Bluecoats

The Civil War story of a Port Townsend resident’s great-grandfather

Posted 1/27/22

United States history is more than just a hobby for Margaret Queen; it’s in her bloodline. She has ancestors who fought in the Civil War and Revolutionary War, and is even a direct descendant …

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Bluecoats

The Civil War story of a Port Townsend resident’s great-grandfather

Cephas B. Hunt’s pocket diary and knife — engraved with his initials — travelled with him throughout the Civil War from Illinois to Georgia and back.
Cephas B. Hunt’s pocket diary and knife — engraved with his initials — travelled with him throughout the Civil War from Illinois to Georgia and back.
Photo courtesy of Margaret Queen
Posted

United States history is more than just a hobby for Margaret Queen; it’s in her bloodline. She has ancestors who fought in the Civil War and Revolutionary War, and is even a direct descendant of John Alden, one of the original colonists to board the Mayflower in 1620.

“I’ve always liked history,” Queen said during a recent interview at her home.

The Port Townsend resident recently published “Bluecoats: The Civil War Diary of Cephas B. Hunt”  through her publishing company, Foxglove Press. The book directly transcribes the war diary of her great-grandfather, along with a preface and autobiography about his life post-war.

CEPHAS HUNT’S STORY

Queen’s interest in U.S. history was piqued after hearing the stories of her ancestors and relatives, and one particular family tale captivated her from an early age; the life story of Cephas B. Hunt.

He was patriotic, a family man, and a lover of tradition, Queen said. The war forced her great-grandfather to “become an adult early,” she added.

Hunt was commonly discussed among Queen’s family for his role as a Union soldier in the Civil War.

“As a child I grew up hearing about him,” she said.

Although many Civil War veterans’ stories were lost through the passage of time, Hunt was a meticulous notetaker and carried a diary throughout his time in the war, documenting the daily happenings while serving the 112th Illinois Infantry Regiment.

The diary, around the size of a deck of cards, survived numerous battles in Hunt’s front breast pocket. From the Battle of Franklin, to Sherman’s March to the Sea, to a brief time when Hunt was a prisoner of war in Athens, Tennessee — wherever he went, the diary came with him.

The journal traveled with him all across the American South as Hunt continued to log his circumstances on a daily basis from 1863 to 1865, when the Civil War finally concluded.

After serving for the Union, Hunt went on to be a sheriff in Adair County, Iowa and eventually a state senator in Iowa. He passed away in September 1922 at 78 years of age in Oklahoma City.

Hunt’s diary lived on as a family relic passed on from generation to generation, continuing into current times, where it is in the possession of Queen.

“It was my grandmother’s, then my mother’s, then me,” Queen said. “I was interested in it; it’s too important to let go.”

Though they had considered it, Queen’s mother and grandmother never transcribed or published Hunt’s diary.

A BOOK IS BORN

Queen changed that in 1982 when she published the book, “A Young Private’s Civil War: The Diaries of Cephas B. Hunt,” which covered a vignette of Hunt’s story, but not the full deal.

“I originally started with this project in Gig Harbor,” she said. “I was learning how to write my family history.”

After taking a writing class with the Tacoma Public Library, Queen’s interest in documenting her ancestor’s diary was heightened after her instructor, a direct descendant of Civil War General and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, implored her to transcribe Hunt’s diary.

Since then, Queen had advanced on the project but couldn’t find the time to truly finish it.

The COVID-19 pandemic became the catalyst that led her to completing Bluecoats.

“Because of COVID, we were staying at home,” she said.

Feeling a need to be productive amid the pandemic, Queen eventually decided that it was the perfect time to complete the project.

“I am not going to waste time watching daytime TV,” she recalled thinking in 2019.

Two years later, Bluecoats was born.

UNLIKE ANY OTHER

What Queen loves most about the book is that it truly describes a first-hand account of the Civil War as a primary source. The only changes she made from the transcription were grammatical errors, and that was just about it.

“It went from the ledger book, word for word,” she said. “It’s really important because it’s what I call primary information. This diary isn’t going to show up anymore.”

The project was mostly a one-person effort, although Queen’s daughter Robin assisted with edits.

Since releasing Bluecoats, Queen offered to give multiple copies of the book to the library at Geneseo High School in Northern Illinois, where Hunt had lived and attended school before joining the Union army.

The school graciously accepted, and “Bluecoats” will be a new addition to the library bookshelves.

“Cephas [Hunt] would love it that his high school centuries later is reading his story,” Queen said.

“Bluecoats” is for sale online, and will also soon be available at Imprint Bookstore on Water Street. Purchase the book online at www.amazon.com/Bluecoats-Civil-Diary-Cephas-Hunt/dp/B09MLBHP5H.

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