Following are entries from the Civil War journal of Nelson Peter Dolbeck.
I feel I have gotten to know the 25 year old Nelson by meticulously keying his journal into a “reader friendly” format. I have purposely transcribed it exactly as he wrote it with his punctuation, spelling, grammar, occasional misuse, omission, or double use of a word. By reading exactly what Nelson wrote, the reader can get a feeling of his state of mind at the time, whether feeling well (or “smart”, as he often says), or whether sick, tired, or dispirited, or whether rushed or having leisure time.
One can tell that Nelson loved to write. He had beautiful handwriting on some pages, compared to hard to read words on others. He “drew” beautiful capital letters to write the dates for each entry and many times first words of sentences. Sometimes in haste he ran his sentences together, probably to get all his thoughts down in a hurry.
Some of the original pages had holes in them or pieces torn off or worn off the edges, so I used ——- to indicate what was missing or illegible. I didn’t make many assumptions unless it was apparent what a partially discernible word was. Some pages were so light that I had to use a magnifying glass to see the writing at all.
Some time ago when my father in law, Merrill Whitcomb Dolbeck, had the journal, he read the pages into a tape recorder; and a typewritten copy was prepared. At that time some pages of the journal were lost. Those entries appear here as Merrill deciphered them. I had no chance to compare the typewritten version with the original pages as I did with every other entry. The lost entries are August 22 through August 29, 1861; and in 1862, March 28 through the first March 30 entry (listed as Saturday); April 13 through May 3; part of May 5; June 4 through June 14; and part of July 7.
In the journal Nelson quite often mentions getting letters from Louis, Cliff, E.S.H.; and Julia. Louis Boudrye was his friend and close in age uncle; Cliff was his brother; E.S.H. was Ellen Susan Hayford, his future wife; and I don’t know who Julia was. His pal through all this was Moses Boudrye, close in age, his uncle, and brother of Louis.
To picture where Nelson fits in the family tree – his father was Gabriel, his son in our line of heritage was Albert. Nelson married “Susie”. Ellen Susan Hayford was one of 13 children, and Nelson and she had 13 children together. The children were:
Infant not named 8/3/73
Of a personal nature, Nelson was 5’8″ tall, of light complexion, and had grey eyes and brown hair. He was born on April 30, 1836, in Franklin, Vermont. He was married on November 24, 1862.
This journal ends abruptly on July 19, 1862. I don’t know if there is more that was lost or if Nelson just stops writing. It seems unlikely to me, with the pleasure he takes in writing, that he would not have stated an “ending.” Interestingly, he states on July 16, “I sent four letters to Cliff, (being part of my journal) and requesting him to send me a box.”
According to copies of the company muster rolls and other documents, Nelson joined the Army on May 1, 1861. He was a private in Company C, N. Y. Infantry. On June 30 he transferred to Company B, Anderson Zouave Regiment. On December 31, 1861, his is listed as being in Company B, 62nd N.Y. Volunteers, N.Y. Infantry. On the May-June 1862 rolls, his is listed as 8th corporal; and on a special muster roll dated August 18, 1862, he is listed at a rank of 7th corporal absent without leave since August 17. On the September-October rolls he is absent without leave again and shown a rank of private. He was dropped on the November-December rolls.
Notes from the Pension Office, War Department, on March 23, 1883, state;
Deserted October 21, 1862
Arrested July 5, 1863, sent to Albany, NY
Again Deserted September 23, 1863, at Cedar Run, MD
Surrendered under President’s Proclamation May 8, 1865, at Albany, NY
Honourably Discharged May 19, 1865, by reason of surrender from desertion under President’s Proclamation
Charge of desertion no longer stands against him but cannot be expunged (Application for removal was denied.)
Received a pension of $12/month (At age 70 the monthly pension is $20/month… Records show him being denied the $20 on his 70th birthday because of a discrepancy in his date of birth. One record shows his birth year as 1837, but he claims that was in error and that it should have been 1836. We don’t know if he received the increase the following year or not.)
Nelson lived in Hague from 1865-1867 and in Ticonderoga after. He died on September 20, 1920, at the age of 84.
Anita Dolbeck (November 2002)
Editor’s note – please find the latest transcription of the Diary at: