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WHILBR - Western Maryland

About this collection

Introduction by Kay Melby of Hagerstown 

When I was a girl growing up, I heard stories of my great-grandfather, William Henry Perkins.  He was the father of my grandmother, Lillian Perkins Jenkins, who lived with us ten years after my grandfather died. William H. Perkins, MD was a physician in Hancock, MD and a "country doctor" who often took payments in the form of chickens or produce. I knew that….. and I also knew he had been in the Civil War. But when I found his Civil War Diary for 1865 after my mother (Catherine Jenkins Shuping) died, I learned more things about this interesting man. 


In 1862, as a young man of 21, he enlisted in the Baltimore Light Artillery Association, Maryland Volunteers. His battery was assigned to the Maryland Brigade, where he served honorably in various engagements including Winchester and Martinsburg in 1862 and in 1864 at Cedar Creek and the Battle of Monocacy (Roster of Civil War soldiers from Washington County, Maryland, Roger Keller, 2008)


It was in his diary that I learned more about his day to day activities (including the weather) and some of his more remarkable life experiences. Throughout the Diary are references to the Sons of Temperance (S. of T.). Temperance was clearly an ideal he held dear (and explains in part my grandmother’s belonging to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union - WCTU). Church attendance was also an important part of his life and a source of social gathering. He would have been a 24 year old unmarried young man at the time of this diary so the importance of church social gatherings and the bonus of meeting young ladies appears at various times. (See entry for 7/9/1865 for a particularly amusing note). 


However, William Perkins also had the distinct honor of attending President Lincoln’s second Inauguration (entry for 3/4/1865). He then later remarks on the “sad intelligence” of President Lincoln’s assassination (entry for 4/15/1865) and attends the funeral for President Lincoln (entry for 4/19/1865). 


The diary concludes with his mustering out and transitioning to civilian life as a teacher. In later life he served his community around Hancock as a physician, was active in his Church, and served a term in the Maryland Legislature.


The diary include several pages of writing in the Memorandum section at the back of the book, where Perkins had written how much he spent on his uniform since he was stationed at Bolivar Heights, a list of names with their payment of $1 for "degrees" (possibly connected with membership in the Sons of Temperance), addresses of men from Maine to West Virginia, and list of boys and girls and their ages, possibly students of his.

Also tucked into the diary were newspaper clippings. One was of President Lincoln's address at his second Inaguration of which Perkins wrote - March, SATURDAY 4, 1865. "Very windy. Go to see Lincoln inaugurated". Another is a parody of Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech, entitled "To Wed".

The diary raises the issues of post war Maryland and the reality of Jefferson and Berkeley Counties, WV, just across the Potomac, and the ability of former Confederate soldiers to come to Washington County for nefarious or economic reasons. Perkins was also possibly involved in voter registration, given his references to the "Board of Registration." He was himself listed as a legal voter in Election District No. 5 (Hancock) in the October 4 1865, Hagerstown Herald of Freedom and Torch Light


Western Maryland Regional Library is most grateful to Kay Melby for sharing the diary with us, and assisting in making it available online.

To read the diary and other articles about Perkins, select Browse All


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