Lost Civil War Diary on Display at Henderson Depot

A new exhibit of Civil War memorabilia opened this week in the Community Room at the Henderson Depot. Among the artifacts was a lost Civil War diary, and with it, an incredible story.

About four years ago, the Henderson County Historical Society was contacted by the administrator of the William Overton Johnston estate. The Historical Society was offered Civil War belongings of the late Confederate Sergeant Euguene L. Johnston, who was a resident of Henderson, Kentucky, and great-grand-uncle to William Overton Johnston. There was word that the Historical Society was to receive Johnston’s personal Civil War diary, but when the collection was delivered, no diary was found among his belongings.

Fast-forward to December 2017, the Historical Society received word that there were more articles from the family, including the diary. This time when the remaining articles were delivered, the diary was among the collection! The small, brown diary was found in a small bag at the bottom of a box, and in poor condition. To their surprise, the Society also received a transcribed copy of the diary, written by the late William Overton Johnston while he lived in Henderson.

It turns out that Eugene’s personal diary had traveled to New York, Ohio and Maryland during the 1800’s and all over the south during the late Civil War. There are gripping details of every camp and battle that Euguene marched. On the final pages of the diary is Johnston’s last annotation. He died in battle and was found on a battleground near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with the diary in his hand. Visitors can purchase the entire transcribed copy of Euguene’s diary for $10 at the Community Room, and view Johnston’s displayed diary, along with his other personal effects including wallet, confederate money, and sword.

In addition to the diary display, there is free informational literature on African American soldiers from Henderson County that fought in the Civil War. About 78 soldiers are listed, some of which are buried in the United Brothers of Friendship Cemetery in the city of Corydon in Henderson County. Readers will enjoy “The Demise of Slavery,” which recounts events of escaped slaves and a group of black Union soldiers who attempt a jailbreak in Henderson County.

Visitors can view this exhibit during from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. on Saturdays. The exhibit will be displayed in the Community Room at the Henderson Depot through the end of March. Those that are interested in donating historical items can contact the Community Room by calling 270-830-9707 or the Historical Society 270-830-7514 (Tuesdays & Thursdays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.).


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