Henry Dysart enlisted as a Private in Company D, 3rd Iowa Cavalry. He kept a diary of his service throughout the war, which gives a deep insight into the daily life of the Civil War soldier. The following are excerpts from his diary. The original diary is in the collection of Pea Ridge National Military Park.
Benton Barracks, January 1st, 1862. "Time flies" and it is indeed true that it "waits for no man". Today We may be at home in peace, tomorrow at war, to-day happy, to-morrow sad, to day rich tomorrow poor. As Time revolves, new eras open up marked sometimes with dark events. The past is open to view but the future is always uncertain, sometime bright sometimes dark. This first day of January 1862 finds Me about entering upon a year which is likely to be very different from last in its events, wherefore from to day I shall endeavor to keep a record in my Own style giving each day a representation believeing that time spent in this way will not be lost but will be to My improvement, and pleasant to turn back too in the future. Saturday Jan 4th 62 Disese in the army strikes down more than the sword. Were our armies made up of old men whose heads were white for the tomb this would seem more natural. death from old age is scarcely known in the army, at least in Ours. Sunday Jan 12th '62 Some of the boys wishing to take a side the lieu. took Us around through the city treating to lager beer of which all drank freely except one or two and myself. Though urged I refused to indulge having resolved to "touch not taste not handle not", and more, it seemed inappropriate it being the Sabbath and We just having buried one of Our comrades.
Saturday Jan 18th '62 Everything covered over with ice. The night has been spent in an interesting and boisterous discussion as to whether the Earth is round or flat. Sunday Jan 19th '62 A day in the army does not seem like a day spent at home. before one is aware of it night comes, a blank is all that is to be seen on which can be traced no mark of improvement. How fleet is time and how misspent! We mark time in the army not by weeks or sundays (for there is no sunday) but by the space intervening between one letter and another from home. Dr. Eliott preached in Co. D's quarters this afternoon. His sermon was very plain and interresting and his advice good, "Say Your prayers and keep Your powder dry."
Sunday Feb. 2nd '62. Dr. Elliot preached in Co. I's quarters this evening. "Day unto day uttereth speech and night unto night showeth knowledge" Each day I realize more and more the necessity of strong resolution in resisting the many foul temptations which I find too daily increase as the men with whom We are associated give way to immorality. Some who make pretentions, who were well raised and know what is right "because they are in the army" seem to give way to and make no resistance to wrong, become offended if the Chaplain makes the least refferrence to their conduct. "Is'ent that wrong"? "not for a soldier". "Are you not breaking the sabbath?" "There is no sabbath in the army were I at home I would not do it." The result of this instability is that We become so accustomed to a looseness of character, Our consciences become so siered that We do daily what We would be ashamed of at home. indecent expressions in our conversation are unnoticed and become habitual. What to Us is unnoticed would seem to a parent or any other one from home rediculous. Monday Feb. 3rd '62. Lost a button off My coat. Wednesday Feb. 12th 62. About sundown one of Co A whilst carelessly handling his pistle shot his comrad through the leg.
Lebanon. Feb. 14th '62 Last night was the coldest We have experienced this winter. Whilst I journalize the ink freezes on My pen. in a minute I will crawl closer to the big camp fire by the light of which I now write.
Tuesday Feb 18th 62. Moveing on from Springfield We crossed Wilsons' creek at the battle ground but did not stop to look over it as I would have liked. I saw enough to cause a shudder. I saw bullet holes in the wood, I saw the hill from which Gen. Seigle played his cannon. the hill where Gen Lyon fell. I saw dead mens' bones. I saw soldiers graves. I saw the pool where the dying soldiers quenched their thirst and then I passed on.
Benton Co. Arkansas Saturday Feb 22nd 62. Woke this morning in the midst of a large and bustling camp stuck my head from under the "kiver" and in a kind of a trance witnessed 7 or 8000 troops pass by my "Sty."
Friday Feb. 28 - 1862 This time last year I had no thought that I should ever pass a night under such circumstances, so far from home as last and every night now is spent. A nights rest here is just as sweet as then at home. After marching all day over Arkansas mountains and rocks it is pleasant to spend an Arkansas night in an Arkansas thicket as last night was spent with an Arkansas rock for a pillow and an Arkansas sky for a covering. Sugar Creek. Ark.
Wednesday March 5th '62. Charles W. Gordon private of Co. C. 9th Missouri was drummed out of service to day in the presence of his brigade to the tune of "Pop goes the weasel."