Richard Colburn Diary
Scope and Content
The collection consists of the American Civil War diary of Richard Colburn, an enlisted soldier of the 12th Infantry of the United States Regular Army attached to the Army of the Potomac. The diary contains entries from December 18, 1861 to February 17, 1863 and details camp life, daily activities, battles, and experience as a prisoner of the Confederate army. It traces Colburn’s first days in the army in Iowa and his travel from 14 February 1862 when he left Iowa to his arrival at Fort Hamilton in New York City two days later and his continuing journey to Washington DC. Upon arrival in Washington, Colburn notes that he “put in to help cook.” Many of his subsequent entries include brief notations of cooking for the men. Expecting to march to Manassas Junction from Washington, he moved first to Camp California, just outside Alexandria, VA, and from there to Fort Monroe in late March 1862.
The 12th Infantry, marching from Fort Monroe, became involved in the Peninsula Campaign, which lasted into July 1862. Coburn refers to “the hard battle between Yorktown and Richmond” (Battle of Williamsburg) on May 5th and makes reference to Big Bethel and Camp Winfield Scott where he was camped. On Friday 27 June 1862, Coburn was engaged in the Battle of Gaines’ Mill and writes, “marched off to the left where we had a heavy battle where Maj. Clitz [Henry Boynton Cliz] myself and several others were wounded and taken prisoner by the 5th regiment Va, with some that was not wounded, many killed. " The remainder of the diary describes his time in hospital, both Confederate and Union, his eventual release on 15 January 1863, and his trip home. Colburn’s last entry is dated 17 February 1863 when he was in Southington, Ohio visiting his sister on his way, presumably, to Iowa.
A transcript of the diary is available as part of the collection.
- 1861 - 1863
- Colburn, Richard, 1832-1907 (Person)
Language of Materials
The material in the collection is in English.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use
The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials.
Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: http://bit.ly/scuareproduction. Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: http://bit.ly/scuapublication. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives (firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.
Born in Ohio on 8 October 1832, son of Francis Noble Colburn (born, New York) and wife, the former Caroline Bloss (born, Vermont), Richard Colburn enlisted in the 12th Infantry of the United States Regular Army on 18 December 1861. His home at the time of his enlistment, as indicated in the diary, was Ellington, Iowa, in Hancock County. Colburn served as a cook with Company B of the 12th Infantry of the United States Regular Army, which was attached for much of the American Civil War to the Army of the Potomac. He was wounded--shot through the calf--and captured at the Battle of Gaines’ Mill on 27 June 1862. After recuperating for about a month in Confederate hospitals, he was transferred to Union custody and eventually was taken to Philadelphia to continue his convalescence. He was released from the hospital on 15 January 1863 and returned home.
His diary mentions several relatives as either recipients or writers of letters. Among them are his wife, Elmira, to whom he was married on 7 May 1861; brothers, Oliver, Parley, Francis, and Lewis; sisters Maryetta and Rhoda; and brother-in-law J.C.[?] Heckart. Other siblings included Paul, Lorenzo, and Harvey. (History of Kossuth, Hancock, and Winnebago Counties, Iowa reports that Paul, a member of an Illinois regiment, was killed near Richmond and Lorenzo died in hospital, a member of the Wisconsin 12th. A Paul Colburn of the Illinois 93rd was killed at Champion Hills, MS in May 1863. A Lorenzo Colburn of the Iowa 23rd died of disease in June 1863 at Young’s Point, LA. A Harvey Colburn, also of the Illinois 93rd was discharged in January 1863. A Lewis Colburn of Hancock Co. Iowa and a member of the 2nd Iowa Cavalry, died of disease in June 1865 in Eastport, MS.) Colburn’s first wife, Diana (Diena) died in Ellington in April 1858, shortly after the death of their infant daughter, Calista.
According to the 1870 census, Richard and Elmira lived in Ellington, Iowa with sons Amos, Francis, John, and daughter Caroline. Also in Ellington in 1870 are his parents, F.N. Colburn and wife Caroline, along with his brother Parley and his family. The 1880 census shows Richard Colburn in Ellington with wife Anna (his second wife Elmira died in 1872), age 26, from Holland, with sons Francis and John, young daughter Diena, and two nieces and nephews, both from Holland. Later census records show Anna’s place of birth to be Denmark. Richard Colburn died on 2 December 1907 in Kingman, Arizona.
During the American Civil War, the Army of the Potomac was organized at Fort Hamilton, New York under the direction of President Lincoln on May 4, 1861, and confirmed by Act of Congress on July 29, 1861. The Army of the Potomac fought in several battles including: Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. During the term of service, the regiment lost 126 soldiers by death from wounds and 193 men by death from diseases.
External sources and additional resources:
"Union Regular Army: 12th Regiment, US Infantry (Regular Army) ", National Park Service's Civil War database, https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battle-units-detail.htm?battleUnitCode=UUR0012RI, accessed April 21, 2023.
"Army of the Potomac", Appomattox Court House, National Park Service, https://www.nps.gov/apco/army-of-the-potomac.htm, accessed April 21, 2023.
History of Kossuth, Hancock, and Winnebago Counties, Iowa; together with sketches of their cities, villages, and townships, educational, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons, and biographies of representative citizens, Springfield, IL: Union Publishing Co., 1884. Call number F627.K6 H58.
0.1 Cubic Feet (1 folder)
The collection consists of the American Civil War diary of Richard Colburn, an enlisted Union soldier of the 12th Infantry of the Army of the Potomac. The diary details camp life, daily activities, battles, and Colburn's captivity as a POW beginning in July 1862.
The collection is arranged by material type.
Source of Acquisition
The Richard Colburn Diary was purchased by Special Collections in 2009.
Existence and Location of Copies
Rights Statement for Archival Description
The guide to the Richard Colburn Diary by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/public-domain/cc0/).
The processing, arrangement, and description of the Richard Colburn Diary commenced and was completed in March 2010. Additional description was completed in January 2011.
- Richard Colburn Diary, 1861-1863
- Carmen Boggs-Parker, Student Assistant, and Marc Brodsky, Public Services and Reference Archivist
- 2010 (CC0 1.0)
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository
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