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John F. Hanna Diary
Civil War Cadet Life
Manuscript #0317
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Collection Description

John Francis Hanna (1843-1885) was born at the home of his grandparents in Philadelphia on August 20, 1843. Before matriculating at VMI he attended Gonzaga College and Georgetown University. He entered VMI from Manassas, Virginia, on January 22, 1862 as a member of the Class of 1864. He was a cadet First Lieutenant, Co. D., at the Battle of New Market. Fourteen members of the class, all New Market Cadets, were graduated on June 17, 1864, approximately a month after the battle. After the war he studied law at Columbian (now George Washington) University and practiced in Washington, DC. He never married. He was injured in a riding accident on October 25, 1885 and died at his home in Mt. Vernon, Virginia, on October 31.

Hanna's diary contains a colorful account of life at VMI and in Lexington during the spring of 1864. Entries begin April 17, 1864 and end May 9, 1864. On May 10, the cadets were called to active duty at the request of Gen. John C. Breckinridge and on May 15 participated in the Battle of New Market. For related collections about this time period, see the May 1864 letters of VMI Superintendent Francis H. Smith and our other extensive Civil War resources

This volume is the final one in an eight volume diary begun by Hanna in 1861; it is the only volume owned by the Virginia Military Institute. References in the text to "other books" refer to previous volumes, which Hanna sent home to his sister for safekeeping. This final volume was picked up by a Union soldier, probably when Union forces occupied Lexington in June 1864. It was ultimately fell into the hands of Septimus Knight of the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry. The notebook was used by Knight as a diary; entries date from August 1862 (apparently copied from an earlier diary or notes) through June 1868. Most entries relate the movements and activities of the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Knight's section of the volume has not been transcribed. Researchers who are interested the 15th Pennsylvania should contact the Archives to request photocopies.