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Hoosier Civil War Soldier Witnesses Solar Eclipse On New Years Day

solar-eclipse-day-graphic.jpg

(NASA & Becca Costello, WFIU/WTIU News)

On the first day of 1862, a Hoosier Civil War soldier witnessed a partial solar eclipse and wrote about it in his diary.

We've been publishing the diary entries of Peter Thomas Matthews, who lived in Ellettsville when he volunteered to join the 19th Indiana Regimental Band as a drummer. 

His entry on January 1, 1862 is special: it documents how Matthews witnessed a partial solar eclipse. 

"I witnessed an eclipse of the Sun with my naked eye this morning at sun rise," Matthews wrote on that day. "The Eclipse was partial only but larger than any I ever saw before." 

According to NASA, the eclipse he saw was actually the night before. Parts of the world saw a total eclipse that day, but Matthews would have seen about 40 percent of the sun covered up by the moon. (We know he was somewhere in the Virginias that week because of his Christmas Day entry.) 

Here's the full entry for January 1, 1862:

Editor's note: We have left Matthews' words as he recorded them, which means spelling and punctuation may not conform to modern standards.

None but the searcher of all hearts can tell what will transpire during this the New Born Year—I witnessed an eclipse of the Sun with my naked eye this morning at sun rise.  The Eclipse was partial only but larger than any I ever saw before—Spent a very pleasant day of it I wonder if the loved ones at home thought us or wished us a happy new year—O”. I wish them so

Check back for the next entry on January 2. 

Diary entries provided by the Monroe County History Center.

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