Thomas Biscoe Doxey

Son of Biscoe Sanford Doxey
Husband of Margaret Henry


Thomas Doxey was 42 when he enlisted in the Grand Army of the Republic in August of 1862. He had a wife, Margaret (nee Henry), and 4 children: Ella was 14, May was 12, Ida was 9, and Loren “Lory” was 4; the 5th child, William “Willy” was born in Apr of 1863.  We know of two diaries that he kept while in the service: from Jan 1st 1864 thru May 20th 1864, and from Jan 1st 1865 thru Aug 21st 1865 when he was discharged to go home. He sent the diaries home when he got the chance. Considering the state of mail service during those years, it is a miracle that the papers made it home to the family. And that they were saved for posterity makes them truly special. They were saved by Thomas oldest daughter, Ella. She saved them and passed them to her children, Emma, Stuart, Edith & Alice. Some of the original diaries survived and today are held by one of Alice’s descendants, Elizabeth Schmitt. 

There are also 4 letters that Thomas wrote to the family that are in the hands of descendants. Mention is made in both a letter & in the dairy of his having his ‘likness’ made. But so far, a photo of him has not been discovered.

Thomas was in Company C of the 32nd Iowa Infantry. During 1864 his company was part of the Red River Campaign under Gen. Nathan Banks. Banks was a good statesman but a lousy general. His poor strategy caused much loss of life and supplies. Doxey loudly berates the General several times during this campaign – calling his ‘Corporal Banks’.  The Battle of Pleasant Hill on April 9, 1864 was the site of terrible battlefield losses on both sides.  Thomas was wounded & got separated from his company & reported lost in battle. Word got back to his family that his fate was unknown. The diary tells the story of how his hip was ‘jarred’ and how he managed to return to his company.  Thousands were killed, many more wounded and taken prisoner at that battle.   

The goal of that campaign was to move a fleet of boats, men & equipage to Shreveport, LA.  The plan was to come down the Mississippi River to Natchez, MS.; cross into Louisiana thru a bayou connecting to the Red River and then move up the Red River first to Alexandria then on to Shreveport. The flaw in the plan was that the river was too low for the heavy boats.

The second diary is the final months of the war. The company has again come down the Mississippi River and across to Mobile Bay where they go ashore, eventually taking Fort Blakely. Then they march across Alabama, finally reaching Montgomery just as the war ended in April 1865.  From then until August 22, 1865 when Thomas was mustered out at Clinton, IA., is the litany of a man who wants to go home.

The family lore has it that Thomas was ‘stolen’ from his mother at age 5 by his Uncle Samuel Heston.  He was taken to Ohio and raised as a farmer. Supposedly he was not given much education, treated badly by his aunt and not reunited with his mother until he was 17. On his own he developed his love of reading and extensive vocabulary.  In the diary, he wrote in a ‘stream of conscience’ style, telling of his daily experiences, the weather, the battles, the landscape, his feelings and ideas. He seemed to enjoy writing his thoughts & doings each day.  Considering that he wrote all this with pen & ink & by the light of a candle, it is amazing how long he kept it up. The diaries also show his love for his mother. When he lists his ‘dear ones all’, his mother is first, his wife second and then the children.

Thomas was born in 1820. His father died when he was 8. He was reunited with his mother when she moved to Indiana in 1837.  In 1840, Thomas & his brother were running the farm in Wayne county Indiana.  In 1847 Thomas married Margaret Henry & in 1852, Bisco, his brother, married Rachael Dorland. They started their respective families in Indiana. In 1855, they decided to move to Iowa. The two families traveled by wagon to Iowa and settled in Black Hawk County, near Waterloo in Cedar Township. The journey took 7 weeks.  After they settled in, Thomas went back to Indiana to bring his mother to Iowa. She & he returned by stage coach. The two boys and their mother would live in the Waterloo area for the rest of their lives. Thomas died in 1903 at age 83 of cancer.

I got a copy of the original handwritten diary from Elizabeth Schmitt in 2000. It was over 150 ‘pages’ long.  Each large-size (11”x17”) piece of paper was folded in half & he wrote on all 4 sides.  His handwriting was probably good for his time in history. He did not cross ‘t’s’ , did not close ‘d’s’ and when he got to the end of the line, simply stopped in mid word and started up again on the next line. The spelling took a while to get used to, but his vocabulary was extensive, especially considering he supposedly did not have much formal education. Little or no punctuation was used; periods were not used at the end of sentences. The use of capital letters was sporadic, and when he did some of them were hard to decipher.  

I typed up the diary just as Thomas wrote it, but used today’s spelling. I  separated the sentences with periods, but did not adding any other punctuation. I used capitols for sentence beginnings and proper nouns to make it easier to read.   When I added words of clarification or explanation, they are in brackets. The page numbers represent his ‘pages’ & the dates are as he wrote them.

Norann Lustfield
Widow of Stuart Lustfield, Great-grandson of Ella Henry Doxey Boyd
Genealogy of the family on-line at WorldConnect & Ancestry
Pictures on Ancestry