Below is a verbatim copy of the diary of Edward B. Root -- Co. H, 2nd New York Veteran Cavalry, also known as the Empire Light Cavalry.
Because of his size, he was at first rejected [for enlistment], but not to be denied, he retired to the end of the line and was accepted on the second try. [Editor's note: Ed Root apparently liked to tell the tale that he enlisted when he was only sixteen years old. Genealogical research shows he was, in fact, eighteen at the time of his enlistment.]
A wealthy relative traveled 200 miles on learning of his enlistment and tried to talk him out of it, even offering to pay $300 for a substitute to take his place.
When all persuasion, arguments, threats and so forth had been tried, the irate relative went home, and Ed Root was still in the Army, where he wanted to be. Yankee farmers don't change their minds very easily, once they're made up. President Lincoln had called for volunteers to help save the Union, and Ed Root was on his way.
In later life, he served as Vice Commander of Charles A. Summer Post, Grand Army of the Republic, New York City.
Many were the tales of Army life told by the veteran. Given a mule to ride to replace a worn-out horse, and exhausted from many hours in the saddle, one dark and rainy night Private Root was sitting sideways in the saddle to ease his fatigue. The mule, frightened by some real or imaginary danger, shied violently, and deposited its dozing rider in a deep puddle of muddy water.
In contrast to the comical was the premonition of an Army buddy, who confided in Pvt. Root his feeling that he would not survive the coming battle, and could not rid himself of the feeling, despite efforts to cheer him up. Soon after the opening of the engagement, Pvt. Root witnessed the fulfillment of the prediction when the man was decapitated by a Confederate round shot.
Sleeping on the ground half-covered with water, toasting hard tack on a stick to drive out the weevils before they could be eaten, were only a few of the incidents Pvt. Root recalled.
After leaving the Army, he married and moved to Dumont, New Jersey, and built a home in Niagara Street.
As a member of the congregation of the Old North Church, he was a devoutly religious man, and was seldom, if ever, known to use profanity, a unique quality in an ex-cavalry trooper. The one exception to this rule was the story he used to tell of being on patrol behind Confederate lines.
With a sergeant and five other troopers, they stopped at a lonely farm house for a meal. While eating, the sound of galloping hooves from the direction of the Confederate lines served notice that their host had managed to notify the enemy, by some means, of the presence of the Union patrol.
The sergeant took one look at the superior Confederate forces that were almost upon them and yelled, 'Mount up, boys, and ride like hell!' -- which they did not need further urging to do -- and managed to escape, though, as "Gramps" put it, 'Them pistol balls hummed around us like bumble bees.'
The old soldier marched in Decoration Day parades in Dumont until finally the time came when the effort was too much. When invited to ride in a carriage in the parade, Yankee pride showed itself in his reply, 'When a soldier can't march, it's time he stood to home.' On Decoration Day thereafter, he put on his Grand Army uniform, but refused to leave the front porch for any reason whatever.
The old veteran's memory remained clear to the last, and he lived long enough to teach his eldest great-grandson to whistle 'Marching Through Georgia.'
The great influenza epidemic of 1918 succeeded where Confederate gunfire had failed. He is buried beside his beloved wife, Minnie, in Woodside Cemetery, Dumont, New Jersey.
1863 - 1865 / WAR OF THE REBELLION
VOLUNTEERED 2ND NEW YORK CAVALRY -- September 5th, 1863, mustered into the United States Service September 9th, 1863 at Saratoga, New York -- left Saratoga by train for Washington, where we trained until the first of February, 1864. We then embarked on the steamship Clark for New Orleans, Louisiana, going down the Potomac River into the Chesipeake Bay [sic], Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, up the Mississippi River to New Orleans.
Orchards upon orchards of oranges were seen. We stayed in New Orleans a few weeks, then started on the Red River Campaign, crossing the Mississippi to Algeers; from there to Franklain; from there to New Hiberon, thence to Little Washington, Alexandria; thence to Grandecore.
Here we had some skirmishing. The ballroom was clear for a ball; going through Pleasant Hill to Sabine Crossroads or Mansfield. At here the rebel Dick Taylor engaged us. There was none but our 13th Army Corps engaged. We fought about three hours hard. Six pieces of our artillary played on the enemy with murderous effect.
Our infantry got well cut up, running out of ammunition, and was forced to retreat to Pleasant Hill; here the 19th Army Corps awaited us in line of battle.
The Battle of Mansfield. The first days fight occurred April 8th, 1864. April 9th the battle commenced again. We fought four or five hours and drove the enemy from the field, recapturing the artillary we lost the day before. We lost six or seven thousand men, killed or wounded.
We then went to Scarganegan, Louisiana. We had to charge in front of the infantry at Cane River; on the way back they sent us a good many tea kettles [explosive artillery shells]. Stayed in Hargany, La. all summer; chased guerrillas through the woods.
We went on the Mississippi campaign December 1st, 1864, was gone a month. Had all the sweet potatoes and honey we wanted to eat, but no bread. 250 of our brigade charged a brigade of the enemy and drove them seven miles with sabres.
February 19th, 1865, we picked up and embarked for New Orleans. We anchored the night of the 20th and 21st in Speton. March 1st, left New Orleans for Lake Ponchatrain, stayed in a big white house until the sixth, we then embarked for Pennsacola, Alabama [?].
On the 7th, past Fort Poisel, Fort Gaines, Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay.
We run into Navy Cove, Mobile Point. Stayed until the 11th. We then embarked on the steam boat Alabama.
Disembarked at night at 6 o'clock. There we found three forts: Fort Pickens, Fort Barrancant, Fort Morea.
March 9th, 1865, left Warrentown for Pennsacola, the distance of eight miles.
March 20th started on the march; on the 21st, pulled wagons out of mud. The 22nd, ditto; on the 23rd, took advance [scout duty ahead of the column], come to a creek about night and camped for the night. On 24th, started about 4 o'clock. Friday, March 24th.
Skirmish the 25th. Skirmish took a Brigadier General and 150 prisoners and a flag. The general was shot [wounded] and soon died.
26th - tore up railroad track. A battery was opened on us, but we soon silenced that.
27th - took up the line of march
28th - Dandy - nothing to eat. Eat corn - get fat
29th - Ditto
30th - Ditto
31st - Skirmish took 150 prisoners. Lay in line of battle all night.
Saturday, April 1st, advanced within 300 rods of the enemy works.
3rd - went into camp at Blakey [was] 3rd on guard, 5th on picket.
8th - Heavy fireing [sic] in direction of Spanish Fort.
April 9th, 1865, started on a Scout, camped at night at Stockton.
10th - started at day light. At night on Picket.
11th - charged and took 100 prisoners from Clayburn.
12th - Monroeville, charged into the place with sabres.
13th - Back to Clayburn. Kept the hosses saddled up all day. Reported 9000 Confederate troops at Greenville.
14th - built breast works
15th - Lef [sic] Clayburn for [illegible] camp at night
16th - Past Mt. Pleasant. At noon, arrived at Montgomery Hill. Camped for the night.
17th - started 6 o'clock past [sic] several Union houses. At night camped at Stockton.
Tue - 18th April, news of surrender of General Lee with 62,000 men. Noon, start back in direction of Clayburn. Camped for the night at Montgomery Hill, on Picket.
19th - started at 8 o'clock, at night -- camped at Darney.
20th - saddled up the hosses - then unsaddled them in about 15 minutes -- saddle up again (Bugler got his calls mixed up) Guarded baggage train at night on picket at Clayburn -- rain.
21st - rain hard; left Clayburn for Monroeville. Camped at night on site of century old Church.
22nd - had the advance. Hosses had sore backs. Went afoot in the afternoon.
Sunday, April 23rd, 1865 - guarded baggage train. Got a mule to ride. Past Pineville - marched till 1 o'clock at night.
24th - started 6 o'clock, past Pine Apple at noon. At 4 o'clock past Mt. Moriah. Camped at night at Montry.
25th, marched 25 miles past Rocky Mountain.
29th, past Pine Apple level.
30th, past Onion Spays, went into camp.
May 1st, 1865, started on the march. Sick, cold and chills at night. 2nd Brigade split up, went on different roads. Slept in barn, past the town of Midway at night. Camped in the woods at night Boots and Saddles blowed by mistake. Saddle up, then unsaddle again.
3rd 7 o'clock - Boots and Saddles blowed. We started, after marching a mile on a back road -- got orders to go to Montgomery. Marched 10 miles; went into camp.
4th - marched 24 miles at night. Company on safe guard.
5th, on the road for Montgomery. Marched 10 miles -- went into camp.
6th, started for Montgomery. Went 5 miles. Halted to look out for a place to camp. Then we marched through the city. Government buildings were burnt by the enemy. The town was fortified with two forts. The Capital, an old white washed building, stands on the hill above the village. We went into camp on the banks of the Alabama River. Here we found large springs of cold water.
9th, drew five days rations, orders to be ready to march the next morning.
10th - started at day light. Crossed several streams. Came to plantations. Got two days rations of corn for the hosses. Went 7 miles further, and went into camp 12 miles from Montgomery. Crossed Buthers Ferry on Wellypoosa River.
11th - past Weetymphee, crossed Causia River. Past the state prison. Released nearly all of the prisoners. Marched to Rockford, 24 miles.
12th - past a long town; marched 22 miles.
13th - Came through Waterford; marched to Talladhea. Went into camp in a shady door yard; at night on picket.
June 1st, 1865, go on Scout for government property in the mountains; gone four days.
Here the record ceases. Private Root's Honorable Discharge, which is also preserved with this diary in the family records, reveals that he was discharged at Talladega, Alabama, on the 8th of November, 1865.
© 1997-2000 W. H. Merklee