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    1865 Diary of John Beech of the 4th New Jersey Infantry. A small diary, measuring 3" x 6", belonging to Sergeant John P. Beech, Co. B of the 4th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry. Beech was born May 1, 1844 in England but immigrated to New Jersey with his father. The two Beech men enlisted together in August 1861, and although his father was discharged later for disability, John re-enlisted with the 4th NJ in December 1863 while stationed at Brandy Station. Beech was a small man, but a determined and brave fighter, and he was wounded both at Spotsylvania and at Cedar Creek. Despite being wounded, he always stayed with his regiment and continued to fight. For his bravery at Spotsylvania Court House he was awarded the Medal of Honor. After the war, Beech returned to Trenton, New Jersey and worked at a confectionary and variety store. He passed away in 1926 and is buried in Mercer Cemetery.

    In his diary, Beech provided details of the times and occurrences of events at the end of the war, during the Appomattox Campaign. When he ran out of space for an entry, he continued his entry at the back of the diary. On March 12, 1865, while near Appomattox, he wrote "...went on picket at 7 ½ a.m. with a detail of 150 men and 5 commissioned officers orders not to communicate with the enemy. Everything quiet during the day. Brigadier General Grant paid the pickets a visit this a.m. at 12 oclock at night with 3 men and myself that's [illegible] between the two lines everything all right." The following day, the 13th, Beech had an encounter with a rebel deserter, which he recorded in his diary. It reads, "A rebel deserter came in this a.m. at 5 oclock and said that my patrol last night nearly walked over 10 men and 2 Lieutenants that were with him and that we might have taken the whole party if we had been aware of it without a shot. Relieved at 7 ½ . Brigade guard mount at 8 ½. Brigade dress parade and drill at 2 p.m."

    Beech was present at Appomattox Court House during end of the Appomattox Campaign and the surrender of General Lee. On April 7 he wrote, "about 5 ½ oclock this morning we got to Sailors Creek where our cavalry had the fight yesterday and part of our own corps were engaged with them. It ended in the capture of near the entire force estimated at from 6 to 10,000 prisoners and the rebel General Ewell and several other Generals pieces of artillery and 31 battle flags. The small arms that lay around the field broken." Two days later on the 9th, the surrender of Lee's army was confirmed. Beech's entry reads, " soon became known that General Lee and General Grant were having an interview. About 3 oclock the glorious news was brought to us that General Lee had surrendered to General Grant. Salutes were fired and officers and men were perfectly wild with enthusiasm. It was a day long to be remembered at 5 oclock the troops went into camp. A ration of whiskey was served out to the men tonight." In the back of the diary, in the Memoranda section, Beech provides further details about the negotiations between Lee and Grant. He elaborates, "The conference between Generals Grant and Lee was held at the House of Mr. McLean at Appomattox court house, a small insignificant village. Genrl. Ord purchased the table on which the terms of surrender were signed for 50$. General Custer purchased the other table on which the minutes were made out for 25$. The only trophy left Mr. McLean were the chairs and he would not take pay for them but some cavalry officers seized them and made off with them. Lee's force he surrendered is estimated at between 25 and 30,000 some say more."

    Despite the joy of Lee's surrender, Beech was soon to hear the awful news of Abraham Lincoln's assassination. The men at Appomattox Court House were made aware of events as reports began to trickle in. On April 16 his diary reads, "...a dispatch came to Hedqts stating that President Lincoln was shot and not expected to live. Also Sewards son. Seward himself was considered out of danger. This took place at Fords theatre, Washington by a man named Booth. On guard today 10 men on a relief." The following day, his entry says "...a dispatch came stating that president Lincoln was dead. The troops are very much distressed in spirits on hearing the sad event. Just at this time when everything looked so bright." Beech would later record the death of John Wilkes Booth, writing on April 20, "...saw an account of the confirmation of the capture of booth the assassin of the President and who died shortly after his capture at Garrett farm on the Rappahannock."

    Condition: The cover of the diary is worn, with the top layer of leather worn away on the back cover. The pages are lightly toned and the corners are slightly bent. Light soiling and dampstaining.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2018
    25th Thursday
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