Monday, August 18, 2008

An Anonymous Military Diary of an Unfamiliar War

12th to the 15th of Feb 1864
: "Having been directed by the Lt. General Commanding, to report on the successful skirmish of yesterday...I moved rappidly {archaic spelling is retained as in the original entries} down to where our leading men were hotly engaged and pressed. They were commanded by Capt. Fisher 40 {40th Regiment} who had hastened here earlyer with a few men....

A sceries {sic} of hand to hand encounter(s) here took place... and our men, who displayed, if anything, to keen an eagerness to dash out and close with their lurking enemies, where ever visible...."

One captain, "In gallantly assisting a wounded soldier of the 40th, who had fallen into a hollow...became the target for a volley. At a few feet distance, 5 balls pierced his slightly wounded in three places. Though hurt himself he continued to aid the wounded to the end of the day."

The account goes on to list those individuals of the '40th Regiment,' who were either killed or wounded during the skirmish.

Considering the dates, and the comments taken from the above diary, one would naturally assume, that the account describes details from a particular battle of the American Civil War, when in actuality it concerns an engagement during the 'Maori Wars,' sometimes known as the 'Anglo-Maori,' 'New Zealand' or the 'Land Wars,' a series of conflicts between the British settlers and the native inhabitants, or the 'MAORI,' which transpired between 1845 & 1872.

The 'Diary of a British Soldier, Queen's Redoubt,' is the anonymous account of a soldier of the British, '40th Regiment of Foot' or infantry, who fought on New Zealand's North Island, in 1863 & 1864, in what is known as the 'Invasion of Waikato.'

Interestingly, the unknown author of the diary, later immigrated to the United States, and appears to have enlisted in the American Army, since diary entries for the month of January, 1867-69, mention his residence during 'Reconstruction,' at Delta, Mississippi; at 'Bedloe's Island' NYH or 'New York Harbor,' (also known as 'Liberty Island' where the statue of Liberty is located), which was home to 'Fort Wood' or 'Star Fort.'

Interestingly, by 1869, he was stationed in Arizona Territory, at 'Camp V,' perhaps to fight the Apache Indians. 'Camp V,' appears to have been 'Fort Verde,' of the Verde Valley, originally known as 'Camp Lincoln,' created for the purpose of halting raids against settlers, carried out by the Tonto and Yavapai Apaches of Arizona and New Mexico. The military post was renamed, Fort Verde in November of 1868, and was in existence at least until 1873, and is now part of the current, 'Fort Verde State Historic Park' in Arizona.

The Diary of a British Soldier, Queens Redoubt, is a fascinating account of an 'unfamilar' War, which transpired between British colonists and the Native Maori tribes of New Zealand, during the 19th century. This anonymous work, went through a number of hands and places before eventually being donated to the Society in August of 1927. It had originally been "presented to Mr. Frank M. Hutchinson" in June of 1907 (see 'Inside left cover'), who was a Pennsylvania Democrat Delegate to the Democratic National Convention, from Pennsylvania in 1864, from the 22nd District.

Who the unknown British soldier was, how and why his diary became the property of a number of possible relatives, or unrelated persons, from Canada to Pennsylvania, is just one of the many mysteries, the diary intices the researcher to solve.

Such unpublished manuscript materials once again demonstrates, the diverse and varied records waiting to be transcribed, cataloged and made available to scholars and amateurs alike, for both their enjoyment, enrichment and education, here at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Original Source: Diary of a British Soldier: Queens Redout 1863 To New Zealand, Call no. Am.6957 (unpublished manuscript)