The Civil War Letters and Diaries of Alonzo M. Keeler, Captain, Company B, Twenty-second Michigan Infantry
By Robert D. and Cheryl J. Allen
Published by Robert D. and Cheryl J. Allen
This story, factually written, is of an officer serving in the Union Army during the War of the Rebellion. Through his daily diary entries and several letters that he wrote to family members, the day-to-day tasks, responsibilities, and obligations he assumed, even as a prisoner of war, provide us with a glimpse into life as it existed during this conflict in our nation's history. Alonzo M. Keeler provides us the opportunity to travel back to that time when North and South were antagonists and the entire nation was engulfed in this conflict. He not only provides a glimpse of routine army life, but a vivid description of what prison life entailed for those whose freedom was denied. No matter which cause one fought for, the descriptions of prison life were, in many instances, the same for both the blue and the gray.
In Captain Keeler's own words:
Sunday, September 20 (1863) -- We slept on our line without blankets and nearly without rations -- Heavy frost -- At 9 oclock we were ordered to march to reinforce Gen Thomas -- At 1-1/2 P.M. we were brought against the rebel Gen Preston -- The 22d was engaged in the most terrific fire for 4 hours -- We lost heavily in killed and wounded and were all taken prisoners --
Wednesday, September 30 (1863) -- A cool morning -- foggy -- heavy dew -- poor soil -- pine and persimmons abound from Georgia to Virginia -- Arrived at Wilton at 8-1/2 A.M. change cars for Petersburg -- Arrive at Petersburg 4 P.M. -- Arrive at Richmond and take up our abode in Libby Prison at 8 P.M. -- This in 10 days is a wonderful change -- Now we cannot step on the sacred soil of the old Dominion -- When shall we be free again --
Any serious study of a battle or regiment is enhanced when the conditions the troops fought under can be included. Because so much time was spent in camp as compared to the actual time spent in battle, to understand how the weather, terrain and health of the soldiers contributed to the outcome, adds depth and texture to the strategies of military maneuvers. Bob and Cherie Allen have brought together Captain Alonzo Keelers diary, letters and speeches to the GAR to provide us with just such a look into the daily life of a 22nd Michigan Union Officer. Capt. Keelers own words illustrated the highs and lows of his confinement in Libby prison and after the war, his return to civilian life. His depth of feeling and dedication to his regiment never wavered. This book is a great companion piece to anyone studying battles involving the 22nd Michigan.
Bill Grandstaff, Facilitator, Israel B. Richardson Civil War Roundtable
I read every book written by or about Union Officers who were imprisoned from August 1863 until the end of The War that I can find, first hand and others. I have a great interest in their individual experiences, their state of mind, and reaction to the changing environment. Captain Keelers diary is a wealth of information regarding these items and this books presentation of diary, letters, pictures, biographic material, and events make it the best of this genre I have read.
William "Bil" Brasington, "A Son of the South"
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