Skip to main content

William Cline Diary

Identifier: MSN/CW 8007


A volume including manuscript diary entries dated from August 1863 to October 1864 written by Civil War soldier William Cline, as a member of Co. B, 73rd Ohio Infantry. The book also includes a 53-page memoir chronicling Cline's service from 1861-1863.


  • Creation: 1863-1864


Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

William Cline, the son of David Cline (1796-1857) and Elizabeth Delong (1796-1880), was born in Beaver Township, Guernsey County, Ohio on 12 July 1830. By 1850 he was living in Belmont County, Ohio, where he was apprenticed to a blacksmith named Joseph Hall. The 1850 Federal census identifies Cline as a resident of the Hall household in Warren Township. He married Matilda Hayes (b. 1829) on 19 March 1851. By 1860 the couple and their four young children had relocated to Huntington, Ross County, Ohio, where Cline was working as a blacksmith. The 1860 census values his real estate at $300 and his personal estate at $200. It is possible that by September 1862 the Cline family had moved to Waverly, just four miles south of the Ross County line in Pike County. Cline writes that on 12 September, following his capture and subsequent parole in August 1862, "i Reached mi famley ate Waverley and staide with Them till the 6 of october" (3r). Cline enlisted at Waverly on 14 October 1861, and on the 30th of December he was mustered in to Company B, 73rd Ohio Infantry for three years service. Initially a corporal, Cline was reduced on 20 May 1862 to private, and remained at that grade for the rest of his time in the army. He was captured on 30 August 1862 at the Second Battle of Bull Run. With the 1862 Exchange Cartel in effect, he was paroled the following day and made his way back to Ohio. He did not rejoin his regiment until 3 April 1863, spending much of the intervening time at home with his family. On 8 October 1862, Cline reported to Camp Thomas in Columbus, in accordance with regulations established by the War Department calling for the detention of paroled Union prisoners in "camps of instruction" pending their formal exchange. Soon after receiving his pay, he left camp and again returned home, remaining there until 24 March 1863. On 25 April, after he had rejoined his regiment at Stafford Church, Virginia, he was court-martialed for taking unauthorized leave and docked three months pay. In December 1863, while stationed in Lookout Valley, Tennessee, the majority of the men in the 73rd Ohio reenlisted for a second three-year term. The regiment was formally mustered out of service on 31 December, and mustered in again on 1 January 1864 as the 73rd Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry. On 4 January, 29 officers and 477 men departed for recruiting service in Ohio — the "thirtey Dayes furlow" Cline says was promised as an enticement to reenlist (52v). Only 16 declined to do so (compared with 118 from the 55th Ohio Infantry, a regiment in the same brigade), and Cline was among them (see Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 32, Part I, p. 24-25; and Hurst, p. 106-9). On 5 January, with his own regiment on furlough, he was transferred to the 136th New York Infantry, with which the 73rd Ohio was brigaded. He writes on 19 January that he had been "purmentely atatched" to Co. H, 136th New York (53r), but on 20 March he was transferred back to the 73rd "against mi will" (53v-54r). From January 1864 on, though, he was not with either regiment in the field, having been detailed as a blacksmith and attached to the brigade supply train. There is no record of Cline's service from 8 October to 31 December 1864, but presumably he remained employed as a brigade blacksmith. According to regimental records, Cline was discharged from the army on 31 December 1864, at the end of his term of service (the 1890 Federal census's special schedule for veterans gives his discharge date as 7 January 1865). Following the war Cline returned with his family to Belmont County, Ohio. The 1870 census lists him as the town blacksmith in Barnesville, where he remained until his death in 1899. The 73rd Ohio Infantry was organized at Camp Logan in Chillicothe, Ohio and mustered in to Federal service on 30 December 1861. The regiment left Camp Logan on 24 January 1862, joining a series of Federal expeditions into western Virginia. After five months there, the 73rd was attached to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, I Corps, Army of Virginia. Posted on the army's extreme left at Second Bull Run (29-30 August 1862), the regiment was squarely in the path of the Confederate assault that crushed the Union left flank, losing 148 men out of 312 engaged. Following a stint in the Washington defenses, the regiment was attached to the 2nd Brigade, 1st (later 2nd) Division, of the Army of the Potomac's XI Corps. As part of this corps, the regiment fought at Chancellorsville (1-5 May 1863) and Gettysburg (1-3 July 1863). In September 1863, XI Corps was sent west to reinforce the Army of the Cumberland (the corps was consolidated with XII Corps in April 1864 and re-designated XX Corps). Now assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, XI/XX Corps, the regiment participated in the night action at Wauhatchie Station, Tennessee (28-29 October 1863), the battles for Chattanooga (23-27 November 1863), and the almost continuous combat of the Atlanta campaign (1 May - 8 September 1864). Following the capture of Atlanta, the 73rd took part in the March to the Sea and the Carolinas campaign. The regiment was finally mustered out in Louisville, Kentucky on 20 July 1865. Over the course of the war, the 73rd Ohio suffered more combat fatalities (171 killed or mortally wounded) than deaths from disease or other causes (150). As they had at Second Bull Run, the 73rd Ohio lost nearly half its strength in the fighting on 2-3 July 1863. Of roughly 300 men engaged, 143 were killed or wounded, accounting for most of the casualties suffered by the entire brigade. Cline's description of his company's part in the battle is supported by the official reports filed by the 73rd's brigade and division commanders. The regiment arrived on the field just before noon on 1 July 1863, bringing up the rear of XI Corps. The corps' 1st and 3rd Divisions were rushed forward to reinforce I Corps, which was falling back toward Gettysburg. After an exhausting five mile march at the double-quick along rain-soaked roads, "wea ware all aboute give oute," Cline writes, "Bute wea came upe and formed in line of Batel ate 1 oclock" in time to see remnants of the shattered I and XI Corps streaming through the town (15r). The 2nd Division took up a defensive position just beyond the town on Cemetery Hill, with the 73rd Ohio deployed at the base of the hill to cover Union artillery posted on higher ground behind them. Over the next two days, the main Confederate attacks were directed at other sectors, but the regiment was in a terribly exposed position, posted between dueling artillery batteries and subject to a harassing fire from Confederate sharpshooters posted in outlying buildings. According to the battle report of Col. Orland Smith, the 73rd's brigade commander, Our entire front was covered by a line of skirmishers thrown out toward the enemy's lines, the right resting near the town and the left connecting with a similar line of the Second Corps. These skirmishers were more or less engaged with those of the enemy during the whole period from the 1st to the night of July 3. This line was exposed not only to the fire of the enemy's front, but to a fire from the flanks and rear by the sharpshooters posted in the houses in the town. Indeed, the main line, though posted behind a stone wall, was constantly subjected to annoyances from the same source. (Official Records, Series I, Volume 27, Part 1, p. 724) The fighting along the brigade's front seesawed back and forth, as Union and Confederate skirmish-lines alternately advanced and retreated. During the fighting on 2 July, a large contingent of Confederate skirmishers gained a fence line along a low-lying ridge, from which they could fire into the Federal gun crews on Cemetery Hill. Companies B and G, initially sent forward to support two other companies of skirmishers, were ordered to charge the Confederates and clear them from the ridge. As Cline writes, wea Hade . . . note layed there longe till wea was ordered over the fence Ande to charge whitch Dide againste 5 times Hour number a boute 3 Hondred yards Righte in fare view of the Rebels and them poringe in a moste Distruckte ful Fire in this charge William Mcclune ware kilde ande 3 others wounde of Hour copany ande company G loste 6 of his verey Beste men then wea ware ordered to Retreate whitche Havinge to Bea made upe a Hill 5 Hundred yards righte in fare of the Rebel fire the Balls pute me in the minde of trampinge in a neste of BumBelbes neste and them whisteing a Rounde you. (15v-16r) The next day, the entire regiment repeated this exercise. Cline writes that in a later charge "william E. Haynes was mortley wounded i triede to gite Him of Bute Beainge verey Heavey man i coulde note Bringe Him ande in theunder tarkin i loste mi gun" (16v-17r). Company B's losses in two days of fighting were severe; Cline reports that "in those charges ande Repulses" 23 men were killed or wounded out of 42 present (17r). But he could see that the enemy had suffered comparably. From Cemetery Hill on 3 July he and his comrades witnessed the repulse of the Confederate attack on the Union center: "wea saw the Hole of ite was a nice thinge Bute a mitey Blodey one" (18r). Advancing the next morning over abandoned Confederate positions, Cline came across a "sade specteicle men of the Rebels shote in almoste everey posision" (18r). Although he never has a negative word for the Union high command — he mentions no fewer than twenty-five Union generals in the volume, including Grant, Sherman, Meade, and Thomas, and he singles out "olde fightinge Joseph Hooker" for special praise (45r) — Cline harbored particular disdain for his company commander, Capt. Thomas W. Higgins. He accuses Higgins of indifference to the plight of his wounded men at Gettysburg: Hea thoughte no more of a wounded Man than you woulde of a chicken 2 Dayes Olde one time Hea ware cursinge a Boute His company and wanted to know where the Devel they ware one man spocke upe fore Him to gow Righte upe to That fence and Hea woulde finde the Reste whate ware note kilde or wounded ande the Reply ware with a sner is thate sow. (17r-v) Indeed, he attributes Co. B's heavy casualties in the battle to Higgins's eagerness to impress his superiors, arguing that many were lost "juste on the count of 2 leves on a sholder of T. W. Higens and to gite complimented by the colonel" (17r). He is also critical of the performance of his fellow enlisted men, including Richard Enderlin, a member of the regimental band who won promotion to sergeant and a Congressional Medal of Honor for valor at Gettysburg. Apparently embittered that another comrade, Corp. Wilson Riley, had been passed over for promotion, Cline remarks that "the man thate Dose the leaste faires the Beste enderlan never Dide eney Dootey onley Drum alitel and verey litel of thate" (28r).


1 folder.

Language of Materials



The collection is in one folder.

Related Materials

Cline's pocket diary consists of one leather-bound volume (12 cm.) of 122 leaves, with 213 hand-numbered pages of content in Cline's hand, almost all of it in ink. The inscription on the first page opposite the front pastedown indicates that he purchased the volume in 1863 (1r). Approximately 25 percent of the volume (roughly the first 53 pages) consists of a memoir recounting Cline's service to August 1863. On the first page of content (2r), beneath his name, birth date, and date and place of enlistment, Cline writes an abbreviated account of his movements from the regiment's departure from Chillicothe on 24 January 1862, to his capture on 30 August. This account, which functions almost as a preface to the subsequent memoir, continues onto the next page (2v), where Cline again inscribes his name and the details of his enlistment. The next 13 pages briefly chronicle Cline's capture and parole; his journeys home to Ohio and back to Virginia; and the Battle of Chancellorsville. The rest — almost three-quarters of the opening memoir — is devoted to the Battle of Gettysburg, where the 73rd Ohio suffered heavy casualties in the defense of Cemetery Hill. The remaining 138 pages of narrative content take the form of dated diary entries, some as brief 10 May 1864's "Rainde all nighte" (56v), but most ranging from 20 to 75 words. These entries cover the period from 20 August 1863 to 8 October 1864 and feature the Chattanooga and Atlanta campaigns, which combine to account for 110 pages. There are occasional gaps in the chronology, as well as stretches of continuous narrative accounting for days on which Cline presumably lacked time to write. The diary's final entry (8 October 1864) mentions a report from the east of heavy fighting outside Richmond (99r). The last few pages of the volume contain bills of clothing and other accounts, including two inventories of clothing and equipment lost at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg (113r). There are also entries related to blacksmithing, including recipes for soldering brass and silver, and tempering steel (118v-119r). As a diarist, Cline is not introspective; most often he simply chronicles his day-to-day movements, taking care to mention events he feels to be of military importance. He records a great deal of second hand information or "noose" (97r), as he calls it, which usually comes in the form of vague reports of cavalry engagements (which he invariably describes as Union victories), inflated Confederate casualty figures, and sightings of general officers. Census records shed no light on the extent of his formal education, yet the volume does contain a few examples of what could be called self-consciously literary flourishes. In the entry for 9 September 1863, he writes that "the sun Rose this morninge in all Hur magestey and Brilincey" (37r). One of the most immediately striking features of the volume is Cline's idiosyncratic spelling, particularly his habit of adding a terminal "e" to words ending in consonants, even words like "and" ("ande") and "at" ("ate"). This feature differs significantly from the usual, phonetic spelling practice of semi-literate Civil War soldiers, and is consistent throughout the volume. It may indicate that Cline was not a native English speaker, though nothing in the census records confirms this. Dating the memoir portion of the volume (which begins on page 3r) proves something of a challenge. The date "Sepetember 9th 1863" heads the first page of content (2r), but the memoir appears to have been written earlier. It seems that Cline initially left the first leaf (comprising pages 2r-v) blank, returning to it on 9 September 1863 — well after he had completed the memoir — to provide a preface that would expand the narrative to encompass the whole of his military experience. It is most likely that he composed the memoir between 23 July and 18 August 1863, during a stretch of relative inactivity following the Gettysburg campaign. Military records indicate that from late July to 24 September, the regiment was mostly idle, having gone into camp along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad in the vicinity of Bristoe Station. The regimental historian, Samuel H. Hurst, writes that "Our duty was light at all these places, and we were, indeed having a long and grateful rest after the severe campaign of Gettysburg" (Hurst, p. 80). On the march south from Pennsylvania, the 73rd Ohio crossed the Potomac on the morning of 19 July at Berlin, Maryland. Eighteen miles south of Berlin they crossed Goose Creek on the 20th. Cline heads the first page of the memoir (3r) with "Gainesvill va," a town approximately fifteen miles south of Goose Creek, and approximately five miles northeast of New Baltimore, Virginia, where the regiment encamped from 24-26 July. Cline probably began writing the memoir in Gainesville on the 22nd or 23rd. Five miles directly south of Gainesville is Greenwich, which the regiment passed through on 26 July and where they encamped from 17-22 August. Cline copied down an inscription from a tombstone in Greenwich's Baptist cemetery on 18 August. Beginning on 20 August (there is no entry for the 19th), Cline shifts from the continuous narrative characteristic of the memoir to segmented, dated entries. Here he also begins to use the present tense, as in the entry for 21-22 August: "the 21 ware verey warme But Juste in the eveninge there was a Shower of Rain whitch cooled the eare considerbel verey plesente to Day" (30r-v). The memoir contains enough information about Cline's day-to-day whereabouts to suggest that he may have copied details of chronology and geography from an earlier weather diary. Its prevailing tone of retrospection, along with its narrative coherence and structural continuity, distinguishes this section from the subsequent run of dated diary entries that comprises the bulk of the volume. Cline's account of the Gettysburg campaign is the focal point of the memoir. Situated between the memoir and the diary-proper is an epitaph that Cline copied from a tombstone in Greenwich, Virginia's Baptist churchyard on 18 August 1863. These "verses," as he calls them, which he copies in an uncharacteristically ornate and practiced hand, commemorate Mrs. Aminta S. Moseley, who "fore nearly half, a, century . . . was the stay and succor of The Presbyterian faith in This vicinity" (28v-29r). It is unclear why Cline was drawn to this particular inscription; nothing else in the volume indicates an abiding interest in religion, let alone Presbyterianism. Six pages later, Cline includes the chorus and verses of "The Rebels Excursion," a camp song that celebrates the Union victory at Gettysburg by ridiculing Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee (32r-33v). The transition into the diary portion of the volume coincides with the end of the Gettysburg campaign, just before the regiment was transferred to the Western theater. Entries from 20 to 30 August 1863 mention attempts by detachments of the 73rd Ohio to disrupt Confederate guerilla operations along Union supply routes in Virginia (30r-34v). On 24 September, the regiment was ordered to Manassas Junction where, on the 25th, they boarded the "cares ande Started fore washingeton citey" (40r). This was the first leg of a circuitous journey taking them as far north as Columbus, Ohio, as far south as Bridgeport, Alabama, and finally to the Army of the Cumberland in "chatanooghey" (44r). Cline writes of the successful Union assaults on Lookout Mountain (24 November 1863) and Missionary Ridge (25 November 1863), where "the olde 73de ware calde fore to charge a peace of woodes whitch the firste Bregade stalde on ware Deployed charged 1/2 a mile Repulste the Rebels withoute the loss of a man" (46r). The result of these actions, Cline writes, was "a purfick Route of the Hole Rebel armey" (47v). Following his transfer to the brigade wagon train, which put him some distance from the front lines, the content of the diary often turns to more commonplace topics. Cline frequently comments on the weather, the daily movements of the train, and the constant stream of men and materiel bound for "the fronte" (63r). On occasion he also gives insight into the nature of his duty and its particular hazards. He reports on the morning of 8 May 1864 that he has "sete 18 shoes" (56r), and on 5 August writes that he was "kicked on the nea Bey a mule the 3 verey painful" (88v). Mid-summer campaigning in Georgia brought its own discomforts: "the worste wea sufer with is flies they are tremendious Bade," he writes on 28 July 1864 (85r). Though his transfer took him out of the fighting, Cline continued to use his diary to record the progress of Union arms. Typical is his entry for 29 May 1864, detailing a failed Confederate attack on XV Corps near Pumpkin Vine Creek: May 29 1864 Sharpe Skermishing in fronte till 8 oclock, then all quiete again, coole and plesante weather lainge two miles from Dalace Barto .co. georgea the fighte of laste night ware the loss of 2 thousen Rebels By a charge on Hour lines Hancemly Repulste By general logan Division pulde oute train ande moovede 5 miles north easte ande parked. (62v) For the most part, the diary provides a rear-echelon perspective on the 73rd Ohio's engagements during the advance on Atlanta, including Rocky Face Ridge (8 May 1864), Resaca (14 May 1864), New Hope Church (25 May 1864), Dallas (26 May 1864), Kennesaw Mountain (27 June 1864), and Peach Tree Creek (19-20 July 1864). The entry for 2 September 1864 records the capture of Atlanta: 2/64 laste nighte Heavey firing war Hearde in the Direction of atlantey 8 Hundred of the 3 Bregade wente oute to see whate firinge ite ware ande wente on til they came in Site of atlantey ande now eneymey to Bea founde ande they charged in to the sitey tooke 3 Hundred prisoners ande Run out one Bregade of caverley ande the town ware Surendered to the 3 Division ande 20 corps on the 2 Day of Sepetember. (95v) These engagements can usually be tracked in the diary as periods marked by "Heavey canonadinge in fronte" (66r). When he can get them, Cline fills in the "particlers" in subsequent entries (73r), as on 21 July 1864, when he writes that "the Rebls made a charge on the 20 and 4 corps Bute war Repulste with Heavey loss the 73de o/v/i lost 68 men in kilde and wounded" (81r-v). On the following day, the wagon train passed by a portion of the Peach Tree Creek battlefield. Though a seasoned veteran, Cline is awestruck by the devastation wrought on the landscape by rifle and cannon fire. "The timber is literley moad off By grape and Shell," he writes on 22 July, "ande the timber is cute to peaces Buy Hour mineyes" (82r). Still reflecting on the carnage four days later, he writes that "the Batel of the 20 ware foughte on verey Broken grounde a greate meney of the Joneyes note Buried yete . . . i counted 114 shotes in one tree 3 feate over" (84r). Cline does not directly address politics or ideology in the volume. He says nothing about his reasons for enlisting, nor, for that matter, about his decision not to reenlist in December 1863. When "the veteren feaver gote into campe," he writes, "all Reinlisted fore 3 yeres longer all fore a thirtey Dayes furlow Bute I couldente see ite" (52v). He does mention the 1863 Ohio gubernatorial contest between John Brough and Clement Vallandigham, which gained national notoriety because of Vallandigham's vocal opposition to the war. Indicating no preference, Cline merely records the regiment's vote tally: "14th 1863 this is election times election is over Boragh majority maJorirty is 227 there ware 24 give fore valandenHam" (41r-v). Conditioned by nineteenth-century American culture's valorization of self-sufficiency and democracy, volunteer soldiers on both sides found it extremely difficult to adapt to the regimentation of military life. Cline is no exception. He complains very little about the hardships of campaigning, but he does express frustration with marching and countermarching to no apparent purpose. As he writes of the regiment's failed attempt to corner the Confederate cavalry raider John S. Mosby in late July 1863, "the 73de Regemente wente 8 miles Down goos crick to ketch olde mosby Bute the Birde hade fowen Before they Hade gote there this march of the 73de was like Honderdes of other wones to now efecte whteeve onley to Run Down the men" (22r).

William Cline Diary
George Rugg
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections Repository

102 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame IN 46556