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James F. Dargan Civil War Diary and Scrapbook

James F. Dargan was born in the town of Randolph, Norfolk County, Massachusetts in 1843. Dargan was the eldest of six children born to Irish immigrants, and by the age of seventeen worked as a boot maker in his father’s shop. On September 17, 1862, at the age of nineteen, he enlisted in the Union Army, 4th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry, and on that day began a four volume diary of his experiences in the American Civil War.

The James F. Dargan Civil War Diary and Scrapbook includes descriptions of his enlistment and camp life, gossip about fellow soldiers, observations and complaints about military discipline, descriptions of the changing landscape, travels by land and sea, expeditions and battles, poetry and personal reflections, original sketches, newspaper clippings and printed images, rosters of officers and enlisted men, a dictionary of Southern slang, a pronunciation key for geographic names, and ephemera.

The 4th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry was organized at Camp Joe Hooker, Lakeville, Massachusetts, and Dargan mustered in on September 23, 1862. As Dargan writes, “We have enlisted for the space of nine months in defence of (and in offence to the enemies of) the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave." Dargan’s early experiences at Camp Hooker include a late night raid of a local farmer’s turkey roost, drilling and guard duty, dances and church meetings, speech making, musical entertainments, swimming and athletic competitions, descriptions of the countryside, news from the front, and a lonely Christmas day away from home.Illustration of a ship in stormy seas

In late December, Dargan’s Regiment traveled by train to New York, arriving at the harbor just a few days after Christmas. From there, they boarded a Navy vessel bound for New Orleans. As the voyage began, Dargan’s youthful enthusiasm began to waver. By the end of the first week at sea he reported that it was “foggy, cold, cloudy,” he was “miserably sick,” and the company had lost their first soldier to disease.

In early March of 1863, the Regiment docked at Fort Monroe, and then moved to Baton Rouge, where they carried out expeditions in preparation for the Siege at Port Hudson. The Regiment marched to Algiers, then to Brashear City, where they were charged with maintaining the Union stronghold. At the end of May, following a short skirmish at Barre Landing, Bayou Teche, the Regiment moved to the outskirts of Port Hudson, and participated in the Siege of Port Hudson, led by Major General Nathaniel P. Banks. The battle lasted for forty-eight days, until July 9, when the Confederate garrison surrendered.

Dargan remained on duty at Port Hudson until August when the Regiment moved to Cairo, Illinois by steamship, then by train to Boston, Massachusetts, and mustered out on August 28, 1863. The 4th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry lost a total of 151 soldiers, one officer and nineteen enlisted men killed in battle, two officers and 129 enlisted men by disease.

A Union soldier standing at the bedside of a sick man. Image pasted inside front cover of Dargan's journal
First page of Dargan's Journal
Enlistment day entry, September 17, 1862
First page of volume two, December 1862
Union soldiers carrying out drilling exercises
A Southern family living in squalor
First page of Dargan's list of geographic names, with phonetic pronunciations
Journal entry, Christmas Day, 1862
Printed poem and image, entitled, "Only a One-Armed Soldier"
Journal entry, January 23, 1863
Image of Jefferson Davis
Journal entry, March 21, 1863
Dargan's recording of "Mongrel poetry," written by a fellow soldier
A Southern street scene
Confederate pass, May 25, 1863
Journal entry, April 21, 1863, and fallen Confederate soldiers
Roster of officers, 4th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry, page one
Roster of officers, 4th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry, page two, with commentary
Roster of officers, 4th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry, pages three and four, with commentary
"Quarters of Nims 2nd Massachusetts Battery
Roster of enlisted men, 4th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry, page one, with coded descriptions
First page of volume four, June 1863
Dargan's Southern slang dictionary
Poem with photo of Major General Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts

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