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Civil War-era diary printed

September 26, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

Sept. 26, 1862 - Charley and Cousin James came to Hedgesville yesterday; they are afraid to come over as the Yankees are at Hedgesville yet. Gen. Ewell's division encamped today within two miles of Hedgesville. Reported that all persons between 18 and 25 are to be taken and put in the army.

- Conditions in Berkeley County 142 years ago, according to a newly released diary kept by Elisha Manor

HEDGESVILLE, W.VA. - Elisha Manor started his diary on July 1, 1861, on an innocuous note: "We are harvesting a part of the time. We had a fine rain today."

Four weeks later Manor learned that David, one of his brothers serving in the Confederate Army, had been killed at the first Battle of Bull Run in Manassas, Va.

Manor's diary, which has been edited by a local teacher, then takes on a different tone.

"July 31, 1861 - I often have to shed tears when I think that he (David) died on the battle-field all alone: no friend was near to give him as much as a cup of water. I can imagine I can see him lying there now on the cold, damp earth: no bed was there; no kind friend was there to say one prayer for him ..." Manor wrote.


Steve French, of Hedgesville, W.Va., said the diary adds a chapter to local history. Although western Berkeley County has been mentioned in other Civil War accounts, he believes the diary is the first one kept by a county civilian to be published.

French, 52, who teaches West Virginia history at Martinsburg (W.Va.) South Middle School, had 1,000 copies of the diary printed. Copies of the book, titled "Four Years Along the Tilhance," go on sale this week.

"After I read it, I knew it needed to get out," said French, who first was told of the diary by former Berkeley County and Washington County teacher Dave Ambrose.

Although French does not know the whereabouts of the original handwritten diary, he was allowed to borrow a copy that had been typed by one of Manor's descendants.

For the editing process French corrected a few misspellings, but left Manor's nuances in speech and grammar intact. He added period and current photographs, maps, an introduction and several appendixes, including notes on the text and descriptions of churches and towns mentioned.

The diary centers on a grist mill run by Manor in Johnsontown, an unincorporated small community west of Hedgesville. Martinsburg, Shepherdstown, Hedgesville, Tomahawk, North Mountain and the Cherry Run area also are mentioned.

"It was a great discovery for this county," French said. "It's a good civilian viewpoint."

News and philosophy

Many entries in the diary, which concludes in 1865, center on news and reports of troop movements, battles and casualties. Manor often made note of the news one day, only to later report it was untrue or unreliable.

"No news of importance today," Manor wrote on July 17, 1861. "I hear a great many flying reports, but I do not believe any of them."

July seemed to inspire Manor, when his accounts sometimes strayed from simply reporting day-to-day activities to more philosophical musings.

"July 24, 1861 - What an awful thing it is that men must be killed by their fellow-men! But it is too late to lament; the war is upon us and we know not when it will end. If it does not end until Lincoln subjugates the South, it will last for twenty years and then we won't have peace," Manor wrote.

He recounted a similar lament three years later.

"July 1, 1864 - Time rolls on, but it brings no peace to our bleeding country. ... I wonder that the people of the North do not see the utter impossibility of exterminating the Southerners. There is but little said about the Union any more; it is the government now that has to be maintained at all hazards - The best government the world ever saw, they say, must be kept together. But a strange way of keeping a government together, by the force of arms - and a republican one, too," he wrote.

Run-ins with soldiers

Judging from the diary, civilians living at the time could not be sure what they owned one night would still be theirs the next morning. Manor recounted tales involving soldiers stealing horses, lumber, flour, livestock and other items.

"June 7, 1862 - Some four Yankees here after chickens; they were very impudent; they shot two or three times at one and then had to catch it."

Sometimes stolen goods were seen again.

"Oct. 13, 1862 - Five Yankee cavalry were here; they were scouts; they came from Cherry Run: it is reported that there is a considerable force there. One of those men who were here this morning was riding one of our horses."

Brevity seemed to suffice on other days.

"Very disagreeable weather," Manor wrote on Jan. 28, 1862.

"Tolerably good sleighing" he noted on Feb. 6, 1863.

Although Manor's job as a mill owner exempted him from serving in the military, he and his family had run-ins with soldiers.

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