Thoughts from a Civil War P.O.W.

Excerpt from the back inside cover of the Wilbur Wightman Gramling Diary.

Wilbur Wightman Gramling carefully penned these words in the back inside cover of a small black pocket diary sometime between May 6, 1864 and June 21, 1865. He was a Confederate soldier from Florida, taken prisoner at the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia after being wounded in the arm. Soon after he was transferred to a Union hospital in Washington, DC, he acquired this small volume and began writing about his experiences. Click here to view the full diary on Florida Memory.

A page from the Wilbur Wightman Gramling Diary, showing entries for June 1-3, 1864 (Collection M88-70, State Archives of Florida).

A page from the Wilbur Wightman Gramling Diary, showing entries for June 1-3, 1864 (Collection M88-70, State Archives of Florida).

Gramling filled every entry in the diary from May 6, 1864 to May 5, 1865, sharing details about the hospitals he was assigned to, the people he met and corresponded with, and what little information he could learn about the war. In July 1864, he was transferred to the Union prison at Elmira, New York, where he would remain until the war ended. While there, his diary entries were filled with descriptions of escape attempts, concerns about the approaching winter, illicit markets among the prisoners, and the meager news he was able to pick up about friends and relatives.

Map showing parts of Pennsylvania and New York - Elmira is located just north of the border shared between these states ( (Asher & Adams’ New Statistical and Topographical Atlas of the United States, 1872).

Map showing parts of Pennsylvania and New York – Elmira is located just north of the border shared between these states ( Asher & Adams’ New Statistical and Topographical Atlas of the United States, 1872).

Owen Irvin Gramling, Jr., a great-nephew of Wilbur’s, donated the diary to the State Archives of Florida in 1988. It is now available on Florida Memory in its entirety, including a full transcription and a biographical section describing many of the people Gramling writes about. The diary can also be browsed by subject. Click here to view the diary directly or visit the Collections page on floridamemory.com.

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