Updated: Oct 10, 2020
I tore into the Christmas wrapping paper, excited to see what the box held. To my surprise, it was a Civil War book I had never heard of before...John Ransom's Andersonville Dairy. Almost immediately, I began poring through the novel. It has since become my favorite Civil War book.
John Ransom was a Union Quartermaster in Company A of the 9th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry. Like thousands of Federal Civil War soldiers, Ransom was captured by Confederates. Unlike other prisoners of war, however, Ransom kept a diary about his time as a Confederate prisoner.
At the start of the book (which Ransom began writing on November 23, 1863), Ransom was being held at Belle Island in Richmond, Virginia. Ransom writes about how he was captured, and relays an interesting exchange with a Confederate guard. In the following pages, Ransom continues writing about who he is held captive with and the conditions of Belle Island.
While other Civil War books are written by soldiers after the war, Ransom writes about his experiences as they happen. In fact, Ransom wrote diligently in his journal almost every day. On March 14, 1864, John Ransom arrived in perhaps the most notorious Southern prison--Camp Sumter, more commonly known as Andersonville.
Because I had the privilege of visiting Andersonville in 2019, the stories of Andersonville were particularly captivating to me. Ransom relays to readers the layout of the prison and how, even on March 16, 1864, the prison was "not yet entirely completed." Ransom also writes that, early on in Andersonville's operation, prisoners got, "almost enough to eat, such as it is, but don't get it regularly."
One common theme in fiction books I have read about Andersonville was that of prisoners digging tunnels. Even in John Ransom's Andersonville Diary, Ransom said he was, "digging a tunnel to get out of this place." Ransom, instead of bellyaching about the prison's conditions (which, admittedly, would have been tempting and easy to do), often opted to use humor to describe his time at Andersonville. For readers, this offers a glimpse into the quick-wit of John Ransom. It also shows how individuals of the 1860s shared many of the same thoughts and ideas as us in the 21st century.
John Ransom's Andersonville Diary kept me in suspense from the first page to the last. Ransom's relaying of the prison's conditions, the prisoners themselves, and of his own escapes (Ransom attempted to escape Andersonville a few times), transported me to the Southern prison. Even reluctant readers in my family devoured the book, commenting on how much they enjoyed it.
When I first opened up the box on Christmas that held John Ransom's Andersonville Diary, I did not expect the novel to become my favorite go-to history read. However, that's exactly what's happened. So the next time you desire to be transported to the Civil War, consider picking up John Ransom's Andersonville Diary. I do not think you'll regret it.
John Ransom's Andersonville Diary is available for purchase on Amazon.
About the Author: Kass Cobb is a genealogist, history enthusiast, and college sophomore who plans to double-major in history and military history. Kass first became obsessed with history in eighth grade through a unit on the American Civil War. She began researching her family's heritage and discovered that she is a direct descendant of eight Civil War veterans. Since then, Kass has desired to share the stories of United States veterans. One of the ways she does this is by obtaining grave markers for veterans. When Kass isn't busy planning historical events for her community, placing signs at cemeteries, or researching her family's past, you'll find her antique collecting, reading, singing, and enjoying nature with her many pets.