Introduction to the War Diary of John Henry Asendorf
John Henry Asendorf was my great-grandfather. He was born in Germany in 1863 and immigrated to the United States in 1879. He first settled in Bayonne, NJ and later moved to Uniontown, PA where he owned and operated a butcher shop. At the age of 35, he enlisted with Company C, 10th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers to fight in the Spanish American War.
During his service from May 8, 1898 to August 21, 1899 he kept a diary. The diary is in four volumes which were snatched from their demise when my father died. As we were cleaning out his home in 1993, we found an old 40-gallon garbage bag filled with stuff of my grandfather's: cancelled checks; tax returns; junk promotions for commemorative plates and collectible coins; old banks statements. My dad must have scooped this junk from a drawer after my grandfather died in 1979. It is likely dad intended to go through the bag at a later date but never got around to it. Thinking the bag to be filled with nothing of any importance, I set the bag aside to be dragged to the trash. As I picked up the bag to throw it away, I felt a sudden compulsion to go through the bag before tossing it. Inside the bag amidst all this junk there was only one thing of any importance, the diary. By 1993, no one in the family even knew that they existed. It was quite a find.
For years I held onto the diaries, keeping them safe and secure but not really anything else. In 2002 I decided to start transcribing the diaries during my free time. I finished typing the diaries into a text editor around while at Ft. Campbell, KY in 2006 and decided I needed a more permanent place and way to store it.
The transcription is stored in a database noting the date, page and diary of each entry. This form of storage allows the diary to be displayed in multiple ways. As a PHP programmer with fairly decent SQL skills, I also converted a list of the entire 10th Regiment Penna Volunteers into a database which allowed me to create links to the individuals mentioned in the diary. I am currently working on a transliteration of the diary into standard English. Great-grandpa's English left a little to be desired. Although excellent for an immigrant, his spelling makes it very difficult to search the diary. The transliteration will hopefully allow researchers (and even me) to search the diary more accurately. Of the 400 dated entries,
396 have been transliterated (this number updates instantly as entries are translated).
I hope that the transcription of this diary will aid someone in the historical field. There seems to be very little about this war in even the grandest of history books. The diary will be of very little use to the person seeking legends of great glory and bloody battle scenes (although a few exist). It will be of great use to the historian looking for methodical documentation of the average soldier during this period. The Diary consists of meals, training, sick lists, "we shot at them and they shot back" stories, soliloquies on Dewey and the War and slight homesickness.
John P. Asendorf