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Federal (USA)


Henry William Tisdale

(1837 - 1922)

Home State: Massachusetts

Command Billet: Company Sergeant

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 35th Massachusetts Infantry

Before Antietam

Henry was raised in West Dedham (now Westwood), Massachusetts. A 25 year old grocery clerk in early 1862, he enlisted as Sergeant in Company G of the 35th Massachusetts Infantry on 10 July. In his first diary entry, dated 30 July he noted:

÷ enlisted as a volunteer in the service of the U.S. Soon after the President's call for the 300,000 volunteers felt it my duty to be one of them, feel it as much a Christian as a political duty, and feel that every citizen ought to feel it so. And certainly have never felt more peace of mind as flowing from a sense of duty done, as in this matter of enlistment into the service of our country÷
After initial training, the 35th Infantry departed for Washington DC in late August, arriving at Arlington on the 24th. After brief guard and garrison duty there, the Regiment set off for Maryland with the rest of the Army of the Potomac on 7 September.

On the Campaign

On Sunday the 14th, approaching Fox's Gap on South Mountain, Henry wrote:

÷Prospects of our getting into action before night multiply causing a sort of feverish excitement to come over me. Help me my heavenly Father to do my duty in thy fear and for glory for Christ's sake, Amen÷
He wrote next six weeks later describing what had transpired later that day:
At little after 5 PM were upon the ground where the booming of artillery the screaming of shot and shell and rattling of musketry told us we were mid the stern realities of actual battle ÷ drawn up in the line of battle in a cornfield and then advanced through a sort of wooden field to a thick wood where we met the rebels or a few scattering ones for their main body was on the retreat÷ Just after we entered the wood was wounded by a rifle ball passing through my left leg just opposite the thighbone.

As the ball struck me it gave me a shock which led me to feel at first that the bone must have been struck and shattered and for a moment did not dare to move for fear it was so. Found on moving that the bone was not injured and that I had only a flesh wound÷ I think that the shot must have been fired by some straggling rebel or sharpshooter in a tree, as we had not yet got up to within reach of the rebel lines÷

The rest of the War

Over the next days Tisdale was treated at a makeshift hospital in Middletown, then in the Lutheran Church in Frederick, finally at the Government Hospital in Philadelphia. In late October he was sent to recover at Alexandria, Virginia. He returned to active duty with his Regiment, by then at Falmouth, Virginia, in February 1863.

Henry and his Regiment traveled West with the Ninth Corps in mid-1863, serving in Kentucky and Tennessee, and then on to the Vicksburg Campaign surviving a near miss in July at Jackson. In August they returned to Tennessee seeing action on the Knoxville Campaign and in East Tennessee through March 1864.

The 35th rejoined the Army of the Potomac in April and was soon on the Wilderness Campaign. On 24 May Henry was separated from his unit and captured by Confederate troops near the North Anna River:

÷ found myself alone and mid the rain, mist and wood began to be in doubt as to the line of retreat when I came upon Lt. Creasy, and two other staff officers chatting unconcernedly and so felt all right and kept on coming out to open field when I came upon a line of skirmishers lying upon the ground. Marched towards them supposing them our own men when suddenly a half a dozen or more jumped up took aim and yelled out "drop that gun"-kept towards them yelling out "don't fire on your men", only to receive a second yell from them. Then to suddenly realize that death or surrender was my alternative and with a feeling of shame and mortification, threw down my gun which I had hoped to carry home (with scar of rebel bullet received at Jackson, Mississippi) as a memorandum of the war.

Was soon taken in charge by a member of the 7th Alabama with a reproof for not dropping my gun at their first call, and the remark that in "another minute you would of been a dead man." Marched to the rear was relieved of rubber blanket, shelter tent, and cartridge box, and found myself with about 25 more unfortunates. Was humiliated to find myself alone of the 35th at first but not for long, for soon came in the three staff officers, and five comrades of the 35th÷
Thus began Henry's sojourn as a prisoner of war. After a short stay at Libby Prison, Richmond, he was moved south to Andersonville (Camp Sumter, Georgia) where he would spend the next 4 months under abysmal conditions.

In October 1864 he was transferred to Camp Lawton, near Millen, Georgia, but, threatened by the approach of Sherman in late November, the Confederates moved the inmates again, this time to Florence, South Carolina. He remained there until exchanged, through Wilmington, North Carolina, on 3 March 1865.

After the War

After being reunited with his Regiment he was mustered out of service on 13 June, and returned home. He married in 1868 and fathered a house full of children. In about 1870 he moved to Roxbury and opened his own grocery store.

References & notes

Biographical information and snippets from Henry W. Tisdale's diary are from the complete transcription posted online by great grandson Mark Farrell, who's email pointed me to the Sergeant in the first place. Be warned however, that this diary website is rife with pop-up ads.


03/09/1837; Walpole, MA


05/31/1922 Roxbury, MA; burial in Highland Cemetery, Norwood, MA