Private Tournier's diary not only provides an excellent account of day to day life in the army but also describes the various battles and skirmishes in which he was involved and provides considerable information concerning the effects of the war on eastern North Carolina.
Tournier's company traveled from New York to Baltimore in mid-September, 1864, where they were garrisoned at Camp Hamilton on the Chesapeake for two weeks. On October 13, 1864, the company embarked for Roanoke Island. While at Roanoke, Tournier comments on the many blacks who had gathered on the island in the wake of the Union occupation of parts of eastern North Carolina. He also recounts the capture of a Confederate sailing vessel off the harbor.
After arriving in New Bern (October 20, 1864), Tournier describes the port town as being full of yellow fever, with all the stores and houses tightly closed. Entries, (October 21-November 20) deal with camp life and garrison duty, shortages of rations, suspicions that supplies were being sold for profit, and a fire in the Negro section of town which killed several blacks and damaged or destroyed many homes.
His company did not see action until December 7, 1864. Arriving at Plymouth, North Carolina, Tournier describes the gutted war-torn appearance of the town and makes note of the Confederate ram
ALBEMARLE which remained sunk in the river. Entries (December 7-16) recount forays into the surrounding countryside, including the capture of a Confederate-held bridge on the Roanoke River, a skirmish at Foster's Mills, the abandonment of the Union fort at Rainbow Bluff, and the subsequent forced march to Jamestown.
On January 9, 1865, the company returned to New Bern. An entry of January 16 notes the large number of refugees, mostly Negroes, who had come into the city seeking protection, and on February 8 Tournier visited the large black settlement in the city which had developed during the war.
Beginning February 15, diary entries deal increasingly with comments concerning the gathering of troops in New Bern, news of Sherman's whereabouts, and rumors of orders to advance toward Raleigh. Finally, on March 2, the company broke camp and with other troops began to march toward Kinston. On March 10, five miles outside Kinston at Wise's (Or Wagner's) Forks, the Confederates were engaged and were forced to retreat. The diary contains a detailed description of events which took place during the battle. Entries (March 15-April 18) concern camp life outside Kinston and include accounts of foraging expeditions made because of ration shortages.
Subsequent entries pertain to their return to New Bern, the company being relieved by Negro troops, a conversation with a former inmate of the Andersonville prison, and his return to New York.
Another item in the collection is a report of Craven County common schools (1858). Compiled by a teacher in one of the schools, the report describes conditions in each of the 49 districts of the county, giving the number of children eligible to attend, the number actually enrolled, subjects taught, number of teachers and salaries paid, and the condition of school buildings.
Also in the collection is a pamphlet of advertisements showing the types of items available in New Bern in the 1880's. The booklet includes stories, jokes, and poems, and has a general description of the city and its commercial facilities. Of particular interest is an article which contains comments on the circulation of money, the increasing use of checks and bank drafts, and offered arguments against adopting the programs of silverites and greenbackers.
There is also a leaflet on the celebration following the completion in 1858 of the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad line from Goldsboro to New Bern. Printed in 1901, this item listed members of the celebration committee and described the preparations and festivities.