41st Illinois Infantry Civil War flag

Part 1

"Training and First Missions of a Soldier"

August 1, 1861 - November 8, 1861

Civil War photograph of young Aaron Loder Mastin was lost during transfer of this web site to new server.
The account below is from the 1st section of Aaron Loder Mastin's personal diary which he kept during the Civil War. I have transcribed the text as it was written for historical accuracy. I hope that you enjoy the thoughts and feelings of this 19 year old Union Army soldier.

"I will now try to give you as far as my memory will serve me to do, some of the incidents of my first soldiering:

I enlisted the first day of August, 1861 at Camp Pugh, in Macon County, Illinois, in Capt. D. P. Brown’s company, Col. P.C. Pugh 41st Reg. Illinois Vol. And on the 5th day of the same month we was mustered into the United States service for three years if not sooner discharged. There was nothing of any importance occurred while here.

About the 10th we was ordered to be ready to march . (1) Well, it was not long before we was on our way for Decatur, which was only one mile distant. We shipped on the Great Western railroad for Springfield, from there to Alton, arriving just at dark. The cars did not stop only a few minutes when we was on the move again.

We arrived at Illinois town opposite St. Louis, Mo. It was dark and raining when we got there, it being late at night. Well, the next thing after we was off the cars was to find a place to sleep. We got into the freight house and slept on the floor. The next day we got aboard a boat and landed on the Missouri side of the river when we marched to the Marine Hospital just below St. Louis. We was there some two days and we drawed our arms from the St. Louis arsenal. We camped a few days longer and drilled very hard, it being extremely hot weather.

On the 10th if my memory serves me right we was again ordered to march.(3) Well, about eleven o’clock p.m. we marched to the wharf where lay the steamer, J. W. Graham, waiting for us to come aboard of her. We all embarked again at two o’clock, and we was on our way down the river Mississippi. We had quite a fine trip until about four in the evening we ran against a sand bar and in getting her off she had one of her boiler pumps break when she had to stop for repairs. Some of the boys went ashore and got some pawpaws to eat. I was down in the bottom when the bell rung for us to come aboard so we was again sailing down the river. By sundown we had not gone far when I took my blanket and laid down and soon fast asleep. When I woke the boat was tied up on account of the fog being so dense. About ten we was again ordered under way.

We arrived at Cape Girardeau and only stopped a few minutes. 10 miles from Cape we came in sight of one of the gun blockading boats and we hauled to and showed our papers. (3) We passed down the river a few miles to a town called Commerce where the Rebels tried to fortify but the gun boat had shelled them out.

The gun boat from this first place accompanied us down to Birds [Point] where we landed and encamped. As we expected to stay here some time, we took great pains to clean our campground. About Saturday there we or our company was detailed to guard a bridge on the Cairo and Fulton Railroad. It is situated some seven miles from the point [Birds point]. We had a good time but did not see any Rebels to shoot at. We all arrived again at camp in safety.

Nothing of importance occurred until the 7th of September. I was detailed to work on a parade ground and in the evening we was again under marching orders. We got our uniforms today too. We got ready to march and by six o'clock we was on board of the J. W. Graham again.

We arrived at Paducah some time in the night and we lay out in the river until sometime about eight o'clock when we landed at the wharf boat. When we got there the town was almost deserted, and there was an apprehension of an attack on the place by the Rebels from Columbus. The Secesh flag had been waving there and the Secesh elements greatly predominated. We was greeted by the waving of hats and ladies waving their handkerchiefs.

This was the first that I set foot on Kentucky soil. We was busy for some two days angling and pitching our tents. Our camping ground was exceedingly beautiful, being on the river bank in the west part of town familiarly known as Jersey.

On the 13th we was ordered to have one day's rations ready to go to guard the wharf boat where there was an immense lot of provisions stored away which had been taken from the Secesh, they having it ready to ship to Columbus for the Rebel troops. We was not on the wharf boat long before we found a box of candy in there and we soon emptied all the contents in a short time. This was a long night for me for it was about my first guard duty. The four tents were also on duty. We did not get anything to eat until after 2 o'clock but when we got back to camp we made it up in beans and hard bread.

On Sunday evening the 15th our captain (D.P. Brown) said for us to lay on our guns or have them where we could get them at a moments warning for there was some prospect for a fight. So at three in the morning the alarm was given by the firing of our pickets which made quite a snapping, so we was soon all out in the road but not to fight but to return to our tents with disappointment depicted on our countenance.

On the sixteenth about noon we was ordered to have our guns all ready and plenty of ammunition for it was reported that a large force was coming and within fifteen miles of the place, (5) then what few citizens was left began to get away as fast as their legs would carry them. I saw several females crying and going on as if they were about to go into fits over the fear of having a fight here. Some of them having husbands, some fathers, some brothers, and some of them children in the rebel army.

We kept a good lookout all day but no Secesh came in sight. At night we lay on our arms until 3 o'clock we was again on the stir for the alarm was given. We was not long in getting into the line of battle this time it being less than five minutes after the order was given. Well, as before, we was doomed to disappointment again for we soon set down and lay down to rest there being no sign of the rebels anyways near. At daylight we was given in command of our respective captains and marched back to our camp again.

On the eighteenth I was on picket guard and had a fine time for I got into a cornfield and got a lot of roasting ears to roast, which was something new this year. Today was characterized by the death of the orderly sergent -- his name was Martin. He was the first death in our regiment.

On the 19th we went to the burial of Mr. Martin and it was a sad affair.

The 20th I was cook so there was nothing going on only cooking and calling.

Sunday, the 21st, I got a pass from my captain for me and one for my mess mate, whose name was F. M. Lane, to go out to town and to church but we was not out long before we heard that the captain wanted us back to camp to sign the payroll so we went or rather made a straight shirttail for camp for we was in a great way to have some money to spend. So long in the evening we all fell in line and marched up to our colonel's headquarters where the paymaster was and got paid off up to the first day of September, which amounted to thirteen dollars and twenty cents, 10 of it in government money and the other in gold and silver.

On the 22nd I was on camp guard and the boys are running all over town (such of them as can get out) and buying themselves rich in pies, cakes, melons, and soda and ginger pop.

23rd, today my company (F) is again detailed to guard the wharf and as I was on guard yesterday I do not go, so I was in town and one place and then another.

The 26th, was on guard duty. It was chilly for the season. I am ill with chills and fever. If ever I thought of home and friends it is now.

30th, we moved camp in order to locate closer to the Missouri and the 12th Illinois Regiment. The new place is very pretty, it being timber so we had a shade for awhile.

October1, I had a chill and was again sick all day.

The 2nd finds us all quiet. There is ten or twelve hundred on fatigue duty, throwing up breast works around the Marine hospital. They are going to erect a fort there. This morning I went out with one of the boys and got some persimmons of which the woods is full of them here at Paducah.

As I have not said anything to you about the floating bridge, here's how I will give a description of it. It is composed of flat boats run up side by side and sleepers or ties thrown across them and then planked over that again so I think when high water comes it will all wash away.

23rd, have had yellow jaundice. We got a dress suit of clothes, pants and jacket. We got a base drum and ten tenor drums today and practiced for our company.

November 1st, we was mustered in for pay.

November 5. Today we are under marching orders to be ready at two o'clock. At General Smith's headquarters we are to halt and be formed into a brigade. We arrived at 3 o'clock on the parade ground before the general's door but we was not there long by ourselves. (6)

Soon came the 40th Illinois Volunteer commanded by Col. Hicks and the 8th Ill. Vol. Commanded by Col. A. Mercer and the 12th Ill. and Buell's battery of light cavalry. At five o'clock we halted for a rest. We did not rest long before we was again on the move. We camped ten miles from Paducah on the creek where there is plenty of good wood and water.

Nov. 6th, this morning at the rise of the Sun we was again on the move. At ten we came to a turnip patch which we done justice to by clearing the turnips all out. At 12 we got on the wrong road and went about two miles out of the way and had to march back again.

We have heard heavy cannoning in the direction of Belmont all day. My regiment is in the advance now. At 3 we came to large barns which had some two or three hundred bushels of apples in them. We got as many of them as we wanted. We was very tired and our feet was so sore that a great many of us could not wear our shoes. We are resting awhile four miles from Milburn, and the boys are amusing themselves by killing chickens and such like. The cannonading is still heard.

Our boys are very lively. They are in hopes of getting into a fight soon for the talk is that we are going to Columbus. We were soon again on the march at 6 o'clock and marched to Milburn arriving about 8 in the p.m. where we camped for the night with many a sore foot a crippling behind. Today two men out of my company has fell back behind and did not get up with the regiment. It is supposed that we are going to fight and they was afraid of getting shot. (7)

Nov. 7, this morning we got orders to march back to Paducah, which caused a great deal of complaints by some pronouncing it a perfect bore. We got started back early this morning and marched three miles and halted at a large orchard and got some apples. Our provisions being all gone.

We was soon on our way again. We pressed a team of horses this morning to haul our baggage into camp which relieved us very much. When we was one mile further we halted at a small stream to get water and some boys found a barrel of molasses which they soon transferred to their canteens in safety here. One man got several geese, chickens, hogs, sheep and such like. At 12 we again halted and got some water. We marched on to within 12 miles of Paducah and halted for the night.

Nov. 8, this morning it has been raining some and we are on our way to Paducah. We arrived there at 4 o'clock in safety and was complimented for our good behavior by our colonel and was then dismissed and went to our tents and had a grand old supper" (8)

Note: The diary stops here until February 13th 1862 when Part 2 begins.

Continue to the 2nd Section of Aaron Loder Mastin's Civil War Diary


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