SOLDIER JOURNALS OF PRIVATE/SERGEANT MAJOR O.S. PENNEY, 27TH LOUSIANA INFANTRY

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Two small journals, one detailing the civilian activities of O.S. Penney between 1859 and October 1861, the second recording his activities from his enlistment in the 27th Louisiana, 15 March 1863, through September 7, 1863. (Born in 1837, Penney was aged 22 to 26 during the time span covered). The leather covered journals are small memoranda size, 3 x 5”, with no markings, Both journals have outer fold-ever flap, and both are scuffed and worn, w/ small circular piece torn from the cover with the darker 27th Louisiana soldier journal. Entries tend to be terse, and alternate between ink and pencil. They also tend to be cramped, especially during the 1863 phase corresponding to the Siege of Vicksburg. Penciled entries during this phase—March 25 to June 29—require a magnifying glass, but are worth the extra effort. The second soldier journal contains a rich trove of names connected with Civil War Louisiana.

As for the 27th Louisiana, this unit was recruited and raised from the parishes of East Feliciana, Iberville, Winn Bienville, Caddo and Bossier. It was assigned to Gen. Shoup’s Brigade, Dept. of Mississippi and East Louisiana, and during the long siege of Vicksburg lost 58 killed and 96 wounded. After being surrendered and exchanged at Vicksburg, the unit regrouped in the winter of 1864 and served in A. Thomas Brigade, Trans-Mississippi Dept, participating in various Louisiana actions. In July 1862 the unit fielded 26 officers and 249 men, but only a faded remnant remained at it disbandment in the spring of 1865. Penney’s journal opens with his enlistment in mid-march 1862, three weeks prior to the Battle of Shiloh.

Text samples:

(Front endpapers): “ O.S. Penney—Private Co. K—27th Regt La Vols—Born, first time in Newark, Ohio, and second time, at Natchitoches La—Volunteered March 15th 1862”

March 18—“Day of Embarking for N.O. (New Orleans) as Volunteer…Bid farewell to sister & friends and crossing the River in a flat, got on board the Er’d No. 4, after shaking hands with the crowd from town…for two hours all was still on board, gave two cheers for Geo. Houbly who was trying to run away from home to go with us, but was put ashore by Capt. McL…We ate some meat and bread with our fingers and dirks. At about 12 m.—shot at aligators, turtles & hollered goodbye to F.L. Allen.

March 20—“…Arrived at N.O., all the boys staying on board & the Capt. Going up town to see about mustering us in. After a time an officer came on board swore he would not take us for 12 months. We [the regiment} had a talk and concluded unanimously to go the war.”

April 19—Moved to Camp Moore, Penney records the election of Company officers: “Capt. McLaurin elected Lieut. Col. of 27th Regt. La. Vol. under Col. Marks. Marcellus elected 3rd. Lieut—McLaurin Invincibles. I was beaten for Adj’t. (obviously a man of caliber, Penney would a year later be promoted to Sergeant Major)

April 29—“Don’t like the Camp much now for there are too may here. 5000 men…Heard about the surrender of New Orleans (which fell on April 24) and am afraid there is stupidity among somebodies.”

Penney’s Journal for the remainder of 1862 provides many fine glimpses of Confederate camp life, and town life too, made possible by his freedom of movement as a temporary commissary clerk . He has an eye for femininity, as well, and manages to socialize with numerous young ladies in and around Vicksburg. May 1--“I admired all the young ladies, especially Miss Mattie Hooker, so she gave a bouquet to John Dunckelman, and he admires her very much too, especially her taste. I don’t admire that, so much as he does. Some young misses, not more than 13 or 14 came out to the edge of the wood on an old gray horse, to bid us “God Speed.” They looked sweet and smart.”

Also hard glimpses of gun boats on the river:

July 15—“The Arkansas came down from the Yazoo—heard cannonading from daylight til 7 ½ O.C. When rec’d order from Gen. Van Dorne to send whiskey and ice to the men, who had brought her safely to anchor between the batteries. Sent the W. & I. and then they wanted trans. To haul way the wounded—10 in no.—10 killed also. (in margin) “Saw Gen. Van Dorn”

And more gun boat glimpses the following year, just prior to the Siege of Vicksburg:

March 25, 1863: “After divers and sundry alarms, the Yanks started down the river this morning with four boats—by the time time we were in the trenches , the upper batteries opened on them. After 200 M.(ortar) or S.(hells) from our guns, the results foot up, as follows: to wit: One ram “Monitor” so badly crippled that after being towed to shoal water, sunk. One ironclad “Lancaster” sunk in 100 feet of water. Fearful shriek from poor fellows inside (who had better have been at their peaceful homes) when the boilers were pierced. Other two guns boats went back. Good move…”

On April 16th and 22nd Union forces successfully ran the Vicksburg batteries, sending supply transports on the first occasion, followed by empty troop transports on the second.

April 16—“About 12 O.C. 13 craft tried to pass the batteries and three large gunboats in advance. Fought like thunder, threw solid shot and shell and grape all over & around us. Col. Marks and Col. Mc & Major N. all on leave--[actually in town, attending a fancy dress ball]. We thought they would try to land. Soon ___ trapnsports floated by on fire. All our guns did well. Several boats were crippled. Federal prisoners off burned transport say that E.B.H.___ was sunk. The captain and pilot was lost…(Even so, Grant got he needed down river)

April 22—“ 6 boats passed down”.

Despite damage to Union transports, Grant succeeded in getting supplies and troop transports below Vicksburg. He then won critical victories in Vicksburg’s rear (Champion Hill, Big Black) that allowed him to surround the city. Penney’s journal record the disaster at Big Black.

May 17—“Bad news from Big Black. Wounded and stragglers coming in in great disorder. Colonel Marks formed the regiment into a square and made a fine speech. At 9 pm ordered to the front, but got half way and order countermanded.”

Union forces made two unsuccessful assaults on Vicksburg, May 19th and 22nd, and on May 25th settled into the siege that would force its capitulation on July 4. Penney’s journal notes the May 22nd assault and the deaths of Colonels Marks and McLaurin and the wounding of Major Norwich. He cuts a lock of Mark’s hair, and notes—in a later, separate entry—that “Col McLaurin in buried in the 6th grave south of that of Capt. Paul Hamilton.”

June 6—“Fired on party of Yanks at 1 a.m. as they were digging ditch near to 50 yards our breast-works, thinks we killed osme of them. They hallowed back that we were G.(od) D.(amn) cowards and that it was poor shooting as we didn’t hit a thing.”

June 7—“Sunday my which was swollen yesterday was worse today. Shut up tight. Dr. says must go to town but as I am acting for the adjt. Can’t be spared. Gives me such pain.

June 29—“Went to town. Saw Mr. Whitney. Ate good dinner. Got some fodder, but no clean clothes. While coming out a woman was killed next to the city hospital. 2 more killed, 3 wounded.”

June 30—“Rather quiet. Dickinson of Co. K & Watson of Co. C killed..”

July 1—“Pretty quiet in the forenoon—finished mustering, heard of the death of Butts of the 3rd Mo. (Missouri) who kicked the shell out of the fire…About 3 p.m. the Yanks blew up the 6th Mo & we expected a charge, but in vain.

July 2—“Like the last two days very hot but quiet during the a.m. During the p.m. St. Harris, Mr. Nesmith shot thru the brain, and one of five filled in quarters by a shell, three wounded. Spent a pleasant hour with Capt. Brown, Pollard, Pittman, Fussy and Dr. Humble.”

July 3—“Rather quieter than usual til 10 ½ a.m. when there was a flag of truce. During the truce the Yanks shot a man of the 28th Miss. In foot. Yanks would not talk. Asked for Licking County boys but could find none. Truce broke up at 2 ½ o.c., but was resumed at 3 and lasted until 10 o’clock.

July 4—“when we heard that the ___ were surrendered—instead 2 Yankee regiments were already in town. We march away…Shortly afterward Mr. Wilson came to us….praised our bravery. In the evening saw Col. Torrento of the 30th Iowa. (No journal entries between July 4 and July 9).

July 9—“Sent letter to Ma by Capt. Thomas 47th Ohio.”

July 11—“Wrote to mother by Capt. Thomas of the 47th Ohio, left V.B. (Vicksburg)….

In the weeks following, up to the conclusion of the journal narrative in September, 1863, Penney travels, visiting friends and relatives as a paroled prisoner awaiting the reconstitution of his regiment. As Sergeant Major and a man of education, Penney enjoyed a wide acquaintanceship. His journals contain of trove of names useful in Louisiana research. Confederate soldier journals are scarce. This Siege of Vicksburg journal of 27th Louisiana sergeant major is a gem, a stunning collectible. Accompanied by documentation.  [JP]

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