These diary pages were written by George W. Shue (b. 1842), the son of John H. Shue (1813-1850) — a hotel keeper and farmer — and Melinda Brenner (b. 1821). Both parents were of German ancestry and resided in Safe Harbor Manor township, Lancaster county, Pennsylvania. George enlisted in Co. I, 23rd Pennsylvania (“Birney’s Zouaves”) on 1 September 1861 at Philadelphia. He was wounded at Cold Harbor on 1 June 1864 and mustered out with the company on 8 September 1864. At least two of his brothers served in the Civil War as well; Harrison B. Shue (1839-1902) — a wagon maker — served in Co. 178th Pennsylvania in 1862, and Harry B. Shue (b. 1845) — a lumberman — enlisted (1863) in 168th Pennsylvania.
The diary pages begin in the dreadful winter of 1862-63 while the 23rd Pennsylvania — otherwise known as “Birney’s Zouaves” — were encamped on the Rappahannock river opposite Fredericksburg. Like most diaries, Pvt. Shue records the weather and more times than not, the inactivity of the Army of the Potomac as it sat immobile in the mud on Stafford’s Heights. Unlike most diaries, however, Shue does not record much detail about camp life such as the daily drill or rations. Rather, he chronicles the events of the war from a level of understanding rarely observed or noted by the average soldier. Clearly he scanned the daily papers looking for war dispatches from every theatre of the war, seeking to understand the strategy and tactics of the War Department.
The diary pages end in August 1863 following the regiment’s return from the battlefield at Gettysburg where they participated in the 2nd and 3rd days action. In April 1863 — on the anniversary of the regiment’s arrival in Virginia — Shue devotes several pages to remembering the experiences of the regiment during the previous year.