In 1861, Silas Dexter "Deck" Wesson (1839-1909) of DeKalb County, Ill., enlisted in Co. K, 8th Ill. Vol. Cav., where he eventually rose to the rank of First Sergeant. Wesson fought with the unit throughout the war, including the Seven Days' Battles, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. Wounded in June 1863, Wesson missed Gettysburg but spent the remainder of the war fighting Confederate guerilla John S. Mosby. Wesson also later took part in the hunt for John Wilkes Booth.
This collection contains a photocopy of a typed transcript of Wesson's war diary and of Wesson Threads, a Wesson family genealogy. The diary covers the war years in brief, with emphasis on camp life, comments about officers, and brief notations of actions. Notable entries describe how Wesson was struck by the regimental chaplain for cursing, his impressions of President Lincoln ("homely as a mud fence") and his contention that his regiment refused to comply with Gen. Philip Sheridan's scorched earth policy in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. The family genealogy contains transcripts of 33 Civil War letters from Wesson to his family. The letters amplify the diary, including praise of Gen. Ambrose Burnside, even after the debacle at Fredericksburg.
Phil A. Gruzalski of Tinley Park, Ill., and Wesson's great-granddaughter, Lori Runkle of Batavia, Ill., gave the two typescripts to the Illinois Historical Survey in 1986 and 1987.