The Civil War Diary of Henry Frank Dillman

Dillman1Dillman2Visitors to the Lilly Library often ask, “What proportion of the library’s books have been digitized?” or “Are you working on digitizing all these books and manuscripts?” It is hard to give a firm answer to these questions. Yes, we are digitizing materials all the time, but the books and manuscripts we put online only amount to only a tiny portion of the overall collections. Given that the Lilly Library holds more than 450,000 books and more than eight million manuscript items, it should not be a shock that only a small percentage is available online. But that small portion is growing all the time and includes very interesting materials. Coordinating the Library’s digital activities is part of my job, and I’ll be blogging about our digitized materials, starting with an item of local interest.

Part of the Indiana History manuscripts collection, Henry Franklin Dillman’s Civil War diary was digitized as part of “At War and at Home,” a collaborative project from the Monroe County Public Library (MCPL) that documents Monroe County history in the US Civil War period. Dillman, born in 1838, joined Company “G” of the 31st Indiana Volunteer Infantry in the fall of 1861. The Company consisted of volunteers from Bloomington and Monroe County.

His diary is less a day-to-day account than a history of Company “G,” written just a few months before the end of the war. Private Dillman himself calls the book a “little history,” and it seems to have been written when the Company was camped at Shellmound, Tennessee, near the close of 1864, though he reports on a few events of January 1865.

Dillman’s diary was edited and published in pamphlet form during the war’s centennial by the Monroe County Historical Society and Monroe County Civil War Centennial Commission, and there are local copies in the IU Libraries and the Monroe County Public Library.

But wouldn’t it be more fun to read the original? It is waiting for you right now online: http://go.iu.edu/J4C

Reading old handwriting can seem daunting if you haven’t done it before, but Dillman had very good penmanship. He was not a poetic or particularly descriptive writer however. His account focuses on facts, dates, and places, but he includes some patriotic language in his preface:

PREFACE: The object of the writer in putting out this little history is to let those who read know that Co.”G” 31st Indiana has never been idle. Always where danger was most thick, there was the 31st. Always in the midst.

And in the final two pages of account:

Honor to whom honor is due.

Our country and flag E Pluribus Unum is our motto.

Death to all traitors, North and South.

And Abraham Lincoln for next President.

And a vigorous prosecution of the war till every Rebel is made to kiss the soil he has polluted with his crimes.

Besides the intrinsic interest of reading the digital version or even better—reading the original in person—one often finds that published versions don’t match the manuscript exactly. For example, in the published version of Dillman’s diary, the phrase “E Pluribus Unum“ is omitted from the above passage. I found at least one other instance where the published version doesn’t match the manuscript, and there are likely a few others to be found. It could be a mistake or it could be an editorial decision, but for now it is an open question.

Erika Dowell,

Associate Director and Head of Public Services

 

References:

Henry Franklin Dillman, Civil War diary, Indiana History mss., http://go.iu.edu/J4C

At War and at Home: Monroe County Timeline 1855-1875, http://mcpl.info/resources/war-and-home

Author- Erika Dowell

I am Associate Director & Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts at the Lilly Library, the principal rare books, manuscripts, and special collections repository of Indiana University.