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George J. Johnston papers

Identifier: ahc.MSS187f

Scope and Content

The bulk of this collection includes diaries and military records of George J. Johnston. Johnston's diaries span three volumes and date from December 14, 1863, to May 20, 1865. The first volume includes a brief summary of his early life; instructions to the person who finds his diary; several poems; lists and doodles; and a drawing and description of the battle at Bean Station. The narrative of the diary begins after he was wounded in the foot at Bean Station, and it describes his travels between various Southern cities and towns as he visits family and friends and extends his furlough several times. In the first volume of the diary he mentions hearing rumors about the Atlanta Campaign from Opelika, Alabama. The volume concludes as Johnston is caught without his furlough papers and is punished with semi-imprisonment in an apartment room.

The second volume of his diary begins August 17, 1864, and continues to describe his confinement. He writes about the weather, his loneliness, rumors of fallen southern cities, his family, and romantic interests. The second volume also includes poetry.

Johnston's third volume includes a second set of instructions concerning the finding of his diary, as well as several more lists and doodles, and a poem. In this narrative, George J. Johnston rejoins his regiment and helps defend Petersburg. He describes the increasingly cold weather which causes some soldiers to freeze to death, as well as the low rations and intermittent enemy attacks.

The collection also includes two furlough papers; his parole; a poem; his Oath of Allegiance to the Union; a proclamation that all the valuables of rebels should be sent to the New Orleans Headquarters Department of the Gulf; a signed note allowing him to move to Opelika; and a letter to Miss Lulu Hilliard from Joseph Walker in 1864. There is also a partial transcription of the first volume of the diary.


  • 1856-1865


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright law. (Title 17, U.S. Code) Permission for use must be cleared through the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center. Licensing agreement may be required.

Administrative/Biographical History

George J. Johnston (1842-1881) was born July 6, 1842, in Wynton, Alabama. He lived in Montgomery, Alabama, before going to school in Salem, Alabama, where he learned the printing trade. He then moved to Opelika, Alabama, and then back to Montgomery. During the Civil War, he joined the Confederate Army as a private in the 60th Alabama Infantry. On December 12, 1863, he was wounded in his right foot at Bean Station, Rutledge County, Tennessee, and was temporarily discharged. In September, 1864, he rejoined the Army and helped defend Petersburg, Virginia, against the Union Army. He was wounded in his leg in March, 1865, during the Petersburg Campaign and given a sixty day furlough to return home.

After the Civil War, George J. Johnston returned to Montgomery, Alabama, where he worked both as a printer and as an editor for the Montgomery Mail. He married a Miss Hilliard in 1868, and they had five children before eventually divorcing. In 1878 he left his former wife and children and moved to Atlanta where he worked as a reporter. Four years later, in 1881, he was found dead in his room from a morphine overdose, an assumed suicide. The 1881 Atlanta City Directory lists him as working as a printer for the Atlanta Constitution.


3 folder(s)



Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, 1976


America's Turning Point: Documenting the Civil War Experience in Georgia received support from a Digitizing Historical Records grant awarded to the Atlanta History Center, Georgia Historical Society, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the Digital Library of Georgia by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Description Control

Collection reprocessed in 2009.
George J. Johnston papers
Sue VerHoef
May 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center Repository

130 West Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta GA 30305