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John Dooley's Civil War

An Irish American's Journey in the First Virginia Infantry Regiment

Edited by Robert Emmett Curran

Publication Year: 2011

Among the finer soldier-diarists of the Civil War, John Edward Dooley first came to the attention of readers when an edition of his wartime journal, edited by Joseph Durkin, was published in 1945. That book, John Dooley, Confederate Soldier, became a widely used resource for historians, who frequently tapped Dooley’s vivid accounts of Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg, where he was wounded during Pickett’s Charge and subsequently captured. As it happens, the 1945 edition is actually a much-truncated version of Dooley’s original journal that fails to capture the full scope of his wartime experience—the oscillating rhythm of life on the campaign trail, in camp, in Union prisons, and on parole. Nor does it recognize how Dooley, the son of a successful Irish-born Richmond businessman, used his reminiscences as a testament to the Lost Cause. John Dooley’s Civil War gives us, for the first time, a comprehensive version of Dooley’s “war notes,” which editor Robert Emmett Curran has reassembled from seven different manuscripts and meticulously annotated. The notes were created as diaries that recorded Dooley’s service as an officer in the famed First Virginia Regiment along with his twenty months as a prisoner of war. After the war, they were expanded and recast years later as Dooley, then studying for the Catholic priesthood, reflected on the war and its aftermath. As Curran points out, Dooley’s reworking of his writings was shaped in large part by his ethnic heritage and the connections he drew between the aspirations of the Irish and those of the white South. In addition to the war notes, the book includes a prewar essay that Dooley wrote in defense of secession and an extended poem he penned in 1870 on what he perceived as the evils of Reconstruction. The result is a remarkable picture not only of how one articulate southerner endured the hardships of war and imprisonment, but also of how he positioned his own experience within the tragic myth of valor, sacrifice, and crushed dreams of independence that former Confederates fashioned in the postwar era.

Published by: The University of Tennessee Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents / Illustrations

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pp. vii-ix


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xxxiii

In the early 1940s Joseph Durkin, S.J., discovered the papers of John Edward Dooley in the archives of Georgetown University, where Dooley had been a student and, later, teacher. In 1945 Durkin published John Dooley, Confederate Soldier: His War Journal. Excerpts from this edition...

Part One: Secession

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pp. 1-8

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A Few Words upon the Right of a State to Withdraw from the United States

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pp. 3-8

1st The government of the 1st Confederation of the States of America should have been perpetual according to the words of its constitution, 2 and the people of the states united by the said constitution were solemnly pledged not only to its support, but to its perpetual endurance; yet after a few years of trial we find the states of this same confederacy...

Part Two: War

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pp. 9-401

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Introduction to John Dooley’s “War Notes”

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pp. 11-14

Over the course of some eight years, from 1865 to 1873, John Dooley revised and expanded his two original diaries in nine distinct manuscripts. Shortly after his death at Georgetown in May 1873, John Early, the president of the college instructed the librarian to bind together...

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1. “Oh How Scared I Felt!”: The Second Manassas Campaign, August 1862

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pp. 15-32

Upon the 12th of August 1862 I left Richmond to join the 1st Regt of Virginia Infantry then stationed near Gordonsville. I had only been in the Confederate Service one month and a half, but tired of remaining in the City catching deserters & Conscripts, I resolved at once to enter the field...

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2. “Oh, How I Ran!”: The Maryland Campaign, September 1862

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pp. 33-54

[wd] Upon the next day [August 31] having buried our dead we moved forward on the track of the enemy and on the 6th of September we crossed the Potomac.1 [mc] To day’s marching is very fatiguing; I do not remember any march that so prostrated me as on this first day...

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3. “Resting from Our Labors”: Camp in the Shenandoah Valley, September–November 1862

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pp. 55-83

We remained for several days near Martinsburg resting and watching the movements of the enemy. I visited Martinsburg which I found to be a thriving little place but nearly entirely of Northern sentiment. Several fine railroad bridges here have been destroyed and the people...

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4. “These Brave but Doomed Foreigners”: Fredericksburg, December 1862

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pp. 85-118

The country in our immediate vicinity is very wild and hilly. We are encamped upon the side of a hill covered with half grown pines, gum trees and low undergrowth of various kinds. At the base of the slope runs a stream of clear water, several yards in width and is known...

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5. “Everything Is Excessively Dull”: Winter Quarters, December 1862–March 1863

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pp. 119-134

Returning to camp we settle down in our old hum-drum style and but little of interest occurs to introduce to the notice of the reader of these memoirs; Our Col. [Williams] is a very quick eyed officer who at a single glance appears to know what is amiss in the camp. He was for...

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6. “We Slept in the Trenches”: Coastal Carolina and Southeastern Virginia, March–June 1863

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pp. 135-147

[wd] 21st March Today the Brigade is ordered to N.C. And I come within an ace (a race) of missing the train which was to transport our troops thither. [pd] I find a train ready to start and, seeing some of my friends on board, I jump in to enquire where and why they are going...

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7. “Into the Very Jaws of Destruction”: The Gettysburg Campaign, June–July 1863

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pp. 149-165

[wd] 8th Have orders to march toward Culpepper C.H. Make 23 miles and stop for the night. 9th March 17 miles and bivouac at Taylors Mill. [pd] The sun is very afflicting during the day and some of the men break down: Our destination is now supposed to be Culpeper Court House....

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8. “Vae Victis”: Prisoner, July 1863

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pp. 167-180

July 4th (1863) I have slept a little despite a steady but light fall of rain which, though not the most pleasant alleviation to me, has still undoubtedly proved extremely refreshing and grateful to thousands of fevered brains and burning wounds. This morning I am unable to walk...

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9. “Still Hoping for Better Things”: Fort McHenry, July–August 1863

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pp. 181-197

[July 13] We are huddled together in the noisome place—filth & vermin in profusion—no sinks in the room and scarcely light enough to read. We have a detailed private with us to assist us in any way possible ([. . .] left behind [by Gen. Lee] [. . . ]). He is of a North Carolina Regt...

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10. “This Selfish, Cold Hearted, Cold Blooded Enemy”: Johnson’s Island, August–November 1863

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pp. 199-226

We are delayed several hours in a drizzling rain while each officer of our party is conducted before the Yankee officer and told to deliver whatever money he has in his possession which may be taken care of for him and meted out whenever he has need of it. Our ages, rank...

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11. “Learning How Little Food . . . a Man May Live Upon”: Johnson’s Island, November 1863–March 1864

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pp. 227-252

Nov. 18th 1863—Reading today consists in a little of ‘Gil Blas,’ 4 some chapters [of] ‘Kennilworth’ in which is very truly portrayed the vile serfdom of the nobles of Elizabeth’s time. Good Queen Bess seems to have been as much despot in Free and Merry England as the worst of Eastern sovereigns. Read also of the fearful cruelties and barbarities...

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12. “Anxiety about Virginia Affairs”: Johnson’s Island, March–July 1864

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pp. 253-283

24th [March] Maundy Thursday. Read the gospel of the day and some in a Kempis, in ‘Little Dorrit’1 also. Yankees make a general muster of us today and take down our names, all in full, regts, place of residence, etc etc. 25th Good Friday—a gloomy veil enshrouds the island...

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13. “The Bad News Is Raging”: Johnson’s Island, August–November 1864

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pp. 285-320

1864 Augt 1st Receive a letter from home and reply to one previously recd by me—exceedingly warm today: there is a singular looking insect of a brownish color which has begun to infest the island: about 4 p.m. They begin to swarm around in every direction but from where I cannot see...

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14. “I Am among the Number—Glory, Alleluia”: From Johnson’s Island to Richmond, December 1864–March 1865

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pp. 321-345

December 10th The papers today announced that Genl Sherman has been temporarily checked in his onward movement by whom or how report saith not: Snow in the prison several inches deep. I try to occupy myself with Ollendorf’s grammar:2 Hume’s England,3 Blair’s Rhetoric.4 39 days and...

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15. “All Is Confusion and Panic”: In Search of the CSA, March–April 1865

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pp. 347-380

March 30th Ben Haskins2 and I, having agreed upon a visit to Ben Brown3 at Amherst C.H., begin our journey this morning, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, a cold rain catching and almost wetting us through before we reach the Danville depot.4 We weather...

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16. “A Bitter, Bitter Draught”: Journey’s End, April–May 1865

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pp. 381-401

April 19th Stoneman’s raiders are said to be nearby and are expected in the town before daybreak: if so, the sleeping townsmen are not much concerned at his near approach for they are sleeping so soundly that we are unable to gain admission into any home, not even Mr. Kerr’s...

Part Three: Reconstruction

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pp. 403-416

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Lines Addressed to the Bronze Statue of the Goddess of Liberty Which Covers the Capitol’s Dome, Washington, D.C.

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pp. 405-416

Twice during the Maryland Campaign in September 1862 John Dooley managed to visit the Jesuit novitiate at Frederick, where he found former teachers and classmates from his college days at Georgetown. Three years to the month later, finally acting upon...


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pp. 417-495


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pp. 497-516

E-ISBN-13: 9781572338302
E-ISBN-10: 157233830X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781572338227
Print-ISBN-10: 1572338229

Page Count: 552
Illustrations: 10 photographs, 2 line drawings, 3 maps
Publication Year: 2011