George Burgwin Johnston Diary

We have just added a new diary to our Civil War Collection. This is the diary of George Burgwin Johnston, Captain of Company G, 28th Regiment, North Carolina Infantry.

A quote from Walter Clark’s Histories of Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War, 1861-1865 (Raleigh and Goldsboro: State of North Carolina, 5 volumes, 1901), volume 2 page 471: “ Company G., which was cut off from the regiment at Kinney’s can never forget how their brave, but frail and delicate young Captain George B. Johnston, afterwards the accomplished adjutant General of the brigade, swam back rather than appear to have deserted his men; how he marched as a prisoner of war from Kinney’s Farm to West Point in wet clothes; how he was a confined on Johnsons Island; how he read the Episcopal service regularly; how he was joyfully welcomed back to camp; and how, a physical wreck, he was soon forced to return home to die.”

George Burgwin Johnston, born 1840 in Edenton, was the son of Reverend Samuel Iredell Johnston and Margaret Burgwin of the Hermitage near Wilmington. He graduated valedictorian of his class in 1859 from the University of North Carolina. George Married Ann Taylor Johnson, daughter of Dr. Charles Earl Johnson of Raleigh in 1860. Johnston joined Company G, 28th Regiment on September 2, 1861 and was promoted to captain on May 1, 1862. He was taken prisoner on May 28, 1862 on the banks of Pamunkey River, the day after the battle of Hanover Court House.  The diary contains entries describing the maneuvers and events that led to his capture, information about his place of imprisonment at Johnson Island in Lake Erie and detailed description of his return voyage down the Mississippi River to Vicksburg. The diary also includes characterizations of his three closest friends imprisoned with him: Colonel Clark M. Avery of Morganton, Captain Thomas W. Mayhew of Hyde County, and Colonel H. Olmstead, “of Fort Pulaski fame,” Mayhew and Olmstead wrote farewell letters to George Burgwin Johnston in the diary. There are 9 poems, in the diary most of which Johnston wrote. Also included in the diary is a list of books he read while imprisoned and the signatures and addresses of 45 fellow-officers in Block #5 of the Johnson’s Island military prison. Johnston’s last entry to the diary is September 15, 1862. George Burgwin Johnston died at age 23 in April of 1864 in Chapel Hill and was buried in Raleigh, North Carolina.

An index to the diary is below.

Recount of Johnston’s capture written while at Johnson’s Island, Sanduskey Bay, Ohio, June 25th, 1862

Characterizations of his three closest friends

List of books read while a prisoner

Life at camp

Prisoner’s signatures

Farewell letter from Charles H. Olmstead

Farewell letter from Thomas W. Mayhew

Route down the Mississippi Sept. 8, 1862

Off Memphis Sept. 10, 1862

Sept. 13, 1862

Sept. 15, 1862

Poetry

The Prisoners Dream

The Prisoners Friend

In Memoriam, about the death of his son, Aug. 11, 1862

The Prisoners Prayer for his Wife, July 17, 1862

The Prisoners Consolation, July 27th 1862

News from Home

To Col. C.H. Olmstead

In Memoriam the Prisoners Death, Aug. 28th 1862

A farewell to Prison Life

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3 Responses to George Burgwin Johnston Diary

  1. Pingback: Obituaries – George Burgwin Johnston | North Carolina Civil War 150

  2. Pingback: Memorial Day, World War I Posters, and Civil War Updates « History For All the People

  3. Daniel Johnson says:

    He corresponded with General James Lane and that correspondence is posted on the Auburn University Library website.

    Dan Johnson

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