Diary of John Louis Whitaker Phares, Part II

Diary of John Louis Whitaker Phares, Part II

Dallas Morning News, September 4, 1927


Saturday, December 27, 1862:

Editor’s note: the article states that Colonel Posey detailed Phares;

To do dental work for the brigade. Shoes sent from home arrived today. There were welcome, as our boys were in great need of them.

Editor’s note: the article also states that Phares noted that the citizens of Wilkinson County sent packages of clothes for the soldiers and that

The boys were _____, each fellow eager to open [his] bundle to see what it contained from home.

Thursday, January 1, 1863:

Editors note: the article states there were rumors in camp that

The enemy are falling back toward Washington. I hope that success may follow us as the New Year advances, and that long peace and happiness may _____ where discord and strife now ______. We have cause to be thankful for the blessings God has bestowed on us since last spring. Many victories.

Friday, January 2:

The enemy balloon was up several times today opposite Fredericksburg. Little of interest in camp until Richmond cars brought the news of Gen. Bragg’s victory over the Hessians at Murfreesboro, Tenn. The good news revived our spirits.

Editor’s note: The “enemy balloon” of which Phares speaks was part of the Union army Balloon Corps, organized and run by civilian scientist Thaddeus Lowe. These balloons were used for surveillance of Confederate movements at a number of battles from 1861 – 1863.

Thaddeus Lowe inflating the balloon INTREPID - Library of Congress

Date unreadable in article [January 4-6]

Come in from picket duty at 10 last night. _____ on the river above Fredericksburg. In speaking distance of enemy pickets, but were not allowed to speak to them nor permitted to fire on them by order of Gen. Lee.

Wednesday, January 7:

Regiment paid off today up to Jan. 1, two months in all. Weather very inclement, detailed to work on earthworks today. My mess commenced building a house of pine logs for winter quarters. Had to [carry] poles a mile on our shoulders. The house is nearly finished, covered with tent flies. _____ in at dark but chimney not yet finished. Sent $50 to Richmond this morning for material to do dental work with.

Monday, January 12:

Our house is finished. It has only a dirt floor, but is quite comfortable compared to our usual way of camping. Orders came to march on a moment’s notice. Heard from Ma today. The enemy is reported to be making a demonstration along the river _____ here.

Image illustrating the typical construction of Confederate huts - Library of Congress

Sunday, January 18:

Col. Posey received a promotion yesterday to Brigadier General. He made a farewell speech this evening to the regiment. All much affected, as it was thought he would be transferred. At dusk he returned from Gen. Featherstone’s headquarters informing us he would command the brigade. He was serenaded after dark by the band.

Image of Carnot Posey taken before his promotion to brigadier general - Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, VA

Tuesday, January 20:

We went to [bid] Gen. Featherstone adieu. Col. Taylor of the Twelfth Mississippi expressed regrets of the brigade in losing Gen. Featherstone. The General said said it was his honest opinion that this was the best brigade that ever the sun of heaven shone on. Gen. Posey took command of the brigade today.

Thursday, January 22:                                    

Before light today sound of cannon was heard, presumably de_____ the approach of the enemy. The long roll was beat and every man answered roll call promptly. It was found to be a false alarm, however, and all returned to camp. A house had burned at Fredericksburg in which shells were placed, this causing the sounds. Parson Reeves made farewell remarks tonight, as he transferred. A gentleman from Mississippi preached to the Sixteenth Regiment. It is the first sermon I have heard since last summer at Charlottesville.

Date not stated [January 1863]

Editors note: the article states that Phares and a companion went into Fredericksburg and

While in town we walked into the cupola of the Baptist church and took a view of the

The Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, VA - Library of Congress

enemy on the opposite side of the river. They are plentiful, passing to and fro. Several regiments of infantry were marching, with wagons moving in various directions. Enemy soldiers were walking about _____. Their pickets are just across the river from us We were in speaking distance of them.

Date not stated [January – February 1863]

This is the second picket duty for us in a week. The world is a white sheet of snow today. More that twelve inches deep. Brother William arrived at Capt. Sims’ company today. We were relieved from picket duty after three days. I got a _____ chair at Fredericksburg to do dental work in. The enemy is thickly astir across the river today.

Friday, February 13:

Elected Harry Lewis Third Lieutenant today. Had considerable sport out of a member of Company C, making him believe he had been elected Third Lieutenant of Company K. Never did I see a joke run on a fellow so hard before. Had a snowball frolic before dark.

Sunday, February 22:

Snow fell all day, most disagreeable weather. About noon sound of cannon in the direction of Fredericksburg was heard. Everyone expected to be called out, but it proved to be a salute in honor of Washington’s birthday.

Thursday, March 5:

Had battalion drill today. I was appointed corporal yesterday.

Editor’s note: the article states that Phares was left with a guard detachment when the remainder of the regiment was ordered to United States Ford twelve miles up the river:

The enemy keeps up a stir across the river, drums beating and rumbling of wagons continuous. 

Friday, March 27:

This is the day appointed by the President for prayer and fasting. Attended preaching both morning and afternoon. Whole earth covered with snow. Spent some time with a young lady, the first visit I have made this year.

Sunday, April 26:

Had a good time on picket duty today. The enemy came down to water’s edge across the river while we were fishing on our side. They seemed to want to be sociable, but all communications are forbidden by commanders on both sides. Sent to Richmond for $25 worth of gold foil.

Thursday, April 30:

Posey’s Brigade retreated from Chancellorsville to Fredericksburg. We threw up breastworks but in our company there was only one shovel and one pick. Our company was the first to complete rifle pits. Gen. Wright’s Georgia Brigade is here. The enemy charged several times, but we repulsed them. Reinforcements are arriving. Gen. Jackson came up this morning. Our regiment was much pleased to see him.

Saturday, May 2:

We lay on our arms. Skirmishing went on all night. Gen. Lee came along at noon and stopped near us. This is the first time I have seen him in this campaign. Gen. Lee ordered us out double quick to the battle line. Several men wounded.

Sunday, May 3:

The enemy gave way on our left. Gen. Jackson flanked them yesterday, attacking their rear. They fell back at night. The enemy took Fredericksburg Heights today and advanced on our flank till we made a stand at a brick church. The enemy charged our lines desperately, but were drive back with great slaughter. Gen. Jackson was wounded last night just after midnight. It is said he was shot by North Carolinians who thought he and his staff were enemy cavalry.

Monday, May 4:

The enemy gave way before us yesterday, being driven from their fortifications with little resistance. Frequently we could hear their officers ordering them to go forward, but they would not obey.

Sunday, May 10:

Today has been set apart by Gen. Lee to return thanks to the Most High for great victory over our enemy. But Gen. Jackson’s death at 3:30 p.m. today shocked and saddened us. He lost his left arm and was wounded in the right hand, his death being caused by pneumonia. A gloom is over the whole army. Many shed tears. All lament him. Our cause is greatly weakened by his loss.

Thursday, June 4:

My leg pains me so much I can hardly bear it. Our sick squad of 120 entrain for Gordonsville today. Yesterday I saw the house in which Gen. Jackson died. It is a good-sized brick dwelling, with four chimneys, some distance down the road from town on a little hill.

Date not stated [June 1863]

Editor’s note: The article states that Phares and the other sick of the regiment were sent from Gordonsville to Lynchburg where

We spent the night in a tobacco building near the depot converted into a hospital. This morning after riding around to several hospitals all filled, I was taken into Crumpton Hospital, Third Division, first ward.

Thursday, July 9:

Editor’s note: The article states that Phares was confined to his hospital bed for weeks, and wrote:

The news from Vicksburg causes us to wear long faces.

It went on to note that Phares’ leg refused to heal, and he was given a furlough to return home to Mississippi and recuperate there. He traveled by train, steamer and mule-drawn buggy across the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama before reaching his native state. His last night on the road was spent in a camp by the road to Liberty, Mississippi.

Tuesday, August 19:

Left camp before light today. Arrived at Mr. Robert Richards about 11 a.m. Reached home at Woodville at 1 p.m., my little mule ‘Jerry’ making thirty-two miles from Liberty to this place in good time.


Postwar pictures of John Louis Whitaker Phares from the Dallas Morning News, September 4, 1927. Note that the paper had Phares' age incorrect - he was 81, not 85.

After the war Phares got married and in 1871 he and his wife moved to Texas. Among the items that the doctor carefully packed for the trip to his new home were the diaries that he had kept during the Civil War. The couple settled in Dallas, Texas, where Phares built up a thriving dental practice. On December 5, 1917, Phares died of pneumonia at the age of 81. Some nine years later the family allowed his Civil War diaries to be published by the Dallas Morning Herald.


2 thoughts on “Diary of John Louis Whitaker Phares, Part II

  1. Hello Jeff

    Did you publish the following: Beneath Torn and Tattered Flags a History of the 38th Miss. Infantry?

    Was this published in a hardbound edition? Was there a jacket included?


    1. Don,
      I am the author of Beneath Torn and Tattered Flags, the book has been out of print for a number of years, but I hope one day to publish a revised and expanded edition. The original book was only published with a soft cover, and there was no dust jacket.


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