A forty year old doctor from Baraboo, Wisconsin, Isaac Tucker served as a fifer with Company H, 6th Wisconsin Infantry and was held prisoner for two months during the Civil War. His jailors, however, were Union officers at Fairfax Hospital in Virginia rather than Confederate soldiers. Why was Tucker imprisoned by federal troops? Did he commit a crime, or did he try to expose one? Decide for yourself by reading the diary entries Tucker wrote during his imprisonment, posted 150 years later to the date.
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Isaac Tucker mentioned many people throughout his diary. This page lists and briefly describes some of the recurring characters in his story.
Read a brief summary of Tucker's diary entries leading up to April 1, 1862
While Tucker wrote about illness on and off for the past ten months, the sickness he mentioned at the beginning of April 1862 was the one that sent him to a Union hospital and, ultimately, to prison.
When he proved too ill to continue with his regiment, Tucker accompanied fifty other Iron Brigade men to a Union hospital at Fairfax Seminary.
Medical staff at Fairfax Seminary recognized that Tucker, a doctor by profession, could be of special use and so put him in charge of a small group of patients.
Tucker continued his duties treating patients at Fairfax Seminary and prepared to move into separate quarters.
Tucker wrote about improvement in the condition of his fellow patients.
As Tucker continued to treat his patients, he wrote about hearing news of a "bloody battle" out west.
Tucker wrote that he felt a little overwhelmed by the responsibilities given to him at Fairfax Seminary.
Tucker described a trip into nearby Alexandria, Virginia to draw rations for the men under his charge.
As the health of his men improved, Tucker noted the movement of some well known Union troops around Fairfax Seminary.
As Tucker noted the number of men under his care who were healthy enough to return to their regiments, he also recorded his first, vague complaint about the way Fairfax Seminary was run.
Tucker returned to Alexandria to pick up more supplies and ran into some old friends.
Tucker mentioned in passing that something out of the ordinary is happening at Fairfax Seminary Hospital, but didn't go into detail. Was he worried that someone was reading his diary?
On a day he described as "lowery," which means dark and gloomy, Tucker wrote about patients having to do their part at the hospital to earn trips into the city.
A doctor in civilian life, Tucker regularly treated himself with homeopathic remedies like tea, as he mentioned in this entry.
Tucker writes about a visit from a fellow Wisconsin soldier who was also receiving treatment at Fairfax Seminary Hospital.
Tucker wrote about an incident at the hospital involving the attempted requisition of a piano. Did Tucker overreact? Was this a symptom of a greater disease at Fairfax Seminary? Future entries will touch upon this at greater length.
The surgeon at Fairfax Seminary Hospital was arrested, and Tucker noted that he had already written about the offense. Things are starting to get pretty interesting...
Tucker relayed news that the Iron Brigade was leaving the area, on its way to Fredericksburg.
On an otherwise quiet day, Tucker wrote about breaking up a fight between two of his patients at Fairfax Seminary Hospital.
A busy day saw Tucker writing about seeing an Iron Brigade officer with new recruits, getting his picture taken, and a court martial at Fairfax Seminary.
While he modestly tried to pass it off as nothing important, Tucker wrote about his continuing work returning men to health, and to their regiments.
Tucker wrote about a death by disease at Fairfax Seminary Hospital, but today's records show no evidence of the man.
Thomas Knill, a fellow Iron Brigade soldier and likely a patient of Tucker's at Fairfax Seminary, presented Tucker with a gift.
When patients at Fairfax Seminary grow impatient over the lack of an officer to muster them in, Tucker takes matters into his own hands.
Amidst some stormy weather, Tucker wrote about an impromptu concert for the surgeon and his "Lady."
Continuing his work at Seminary Hospital, Tucker treated wounded and ill soldiers until they were healthy enough to return to their regiments.
While his nurse suffered from the mumps, Tucker went out in search of alternative medicines to treat ill soldiers.
Amidst news of a Union victory 160 miles south of Fairfax Seminary, Tucker wrote about meeting twice with a fellow Wisconsin soldier.
Tucker attributed the death of a wounded soldier to poor medical care at Fairfax Seminary Hospital. One can imagine that Tucker's opinion would not prove popular with the doctors in charge. Did Tucker keep his thoughts to himself and his diary, or did he broadcast them more widely? Only future diary entries will tell...
Growing increasingly disillusioned with the administration at Fairfax Seminary Hospital, Tucker wrote about his belief that the doctors were keeping wounded and ill men who should just be sent home to die among friends and family.
Tucker lamented more Union soldiers passing away at Fairfax Seminary Hospital.
In his longest entry to date, Tucker stated quite plainly his belief that some of the doctors at Fairfax Seminary were corrupt. He suggested that they kept patients, who should be discharged due to the severity of their wounds and illnesses, because they received money based on the number of patients they treated.
Tucker's tirade about corruption at Fairfax Seminary went into greater detail. He used an analogy involving musk rats to further his contention that the doctors were keeping soldiers who should have been sent home. He also laid out exactly how much money they receive for each patient in the hospital.
Tucker wrote about being disciplined by "a ruthless villain"--perhaps because he was voicing the concerns he had expressed in previous entries?
William Wiser, mentioned in an earlier entry, placed Tucker under arrest!
Sent to more comfortable quarters, Tucker wrote that he felt no anxiety over his imprisonment because he knew that he had done nothing wrong.
Seeming to settle into his imprisonment, Tucker repeated that he had the key to his cell.
After describing a suspicious event in which Wiser may have attempted to poison him, Tucker wrote about his belief that he was being illegally held without charge.
Tucker reiterated his belief that he was being held unjustly without charge, adding that even if the charges were dropped, he would still pursue justice.
As the adrenaline from his arrest abated, Tucker's mood darkened. He continued, though, to believe that he would be released if no charges were presented.
Tucker wrote about the ease of being a prisoner and having nothing to do, but was he just putting on a brave face?
Tucker remained in prison without charge, and he began to wonder if his jailors, officers from New York, had any authority to hold him.
At long last, Tucker saw the charges brought against him.
Tucker wrote about rumors from the battlefield regarding the battle of Williamsburg while continuing to lament his imprisonment.
Tucker was able to forget about his plight as rumors abounded that Confederate forces were marching toward Fairfax Seminary Hospital.
As abruptly as it began, Tucker's imprisonment ended. But for how long?
After a day of freedom, Tucker was again placed under arrest.
In a very lengthy entry, a downhearted Tucker wrote about recent war news, happenings at the hospital, and his frustration at being treated so poorly when he voluntarily enlisted to serve his country.
Before lamenting his lot in life, Tucker wrote about a rumor that General Irvin McDowell had been arrested as a Rebel sympathizer.
In a much more upbeat entry, Tucker described going on a walk and nearly being shelled by artillery from a nearby Union fort as well as a fight between two soldiers.
A contemplative Isaac Tucker reflects on his situation and his belief that justice will be his in the end.
Tucker's morale took a hit when an inspection by a visiting Brigadier General failed to improve his situation.
Tucker increased his efforts to secure a release, writing to a major general in Washington. On the same day, he was moved to a different building and slept on a feather bed for the first time in almost a year.
As two doctors from the 2nd New York Heavy Artillery are called to Washington, Tucker described the near-death experience of an officer at Fairfax Seminary Hospital.
Hearing news of continued Union success, Tucker predicted that the war might be over soon. However, he wondered if his imprisonment would interfere with his ability to go home at war's end.
Tucker received word that William Wiser, the man who put him under arrest, had himself been put under arrest in Washington, and he made little effort to disguise his joy at that news.
Tucker critiqued the speed with which men were returned to their regiments and noted a new regulation for taking roll at the hospital.
Citing lack of exercise, Tucker wrote that his muscle tone was disappearing during his imprisonment.
As he lamented the lack of pay and tobacco, Tucker noted that should he get a court martial, most of the relevant witnesses were now returned to their regiments and might take months to call to testify.
On the one year anniversary of his enlistment, Tucker reflected that he has been of little use to the Army and has in fact cost them a lot of money. He also noted that while in prison he has not been paid, which prevented him from supporting his family back home.
Tucker wrote about a doctor and an officer at the hospital arranging a horse race.
Between mentions of an eclipse and a postponed horse race, Tucker wrote about his frustration at the lack of progress in his case as well as being paid for March and April, which he sent home to his wife.
Tucker mentioned two new roommates as well as advice to write General Whipple about his case.
Tucker noted that the US Congress was beginning to ask questions about wounded soldiers being kept in hospitals too long, a cause Tucker began discussing more than a month ago.
Tucker described the first medical check-up he received since being arrested.
Tucker decried the great length of time between a soldier being informed that he would be discharged, and the soldier actually being discharged.
Still awaiting news about his case, Tucker wrote about exercising at Fairfax Seminary Hospital.
Tucker related a story about a New York man who was wrongly placed under arrest at Fairfax Seminary Hospital.
Tucker noted that prisoners were now expected to perform some sort of duty during their incarceration--his involved music. He also mentioned a visit and offer of help from a member of Wisconsin's Soldiers' Aid Committee.
As Tucker saw signs that his plight might be coming to an end, he wrote some revealing comments about his views on medicine.
Tucker wrote about having his "worst enemy" deliver a letter to him.
Tucker bemoaned his unjust captivity, as well as being forced to perform duties while being held prisoner.
After he described preparations at the hospital for the arrival of many new patients, Tucker lamented his poor diet as a prisoner.
Still very upset over his imprisonment, Tucker acknowledged a gift from a fellow Wisconsin soldier.
Tucker rehashed an old complaint about the doctors at Fairfax Seminary Hospital keeping patients with little to no chance of recovery who should have been sent home to either heal or die among family and friends.
On the same day Tucker ate a more substantial breakfast than the toast and tea he'd complained about previously, he also received some delicacies from the an aid group in Wisconsin.
As thousands of Union troops moved through the area as part of the Seven Days' Battle, Tucker wrote about his growing anger at his continued imprisonment.
Tucker described participating in dress parade at Fairfax Seminary Hospital.
Tucker at last wrote the reason he felt he was being held prisoner!
Desperate for someone to consider his plight, Tucker wrote a letter pleading his case to Abraham Lincoln.
Tucker relayed news about a recent battle near Richmond.
A long meeting with the surgeon made Tucker think that outside forces were beginning to act on his behalf.
On the anniversary of American independence, Tucker reported news of intense fighting between Union and Confederate forces in Virginia.
Tucker wrote about wanting to read a biography of St. Paul, as he saw some parallels between their lives.
As General George McClellan's forces pass near Fairfax Seminary Hospital, Tucker noted that felt more patient about his situation.
After hearing some good news from the doctor about his case, Tucker described performing a tooth extraction for a local African-American woman.
Tucker mentioned seeing several members of his regiment briefly at Fairfax Seminary Hospital, as well as his roommate Tom who could not speak, leaving all the conversation to Tucker.
Tucker related an amusing incident of mistaken identity involving a recent German immigrant, complete with recreated German accents in the entry.
Tucker received a visit from Sergeant Raymond, whom Tucker held responsible for much of his trouble.
Tucker noted his fifty-ninth day of imprisonment with a combination of resignation and defiance.
Tucker wrote about a new roommate from Ohio and a rumor that he might be headed back to Wisconsin in the near future.
Tucker took ill very suddenly and almost died, according to this entry.
A voice in the middle of the night informed Tucker that he was at last released from his imprisonment.
A free man again, Tucker almost immediately returned to his criticism of hospital practices at Fairfax.
Hearing that Dr. Armstrong was transferring to a different hospital, Tucker wrote about his desire to thank him for the help with his case.
Tucker related an amusing incident in which patients complained about the quality of the food.
Tucker described a relaxing day picking blackberries.
Finally discharged from the hospital and ordered to return to his regiment, Tucker made a stop in the nation's capital to receive his pay.
Tucker made one last visit to Fairfax Seminary Hospital to get his belongings before moving on and encountering some bed bugs on the road.
After almost four months away, Tucker at last returned to the ranks of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment near Fredericksburg.
Tucker described the 6th Wisconsin setting up a camp outside of Fredericksburg.
Returned to light duty, Tucker wrote about his struggle to regain his health and endurance in the field.
On his birthday, Tucker wrote about helping treat his stricken captain.
When the Iron Brigade was sent out on reconnaissance, Tucker and other wounded or sick soldiers remained behind, and were joined by others who fell out along the march.
While awaiting the return of the Iron Brigade from their reconnaissance mission, Tucker took in the sights of a nearby town.
Tucker detailed the return of the Iron Brigade, describing their mission and something they picked up on the way back.
The Iron Brigade took a couple of days to rest and recover from their reconnaissance mission, Tucker reported.
The Iron Brigade received orders to march for their next mission, but were then asked to wait. And wait.
Tucker and the Iron Brigade start a march toward the battlefield at Cedar Mountain, where Union forces lost a battle eight days previously.
Tucker and the Iron Brigade continued their approach to the Cedar Mountain battlefield.
Tucker and the Iron Brigade finally reached the Cedar Mountain battlefield, and he described the sights, and smells, of an eleven day old battlefield.
Tucker walked around the Cedar Mountain battlefield almost two weeks after the fighting and described the scene.
As the Iron Brigade marched closer to a pending battle, an ill Tucker traveled with the wagon train.
Continuing on with the wagon train, Tucker and a fellow 6th Wisconsin soldier encounter a Vermont unit who had raided a bee hive for a special treat.
In his most action-packed day, Tucker wrote about his wagon train being attacked by some Confederate cavalrymen while his friends in the 6th Wisconsin took part in the the Second Battle of Bull Run.
Tucker related his second experience under fire.
Tucker spent one final night at Fairfax Seminary Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia.
In his final diary entry, which spans almost two full months, Tucker described the end of his service and his return to Wisconsin.