Lincoln Letters

Wilber Wightman Gramling Diary (M88-70)

Detail from Wilber Wightman Gramling's Diary

Wilber Wightman Gramling's diary is one of the few surviving diaries written by a Florida soldier during the Civil War.

Among the entries are seven references to Lincoln or "Abe."

  • Inside cover of diary
    Perpetual Diary
  • Monday, May 23, 1864
    Everything the same. Saw President Lincoln and Lady pass yesterday.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 8, 1864
    Far as I know, it is quite still for election day. Generally thought that it will be a close run between Abe and Mc, rather than in the latter's favor.
  • Friday, Nov. 11, 1864
    Great speculation about the election. Some say that Lincoln is elected and some say Mac.
  • Saturday, Nov. 19, 1864
    Unusually pleasant today and fair. Seems to be no doubt but Abe is reelected.
  • Thursday, April 13, 1865
    Seems to be settled that General Lee and army surrendered to Grant. Some seem to rejoice-while others lament the capture of so noble an army
  • Sunday, April 16, 1865
    Cloudy and quite cold. Lincoln's murderer is supposed to be one Booth. Johnson took his seat yesterday at 2 o'clock. Seward considered dangerous. The assassin not apprehended yet.

Wilber Wightman Gramling lived in Leon County, Florida, and enlisted in Company K of the Fifth Florida Infantry Regiment at Tallahassee on February 20, 1862. Gramling saw action with the Fifth Florida in several battles, including Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg.

On May 6, 1864, at the beginning of the Battle of the Wilderness, Gramling was wounded in the right arm and captured by Federal troops. After spending a short time in a field hospital at Fredericksburg, Gramling was transferred to the U.S. Army General Hospital at Columbian College in Washington, D.C., and then to Lincoln Hospital in the same city. On July 23, 1864, following a brief incarceration in the Old Capitol Prison, he was sent to the prisoner-of-war camp at Elmira, New York. One of the major Union POW camps, Elmira was noted for its particularly high death rate.

Gramling languished at Elmira for the remainder of the war. He took the oath of allegiance to the United States government on June 21, 1865, more than two months after General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

After the war, Gramling lived in Centerville, Leon County. He died on December 3, 1870, from a long ailment contracted at Elmira. Gramling was 27 years old at the time of his death and is believed to be buried in the Pisgah Church Cemetery in Leon County.

Gramling's diary is one of the few surviving diaries written by a Florida soldier during the Civil War. It is even rarer in that it documents the experiences of a Florida serviceman who was incarcerated in a Union prisoner-of-war camp.

The entries are short, concentrating on topics such as food, weather, living conditions, illnesses among the prisoners, war news, condition of family and friends, and the hope for exchange.

Gramling's diary is typical of the type of diary carried by countless Union and Confederate soldiers. Each page contains three dates and enough space for one entry per day. Although the diary's introductory calendar indicates that the diary was published for entries under "1864," Gramling's entries for January 1 through May 5 are for 1865. He begins the entries for 1864 on May 6 and continues them through the end of the year.

Among the entries are seven references to Lincoln or "Abe" on pages 37, 38, 49, 50, 109, 110, 111, and 113. The transcriptions of the entries are in chronological order and include all the entries (even the ones that do not mention Lincoln) on the pages referenced above.

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