Summer along the Trail
Cavalrymen escorting the overland stagecoach, a duty that Scherneckau often described. From Frank A. Root and William E. Connelley, The Overland Stage to California (Topeka, 1901) (at right).
Pvt. August Scherneckau was a soldier with the First Nebraska Volunteer Cavalry during the Civil War. In 1865, he and his comrades were posted at Midway Station, sixty miles west of Fort Kearny along the Platte River Road.
Scherneckau observed a constant parade of stagecoaches, freighting contractors’ “bull trains,” and emigrant wagons passing up and down the Platte Valley. “Soldiering in the Platte Valley, 1865: A Nebraska Cavalryman’s Diary,” edited by James E. Potter and Edith Robbins, appears in the Spring 2010 issue of Nebraska History (read the introduction here).
What with the rainy weather much of the state has been having lately, we’ll quote a few weather-related excerpts:
Monday, June 5 – A team went into the bluffs to get firewood. The wind, and as a result, the dust, are unbearable on this well-traveled road. Often one sees nothing but an immense dust cloud in the entire area when a large train is moving. It seems to me that we have much more wind here than in Grand Island, where it is also very windy indeed. Anyway, there is more dust here since the area is much sandier. We are located directly on the road, which in summertime, day or night is, so to speak, never empty of wagons or loose cattle. In fact, if it were to be this dusty in Grand Island, I would hardly feel obliged to live there again. Even what we eat and drink grinds between the teeth; nothing is wrapped tightly enough to keep out the dust.
The overland stagecoach leaving Cottonwood Springs near Fort Cottonwood (later Fort McPherson, about 10 miles east of North Platte). From Root and Connelley, The Overland Stage to California.
But the weather changed a few days later:
Thursday, June 8 – It rained very hard last night, and despite the good coat I was soaked thoroughly. Having arrived at the station, it was then about midnight, there was not a dry spot to be found, since all roofs are made of sod and are neglected, leaking awfully. I spent the rest of the night not particularly pleasantly in wet clothing and under a wet blanket. Since it was raining during the day too, we had no chance to dry our clothing.
Other than the Platte Valley section that appears in Nebraska History, the rest of Scherneckau’s wartime diary is published as Marching with the First Nebraska: A Civil War Diary, available from our Landmark Stores.
—David Bristow, Associate Director for Research & Publications