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Lt. Col. John Withers, Civil War Confederate Officer, In his own words
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Civil War Diary

Lt. Col. John Withers
Civil War Confederate Officer, In His Own Words

American Civil War Journal of Assistant Adjutant General for Jefferson Davis, Records of Civil War Life, Battles, History

by John Withers and Jennette Green

Full Introduction:

Told from the first person perspective of Lt. Col. John Withers, an Assistant Adjutant General in the James Buchanan administration, and later in the Jefferson Davis administration for the Confederacy, this civil war diary encompasses over two years in Withers’ life, from October 1860 - December 1862.

Because of the nature of his job, Lt. Col. Withers was closely acquainted with many of the notable figures of the Civil War era. His friend, Ed. A. Palfrey, later wrote, “his relations with the President and Secretary of War were of an intimate character, as was necessarily the case from the position he held.”

While Withers served in Washington D.C. in 1860, he wrote of meeting with James Buchanan, and how he briefly met the Prince of Wales, Baron Renfrew (Edward Albert VII), who was only nineteen when he visited the United States in 1860, in the uneasy months before the start of the “War of the Rebellion.”

Notable figures with whom Withers was closely acquainted in the Confederacy included Jefferson Davis, his wife, Varina Davis, and the Secretary of War. In addition, he wrote of meeting with famous Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee, Joe E. Johnston, A.S. Johnston, and others. He casually alluded to other heads of state that he met as a matter of course in his position.

Withers’ family was from the south. His uncle, Clement Comer Clay, was the 8th Governor of Alabama, (and also in his lifetime, Chief Justice of Alabama, Congressman, and U. S. Senator). When Withers received a letter from his cousin, John Withers Clay, and his aunt, Susanna Withers Clay (Clement Clay’s wife), urging him to resign his commission in the U.S. Army and come south to join the Confederate cause, Withers did so. He joined the Confederate Army in March, 1861.

While stationed in the Confederate capitol of Richmond, Virginia, Lt. Col. Withers recorded civil war events as they happened, including the Seven Days Battles, and other battles that took place during the early part of the “War Between the States.” He also wrote of the more personal aspects of his life, such as the agony of his wife’s illness and his young son’s death.

Lt. Col. Withers’ journal provides a detailed Civil War timeline rich in facts and details of events, a few medical procedures and medicines used during this era, as well as plays and musical concerts that he and his wife attended.

Withers wrote of the profound and the mundane, and even the slightly bizarre, such as when he wrote of when multitudes of the ladies and gentlemen of Richmond went out to watch a battle rage on a summer night:

“The cannonading was terrific—that and the volleys of musketry, could distinctly be heard in Richmond. Hundreds of ladies and gentlemen went out to the Northern suberbs [sic] of the City to hear the firing. The bursting of shells, and the flash of the heavy guns could be distinguished very plainly after night fall.”

Lt. Col. John Withers’ diary provides a unique, first person account of life during the American Civil War. His is a rich story, and worthy to be told.

View Handwritten Diary Images

Handwritten diary images are included in the print edition.

Buy eBook:

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*Always available for immediate shipment from Barnes & Noble.

Publication Date: March, 2011
Book Type: Paperback, eBook
Category: History, Civil War
Pages: 280 print, 135 eBook
Price: $15.97 print, $2.99 eBook
Rating: PG
ISBN: 9780984404421