Henderson, Levi
Manuscript Diary and Physician’s Day Book of Dr. Levi Henderson, of Iowa, Oregon, and Washington Territory, kept before, during, and after his military service with Co. C, 46th Iowa Volunteer Infantry during Civil War, and his medical practice in Oregon and Washington Territory, 1855-1875

folio, 259 manuscript pp., entries dated 1855 to 12 October 1875; bound in contemporary split calf over boards, boards worn, pieces of the cover leather missing, and slightly warped, a couple of leaves loose, a few others missing, otherwise in good condition, nearly all the pages are at least partially used, entries written in both ink and pencil in a legible hand.

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An interesting ledger offering up two decades of Levi Henderson’s activities on the fast developing mid-western and western frontier, punctuated by the Civil War. The writer was a physician and much of the latter part of the ledger is devoted to treatment of patients in the various towns he lived, as well as the drugs he prescribed for their ailments.

The diary chronicles Levi's life from his displacement as a teenager from Morgan Co., Indiana in 1855, to Dallas County, Iowa. There are also entries about his life as a young teacher in Des Moines, Iowa; as well as random jobs as he tries to find his footing as a young man. He eventually volunteers in the Army, where he continues his diary through the Civil War. The diary continues after the war as he practices as a physician in Oregon and Washington Territory and he uses the journal to keep accounts of his medical practice.

Henderson avoided military service until the Civil War had less than a year left, and on 1 May 1864 we find the following entry:

“Volunteered this morning at Redfield Dallas Co., Iowa.”  

Henderson goes on to detail his training and 100-day service with Co. C., 46th Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry. On 11 June 1864 we find:

“The whole regiment was formally mustered into the service today…Also drew clothing, arms, accoutrements, etc.”

Following this entry there are day-by-day descriptions of camp life, disease, deprivations, and debilitation. By the end of October 1864, he was back at home recuperating:

“I am quite weak and much reduced in flesh. Six months ago, I weighed 150 lbs., now only about 90 lbs.”

By 1868, Henderson is in Oregon, with many entries in the ledger describing cold, rainy days, and in the early 1870’s he is devoting most of the space in the journal to prescriptions and treatments of his patients. He is now evidently practicing as a physician. There are also general writings on health, chemistry, and related matters; financial accounts; and commentary and philosophical musings.

There are a couple of prescriptions pasted down in the rear from his later physician's practice in Oregon, as well as an 1875 calendar and engraving of Des Moines Iowa pasted on the inside rear cover.

    The first section in the ledger, covers his life from 1855 in Morgan County, Indiana, until his enlistment in May 1864, and chronicles his father’s efforts to rebuild his blacksmithing business in Iowa after the failure of a railroad company in Indiana made his shop and property less valuable, and they moved to Dallas County, Iowa in a forty five day wagon trip in 1858. His father ,as well as Levi, and his brothers Taylor and Thomas helped to build a farm and cabin for themselves . Levi attended the first schoolhouse in Washington Township that same year. He later went to school in Des Moines, Iowa, where Levi was teased for being a “country boy”:

“…being a country chap, I had a very tough time with the students until I blacked a few eyes and faces.”

      Great details in this section describing the schoolhouse, environment and conditions, bullies, layout and more. He also takes the times to list his pupils one by one.

     Levi graduated and expressed a desire to become a teacher, which he later did, but also peruses odd jobs like rail making, producing art, and more, none of which seemed to suit him or prove remunerative. At this point in the diary the drumbeats of civil war begin to sound, with talk of the pending Southern rebellion:

“A gathering of the people shows a determination that the South shall pay dearly for attempting a dissolution of the Union. The old flag went to the top of the Liberty pole amid long and loud shouts of enthusiasm.”

    The diary then jumps to 1862, and Levi muses sadly about friends lost in battle that have left town to never return. Before a local hunt, he laments:

“…many of my most loved and valuable friends have gone from the trials of time. On the gory fields of battle many now repose whom I was once was to adore.”

     Henderson briefly becomes a clerk in Indianapolis for his uncle, where he meets an old friend just returned from battle. He also mentions many soldiers and friends nearby. He decides to enlist in military service with a 100-day infantry regiment. The journal has accounts for his time in the military, disease in his company, rebel spies being arrested, trains being shot at, deaths in his regiment, the plunder and destruction of Memphis, shipwrecks, accounts of encounters with drunks and soldiers, military life, sights and sounds, caring for an ailing brother on his deathbed in the hospital at Camp McClellan, while also suffering from dysentery, etc.

    Much of the journal after his Civil War experiences consists of various accounts and medical entries, giving names of people he treated, the treatments prescribed, etc. There are also several pages of philosophical thoughts and musings, two copies of letters, etc.

       The full contents of the journal are as follows:

-          Diary, 49 pp., entries dated 1855 to 1868; with 23 of these pages focused on his Civil War service.

-          Accounts, 62 pp., entries dated 31 December 1868 to 23 January 1873; includes several dozen accounts, giving names, items, purchased, services rendered, cost, dates, etc. [An index in rear appears to be for these accounts]

-          Copy of a letter, 2 pp., dated 18 August 1862; written to S.S. Murphy, presumably by Levi Henderson, discusses a possible religious debate via correspondence between the two men.

-          “Inventory bought, etc.,” 2 pp., dated 1870; gives names of items and purchase costs.

-          “Prescriptions at St. Helen’s,” 10 pp., contains prescriptions numbered #1864 to #2169, dated 29 November 1871 to 12 September 1872; these appear to be prescriptions provided by Henderson to his patients and contain the patient’s name, dated, prescription number, medicine, medical problem.

-           “Shanghai Valley,” 1 pp., prescriptions given out in this location, dated 27-31 Oct, 1872; contain name of patient, dated, prescription number, medicine, medical problem.

-          Map of vegetable garden plots and list of items planted, 2 pp., dated 1874.

-          1 page “Family & Personal Expenses” account, dated 1873.

-          “Prescriptions in Monticello, W.T.” [Washington Territory], 14 pp., dated 23 October 1873 to 2 December 1874; prescriptions numbered #2167 to #2234, #2301 to #2334, #2368 to #2468; gives names of medicine, treatments, date given out, sometimes the patients name, etc.

-          “History of Cases,” 4 pp., dated 8 November 1869 to 28 February 1870; gives name of person, medical problem, dates, medicine.

-          Philosophical musings, 16 pp., not dated; natural laws, matter, motive powers, electricity, light, science, etc.

-          “History and Treatment of W.G. Stickles,” “Annie Rue,” 5 pp., October 1874; closer look at two individual cases.

-          “Stayton, Marion Co., OR.,” 54 pp., dated 22 March 1875 to 5 October 1875; appears to be cases and prescriptions prescribed numbered #2469 to #2694; gives names of medicines/treatments, dated given out, names of patients, etc.

-          “Name, Rank, Nativity, P.O. and County Address of all the Members of C Company 45th Iowa Infantry Volunteers…” 4 pp., dated 18 May 1864.

-          Miscellaneous memoranda and notes, etc. 33 pp.

       Levi Henderson (1840-1900)

     Levi Henderson was born in Indiana about 1840. He was the son of blacksmith Robert Tyrrell Henderson (1815-1898) and his wife Letitia “Lettie” Jackson (1819-1897). His father started out in Kentucky. He is then married in Morgan Co., Indiana in 1837, he next shows up in the 1850 Census with his family at Brown, Morgan Co., Indiana. Levi tells us in his journal that they lived in Mooresville, a half mile from Brooklyn, Morgan County, Indiana, between 1848 and 1855. Levi was the oldest of ten children. Levi’s father built a dwelling, blacksmith shop, and a small grocery house along the proposed Indianapolis & Albany Railroad, however after the survey was completed by the railroad, the railroad failed, making the Henderson family’ property lose its value. It was at that point the family moved to Iowa in April of 1858.

     By 1860 Levi was on his own; and his parents and siblings were living in Washington Township, Iowa.

    In June 1863, when Levi Henderson signed up for the military draft, he was residing in Washington Township, Dallas County, Iowa employed as a teacher.  Henderson was 23 years old when he enlisted on 18 May 1864. He mustered in with his regiment on 10 June 1864 and mustered out 23 September 1864, in Davenport, Iowa, at the expiration of his 100-day term of service.

    The 46th Iowa Infantry was organized at Davenport, Iowa, and mustered in for one-hundred days Federal service on 10 June 1864, as part of a plan to raise short term regiments for service as rear area garrison duty to release veteran troops for Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. The 46th Iowa garrisoned strategic points on the Memphis & Charleston Railroad. The regiment was mustered out at Davenport on 23 September 1864.

    A total of 918 men served in the 46th Iowa at one time or another during its existence. It suffered 6 enlisted men who were killed in action or who died of their wounds and 25 enlisted men who died of disease, for a total of 31 fatalities.

    After the war, on 12 March 1868, Henderson married Sarah Francis McCann in Marion, Oregon. McCann was born in Iowa. In the 1870 Census Henderson and his family are found enumerated in Sheridan, Yamhill Co., Oregon. He was listed as a physician, living with his wife Sarah and a two-year old son William, born in Oregon.

     In 1880, Henderson and his family were enumerated at Salem, Marion Co., Oregon. Henderson is still a physician and added a second son Charles, who was born in Washington Territory, showing that the family had lived there sometime between 1870 and 1880. The ledger offered here shows entries for Monticello, Washington Territory during this time period (1874).

     There was also a third son, Robert Garfield Henderson (1881-1953), who was born just after the 1880 Census. Sarah McCann Henderson lived with Robert after the death of her husband in 1900. Robert was post-master at Salem, Oregon at the time. A fourth son Leo, who was adopted, died in 1894, not quite three years old.

     In May 1888, Levi applied for a veteran’s pension. Dr. Levi Henderson died on 28 May 1900 and was buried in Claggett Cemetery, Keizer, Marion Co., Oregon. After his death, his wife applied for a veteran’s widow’s pension.

      Sarah McCann Henderson outlived her husband and died on 26 March 1917. She was buried with him in Claggett Cemetery

       Sample Quotes:

“Brooklyn Morgan County, Indiana 1855


This is a beautiful little village on the right bank of White Lick, a small tributary of White River. It is situated twenty miles from Indianapolis, the capital of the state, south, and north of the County seat Martinsville nine miles. To this place father came early last spring. We have for seven or eight years lived in Mooresville five and half miles north of this place. A railroad has been surveyed running though this place called the Indianapolis and New Albany RR. The grading being finished, the Co. failed. Usual consequences follow – depreciation of real estate all along its route. Here father built a dwelling, blacksmith shop, small grocery house, and in 1858 April 27 left for Dallas Co., Iowa.

1858 Our trip from Indiana to Iowa lasted forty-five days. The roads through Illinois were unusually muddy. In Eastern Iowa were some better. Father’s farm lies on the west of North Raccoon River, eleven miles north of the co. seat – Adel, west of Des Moines twenty-five miles.

Brothers Thomas and Taylor and myself assisted father in his first efforts at farming. Broke about twenty acres of prairie. Built a log cabin and stable &c. In the fall I commenced a four-month term of school in Washington Township, Greene Co. The first school taught in this district. Here I was surrounded by nineteen little boys and girls. Here was a queer school. I was only nineteen years old, and appeared five years younger, not being large than a twelve-year old boy, I was soon denominated by the name ‘Little Teacher.’ “


“Rose Hill Mar 27th 1863

Closed my term here today. It has been a very full school, numbering by register about sixty-four and some eight or ten names crossed making seventy-four.


A family of the name of Hartman gave me much trouble in my school, because I attempted to teach composition, and required declamation. The school is fifteen years behind the time. Large overgrown boys and young men too never think of more than to learn to read and write, and some few study arithmetic. Horrible neighborhood this. In discharge of my duties had many personal difficulties with the Hartman’s, who are so heathenish that they carry bowie knives to school to use on me. On one occasion had an altercation with O.C.H. one of my pupils. On this day, they brought some drunken felons to school to ‘thrash me and break my school up in a row,’ but the good citizens of whom there are many, anticipating them came in and drove them off. Gladly I close this term of school and turn homeward again.”


“Sunday May 1st 1864

Volunteered this morning at Redfield, Dallas Co., Iowa. Went to Adel in the afternoon thence up the Racoon River in company with Mr. Hain. We received eight recruits on Monday. On Tuesday took five men to R.

Returned to R worked a few days on the church. Organized our company on May 17th at Redfield, by electing Jacob R. Vanmeter of Adel, Captain; J.A. Main of Redfield, 1st Lieut, J.W. Cummins of Morrisburg, 2d Lieut. Election of non-commissioned offices postponed.”


“Sunday May 22d 1864

St. Fremont Church today in Sugar Grove Tp. Remember ever this Sunday evening. Brother Thomas and myself and our friends met per chance for the last time at Mrs Adams, Sugar Grove, for tomorrow we are ‘off for the wars.’ Oh! What a pleasant evening passed.”

“Monday 23d M


Took leave of all my friends. Took my young friend to her school and with a ‘soldiers farewell’ at the ‘old point’ of timber w of Raccoon, left her forever. Reached Redfield at 12:30 thence to Adel by four o’clock.”


“May 24th 1864 to 26th inst.

All are anxious to leave. The bitter restless feeling of animosity between Union men and Copperheads was manifested all day. The youngest of the soldiers, headed by some bad fellows (non commissioned officers by the way) commenced swearing the Copperheads. Very exciting time. During the row I left for Des Moines. Left brother Tom behind.”


“June 2d [1864]

Visited Rock Island Barracks, Ill, this afternoon. Saw the ‘Gray Beard’ Regt, they are guarding the Rebel prisoner – 7,500 in no., at Rock Island.”


“June 9th 1864

Helped to inspect muster rolls of company today. Acting as Co. Clerk today.”


“Tuesday June 14th 18643

Rose, packed our knapsacks, and at seven o’clock took up line of march for the city of Davenport. At 8:40 eve reached the train and soon were gliding swiftly along over the fine prairies of Illinois, and all along the first part of the road, at every station, village, and town, received hearty cheers from the loyal Union loving citizens. These pretty villages, towns and cities are rendered doubly so by the presence of fair, kind, generous and true hearted American ladies…”


“Thursday June 15th [1864]

The mumps are raging in our company. I am quite well. Our house last night was the open air, down in a deep dirty hole near the rail road. Cairo is a dull place. Business sluggish. I am not more than able to march. Moved camp Thursday morning towards the river.”


“Saturday 18th June [1864]

How grateful I feel for such a casual provision for my comfort in the shape of an open space in the freight, on the bow of the boat, where I am sheltered from the hot rays of the sun. At 12 o’clock midnight we arrived at Memphis, the great military depot of the Army of the Mississippi.


On our passage down, there has been but little of interest to relieve the dull monotony of soldiers’ life. The principal object was Ft. Pillow whose blackened ruins bear testimony that the reported horrible massacre is really true. The parapets look as fresh as though but just vacated, one could almost fancy seeing the guards on duty, and gunners lounging around the barricade. We also saw a few gunboats along the river. They looked so grim and gloomy. I have suffered from dysentery very severely all the way.”


“Sunday 26th [June 1864]

Received from Capt. J.R. Vanmeter notice of appointment as Co Clerk. Although no extra pay is involved, I am thankful enough in having my duties lightened. This P.M. wrote a long letter to R. We are ordered to Colliersville tomorrow. It seems that we are needed there. That place is on the Memphis and Charleston R.R. 25 mi East of this city. Our trains have been frequently fired into on this road and Gen. Washburn has concluded to put a stop to it. My diarrhea that has for some time troubled me is now assuming the chronic form. I know not what to do…”


“Monday 13th Sept [1864]

Today, for several miles we saw many signs of a wreck above, horses, mules, boxes and casks floating in the river. We passed the wreck just below New Madrid. It was a steamer loaded with cavalry and supplies. She was sunk to the guards at the bow, while the stern lay about six feet below. Brother Thomas has been getting worse all the way up and now at night.”


“Tuesday 14th of Sept [1864]

After we arrived at Cairo, his [his brother Thomas] symptoms prove to be of Typhus Fever, very alarming. Went on the cars tonight. Thomas became insane and frantic and continued in this condition until he arrived at Davenport, Iowa.


“Friday 17th Sept 1864

Tonight, we are in Camp McClellan Hospital. Thomas seems more rational, but more weak. He is unable to rise.”


“Saturday 24 Sept [1864]

Tommy is quite wild with fever. I am some better. Oh! What shall I do surrounded as I am with dying men.”



“Sunday 25th Sept 1864

Tommy still is dangerously ill. Our regiment was mustered out on the 23d. These hospitals (Camp McClellan) are under charge of Dr. Baker. There could possibly be no better choice or situation for a hospital. We are in Ward No. 3. I am detailed to nurse. I am too weak to do it as it should be done. It seems as though I must die and brother Toma too. His fever continues high and oh! When it does cease Dr. B. must then do his best. Sometimes Thomas seems like a mad man…”


“Sept 28th [1864]

Tommy is no better yet. My dysentery still continues. Oh! I am so weak. It would be sweet relief to die were it not for my brother.”


“Oct 4th [1864]

My brother’s case now approaches the critical point; he looks as though he would surely die. His Christian character, his hope of immortality, eternal life, buoys me up; the thought may fall asleep and go to fill the rank of another better army, fills me with strange desire to depart with him. It may be but a few days longer.”


“Thursday 20th Oct [1864]

We will go home as soon as possible.”


“Thursday 27th [Oct 1864]

…We travel about one week laying over every night for Thomas., He is so weak. Arrived home …I am quite weak and much reduced in flesh. Six months ago, I weighed 150 lbs., now only about 90 lbs. How pleasant to feel myself at home where I can rest, even if I never do recover. Rain very hard this P.M. Sensation produced by appearance of my friend R.A. She heard that I was in hospital and would not get home, of course she was disappointed.”


“Sunday Jan 31st 1868

Rose late. Called at Mrs. Armstrong to get horse to go to Mr. Hawthorne’s to get some medical plants. ‘Too stormy I should not like to have the horses go out today.’ Returned home, found Uncle Harrison, and Mr. Alrice there. Made contract with H for land claim purchased from Geo. Phillips. ‘Strange thing coming on the earth’ so says Harry McCann. White neckties and [widows] are queer. Rained all day.”