day.
Evening-Mrs. Hackett has gone home. The sun came out beautifully just before setting. There is to be a Union Meeting at Oshkosh tonight.
[April 19] Very pleasant indeed. George has gone to Oshkosh to see how that case comes on. Poor woman I pity her if she is guilty. I hear today there are forty volunteers that offered themselves last night.
Evening-George has come home & bought a paper just printed. They were fighting in Baltimore-the mob & some of the soldiers. The have been beating up recruits in Oshkosh today & some of our neighbors have Volunteered.
[April 24] Windy & cloudy & rail squalls. Sometimes the sun comes out for a moment. The ladies in Oshkosh are making a flag for the company, or I presume one for each company.
[April 25] A Very pleasant morning. I called to see Mrs. Jewell to learn about the flags. The ladies in Oshkosh are making them of silk on sewing machines. Red white & blue & stars put on & appropriate mottoes. I came home & had a chill. Preparations for war are going on both North & South.
[April 30] Last day of April. Pleasant in morning but windy & showery the most of the day. Father went to Omro this morning & George has gone after news again. He makes a daily journey to the Lower part of the City. The news was of so great importance last night. Preparations for war are still going on & an attack on Cairo is expected. I presume an attack will be made at ---- Point soon.
May 1 "May Day" Really cold. We heard the flag was to be presented to the Military company this morning, but it is not so. They - the tailors & ladies in Oshkosh are making their uniforms & they are to start for Madison Saturday morning.
[May 4] A very pleasant but cool morning. George & Hattie have gone down to see the flag presented to Mr. [Bouck's] company [Company E, 2nd Wisconsin].
Evening George came home said there the largest gathering he ever saw in Oshkosh. The company departed amidst weeping & heartrending farewells. Mr. Scott's company is to start next Wednesday. I must go down if it does not storm. There is no Telegraph dispatch this evening & news of the day is unimportant.
[John Walter Scott was born circa 1824 in Pennsylvania. He was married on May 1, 1850 to Henrietta A. Wright. John Scott was listed in the 1860 federal census as a jeweler residing in the fifth ward of the city of Oshkosh, Winnebago County. John enlisted in Oshkosh on Apr. 21, 1861. He was commissioned as Captain of Company B, 3rd Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry and was promoted to Major in that regiment on June 1, 1862. John was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on March 10, 1863 and was wounded at Cedar Mountain. He was killed in action on May 1, 1863 at Chancellorsville, Virginia.]
[May 9] Pleasant I had another chill today. George has gone down after the news. People expected the second military company to leave this morning & teams have gone by in abundance. It seems they do not go till they get further orders from the Gov. Mr. Randall.
[June 22] Pleasant. The war news is quite exciting tonight. It seems there has been a great battle fought at Bull's Run in which our troops were victorious. It was fought yesterday between three o'clock in morning & two in afternoon-eleven hours-hard fighting. The enemy retreated to Manasses & it seems our troops followed & another battle was fought-Monday in which our troops were beaten & forced to retreat. There was a great slaughter on both sides. At first we heard there were three thousand of our soldiers killed but I think it must be a mistake.
[June 23] Pleasant. Mary & I called up to see Anne Carter & I called on Mrs. Dr. Carter. We have more correct news today. There were two killed from Wisconsin & several wounded all belonging in Oshkosh & towns near it. Latest reports say there are not so many wounded as was thought at first. I received a letter from George tonight.

[February 4, 1862] Cold but pleasant. I rode down to see Mary in morning. George carried Mary & Hattie up to Algoma in afternoon. Sarah Lawrence came down with Mary so Hattie staid all night with mother. The war news is not much importance. Captain Bouck has come back is in town now.
[February 5] Snowed last night & snowing today. We have an abundance of snow this winter. There are quite a number of soldiers here now that left in Mr. Bouck's company.
[July 21] Cloudy in afternoon & showery at night. We are having some warm days, but 'tis a cool summer so far. The war news is much the same, no battles, but skirmishes occasionally. The people are waking up to the fact that something decided & energetic must be done. Democrats as well as Republicans have come to the conclusion that Slavery must be meddled with.
[July 28] Pleasant & warm too. The war news is much the same. O what a diversity of opinion & a difference in sentiment of the Northern people. I wish some one would come up with the resolution & decision of a Napoleon, or even a Jackson, who would say-"The Union must & shall be preserved."
[August 4] Pleasant. August has come & I presume we shall have some warm sultry weather, as we usually do in "dog days". The war news is much the same. The President has called for three hundred thousand more men, making in all six hundred thousand to be raised immediately.
[August 5] Quite warm. There is quite an excitement in town as it is rumored that the Government will be obliged to resort to drafting. It seems hard to drag men from their homes & families to go into the Southern Swamps to fight.
[August 9] Not quite so warm today. I visited mother, father was out to his farm. Poor old man will work till he can work no more. Well we are at last hemmed in by military law. It seems for fear of being drafted, many are leaving for Canada-"skedaddling" & the Officers have put a stop to it, by bringing back several & enrolling them in the army for three years. No one can leave the state now.
[August 12] A beautiful day. A great "war meeting" in the grove-everybody is going. They have several speakers-the principle one is George Smith from Madison. Evening. Father came down to hear the speakers, but was so sick he was obliged to stay with me. Every one was pleased with the speeches that were made & excitement runs high.
[August 13] Drums commenced to beat early this morning & volunteers are coming in fast. Men dread to be drafted & so they enroll their names voluntarily. A rainy afternoon, but the drums did not stop beating.
[August14] Still the drums are beating. It is a pleasant day just cool enough to be comfortable. The rebels are getting desperate at the prospect of our raising so many men & are making extra exertions...
[August15] Recruiting is still going on & there is great excitement in town. This county will barely escape drafting & some other counties in the state have furnished more than their quota of men.
[August 18] Pleasant. Monday we again take up the burden of life-commence anew. War is the watchword now, & the drum is constantly beating to arms. Enlistment is still going on & briskly too, as men are afraid of being drafted & dragged to war.
[August 22] Cloudy part of the day. I went out in afternoon & found the sun was very hot indeed. The country is in commotion now, the whole length & breadth. The people are waking up to the truth that this war must be pushed ahead with energy or else all it lost. We here at home begin to realize something of the realities of war & it comes home close when white men have to get a pass to leave the county they live in. As the Negro said, " The blessed day had arrived when white man had to have a pass & the nigger go free".
[August 25] A warm day. George saw Adam Harrington today & he says he saw William in Chicago & he said Andrew [Derby] was killed at the battle of "Fair Oaks" [fighting for the Confederacy]. Poor fellow. 'Tis a hard fate. He was a noble hearted generous boy as ever lived. I have written to William to learn the particulars.
[Andrew J. Derby enlisted as a private in Company B, 11th Alabama Infantry. The regiment was formed in June 1861. They served in the Army of Northern Virgina and fought in most of their campaigns and battles. They surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9, 1865. Captain A. J. Derby formed Company K, 36th Alabama Infantry in May 1862. They fought at Chicamauga, Chatanooga, Nashville, and Spanish Fort. They surrendered on May 4, 1865]
[August 27] George has gone this morning. I spent the day away from home & I find every one is talking of war. Mothers are in affliction at the prospect of their sons leaving them & wives their husbands. Oh it is a mournful time-all our best & bravest doomed to destruction. Many will return alive but maimed for life. I hear that Mrs. Scott has been sent for to go to Washington, as her husband is not able to come home.
[August 28] Still warm. Every day promises a shower, but still we are disappointed. New horrors are being added to the war now, as the Indians have commenced their diabolical work of massacring the inhabitants of Minn. & even our own State is threatened & people are coming down from "up river". It seems the Sioux have murdered about five hundred of the Settlers of Minn. & Fort Ridgely is now besieged by about two thousand of those fiends. God grant that succor may reach them before they are murdered. Oh they are fiends of darkness.
Aug. 31 Last day of summer & a rainstorm commenced in the night. I laid awake several hours last night thinking of the Indians of what an awful thing it would be to be roused from sleep by their horrid War whoop, than which nothing could be more terrible. God save us from such a fate.
Sept. 1 A lovely day indeed. Just cool enough to be pleasant & seems so much like autumn. Willie is seven years old today. We hear various rumors of the Indians difficulties, but nothing definite.
[September 3] Quite warm. Charles & Mary have gone to Black Wolf. They have some good friends there. Our army in Virginia seems to be retreating towards Washington. It may be good policy but it looks discouraging. There were a large number killed in the late battle. I hear that some from Oshkosh were killed. Warren Smith was killed & Ann Bartlet's husband mortally wounded. The battle was fought on the identical Bull Run battleground Aug. 29.
[Joseph W. Smith was born circa 1833 at Maine. He resided at Oshkosh, Winnebago County when he enlisted there on Dec. 1, 1861 in Company E, 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. A lumberman standing just over 5'10" tall, he had black eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion. He was killed in action on Aug. 28, 1862 at Gainesville, Virginia. James Bartlet was born circa 1836 at New York. He was married July 15, 1858 in the city of Oshkosh, Winnebago County to Lucy A. Quinn. James listed his age as 24 and his occupation as lumberman when he enlisted at Oshkosh on Apr. 21, 1861 in Company E, 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. Standing over 5'7" tall, he had black eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion. James was promoted to Corporal in that company in January 1862. He was killed in action on Aug. 28, 1862 at Gainesville, Virginia. A report from another member of his company showed that James had been shot through both hips and was taken prisoner on Aug. 28, 1862. He then died from his wounds while in a rebel prison at Gainesville, Virginia.]
[September 8] A lovely day. There has been a picnic down to the Fair grounds, or where the soldiers are encamped [Camp Bragg] & quite a large number came from Appleton & other places. They came principally to see the soldiers, but it was called a Sabbath School picnic. Mother & I, Mary, Hattie & the children all went down in afternoon to see the soldiers. The picnic was over, but it is a sight worth seeing. It is a little world in itself. The streets & grounds clear down to the fence were full of people going & coming.
[September 9] Hattie has commenced going to the High School today & I have been down in town & found a little German girl, who will help me to take care of Lizzie. Mother did not go home last night & they have all gone down to see the soldiers again, Mrs. Ruggles has gone with them. Charles has been coachman for us this two days. They have a "dress parade" tonight.
[September 10] I visited Mary today as all the Deacon's folks were there. People continue to go to the encampment as much as ever. Paine's company has a picnic today, it ought to have general, a picnic for all the soldiers.
[Charles Nelson Paine was born on Sept. 3, 1831 at Orwell, Bradford County, Pennsylvania. He was a son of Edward Lathrop and Eleanor (Ross) Paine. He came to Wisconsin in 1854 and located at Milwaukee, Milwaukee County. The following year he came to Oshkosh, Winnebago County with son Charles. They erected a sawmill, which was the foundation of the Paine Lumber Company. Charles was listed as a lumberman in the 1860 census. Charles resided at Oshkosh when the Civil War began. After enlisting there he was commissioned as Captain of Company B, 21st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry on Aug. 26, 1862. Charles resigned his commission on Dec. 2, 1863 due to a disability, he having suffered from poor health. He returned to Oshkosh and to his position as president of Paine Lumber Company.]
[September 11] Another picnic today. Picnics are the order of the day. It is as it should be a general dinner for the Soldiers. Too bad, too bad rained-a heavy shower just as the tables were set. Evening, it cleared up a little & Mr. Ruggles carried mother, Mrs. Ruggles & I down to see them leave their encampment for the cars. O the crowd of people, some crying, & some looking as though they felt too bad to cry. Oh the sad partings there [are] today. I saw them formed into line & marched out to the railroad-a thousand men make quite a show.
[September 13] A cloudy day & quite cool. Other soldiers have come in to occupy the barracks & we shall soon have another regiment [the 32nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry].
[September 15] Pleasant. The leaves are falling-a few from our plum trees. There is another regiment of soldiers at the Fair Grounds & they are ordered by General Pope to stay here as trouble with the Indians is anticipated.
[September 20] We hear of nothing but war now & it is natural that it should occupy of people's minds, that so many are looking eagerly for news. When we think of so many husbands, sons, & brothers that are in the army exposed to peril it is a wonder to me that there is not more excitement.
[September 23] Very pleasant in morning & I sent down for Mary to come up, but it rained very hard in afternoon so they could not come. It seems the Wisconsin 2nd [Regiment] was cut up badly-only some 60 men left out of a thousand men. I pity their sad friends at home.
[September 24] Pleasant again. Colonel [John W.] Scott has returned wounded. So they come wounded & crippled. The first frost of the season. Mary & family visited me in afternoon, "Tis pleasant for families to exchange visits to keep alive the social feelings. We are greatly blessed as a family living as we do within the limit of a mile.
[September 25] Pleasant again. Really lovely weather. I see the President has issued a Proclamation freeing the slaves of States in Rebellion, but it does not come in to force till the first of January…
[October 10] Raining again. The ground is perfectly saturated with water. I hear the 21[st] Regiment has been in a heavy battle, & I expect their friends here are looking anxiously for news. There was a soldier [from the 32nd Regiment] buried of solemn sight, folded flag, or rather furled & muffled drum. Only the company he belonged to followed him.
[October 14] Pleasant but cool. We are having cool nights now. I hear the 21[st] Regiment has been in a severe fight & many of its boys are killed & wounded. Levi Lake has lost an arm.
[Levi C. Lake was born circa 1840 at New York. He was a son of Henry and Nancy. Levi resided at Oshkosh, Winnebago County when he enlisted there on Aug. 13, 1862 in Company C, 21st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. He was wounded at Chaplin Hills, Kentucky on Oct. 8, 1862. A ball passed through one shoulder and his other arm was completely shot off. Levi died of those wounds on Nov. 5, 1862 at Perryville, Kentucky.] His parents are poor people & live in Algoma-the upper part of the City. The Major was killed & Colonel Sweet has since died of his wounds.
Oct. 20 A pleasant morning. Cool & windy. I went to church in morning listened to a sermon by Mr. Muller, (our minister this year) from Col. 3 ch. 2 3 & 4 vs. It was a good sermon. Mr. Fellows preaches Dr. Blake's son's funeral sermon this afternoon at two o'clock. He was either killed in battle or died from his wounds afterwards. Thus they go from earth, are sacrificed on the altar of their country. [Colburn Blake of Company B, 3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry died in the battle at Antietam, Maryland on Sept. 17, 1862. His obituary listed him as a "son of Oshkosh." He was survived by his widow and other members of his family.]
[October 28] We do not hear much from the scenes of action now. Both sides are preparing for other scenes of carnage & death. Returned prisoners state hard things if true. They tell of cruelties & hard usage that will not reflect much honor on the South.
[October 30] Really too warm to be comfortable. I went out to pay calls in afternoon & I was uncomfortably warm. I hear Mr. Stokes has returned from a Southern prison, he tells hard stories of the treatment he received there. [Two men named Stokes served from Winnebago County during the war. Neither is listed as being prisoners of war.]
[November 20] Pleasant. Many of our soldiers in the 21[st] Regiment are dying. Three from Algoma have already died & I hear Rose Blinn's husband (she that was Rose Edmonds) is dead-they have not told her yet. Poor woman I pity her as well as others bereaved.
[Noble A. Blinn was married on Oct. 24, 1860 to Rosamund Edmonds in Winnebago County. Noble listed his residence as Oshkosh, Winnebago County when he enlisted on Aug. 5, 1862 in Company B, 21st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. He was promoted to corporal in that company and later to sergeant. He contracted a disease and died on Nov. 12, 1862 at Bowling Green, Kentucky.]
Nov. 23 A lovely day indeed. Mother came down to church, a Mr. Baker from Appleton preached. I hear Edwin Wing has returned. He was badly wounded sometime ago. They are coming home daily sick & crippled. Poor fellows, I pity them.
[Edwin B. Wing was born circa 1835 in Canada. He resided at Oshkosh, Winnebago County when he enlisted there on Apr. 21, 1861 in Company E, 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. Married and a lumberman, he stood over 5' 9" tall with gray eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion. He was assigned as above. Edwin was promoted to Corporal in June 1862 and he was promoted to Sergeant on Sept. 10, 1862. Edwin was wounded in the leg at Antietam, Maryland on Sept. 17, 1862 and was discharged due to his wounds.]
[December 2] A cold day. Lizzie & I spent the afternoon with Mary. The Ladies of Oshkosh are getting up a Christmas dinner for the 21[st] Regiment. It seems from intelligence we heard from letters & from some whom have returned that they are in a needy condition. They have been on the march on hard fare [half rations] & are greatly reduced in numbers, only three hundred able for duty & still are dying at the rate of one a day.
[December 13] Clearing off but cloudy still. This rain has filled our cistern nearly. The sun has come out this afternoon & it is beautiful-a lovely day in winter. I am waiting for news, as there must soon come the strife of battle. Poor soldiers, I pity them. They are true to their country, but alas so much cannot be said for the officers.
[December 20] Quite cold. Saturday again. There is rumor of a battle in Tennessee & 'tis said that the 21[st Wisconsin] is cut up again. I hope not.
Dec. 21 Cloudy & snowing a little. It does not stop people going to church. "Tis a pleasant sight to see families dressed in their best going to church. The Germans are most zealous in their devotions & most regular in their attendance on "divine worship.
There is to be two funerals today. One a returned soldier, Jacob Choate, who died last Wednesday night & the other a young lady, who died of consumption.
[Jacob B. Choate resided at Oshkosh, Winnebago County when he enlisted there on Aug. 15, 1862 in Company B, 21st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. He was wounded slightly in the arm at the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky. Jacob was discharged due to his wounds on Dec. 13, 1862 and he died at Oshkosh on Dec. 18, 1862.]

January 1, 1863, A News Years greeting to all. Today the Presidents Proclamation comes into effect & he will doubtless designate the States & parts of States in which it be put in force as fast as events will permit. The Negroes are jubilant & indeed it should be a year of jubilee to them. The Negroes in the Southern States will doubtless pass through fiery trials before they get their freedom, as they will be watched with a jealous & revengeful eye. It places our Government on a different footing. We are now the champions of freedom, while the Southern Government is based on slavery for which they are fighting. We all spent the day with mother, -children & grandchildren. Shall we all be alive to meet next "New Years Day"? God alone knows.
[January 20] Snowing but 'tis so warm it melts some. People are improving the snow but runners cut through. I have heard no news this week. They are getting up contributions in town for the 21[st Wisconsin] Regiment. They have lost all their clothing that has been sent to them by their friends & are in a needy condition. They have had a skirmish with the enemy & were obliged to burn their wagons to prevent them falling into the hands of the enemy.
[March 3] Cool. Old Aunt Charlotte (a colored woman) is washing for me today. She is a witty lively woman, like most of them. She is very indignant at the treatment she received in Oshkosh. There are very few Negroes here & when they go out, every one is staring at them, & boys are imprudent to them.
[March 19] Still pleasant & quite warm. There is a great deal of sickness this spring. All the Dr.'s are riding continually. Mr. Whitney who lives just back of us is very sick-not expected to live. He is a returned soldier, Poor fellows. So they come home with shattered constitutions & shattered limbs. We do not hear any startling news from the seat of war…
[Sylvanus C. Whitney was born circa 1820 at New York. Almira, his wife, was born circa 1822, also at New York. Sylvanus was listed in the 1860 federal census as a restaurant owner residing in the fourth ward of the city of Oshkosh, Winnebago County. Listed with him were his wife and Celia, a daughter. Sylvanus enlisted at Oshkosh on Nov. 8, 1861 in Company F, 18th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. He was then promoted to Sergeant in that company. Sylvanus was discharged on Feb. 4, 1863 and died March 27, 1863 in Oshkosh.]
[March 20] A snow storm. I have been looking for a rainstorm & doubtless this will turn to rain. I am impatient to hear from Chicago. George's brother William went to Memphis some weeks ago & intended to try to reach James or hear something from him & I am impatient for him to return. If he hears from James, he will doubtless learn if Andrew [Derby] is indeed dead.
[March 28] A pleasant day again. It snowed very little. Mr. Whitney died at midnight last night & he & his father will both be buried in one grave tomorrow. It is a usual occurrence. The old gentleman said when he was taken sick that they might both be buried at one time.
[May 5] A cold windy rainy day & some times a few flakes of snowfalls. It is said that there has been severe fighting in Virginia-that our troops have been successful, but a crowning victory has not been reached yet. Lieutenant Colonel Scott was killed in Saturday's engagement I think. His wife is very sick with lung fever & her friends hesitated to tell her, but her brother & Mr. Jackson went up this morning to tell her & I heard that she would not believe it.
[June 6] The "Copperheads" had a great rejoicing last night, had bonfires & fireworks & among other things-whiskey…
[June26] …. There is a great "Democratic" gathering at the grove today, or rather bordering on secession, I should think by the speeches that were made there.
[July 14] Again pleasant & cool. It is said fighting is going on at Antietam again. O for strength to our arms & victory to crown their efforts. One of my Scholars & old acquaintances was killed last week. Samuel Hackett. He went away in the first company that went from Oshkosh-has served his country for two years & now has given his life.
[Samuel F. Hackett was born circa 1839 at Maine. He was a son of Moses J. and Charlotte (Chase). Samuel was listed in the 1860 federal census as a carpenter residing at the home of his parents in the fifth ward of the city of Oshkosh, Winnebago County. At the time of his enlistment in Company E, 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry he was a single farmer standing 5'8" tall with blue eyes, black hair and a florid complexion. He enlisted at Oshkosh on Apr. 21, 1861. Samuel was killed in action at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on July 1, 1863.
[July 21] Still cloudy by spells. "Old Aunt Charlotte" is washing for me today. She is a genuine "darkey". She was speaking of the riot in New York & of their stoning & killing Negroes. She said she kept in her house for two or three days pretty close. I told her no one would hurt her here. I don't know she said, "Some of 'em look at me mighty scornful when I go long the street, you dunno whar you are safe now".
[August 6] This is the day the President of the United States has appointed for a National Thanksgiving for our victories. I went down to the congregational church & listened to a discourse delivered by Mr. McArthur. It was sound to the core & very pertinent to the occasion. He set the truth forth in just such a light as suits my views on the war.
[September 11] Pleasant again. Officers & men are coming home on furlough. Some of them sick, some disabled & all seem fully decided to put down this rebellion.
[September 12] A lovely day indeed. All this morning teams from the country have been coming in to the great "Union Mass" meeting to be held in the grove this afternoon. I have been down to the grove to listen to the speeches delivered by Sentor Doolittle & Judge Howe & some short speeches by others.
[September 18] A cold day-cold enough for a cloak & furs. A very sudden change indeed. I attended the "Ladies Society" at Mrs. Scott's this afternoon. We had a pleasant time, very pleasant. There was a large attendance in evening.
[September 25] There is a ball at Algoma tonight & no doubt some will go who have husbands & friends in the army. I cannot conceive how they go & dance now, when there is a big battle going on as I heard there is in Tennessee Rosecrans is fighting hard.
[September 28] Pleasant. We are having some lovely weather this month. There has been a severe battle fought in Georgia-between Rosecrans & Bragg & we suffered severely in killed & wounded. O the horrors of war. The regiment that went from here in which so many of the Oshkosh were is all cut to pieces.
[October 3] There was a great political "Union Meeting" in town last night. I do not know who were the speakers. Election is in view & there is a stir among "dry bones".
[October 9] Pleasant. We are continually hearing of others from Oshkosh that are killed & some wounded & taken prisoners. O how many hearts are nearly crushed.
[October 21] Pleasant & cool. No war news. We have come to look upon the war as a matter of course & we read an account of a battle as calmly as of any accident that might in everyday life. A few years ago the bare mention of such suffering & anguish would arouse our feelings to the highest pitch. It is a painful thing now, at least it is to me, but by repetition the pain is lessened.
[October 27] A very pleasant day indeed. It is pleasant & warm again after the snow. There is much excitement throughout the North on account of election. Party spirit seems to run as high as in times of peace. It seems to me that party spirit ought to be laid aside now in this our country's need.
[October 28] An aged gentleman-a Jackson Democrat spoke in town last night. He was in real earnest & denounced the copperheads bitterly. The Unionists seem to be gaining the day. Penn & Ohio have gone "all right" & I hope New York will follow their example.
[November 3] This is Election Day here in the city & I hope there will be a large majority on the Union Side. I do not care of what ____ or name of politics if they are true to the Union & the cause of Liberty.
[November 4] A rainy day & so muddy. The victorious party had a joyous time last night, had fire works illuminations etc. The Union ticket had a large majority-a larger one than they have ever had in this state before. It argues good for the cause.
[November 10] A cold windy day. It seems the "Copperheads" have got ingloriously beaten & are rather down hearted about it. Oh! How glad I am that such traitors to the cause of liberty are disappointed in their wicked designs. "Down with the traitors".
[November 16] Pleasant. There is considerable excitement in town about the draft & clubs are being formed. By joining & paying fifty dollars the three hundred dollars will be hard for them in case they were drafted. It seems the Gov. is not obtaining many men by drafting. They need men & must have them. Many are volunteering & I hope they will continue to do so.
[November 24] An awful day. Snowed from daylight until dark without intermission & the wind blew almost a hurricane. We have heard from the draft. Charles (my brother-in-law) is among the drafted also Dan, Mr. Derby's cousin, Mr. Carter, Mr. Sawyer's son [Edgar P. Sawyer] etc. Some will pay the three hundred dollars, some are in clubs & some will be obliged to go, I suppose.
[November 30] Last day of Nov. It is cold but pleasant. The ground is covered with snow & it looks like winter out. I suppose the "conscripts" will be notified today. Many of them have enlisted & so will get the bounty. They can enlist before they are notified.
[December 8] Warm but cloudy & promises a storm of some kind. I went down to Mary's to see if Charles had come home. He was at home, got exempt, by his having fits.
[December 11] It is thawing still. I hope we shall have a good rainstorm before it comes on a hard snow. Congress is in session again-commenced its labors last Monday, I wonder if they will do away with the three hundred-dollar clause in the "conscript act".
[December 15] Cold. I kept one plant - a geranium up out of the cellar, to remind me of summer & it froze last night. I was very sorry to see it drooping. Daniel has gone to Green Bay tonight to see about his being drafted.
[January 13, 1864] A pleasant day. Lucy & I called up to see Maria-her babe has been very sick. It is a pretty little girl, looks like its mother I think. Mrs. Spoer her neighbor is in trouble, her husband is about to be blind, or the Dr. is afraid he will be. He had sore eyes when he came home from the army & they have continued sore & have grown so much worse that he was obliged to go to Milwaukee to an Oculist.
[Solomon C. Spoer was born circa 1840 at Ohio. Lavina, wife of Solomon, was born circa 1838 at Ohio. Solomon was listed in the 1860 federal census as a jeweler residing in the fifth ward of the city of Oshkosh, Winnebago County. Solomon enlisted in Company D, 32nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry at Oshkosh on Aug. 21, 1862. He was promoted to corporal in that company. He was discharged on Mar. 20, 1864 due to a disability. He was listed in 1883 at P.O. Oshkosh and receiving a pension of $8 per month for ophthalmia. He was listed in the 1890 federal census as then residing at 40 W. Irving Street in Oshkosh.]
[February 22] A pleasant morning. The snow is melting off fast. I have had company all day. Mrs. Lawrence & Mrs. Meed. It seems our troops are still pushing on. Sherman is at Meridian, very near Jones Bluff where we lived one year while we were in the South. There is one planter there that I should be particularly glad to see stripped of his Negroes. He was a tyrant, as much so as any of the eastern monarchs.
[March 14] Cold & windy. Our war news is much the same, no great battles as yet. There is a feeling & a strong feeling stirring about the candidate for the next president. I hope the Lord will order it aright, so that the best man, whoever he may be, will preside when the destiny of freedom is to be decided. I believe that God rules in this war, I believe it was suffered to come upon us, in part for our sins, in complicity with slavery, & for our personal sins also. However it closes it will be the "burial of Slavery".
[March 31] Last day of March. Cloudy still. George tells me he saw Joseph Barnes down in town a soldier "home on furlough". He is full of jokes still going away into soldier life has not changed him.
[Joseph Ingham Barnes was born circa 1838 at New York. He listed his residence as Neenah, Winnebago County when he enlisted in Company I, 21st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry on Aug. 13, 1862. He was assigned as above and was promoted to Sergeant in that company. He was transferred to the U.S. Veteran Volunteers on July 27, 1864 and was mustered out on June 30, 1865.]
[May 24] Pleasant-still. We need some rain very much. Our city is full of soldiers now home on furlough-enjoying themselves in every way they can. They do not seem to let thoughts of again returning to battles strife, mar their present enjoyments. It is well that they seem unconscious of danger
[June 9] Pleasant & cool. The convention has nominated Mr. Lincoln for the next President & I hope he will be reelected. I believe he is an honest Christian & has done as his duty bade him do. We do not hear much from Gen. Grant, but he is not idle, no doubt he is hard at work. He seems to have inspired his men with the most enduring courage & unbounded confidence in himself.
[June 22] Hotter still & no rain. I am afraid we shall have much sickness if this burning heat lasts. Mr. [Philetus Horace] Sawyer has come back from Washington. Mr. Lincoln is nominated again for President & Andrew Johnson of Tenn. for Vice President. Mrs. [Melvina M. Hadley] Sawyer says, Mrs. [Mary Todd] Lincoln goes into aristocratic extravagancies-such as thousand dollar shawls etc. She has not a true patriotic heart or she would shun such needless show.
July 1 I came up home last evening. Mother is all alone. Raining today-a rainy Friday. The remnant of the Wisconsin 2nd came home last evening & they met with a grand reception. Bells were rung, cannons fired, & the five companies turned out etc. Ferry Street was a perfect jam. Supper was provided for them & everything done to make it pleasant for them. They have been gone three years & now their time is out.
[4] "The Fourth of July" 1864, We have had no celebration today only the people coming into town & a circus, which last I think very little of. The ladies of the Sanitary Commission had a dinner at Schneider's Hall & cleared over three hundred dollars I believe. All honor to those working for the soldiers. We went up into the hall & patronized them all we could afford too.
[July 15] Warm & pleasant. The "3[rd] Wisconsin" or the remnant of the company that went from here came back last night & not a sign of welcome to them. I think it a piece of unparalleled partiality. Is not one soldier that perils his life for his country as good as another?
[August 16] …. There will be a great contention for the Presidential Seat this fall & some are even now turning against Mr. Lincoln. O I do hope if he is not elected some other man will be who will push this war though to a close, some one that will not yield to the insolent demands of the rebels. I have yet faith that Mr. Lincoln will be elected again.
[August 18] … Every day or two we hear of the death of some of our acquaintances, or some one of whom we have heard or known by sight. And now more are volunteering from this city-are going to be killed or wounded-maimed for life.
[October 10] A lovely day. There is meeting this afternoon but I am to tired to go. I went to a war meeting Saturday evening at Sneiders Hall or rather a Union meeting. We were addressed by Rev. Mr. Stove, Rev. Mr. Haddock, Rev. Mr. Fellows & the Rev. Mr. Smart from Detroit, the same that preached yesterday afternoon. The hall was crowded & cheer after cheer went up at the last.
[November 8] Cloudy in morning-rained hard before noon. A rainy afternoon. This is Election Day & men are going up & down in the rain to vote. I suppose "Honest Old Abe" will be elected. The democrats expect he will be our next President. I hope he will take a bold stand & do something to bring the war to a close as soon as possible.
[November 19] A pleasant day. Next week comes Thanksgiving. Very few celebrate it in the good old New England style. It has come to be a National thanksgiving now, all the states celebrating it on the same day. Saturday again. How many weeks come & go & yet we heed not the flight of time.
[23] … Thomas Hayter has come home. He has been a prisoner in the South for a long time. He & one of his comrades got away at one time & walked 150 miles & had got to the river across which our troops were stationed. They had constructed a raft on which to cross, but were recaptured before they got across, & carried back to Georgia. He relates some sad stories about our poor boys-he says their rations at times was a pint of meal & a spoonful of salt a day & the poor fellows would get so hungry they would eat the meal down raw.
[Thomas E. Hayter was born circa 1836 at New York. He was a son of Henry and Elizabeth Hayter. Phebe, wife of Thomas, was born circa 1839 at Massachusetts. Thomas was listed in the 1860 federal census as an engineer residing in the fifth ward of the city of Oshkosh, Winnebago County. Thomas resided at Oshkosh when he enlisted there on Aug. 13, 1862 in Company B, 21st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. He was promoted to Sergeant and then 1st Sergeant of that same company. Thomas was taken prisoner at Chickamauga, Georgia and was mustered out on May 24, 1865.]
[December 31] …Thomas Hayter tells hard stories of the treatment of our prisoners in Southern "prison-pens" O it is so hard to hear of our brave soldiers starving to death, after having fought for our protection & defense. Last day of 1864.

[January 23, 1865] Quite cool but pleasant. They celebrated the taking of Charleston [South Carolina] down in town last night. We heard the cannon & looking saw the "sky-rockets". They looked pretty.
[March 4] Fourth of March-Inaugural - Mr. Lincoln commences his second term today. I hope peace will come to our land during the next four years.
March 5, 1865 Cloudy in morning. I went to church in morning. Mr. Pillsbury preached from Mat. 25 ch & 40 vs. He is agent for the Freedman's Society & is soliciting aid for the poor colored man or more especially his helpless family, as most of the able bodied men are in the army.
April 3, 1865 Hurrah! Hurrah for! Richmond! The drums are beating, the bells are ringing, flags are streaming & fluttering in the breeze & people are going mad I believe, & no wonder. Hurrah! Hurrah! for Grant & Sherman, Sheridan & all the under Officers soldiers & all! Hurrah! Richmond has fallen! 18 thousand prisoners with it & what other good news has come I cannot tell.
Everybody is going down to town to see what is going on & to hear the news-ladies, men, boys, girls & all are traveling.
[April 4] Cloudy & raining in forenoon, but has cleared off tonight. I went down in town last night to see the celebration bonfires-fireworks, cannon firing, [and] engine companies out etc. We listened to speeches by several gentlemen - among them Mr. Haddock-they all spoke very well indeed. The good news has not been confirmed today-but no doubt it is true as it came from City Point.
[April 10] A lovely day indeed-almost like summer. It was a mistake about Gen. Lee's being taken. It was not R. E. Lee-it was his nephew. The news has come today again that Gen. R. E. Lee has surrendered himself & army to Gen. Grant & this time it is true. Flags are flying in honor of the glorious victory. Hurrah! for our brave armies!
[April 11] A cloudy rainy day. George brought home a paper last night, which contained the correspondence between Generals Lee & Grant concerning the surrender. Grant has paroled Lee & all his army. It is also rumored today that Johnson has surrendered to some one of our Officers. I hope it is true.
[April 15] O this has been a day of anguish & mourning to me, and doubtless all loyal hearts have been ____. Our President has been assassinated!!
[The following pages are edged in black.]
April 15, 1865
I cannot write with any degree of composure today. George came home this morning and said the climax was reached now! In wonder at his agitation I questioned him as to his meaning.
His answer was-The President and Mr. Seward have both been assassinated!! Mr. Lincoln died this morning but Mr. Seward is alive yet! O the sudden anguish! To think it has come to this, to think that this should de (be) done in our boasted land of liberty, and Christian privileges. It is a rainy gloomy day out and it well accords with my feelings. Our Country today is one great "house of mourning".
April 16, 1865 A pleasant morning. I went to church in morning and found our church draped in mourning. Black cloth looped up with white ribbons the pulpit. Shrouded in red, white & black and a draped photograph of our murdered president hanging behind the altar. Mr. Haddock preached from Jeremiah 5 ch & 30 vs-"A wonderful & horrible thing is committed in the land" Our church was crowed to overflowing.
[April 18]…Oh the villainy & deep-seated cruelty & revenge that must fill the hearts of these base assassins! I hope they will be brought to speedy justice. It seems that Mr. Johnson was included in the program of martyrs. I hope Mr. Seward will continue to improve & will soon be able to attend to the affairs of State. Now in this trying crises we need all the wisdom gained by experience in Office to help our Country through this perilous time.
April 19, 1865 Rainy and gloomy. This is our President's funeral day. Mourning, mourning everywhere. We were awakened at sunrise this morning by the tolling of bells and the cannons deep toned dirge. At twelve o'clock we attended services, held in the Congregational church. Rev. Mr. Haddock delivered an appropriate address. His text was "Know ye not that a prince etc." The church was enshrouded in black, the pulpit trimmed with crape looped up with ribbons. The address was very affecting, and altogether it was the most affecting scene I ever witnessed.
The procession formed at the courthouse. Both sides of Ferry Street [Main Street] were lined with spectators. The procession was headed by pall bearers-the clergy, city Officers, next came the hearse containing a coffin shrouded in "our country's flag". Next came the "Good Templars," the different fire companies, citizens and all who chose to follow. It was a sad and solemn sight. We next went to the grove, and listened to a prayer by Rev. Mr. Haddock and afterwards an address by Rev. Mr. Whitcomb a Baptist minister. It was very appropriate & also very affecting. After singing by the choir, Rev. Mr. Haft (Episcopalian) pronounced the benediction.
The rain held up just long enough for the vast multitude to reach their homes, where it came down in torrents. Clouds and gloom have hung o'er us. Every countenance bore the marks of gloom and sadness in the heart and nearly every person wore some badge or token of mourning. Still more it saddens the heart to think that in every city town and village in the loyal states, the mournful processions assemble. O the mourning and unavailing sorrow in Washington today. Our nation's capitol today contains all that is mortal of its "murdered president"
[June 21] A nice day cool & pleasant. Mother & Mary have gone out into the country strawberring or rather to eat them. Our society is packing the things that they have been making to send to the Milwaukee fair. It is for the purpose of aiding to build a Wisconsin "soldier's home"
[2June 6] A pleasant day. We are having nice cool weather now. Great preparations are being made throughout the country to celebrate the Fourth & it is right & proper to celebrate it this year with more than usual spirit & zest. Peace has again come to our distracted land, the din of war has ceased & soldiers are returning home & resuming the pursuits of peace. No doubt our country will be in an unsettled (unsettled) state for a long (time). We shall doubtless hear of murders & many outrages, but in time this will wear away.
[June 29] A pleasant day. I was getting ready to go down in town when a gentleman called & told Mr. Derby that Mr. Howard was in town, so George went down with the buggy & bought him up. He made but a short call. There are quite a number of men in Chicago who have lately come from Eutaw & so we have heard from there. Mr. Howard says that those men say that Andrew [Derby] is dead-that he was killed at the battle of Frankfort, or Franklin.
July 4 "Hurrah for the Fourth" but a rainy gloomy one. The noise & hubbub commenced at twelve o'clock last night, but the heavy rain this morning & the thunder & lightning superceded the sunrise salute. It rained hard until about eleven o'clock when signs of clearing up became visible. Father took dinner with us & then we all went down in town to see what was going on. We found an expectant crowd, waiting for something & soon we saw the procession coming up Washington Street. It passed on up to the grove & we followed & had the pleasure of listening to an oration delivered by Ex-Gov. Solomon of this State. It was an excellent speech. It rained very hard again at night & spoiled their fireworks, & mad (made) it unpleasant for those who went to the circus & different balls.
[July 12] Warm again. I have been reading of the execution of four of those conspiracy prisoners. Mrs. Surrat, Mr. Payne, Harold & Atzeroth were hung July 7, 1865. It is a sad thing-to hear of a woman being hung. No doubt she deserved to die as much as other criminals, but it seems revolting to string up a woman by the neck. She died without a struggle, but Payne died a miserable death in consequence of the knot slipping from under his ear.
[July 19] … There seems to be trouble brewing on account of (Negro Suffrage) I cannot see why the Negroes should not vote as well as those ignorant (clay eaters) the majority of whom cannot write nor yet read their own names if they set up in type before them. The lovers of true liberty will watch & wait with much anxiety.
[November 29] Pleasant in morning but snowed some in afternoon. It is growing colder. We received a letter from Andrew [Derby] this week. It seems he was not even wounded, though he wrote he had some very narrow escapes. I am glad he escaped so well.
Event Civil War
Category 8: Communication Artifact
Legal Status Oshkosh Public Museum
Notes Nancy C. Derby was born August 30, 1830. She married George M. Derby in Lancaster, Massachusettes in 1852. The couple came to Oshkosh in 1854. The couple had three known children: William H. Derby, 1855-1882; unknown baby; and Lizza Derby, 1861-1872. Prior to the Civil War, the family moved to Alabama, but returned when the war started. Her husband George operated the Derby & Corran Shingle Mill for many years. He died January 22, 1886. Nancy then married her brother-in-law, Captain Andrew J. Derby on March 1, 1887. Andrew had remained in Alabama to look over the business interests. He may be the same Captain A. J. Derby who raised Company K, 36th Alabam Infantry in Tuscaloosa in May 1862 and fought for the Confederacy. He owned an extensive cotton plantation in Alabama after the Civil War. She died on January 10, 1910 and is burried in Riverside Cemetery.
Object ID RG62
Object Name Record Group
People Derby, Nancy C.
Derby, George M.
Derby, William H.
Derby, Lizza
Sawyer, Edgar Philetus
Sawyer, Mary Eleanor Jewell
Sawyer, Melvina M. Hadley
Sawyer, Philetus Horace
Scott, John Walter
Bouck, Gabriel
Derby, Andrew J.
Subjects Pioneers
Rural women
Civil War
Railroad accidents
Fires
Steamboat accidents
Steamboats
Secession
Circuses & shows
Cities & towns
Theatrical productions
2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
5th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
Recruiting & enlistment
Shopping
Sewing
Roads
Abolition movement
Abolitionists
21st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
32nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
Draft
Draft resisters
Afro-Americans
Slavery
Slaves
Freedmen
Prisoners of war
Camp Bragg
Native American
Indian Wars
Racism
Title Nancy C. Derby Collection
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Last modified on: December 12, 2009