John H. Ashenfelter was a soldier in the 138th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, a regiment that mustered in on August 16, 1862. The Historical Society has in its collection Corporal Ashenfelter’s 1864 diary. He only kept the diary about a month, but we can learn quite a bit about him from just a few entries. For example, he was a religious man, attending church on Sundays and frequently attending prayer meetings during the week. He writes about eating beans and turnips and often having “dresparade.”
In one moving entry, he writes of his sister:
In a later entry, he records a review of his regiment by General Grant, who had been given command of all Union armies the previous month. It’s difficult to read, but clicking the image will make it bigger.
Most of the entries describe the slow days of a regiment in camp, but at the beginning of May, the 51st was given its marching orders. They were heading into the Battle of the Wilderness. The final day recorded by Ashenfelter is a long day marching that ends, “no fighting at all.”
The entry for May 5, 1864 was written by John Ashenfelter’s cousin, Charles Barnes.
Ashenfelter had anticipated his own death. At some point he had written this note in the back of the diary: