March 21, 1862
I am twenty years of age today. The past year has been an eventful one to me, and I thank God for all his mercies to me. I trust my life in the future may be spent in his service. When I look back to March 21/61 I am amazed at what has transpired. Then I was a peaceful clerk in Frederick Miller’s office. Today I am a soldier anxious to move. I feel to thank God that he has kept me within his fold while so many have gone astray, and trust that he will give me Grace to continue to serve Him and my country faithfully. I have now been in service ten months and feel like a veteran. Sleeping on the ground is fun, and a bed of pine boughs better than one of feathers. We are still waiting for orders which must come very soon. Many of the men are broken down by the late march, but I am stronger than ever.
Elisha Hunt Rhodes (1842-1917) was a boy when he enlisted as a private in the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers; he was a man and the colonel in charge of the regiment when it was disbanded in July 1865. His story shows how the war and the Union Army offered opportunities for advancement to able, and lucky, for many an able man died, young men who could face, survive, and grow through adversity. Rhodes’s pluck, intelligence, and sense of responsibility showed at an early age. When his father died, the sixteen-year-old boy left school and became a clerk for a mill supplier so he could support his mother and two brothers. Because his family needed him, he resisted enlisting in the first regiment raised by Rhode Island, but when the call went out to form the second one, he could not contain his desire to join the army. After obtaining his mother’s consent, he marched off to war.