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Gwillim, Reese B. (1838-1905)
West Hartford
Twenty-Second Connecticut Infantry, Company E / Corporal
1862 October 1-1863 June 8
3 Volumes

Journals. Gwillim enlisted 28 August 1862 and was mustered-in a Private on 20 September 1862. He was promoted to Corporal on 6 November 1862 and was mustered-out on 7 July 1863. Incredibly articulate and detailed account, in a clear and legible hand, of his term of service in a nine-months regiment which participated in no major Civil War engagements. Speaks frequently of drills, camp life, guard duty, etc.
Location: MS

A sketch in a notebook by Reese Gwilim


[Edited and transcribed by K. Nolin, M.L.I.S., Assistant Library Director, The Connecticut Historical Society]


Gwillim died 8 June 1905. His wife, Kate H. Gwillim, sent the journals to The Connecticut Historical Society in August 1905 as requested by her husband before his death. In her letter, she wrote, "It seems to me Veterans will scarcely be able to read it - but faded and worn, carried by a young soldier who gave up going to college tha[t] he might do his duty and defend the Flag, it is a War relic. No thought of liberating the Slaves was in his mind - simply the country was in danger, the Government at Washington needed support and Abraham Lincoln called for Volunteers."

Gwillim mentions sisters Lizzie and Annie.

At one time the 22nd Connecticut Infantry was brigaded with the 40th Massachusetts Infantry, the 11th Rhode Island Infantry, the 141st New York Infantry and the 16th Virginia Infantry.

Gwillim celebrated his 24th birthday on 29 November 1862

10 October 1862, Camp Halleck: "the 12th Vermont came in and encamped near us, to day. I think they are as fine a looking set of men as I ever saw A news-paper article this morning says that $200,000 [?] worth of property is represented in that regt."

11 October 1862: "for with all the reality that there was in this standing guard on a rainy night, there was considerable romance. . ."

14 October 1862: "many of the men anticipate [picket duty] with the usual love of any thing for a change. It will be a new phase of soldier life, and they want to see all sides of it. Some of the men are more anxious to see the war cloud than is consistent with the right kind of spirit in such a matter."

1-3 November 1862, much is said about the rivalries and ambitions of some of the officers and the schemes and intrigues to force some officers to resign (Lt. Reynolds, for example). Captain Swan does, in fact, resign.

18 November 1862: "Our mess were alone in the tent as the rain pattered down on the linen roof, and I sat thinking of going into battle. Baker was writing on his box. Goodale sat on his knapsack on my one side while Mason sat on the other, both talking about the march to Babcock. I looked up from a letter I had just finished..., and said I 'Boys how do you feel at the prospect of going into battle? Goodale what do you think of it?' 'Well,' said he in a thoughtful way his eyes falling to the ground in seeming effort to analyse his feelings, 'I feel ready to go wherever it is my duty. I feel that I can trust God. I am weak; I own it, and I may possibly run, but I do not intend to. I shall do the best I can." 'Well, Mason, what are your feelings?' said I. Mason in his quiet way said, as he fixed his eyes on the corner of his box, 'I suppose I came out here to anything that was required me. I am ready to go onto the battle field if I am called there I hope I am ready for it. I feel a trust in God.' 'How is it with you Babcock,' said I turning to him next. 'Oh! I ain't very anxious about going. I should rather stay here. However, I suppose I must go if they want me. I wont back out.' There was too much of Yankee ambiguity in his reply to suit the occasion. Baker, meanwhile had sat, writing but little, hearing all the replies made. I knew he only wanted a chance to express his up & down, straight forward opinion of going into battle. I well knew how he felt about it, but to complete the round, I asked him. 'Well,' said he 'I look forward to the battle field without any feelings of dread. If my poor life will help in sustain[in]g this glorious government, I willingly offer it up on my Countrys altar. I came down here to fight for that noble old flag, and I am ready to do it. I do not expect to go back. I expect to fall on the battle-field, and I feel that my Heavenly Father will save me to life eternal. But should he spare me to go back to the friends I love in old Hartford, I could praise His name for it, forever."

20 November 1862: "On the [picket] post next beyond me was an old man really too old to be in the service, Dunbar by name [probably Private Riley Dunbar of Torrington, Company E]. The Capt. came along about dark to give the countersign to the line of pickets. When he came to this post he found Dunbar and his fellow sentinel both up to the door of their hut and chatting with those inside. The Capt.'s approach was not noticed, and he even passed them without their seeing him, when he halloed to them, and soon brought them to their duty. Reproving them, he left, having given the countersign, and proceeded along the line. When he came back he found Dunbar on his guard this time, and as he came up, the guard cried 'Halt!' The Capt. halted and not being told to advance, stood there, each looking at the other. Finally Dunbar said 'Why don't you advance?' 'How do you know who I am?' 'I guess you are the Capt' said he, 'you look like him.' 'Well,' said the Capt, 'why don't you tell me to advance in the right way?' Now the countersign was Grand Gulf, and poor Dunbar was some frightened & confused, and so he said 'Advance, Grand Gulf, and give the countersign.' Capt. said he should never bring him out on picket again.

23 December 1862, Gwillim mentions a man who possibly shot his own fingers off.

10 January 1863: "We have had the poor, unfinished Austrian rifle, an arm not fit for soldiers in action.... We now have the Whitney rifle... but they are not the Enfield rifle by a long distance."

Gwillim records many anecdotes regarding the 16th Virginia of the brigade, see 11 January 1863 and 18 January 1863.

11 February 1863, notes that Tom Thumb & his bride came to visit. Gwillim states that the Bride's brother was serving in the 40th Massachusetts Infantry.

7 March 1863, regarding the Chaplain's dishonorable discharge which Gwillim felt was unmerited: "I felt so worked up when I finished reading it, that I felt as if I could turn a whole grist-mill, I felt so much like grinding."

13 March 1863, quotes the "Soldier's Prayer:" "Our Father who art in Washington; Father Abraham; by thy name be victory won; Thy will be done at the South as at the North Give us this day our daily rations of crackers and pork, and forgive us our short comings, as we forgive our Quarter-masters; For thine is the Power, the soldiers and the negroes for the space of three years. Amen." The Connecticut Historical Society also owns this prayer as published in small broadside format.

15 March 1863, Gwillim weighs 164 pounds.

14 April 1863: "We reached Suffolk, Va. A Brigade of Conn. Regts composed of 8th, 11th, 15th, 16th & 21st is encamped here." Apparently General Longstreet did some probing against the forces there but abandoned an attempt to take Suffolk.

19 April 1863: "Yesterday Lt. Bates of the 11th Conn. came over to see me and said that Co. Steadman [Griffin Stedman] sent his compliments. . . . Col. Steadman and I were old school mates at Hartford High School."

22 April 1863, regarding soldiers disinterring bodies to remove them to the soldiers' burial ground in Suffolk, VA: "found a body sewed up in a sack; they uncovered it so as to see the face and found it was only a colored man, (killed on the gunboat, also) then buried it again. It was only a 'nigger' And yet he had doubtless done his duty and deserved more honored burial."

16 May 1863, writes that one of his comrades dreamed he "got into a fight" with his father. An interesting dream for psychoanalysis.

17 May 1863, regarding the "vile" black vinegar they were issued: "I sometimes wonder it dont eat up my beans before I do."

26 June 1863: "The transports appeared. We embarked about 800 men & next day were in Baltimore.... It was the 28th when we reached New York, where we took the boat for Hartford."

The 22nd Connecticut Infantry marched in parade through Hartford and the unit was mustered-out on 7 July 1863.