1865 Civil War Prison Guard Diary

Value (2008) | $3,000 Auction$4,000 Auction

This is a diary from my great-great-great-grandfather that covers most of the year 1865, when he was in the service in various places. He served as a guard in a veteran volunteer unit around Washington, D.C. He mentions in the diary about Lincoln being assassinated and Lincoln dying the next day. He is a guard at the prison camp where they had the conspirators detained, and he was at the prison standing guard when they hung them. He speaks about daily life and different things that happened in different camps where he was at, and that sort of thing.

And you brought a transcription of the diary. Who produced that transcription?

In 1987, my mother asked the Missouri Archives if they could transcribe it. And they sent it to the University of Missouri at Rolla, and they transcribed it, because the writing was getting very faint and hard to read.

Did they keep a copy...

I believe they did keep a copy, yes.

That's a really wonderful thing to do, if you have a Civil War diary of that importance, to also share it with other people. There are two events I would like to point out that we would look for in that year in particular. It would be, of course, the Lincoln assassination, which your... help me out.

It's three greats.

Your great-great-great-grandfather mentions. And then the other thing is that he was a prison guard where the four conspirators were executed. I don't want to open up the diary, because it's just too fragile to do that.


But here in the transcription you can clearly see that the event is mentioned on the assassination, where he is actually at a different camp—he just hears about the Lincoln assassination. And then later, he is, on that Friday, July 7, in 1865, he is actually at the camp itself.

Right, he's outside of the walls at the prison.

The condition, unfortunately, is not that great. The writing is very faded. But the contents is so important that I think for this diary, for the period, with the contents you describe, it is... at auction, a conservative estimate would be around $3,000 to $4,000.

Wow, that's quite a bit.

And it's a great, great treasure.

Appraisal Details

New York, NY
Appraised value (2008)
$3,000 Auction$4,000 Auction
Wichita, KS (July 12, 2008)

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