James W.M. Gooch (1839-1906) lived in Cedar Hill and wrote in his “Daily Pocket Diary for 1861.” An occasional word cannot be recognized today and the writing (in pencil) may be smeared once in a while, but the dairy tells clearly what his activities were on a particular day in 1861.

Early in the year, Billy, as he was called, went to school, attended parties, and helped his family and neighbors with chores.

Early in the year, for example, Billy Gooch helped his “Pa” make a pair of shoes. In mid-January, there was snow all one day, but luckily he had cut and hauled wood the day before.

On March 2, a Saturday, he helped fence Mrs. Gossett’s garden. Later that day he trimmed and grafted trees. He wrote that “spring has truly commenced.”

On March 5, however, Billy Gooch was “astonished” when he got up. There was snow on the ground.

By March 19, the garden was prepared, including the strawberry bed. On March 20, the morning was spent in “moving the bees.” That evening there was snow again.

Typical March weather even today!

School had concluded with examinations in March. Most of Gooch’s time was then spent in preparing for spring and visiting with friends.

By Monday, April 15, however, changes had begun. He noted the surrender of Ft. Sumter that had occurred April 13 at two o’clock to the “Southern confederacy.”

On April 20, there was a large flag “hoisted in honor of cecession” in Cedar Hill. A company of the Home Guard was organized.

By Monday, May 6, Billy Gooch had volunteered. The men had gone to Springfield to raise the flag and to hear speeches.

Drilling began May 7.

Sometimes they went to Nashville to drill. Sometimes they went to Turnersville. They also drilled at Fort’s Station, as well as Adams Station.

On May 20, roll was called. About 90 answered the roll or were vouched for.

On Friday, May 24, he wrote, “the northerners took possession of Alixandria Hights to day.” He noted, “The war has begun in earnest.”

On May 30, Billy Gooch and his company left for Camp Cheatham.

Gooch recorded the visitors that came to camp, a dress parade when they were inspected by Gen. Anderson, going to church in Cedar Hill.

In June, he was sick with “the meassles.”He was sick enough that he had to go home.

Many of the entries over the next few months tell of drilling, of temporary camps as they traveled, of arriving in Knoxville by mid-August.

James William Monroe Gooch remains in the records as a 5th Sergeant in Co. F, 11th Tennessee Infantry Regiment. He survived the war.

But are other diary/journals of Billy Gooch surviving? That is another unanswered question.

In the Eagle’s Eye is sponsored by the Robertson County Historical Society. Call 615-382-7173 for more information.

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