Henry Tisdale, a 25-year-old grocery clerk in West Dedham (now Westwood), Mass., answered President Lincoln’s call to enlist in the service of the United States on July 10, 1862. He was mustered in as a sergeant in Company G of the 35th Massachusetts Infantry. He felt it was his Christian and political duty to do so, and believed every citizen ought to feel the same. He recorded those thoughts in his diary, which he kept from 1862-65.
Tisdale was shot in the leg on Sept. 14, 1862, at the Battle of South Mountain, the bloody prelude to the Battle of Antietam. He recovered at a series of hospitals, and returned to active duty five months later. He traveled west with his regiment in mid-1863, serving in Kentucky and Tennessee, and then on to the Vicksburg Campaign.
His diary entry on March 29, 1863, describes his train trip west:
A ride of 360 miles has brought us to Pittsburgh, arriving at 7:30 AM. The ride from Baltimore has been as pleasant as could be expected. The weather yesterday was stormy, a sort of drizzly snow falling near all day. Today is cold and raw, and snow lying thinly scattered along the streets. The scenery along the route was interesting, while passing through a great variety of country, mostly rough and hilly, at times mountainous. Indeed the view of the mountains along some parts of the route was grand, occasionally we would follow the bank of some small river, winding along valleys and among hills in a roman tic manner. Got treated at Miflin, PA to hot coffee. At Alatoona the rear car containing the officers became detached and they were left behind, so we arrived in Pittsburgh without them. Had a cold time of it waiting in the cars or about the streets for their arrival. Soon as they came we were marched to a large hall ant treated to a fine collation of quite a variety of luxuries, i.e. so to us. At 1 PM we were placed on board good passenger cars and started for Cincinnati. Could hardly realize amid the turmoil of the journeying that it was the Sabbath. Endeavored to keep in a frame of mind suitable to the day. It was pleasant to see people going to or from church in the various villages through which we passed. The country a long the route pleasing and attractive and less rough and hilly than our route to Pittsburgh. Fine forests, farms and villages, the two latter looking thriving and prosperous, presenting quite a contrast to the worn out farms and half-decayed villages of Virginia and parts of Maryland. Some sections looked as if but recently settled or cleared as shown by the multitude of stumps visible in the fields and log cabins or farm houses of the owners. It was interesting to note here and there a deserted log cabin, and beside it oftentimes a fine framed mansion or dwelling surrounded with neat flower garden and shrubbery, showing that prosperity had been the lot of the occupant able to exchange his log cabin for a more commodious dwelling. The farmers were out in many sections commencing spring work. One could not help reflecting upon how often seeming opposite ends in life are moving on side by side, one party building up what the other is seeking to destroy. Thus the farmer is laboring to produce that which will sustain life, while we were whirling by him intent on seeking destruction.
Tisdale’s regiment rejoined the Army of the Potomac in April 1864 and was soon on the Wilderness Campaign. On May 24, he was separated from his unit and taken prisoner by Confederate troops. He survived the prison camps, and he was exchanged, through Wilmington, N.C., on March 3, 1865. Three months later he was mustered out of service.
He returned home, married in 1868 and had a house full of children. Around 1870, he moved to Roxbury, Mass., and opened his own grocery store.