James M. Randall was born in Canton, Ohio and enlisted his services in the Union Army in October of 1861 at the age of twenty. Initially enlisting in Co. "B" of the 14th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant of the 21st Wisconsin in July of 1862 where he rose to the rank of Captain. Assigned to forces under Ulysses S. Grant, in Tennessee, Randall maintains his diary from Shiloh to Sherman's campaign through the Carolinas. His detailed observations of the war are also mentioned in letters to his wife, which are included in his diary.
Introductory ( Chicago, Illinois April 1901)
In my effort to relate some of the principle events of my life, as will be found herein, I have endeavored to keep strictly within the bounds of truthfulness. Writing from memory - except for a period during the Civil War - errors as to dates or minor details may have been made but in all essential points it is correct. Of course I claim nothing for this as a literary production, nor do I presume that it will be of interest to others than my own family. But to my children, for whom it is written, and possibly their children after them, I have thought that perhaps years hence the sketch might be found to contain something to excite their interest and afford them a degree of pleasure.