December 16, 2011

Great-Grandfather's Christmas, 1863

James P. Suiter
Yesterday's Illinois Times featured an article on A Soldier's Christmas in the Civil War. It quotes my great-grandfather James P. Suiter who wrote in his diary on Christmas 1863 that they "Dined on bean soup, pork and ‘Hard Crackers’ at noon." This was not a cheerful Christmas for him, for it followed a difficult campaign in Tennessee, with Union losses at Chickamauga and Lookout Mountain.

My aunt Clarice told me that she had donated  his Civil War diaries to a library. They now reside in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois. I've seen the diaries quoted before by searching (a wonderful resource, by the way).  Suiter was quoted several times in Illinois in the Civil War by Victor Hicken (link goes to Amazon listing).

In The Union Soldier in Battle, my great-grandfather says of the horrors of Chickamauga, "I shall not attempt to describe what I saw, of dead wounded and suffering."

I see that in 1960, the Journal of Illinois State Historical Society acknowledged the gift of the diaries: "Among other out-of-state donors are the grandchildren of James P. Suiter of the Eighty-fourth Illinois Infantry. They have given Suiter's letters and diaries to the Library. These papers include descriptions of the Siege of Atlanta..." That snippet is from Google books, and it indicates that the writings were donated jointly by his grandchildren, that is, my aunt and my dad. As noted in my post on Lawrence County Suiters,  James only had one son, my grandfather.

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