William H. S. Burgwyn Diary (September 29, 1864 – March 11, 1865)

At the beginning of December I finished transcribing and fleshing out the metadata for the last of William Burgwyn’s Civil War diaries. At the time I wanted to share some of the Christmas memories that William wrote about in his diaries so I did not write my usual diary post in December. Now that the Holiday season is over I feel it s a good time to let any Burgwyn followers know that the last of his dairies has been added to the collection.

This diary was bought at City Point for 50 cents in greenbacks on October 3, 1864 while William was a prisoner of war. If you read the last diary you know that William had just returned to active duty on September 21, 1864 after recuperating from a leg wound. The diary recounts William’s days just prior to his capture with entries being made for September 29 with some very detailed recounts of the battle. “By the time we got in about 70 yards of their works our line was entirely broken not from any falling back but literatly from men being cut down by piles by the terific fire… I though falling down twice from my spurs catching in the grass kept up with the men tho I would not go ahead as I generally do as I promised my father I would not. From the time we lay down about 3 PM till dusk there we lay about 70 yds from the Enemy’s line some entirely exposed + some weeds + grass but all entirely at the mercy of the Enemy but they did not fire on us knowing we could not get away (tho some did) except we faced almost certain death to do so. About dusk as I was getting ready to run the gauntlett favored by the encreasing darkness when the Enemy sent forward a line of skirmishes who captured almost without a single exception all who had not surrendered. As I got up to see if I would have to surrender or not I saw a Yankee about 10 yards with his gun pointed towards me calling out to surrender or he would shoot I then took out my handerchief + waved it + gave up my sward to a Yankee Captain + was hastened to their lines + sent from there to Genl Wietzels HdQrs + from his to Genl Butlers about 4 miles off.  At Genl W’s Hd Qrs we were treated very gentlemanly + also at Genl Butlers. As I began to examine about me I found my clothes pierced through in several places + my haversack was shot off me.”After Williams capture he was first brought to City Point. From City point he was transported to Capitol Prison in “Washington City” from there is transported to Fort Delaware.

William was a prisoner of war from September 29, 1864 until March 2, 1865. Many days in prison are rather dull and boring for William so he had to find ways to pass the time. Many of his diary entries deal with information he has received from newspapers about the war and the movements of different Generals both Union and Confederate.  On Thursday January 18, 1865 he writes “Was much depressed by the news that Fort Fisher had fallen under the combined attack of Porter + Terry.” William wrote many letters to his acquaintances and relatives, some of whom were well known and respected in the North. The relatives and friends sent William money and clothing to help him bide his time in prison. He gives credit to one of these relatives for getting him an early parole from prison: “was very unexpectedly taken out + paroled to go on exchange tomorrow through Cousin Hills B influence. My gratitude knows no bounds.” William also read many books to pass the time. One of the books he enjoyed was the works of Shakespeare and at the end of the diary there are quotations taken from some of Shakespeare’s works that fit his mood at the time.

We have recently decided to add William’s letters to the collection so keep an eye on the blog for information concerning their release. His letters have vast amounts of detailed information dealing with military life, battles he fought in as well as his feelings on the war. I have truly enjoyed being able to read William’s diaries and look forward to adding the letters to the collection. I am also working on adding some other diaries to the collection, one of which should be added to the collection in February.

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One Response to William H. S. Burgwyn Diary (September 29, 1864 – March 11, 1865)

  1. Pingback: Holiday Reminder, NC Digital Collections, and Civil War Update « History For All the People

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