Abner Small prison diary, 1864-1865

Contributed by Maine Historical Society


Abner R. Small, who was born in Gardiner on May 1, 1836, was 5 feet 4 inches tall and in precarious health, so much so that his comrades assured him that he would never reach the front. Still, he was able to survive the terrible conditions and starvation diet he endured while a prison of war.

He enlisted in Company G of the 3rd Maine Volunteers in Waterville immediately after the battle at Fort Sumter. While still in Waterville, the soldiers were invited to the Hathaway Shirt Company where each soldier was given a gray woolen shirt.

Small was made a corporal on May 20, while the company was encamped on the State Grounds near the old State House. After being mustered into national service on June 4, they left Augusta by train for Boston, with much celebration.

From Boston they took a train to Fall River; a steamer to New York; a ferry to South Amboy, New Jersey, a train to Camden, a ferry to Philadelphia, and then a train to Baltimore and Washington, arriving on June 7.

After a month of drills and training, they arrived in Alexandria, Virginia on July 6. While there he observed the "sacking" of Commodore French Forrest's home Clermont and described it as inexcusable.

He was promoted to Full 1st Lieutenant on May 24, 1862, the same day he was mustered out of the 3rd Maine and commissioned an officer in Company S of the newly formed Maine 16th Infantry Regiment.

Small became a Full Major on Oct. 13, 1864. He served a adjutant for the regiment.

He was captured at Petersburg, Virginia, on Aug. 18, 1864, and exchanged on Feb. 22, 1865. The day after his capture he wrote a letter to Julia Maria Fairbanks, whom he married on April 8, 1865. In the diary he often refers to her a J.M.F.

In writing his diary entries, he sometimes had more to write than would fit on the very small pages of his journal. At such times he continued his entry on any empty pages, crossing out the printed date.

Two transcriptions of this diary are available: one that follows the diary page for page, even though some of the entries are not in chronological order, and a second transcription in chronological order.

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About This Item

  • Title: Abner Small prison diary, 1864-1865
  • Creator: Abner Ralph Small
  • Creation Date: 1864–1865
  • Subject Date: 1864–1865
  • Location: Petersburg, VA
  • Media: Ink on paper
  • Local Code: Coll. 135
  • Collection: Abner Ralph Small papers
  • Object Type: Text

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Maine Historical Society
485 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101
(207) 774-1822 x230

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