Joseph C. Breckinridge Diary Entries
July 22, 1864

These excerpts from Joseph C. Breckinridge's diary, beginning on July 22, 1864, detail his time as a prisoner of war, his personal reflections on New Years' Eve of 1864, his thoughts on Lee's surrender, and his reaction to Lincoln's assassination. 

FRIDAY, July 22d, 1864.

Walked to 20pdr Parrot Bat. about ¾ mile to our right to see their practice and Atlanta. The enemy attacked up on our left about noon, though we saw their Bat. & Brigade form had no orders to fire. Capt Robinson (Chf of Arty) ordered us to rejoin our Corps in the field we passed through yesterday. Several other Bats. seemed ordered to move at the same time. In entering the woods road Leggett said it was clear, a Staff officer said the 16th were driving the enemy. But the Bat was captured, without a chance to reverse unlimber or fire, in the same gap between the 16th & 17th Corps in which McPherson was killed. Murray was taken to the rear with McP. Orderly I was seperated in attempt of myself & guard to return to my lines.

            We got to Eastpoint at two A.M. going circuitously about 14 miles.

SUNDAY, July 24th, 1864.

Searched & rationed for march. Our 100 got rotten. Hard tack as well as meat. Lt. J. Graves, and Will Wallace and other Kyans gave me food. Dr [Hughes?] and Capt. Bell loaned me $150=. I saw Willie about two hours in the middle of the night. Frank Matthews

Tramped eighteen miles of our journey today, which removed the sprouts which were commencing from the toes I wore off the day I was captured

TUESDAY, July 26th, 1864.

Finished with the help of Murray, [...senberry?] & Oliphant the food the Kyans gave me, and bought a little corn bread.

[Written horizontally and carries onto the next page:] 

Prisoners from Baty. 2nd Arty. captured 22nd July 1864, near Atlanta.

Lt. Joseph C. Breckinridg[e] 

Lieut. A. M. Murray

Sergt Hennessy

Corp Gibbons

Bugler Woods

Privs. Armstrong

    “         Gear

    “         Harras

    “         Howard

    “         Fisher

    “         Kelly

    “         Ryan

    “         Young

WEDNESDAY, July 27th, 1864.

Reached Griffin and were put into box cars out of the wet. Sixty two men in our car.

THURSDAY, July 28th, 1864.

Reached Macon 2A.M. searched and put in Stockade at Fair ground, called camp Oglethorpe

FRIDAY, July 29th, 1864.

Put 89 men and four guards in a car for Savannah, supplied with our made corn bread and bacon.

SATURDAY, July 30th, 1864. 

Stoneman cut the railroads. Marched back to Bullpen. Hear the firing distinctly, about 11/2 miles off. Guns bearing on us manned. Great excitement among Yank[s] and Confeds.

SUNDAY, July 31st, 1864.

Stoneman Gone!

MONDAY, August 8th, 1864.

Poor Murray died today after five days illness with Pneumonia. He had chills & fever and diarrhoea before, which with the exposure coming here had enfeebled him too much for him to wrestle with this attack, especially as the Physician & conveniences aided the disease

TUESDAY, August 9th, 1864.

Stoneman and his lot start for Charleston.

MONDAY August 15th, 1864.

We arrive in Charleston and are confined in the Negro Work House.

SUNDAY, September 25th, 1864.

Leave Charleston for Atlanta for exchange. 190 of us. Sherman is doing this for us.

WEDNESDAY, September 28th, 1864.

145 Officers exchanged at Rough & Ready.

SATURDAY, October 3rd, 1864.

Reached Lexington ragged, sick and dirty


TUESDAY, November 8th, 1864.

Voted for Lincoln at the Soldiers polls on Short Street. Pa went to Dog Kennel to vote. Hard rain.


SATURDAY, December 31st, 1864.

The old year is dead, and what imprint has its influence, which effects all, left upon me. I wound up my affairs in Florida so hastily that I will probably be long troubled with my Ordnance papers. I had a few days service with the Army of the Tennessee which was quite interesting in that it imparted many of that Army’s traditions. I was captured the 22nd, July and learned the facts of the life of a Prisoner of War and the horrors the Traitors have unnecessarily imposed upon their captives. Met Mary McElderry in June in Baltimore. I fancied she might have learned to love me since we met so seperated two years before and was ready to accept any position she had to offer me from husband to humblest friend. But I saw some change had occurred, and learned she had been engaged to Alick Boggs in February while her letters to me were as kind of loving as they had ever been. Tho’ I had held my tongue suspicioning some such case (though fancying Alick had been rejected and there had been no engagement), I was told nothing of it untill I had seen her the last time. Fearing that my actions while with her had shown that however high she had placed me in her good graces I was willing to accept the position, I deemed the friendship I left for her and that high purity at which I have always aimed demanded I should explain the flow of my feeling toward her, especially as it was calm and pellucid now with every bubble of fancy upon its bosom burst. A summary of the effect of this year upon me is about this, in business, no settlement and trouble; in love, an imbroglio; but little noteworthy experience, in health, disease; in morals, no nearer to God; But Opposed to this my imprisonment demonstrated the warm, earnest, active love of my family which God only knows how absorbingly and devotedly I love. This years experience at Diary keeping prompts me to try it again. It seems irregular how the most trivial thing recorded seems to brighten the memory of many interesting scenes, and how constantly and entirely I have failed to record what now seem the salience of my daily life



April,               MONDAY, 10,          1865. 

Had celebration over Victories. Sketches by Fry, Blakely, Pa, Pratt, Burbridge & Egerton. The crowd small and composed of soldiers, poor whites and negroes. Speeches poor. The celebration otherwise a decided success and the ilumination much finer and more general than I thought Lexington could produce. Alice & Annie Jones came from Paris

April,               FRIDAY, 14,              1865.

A Fire-Department, Military, &c procession and illumination at night with fireworks, for the late successes.

The President assassinated. About 10 o’clock at night, in Ford’s Theatre Washington, about

April,               SATURDAY, 15,       1865.

            President Lincoln assassinated, but none dare gloat over his murder. The reckless, disparate grasp at domineering universal in the South, and the unlimited rage at the seeming speedy snatching of all such power from them; the universal denunciation of the murdered President as a tyrant & usurper; and his very clemency, pardoning men for murders about as horrid as his own and educating all to a feeling of irresponsibility these things together might lead some practice executor of the spirit of the times to the mournful, horrible murder. Came to Lexington in evening. Louisville draped in black.


May,                MONDAY, 8,            1865.

A war song, as sung in 1863.

In 1861.

This cruel war it was begun


In 1862

Old Abe he didn’t know what to do


In 1863

Old Abe he set the [negroes] free


In 1864

This cruel war it will be o’er


In 1865

There won’t be a Goddamned rebel alive

May,                TUESDAY, 9,                        1865.

In 1866

Oh! wont we be in a hell of a fix

            Sung after this manner

In 1861, Foot baw Foot baw, In 1861, Foot baw says I. In 1861. This cruel war it was begun, We’ll all drink stone blind Johnny fill up your bowl


Diary of Joseph C. Breckinridge, Breckinridge Family Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.