Editor’s Note: The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle PA. researched at least one soldier from every state and submitted articles for local newspapers and social media. Their mission is simply “Telling the Army Story – One soldier at a Time.” Their soldier of choice in Virginia was Appomattox native George W. Abbitt, a member of the 46th Virginia Infantry Regiment (1861-1865). The article tells a little about his time in the war, as well as the personal diary he kept from May 1863 to June 1964, which is now part of the historical collection at USAHEC.
The Diary of George W. Abbitt
George W. Abbitt, Company B, 46th Virginia Infantry Regiment (also called 1st or 2nd Regiment, Wise Legion), kept a diary from May 4, 1863 through June 15, 1864 while fighting for the land of his birth, the commonwealth of Virginia. The United States Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) in Carlisle, Pennsylvania holds that diary for family and researcher use.
Abbitt, born on June 19, 1826 (one source claims 1828), in Appomattox, Virginia, was a farmer and enlisted in the Confederate Army on June 19, 1861. He was 2nd lieutenant, then captain of Company B, his specialty being archery. Abbitt had a brother, William H., a doctor, who was also in the same company. George made a diary entry on March 30, 1864 regarding his thoughts about leaving his hometown, as his unit was bound for South Carolina. Arriving at its destination on April 3, 1864, his unit was placed in charge of heavy batteries.
Earlier in the diary, Abbitt lists events from 1863 and includes casualties that his brigade incurred including the following entry on May 4, 1863, “we drove the Yankee Cavalry back, killing seven horses, wounding and taking thirteen prisoners.” He then lists similar statistics from 1864 with individuals named, including such personal observations as “he was a brave, good, soldier.”
Later, after becoming ill, Abbitt was ordered to Petersburg Hospital on May 25, 1864, and arrived on May 26. During the next few days, he continued to make diary entries, in his “hand book.” He further wrote that his diary was private and not intended for the public eye as he listed certain men of his company who failed to obey orders.
It was during that hospital stay, that Abbitt received a box from his father and others. He expressed his thankfulness and stated that the package was full of mutton, fried chicken, a large ham, and “plenty of good biscuits with plenty of butter.” He was discharged from the hospital on June 3, 1864, stating that he was very well attended to “whilst I was there.” Once back with his regiment, he describes the tension of the atmosphere, due to the close proximity of enemy, while his brigade was camped near Petersburg. He eventually ended up as commander of the regiment from March 29, 1865 until April 9, 1865.
George W. Abbitt died on June 25, 1912 and is buried at Gravel Knoll Cemetery, Appomattox County, Virginia. More details about his service during the Civil War can be found in his diary located within the Civil War Document Collection at USAHEC. Please visit www.usahec.org for more information.
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