Civil War Diary of a Lisbon, OH Boy


This is the 1861 diary of a teenage boy living in New Lisbon, the seat of Columbiana County, Ohio. His job doing various tasks at a local newspaper ensures that he is well-informed of current events as the American Civil War breaks out.

Like any teenager, he is fascinated by soldiers and loves to play ball, but he also does a lot of the work involved in renovating the family’s other house. He spends a couple of days pumping water out of the cellar up there, for example, and tends the garden.

At the paper he sets type and works it off, deals with invoices and receipts, does stitching, sets packs, looks over proofs, and sets up and works off special jobs such as pamphlets and election tickets. When one of the apprentices, Clem Vallandigham, doesn’t show up to work one day, this young man does his job. Clem is fired the next day.

Philosophy, Latin, and history are the school subjects he dives into the most.

He’s learning to play the flute, attends lectures and meetings at the Court House, joins the Literary Society (one debate topic is “Resolved, that the Negro deserves more to complain than the Indian”). Quite often, for something to do, he goes “up street” with Ma or on his own, or goes to get the mail.

On March 5th he helps the typesetters at the paper set President Lincoln’s inaugural address and then carries it around town and sells “a good many.” On September 9th he goes to the Court House and is a witness when “the Republican candidates all declined their nominations.”

On October 8th, Ohio held state and county elections (for which our young man made the “tickets” a week earlier in the absence of the fired apprentice). “Today was election. I stayed pretty much (all the time I had) around the polls. The Union ticket was elected. In the evening the boys burnt boxes and barrels on the Square and I did very wrong by staying with them.”

The American Civil War began in 1861 and Ohio raised nearly 320,000 soldiers for the Union army. A couple of years later, Columbiana County was the scene of one of the northern-most actions fought during the war.

Our diarist frequently goes “up street” to see the soldiers march, to march with them, to watch the fife and drum, or to see companies off to the war.

In May, he and some others organize their own military company, and on May 11: “I went up with the cadets and they held an election there, and that mean Dave McBain cheated me out of my office.” On September 30: “David McBain ran away with Capt. Bean’s company this morning.”

This diary provides a fascinating look at the early days of the Civil War through the eyes of a teenager in a small Ohio town.

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Preview of Civil War Diary of a Lisbon, OH Boy

This preview of Civil War Diary of a Lisbon, OH Boy contains the diary entries of January 1861.

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