While reading a diary is usually considered an invasion of privacy, once the diarist is gone, such reading offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of someone we have never met. A diary can reveal -- not an old person looking back, as in a memoir -- but a young one looking at the present, and with an entire life ahead. It is an opportunity to see history as it is being made around the life of an otherwise ordinary person. The places they go, the people they meet, the events they witness are part of the great human experience and we can join them in the immediacy of these experiences.
The writers of these diaries are long gone, and I think there is no more fitting tribute than to record their words and thoughts written in the flush of youth and on the edge of history.
At the Front
Albert L. Peel, of Chulahoma, MS, served as Adjutant in the 19th Mississippi Regiment from May 1861 until his death at Spottsylvania, VA in 1864. His Diaries for 1861 and 1863 have been preserved by Peel family descendant, Mr. Kevin Hudson and transcribed by Mr. Jack Durham.
Joseph John Collins of Philadelphia enlisted to serve in the Spanish-American War and kept a Journal of his experiences from September 1899 through June 1901.
George L. Alexander's Diary covers the experiences of a 2nd Lt. with the Army Ordnance Department in France near the end of WWI from May 1917 through July 1919, plus notes, addresses, and miscellaneous details.
Young Ladies Abroad
Eleanor Sheffield Phelps, prepared a Travelogue of a family trip to Europe in the early summer of 1912.
Claudia Lea Phelps, a young socialite with a love of parties and dancing, kept a brief Diary in the latter part of 1912.