List of Illustrations 00
Introduction: Spencer Bonsall¿s Life and Times to 1863 00
Peninsular Campaign: May 6 through June 22, 1862 00
Editors¿ Note on the Interlude of June to December 1862 00
Fredericksburg: December 5 to December 16, 1862 00
Windmill Point and Falmouth: January 6 to March 26, 1863 00
Editors¿ Postscript on March 1863 through War¿s End 00
list of illustrations
1. Sample of journal letterhead (John B. Hall Apothecary) 00
2. Map of Virginia, 1862 00
3. Pennsylvania infantry in parade formation 00
4. Bonsall¿s transcription of the Botetourt monument 00
5. Bonsall¿s drawing of Virginia houses and barns 00
6. Federal troops at St. Peter¿s Church 00
7. George B. McClellan 00
8. Supply ships at White House Landing 00
9. Union battery at Fair Oaks 00
10. Hospital at Fair Oaks 00
11. Hospital steward chevrons and quinine medicine bottle 00
12. Fredericksburg 00
13. U.S. Sanitary Commission depot near Alexandria, Virginia 00
14. Bonsall¿s map of Falmouth/Windmill Point 00
15. Ambrose Burnside 00
16. Joseph Hooker 00
17. Winfield Scott Hancock 00
2d half-title page (recto)
Well Satisfied with My Position
backmatter title page (recto)
Bonsall¿s journal, which he sent home to his wife in batches, is filled with anecdotes about camp life and battle experiences. Yet, at times it reads more like the travelogue of someone on holiday rather than an account of war. He clearly had an itch to roam and spent much of his spare time wandering the Virginia environs in which he found himself, taking detailed notes on the landscape and people he met along the way. Indeed there is often a light and even humorous tone to his journal that is only occasionally interrupted by the realities of war. Therefore, we selected a phrase used by Bonsall himself as the title: ¿Well satisfied with my position.¿ Satisfied or not, Bonsall is constantly aware of his home audience; indeed, he is quick to clarify anything that might be unappreciated or misunderstood and has a tendency to grandstand. Yet, while Bonsall¿s worldview may not always be to our liking and can offend modern sensibilities, accounts like his are what give a human¿sometimes all too human¿face to the Civil War. We learn the intimate details of camp life, of the simple pleasures of a warm tent, of the near reverence of that ¿Idol of the Army of the Potomac,¿ George B. McClellan, of the importance of the U.S. Sanitary Commission in providing for the men in the field, of hospital arrangements, and much more.
Yet even these useful and interesting first-hand observations are of little value unless we know more about the man and war in which he fought. Therefore, we have endeavored to give context to the Bonsall narrative by conveying to the reader as much of his life as can be gleaned from the extant record and (where appropriate) more about the battles in which he participated. Here it will be seen how life prior to the war often informed one¿s activities in service and moreover how America¿s crucible left a lasting impact upon its participants long after that service had concluded. By recounting the impact of this bloodiest of American conflicts upon the life of Spencer Bonsall with an eye toward the larger historical landscape, we may look sympathetically upon the thousands more who were likewise affected in similar ways. While this is but one voice among many, it echoes the experiences and attitudes of many more.
The editors extend their thanks to Jack Gumbrecht, archivist for the Pennsylvania Historical Society, for ferreting out valuable information on Spencer Bonsall in the Society minute books and other materials in their rich historical collections. We also thank Dr. Gregory Higby and the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy for permission to use portions of Michael Flannery¿s ¿The Life of a Hospital Steward: The Civil War Journal of Spencer Bonsall,¿ Pharmacy in History 42.3¿4 (2000): 87¿98.
Housed in the Arnold G. Diethelm American Civil War Medicine Collection at the Reynolds Historical Library, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Spencer Bonsall¿s journal is 56 pages long and is on a variety of stationary papers, the smallest measuring 20cm x 25cm and the largest 20.3cm x 33.3cm. To the delight of the transcriber, Bonsall¿s script is neat and almost artfully done, as are his drawings of Virginia houses and the Fredericksburg area, both of which have been included for the reader.
To preserve the true essence of Spencer Bonsall¿s voice, the following transcription is as literal as consistency and readability will allow. Word emphases have been retained and grammatical errors have been left intact. However, at times punctuation has been normalized and modernized to enhance clarity and flow. Also, words of sufficient importance that Bonsall mistakenly left out have been added and are nestled within square brackets. In cases of obvious spelling mistakes, odd phonetic liberties, or dated conventions, corrections were made (e.g. mooving becomes moving; holliday becomes holiday; segars changes to cigars; York Town becomes Yorktown; earth works becomes earthworks; no body becomes nobody; frequent use of & and &c has been removed; abbreviations have been extended into full words, etc.). We divvied up the transcription, explanatory notes, and introduction as well as time and logistics allowed and trust that this collaboration meets with the reader¿s approval.