Identifying the Unidentified, Part III

Last week, former AAS intern Lucia Ferguson brought us through some of Henry Martin’s (a previously unidentified diarist) daily routines.  Read on to learn about his experience as a soldier in the Civil War, and a miner in a goldmine.

After working as a farmhand in his teenage years, Henry served in the Civil War. He signed up in September 1864 and was enlisted in K Company of the 1st New Hampshire Cavalry Regiment on March 14 of that year. In the diary, however, there is scant evidence for his military career—just two or three mentions of “seeing Mr. Barrett about my pension.” Although Henry’s interior life certainly doesn’t overwhelm the pages (the diary is hardly a masterpiece of introspection), I found it interesting that it took me a very long time to identify him as a veteran at all. This goes back to the idea that a diary is, as a way of recording a life, very much grounded in the present, with little room for a sense of the past.

Henry’s record in the Register of Soldiers and Sailors of New Hampshire (1861-65) lists him as having been wounded. But we don’t know anything about his life in 1864, not really. All we know, so far, is within the pages of his diary.

In late June, Henry goes to work as a hand at a brand-new goldmine (the Diamond Ledge site in Dublin, New Hampshire, owned by Levi and Moses Fairbanks). He remains at work there until September 14.

Henry is proud of his work, writing on August 10: “very good luck to day I held the drill and loaded the blasts etc / had to sharpen drills…” But overall, the work was difficult and the experience lonely. Henry’s most emotionally charged entries were all written during those months at the mine.

God help me and hold me up. Started for P[eterborough] again walked to my boarding place. The first from Jim was you look as though you had been crying. I must compose myself better– (Sunday, August 25)

Work on ledge / it seems so diferent / all the hands have the blues so I am not noticed. O that I might be with you Lizzie— (Monday, August 26)

If you drive through Peterborough to Dublin today, you can find Gold Mine Road.

Check back next week for Lucia’s final thoughts on her research into Henry, and the rest of the Martin family.

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