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J. O. Humphreys Civil War Diary
1st Independent Battery Ohio Artillery
Shenandoah Valley, April-July 1864

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Private J. O. Humphreys:
A Union Soldier in the Shenandoah Valley
and a Missing VMI Order Book
 

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About the Diary:

This diary has a fascinating history. Private J. O. Humphreys was among the Union soldiers who briefly occupied Lexington, Virginia in June 1864--an event known locally as "Hunter's Raid." The Union forces, led by General David Hunter, destroyed several VMI buildings, as well as much of the cadet library and laboratory equipment. An unknown Union officer discovered the Order Book for the VMI Corps of Cadets, (containing administrative details of cadet life from January 17, 1862-May 7, 1864) and it eventually came into the possession of Private J. O. Humphreys of the 1st Ohio Artillery. He used the empty pages in the back of the volume to record this account of his unit's activities from late April through early July, 1864. Humphreys was subsequently mortally wounded at Petersburg, Virginia. Before he died, he gave the Order Book to his best friend, Private Harvey Rhodes. The book was cherished by Rhodes, who settled in Indiana after the war and lived to the age of 82, and was inherited by Rhodes' son. The original Order Book, now including the diary, was returned to VMI in the 1970's, more than one hundred years after its disappearance. The unit was organized at Camp Chase on July 6, 1861, under Captain James R. McMullen. It served in West Virginia and temporarily in the Army of the Potomac; saw action at the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam; joined General Hunter's expedition to Lynchburg, Virginia, June 1864; Battle of Winchester July 24; retreat to Williamsport, Md.; ordered to Martinsburg, W. Va., and saw duty there guarding stores till March, 1865; moved to Harper's Ferry, then to Washington, D.C. for garrison duty; mustered out June 26, 1865.