Old Civil War diary inspires former Rep. Buck to write a book

JOYCE — A dusty, old diary changed everything for Jim Buck.

The former state representative found Josiah Crispin’s diary while sifting through his late father’s personal effects during Christmas 2006.

Nearly two years of painstaking detective work later, Buck, who lives in Joyce, has released a book about the Civil War and a group of men who fought in it.

“That was like finding gold,” said Buck, 60, of the Crispin dairy.

The book, titled Journey to Honor, is largely based on the unpublished diary of Crispin, a Quaker soldier who fought for the Union Army in the 23rd New Jersey Volunteer Infantry from August 1862 to June 1963.

The 23rd New Jersey was rushed to the battlefield without much military training.

The “Yahoos,” as they called themselves, were comprised of “well-educated farm boys and artisans — not military men at all,” Buck explained.

The book goes beyond the X’s and O’s of battlefield strategy and brings the personalities of the men in the 23rd New Jersey to life, Buck said.

Among the characters was a drunken first commander who was arrested, sentenced and later resigned.

“Crispin kept a day-to-day record of what was going on from a private’s standpoint,” Buck said. “It left a lot of hints of things that went on.”

Buck followed the clues to the battlefields of Virginia, where he discovered other soldier diaries.

He also uncovered about 40 service records of the men in the 23rd New Jersey.

Buck, who called the book “a labor of love,” built an extensive database and pieced together a time-line of the events in the 23rd New Jersey.

A longtime military history buff, Buck grew up in New Jersey and graduated from West Point in 1971.

He discovered the Pacific Northwest during his five years of service in the Army.

After settling on the North Olympic Peninsula, Buck served six terms as a Republican in the state Legislature, representing Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County, before losing his 24th District House seat to Kevin Van de Wege, D-Sequim, in 2006.

Journey to Honor chronicles the two main conflicts that Crispin and the 23rd New Jersey engaged in — the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862 and the Battle of Salem Church in May of 1863.

The cover photo features a Civil War statue at Salem Church.

Through his research, Buck found errors and filled holes in the historical record of the New Jersey 23rd .

Through the diaries he scoured, Buck provides first-hand accounts of the dawn of battlefield medicine and income tax, the latter of which drew considerable complaints from soldiers.

After a roundabout journey from the battlefield, the Crispin diary ended up in Jim Buck’s family when his grandfather obtained it in a New Jersey estate sale.

The rest is history.

The book is self-published. It is available at www.jim buckbooks.com.


Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at [email protected]

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