Narrative of a Private Soldier » Preface

My great-great-grandfather, Charles Lewis Francis, arrived from Wales in 1860, at age 17, and shortly thereafter participated in the action of the Civil War. In 1879, he wrote and published a memoir of this period. I’ve scanned in the text and made it available as raw PDF scans and as an incomplete full-text PDF. As I correct the OCR’d chapters, I’ll be posting the sections to my blog. Here’s the preface.


In writing the following narrative of my experiences during the troublous period embracing the years 1861 to 1864 I disclaim any intention of setting myself up as a historian.

The sphere in which I moved was not at any time so elevated as to enable me to form views of men and things of so extended a character as that they could have any general bearing or interest. It is extemely seldom that a person in the ranks of an army or in the mass of a political machine becomes acquainted with the springs of a movement until its object has been accomplished or defeated. As for the army movements by Geographical Divisions, momentous crises in Congress, the probable effect of defeat in the field upon the finances of the country, and the like, we never discussed nor, for my part, thought of them. So that if any one chance in the future to pick up this book in anticipation of receiving any valuable or important information from it having any bearing on either of these great questions he may in all probability be disappointed. That the regular historian will have to deal with those matter I have no doubt. In my narrative it will be found that I seldom travel very far beyond my actual and personal experience, it is my object to keep within the line strictly, and if now, after having made my disclaimer, I am asked for my object in writing the book at all, I will be compelled to admit that I can give none that is is to my mind a useful or practical one. It may, indeed, turn out that my story will partially corroborate some one who may hereafter venture an extended opinion as to the general character of the experiences of the private soldiers in our Civil War; it may be of some interest to the children of those who took part in the struggle, in showing the facts as they were, stripped of the inevitable romance with which such narratives have been clothed by writers who have shown a lack of power to resist the tempation. Whether or no, one thing occurs to me and that is this, if my account is preserved until he is grown, my son will not be confined to mere tradition for his information, as is the fact with the children of so many soldiers of former wars, and as will no doubt be the case with those of many of my comrades as well.


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