Like Dana Shoaf, historian and editor of the Civil War Times Magazine found Nevin’s diary at the John Hines Regional History Center in Pittsburgh, Elijah V. White, a Confederate cavalry officer, stumbled upon the lost Union soldier by chance.

Purely By Chance

John I. Nevin was a 28-year-old teacher in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, when the Civil War began. He enlisted in the Union Army and was commissioned in the 28th Pennsylvania Volunteers Regiment as a Second Lieutenant under General John W. Geary earlier in the war. As he goes through the uncertainties of 1861, the former Pittsburgh newspaper editor keeps a diary of his experiences. Unfortunately, some of his entries were missing. However, a good chunk of the intact pages was about his service during the war.

Major John I. Nevin
A portrait of Major John I. Nevin during his 93rd Pennsylvania service in the 1860s. (Image source: History Net)

Very early in the war, Nevin was among the soldiers tasked with going to Loudoun County, where they would march down Leesburg Waterford to surveil the area. When they were ordered to move, Nevin was unfortunately sick. So he remained behind at a house in Harpers Ferry. Nevin decided to drag himself out of bed the next day and follow his regiment, feeling annoyed about being left behind—plus the fact that he didn’t want to miss the war.

He could not find his comrades as he ascended to the summit and described the eerie silence around him as “that warlike had passed.” He later confessed in the pages that he was lost.