Christopher Gwinn ‘06
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Provenance: Purchased from Charles Apfelbaum, 2005
Henry W. Siebert enlisted and was mustered into Company E of the 16th
Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry as a Sergeant on September
27th, 1862. Little is presently known of Siebert's early
life, other than the fact that he was married as evidenced by the occasional
mention of his wife in the 1863 diary. Despite the fact that Siebert had
enlisted in late September the regiment was not organized and mustered in as a
whole until November of 1862. The unit left the state of Pennsylvania
on November 23rd and served the first two months of its existence in
the fortifications surrounding Washington.
It officially joined the Union Army of the Potomac
in February of 1863 in time for the inauguration of hostilities that spring.
Siebert took part in many of the battles of the Cavalry Corp. of the Army of
the Potomac including Chancellorsville,
Aldie, and Gettysburg,
all of which he accounted in his diary.
What Siebert's activities were in the year of 1864 are up to
speculation. No diary recording his experiences was written, or if it was it is
not currently in the library's possession. It can be surmised that he would
have been involved in the campaigns of the 16th Pennsylvania Cavalry
which included fighting at the May 1864 battles of the Wilderness and Yellow
Tavern. Serving under Phillip Sheridan the 16th Pennsylvania
was actively engaged with the Confederates during Lt. Gen. U. S. Grants
Overland Campaign and unless Siebert was absent on account of sickness,
furlough or other duty would have actively participated in those engagements.
Sgt. Siebert was outside the city of Petersburg,
starting in January of 1865. He was involved in the final campaign of the Army
of the Potomac, chasing Robert E. Lee from
the evacuated earthworks of Petersburg
to Appomattox Court House where the fighting in Virginia
would end with the surrender of Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia. Of the
day Siebert writes, "Great rejoicing in camp the bands are discoursing
their gayest pieces." Sgt. Henry Siebert was discharged from the service
of the United
States on June
Siebert's diary entries evince the monotony and routine of army life punctuated
by brief moments of combat and death. While battles and expeditions are
addressed, weather is more frequently the topic of conversation, with rain,
snow and unending puddles of mud adding misery to his daily existence.
"Got as wet as a kitten" he repeatedly writes, adding to his wife
that, "You can't imagine the hardships a soldier has to undergo."
Details of Siebert's post-war life and date of death are
Scope and Content:
The Henry W. Siebert journals, of which there are two, cover the years 1863 and
1865 respectively. The journals themselves are leather bound notebooks closed
with straps, the whole measuring 3 inches by 6 inches. The 1863 volume numbers
90 pages, with entries for every day. The 1865 diary numbers 150 pages and has
entries for January 1, 1865
through May 24, 1865.
The entries are generally short in nature, not exceeding a paragraph in length.
The text is normally limited to a discussion of the morning weather, general
activity of the day and the geographic location reached by nightfall. A number
of battles are mentioned, including Chancellorsville,
Aldie, Upperville, Gettysburg,
Descriptions of the battles contain limited information and normally don't
extend farther than a tally of casualties and who gained possession of the
Finding Aid - Adobe PDF (12 KB)