“Julia Wilbur’s Diary Entries” (April 10–12, 1864) 

Lone man walks through Soldiers' Cemetery, which contains a large cross and burial grounds lined with white gravestonesThe Freedmen's Bureau.The two founders of the Friends of the Freedmen's Cemetery—one white and one Black—pose for a celebratory photographRed rose atop an unmarked grave at the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery

In these diary entries, dated April 10, 11, and 12, 1864, Julia Wilbur, a Quaker and abolitionist from New York, writes about visiting the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery, a burial ground established in Alexandria for refugees fleeing from slavery during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Wilbur worked with Harriet Jacobs providing relief services to the refugees in Alexandria when Wilbur lived there from October 1862 to February 1865. “Mr. G” refers to Reverend Albert Gladwin, who was the superintendent of contrabands appointed to assist the refugees.


Sunday Apr. 10th 1864

This A.M. it cleared off & now at 3 P.M. the sun is shining brightly. I have just got ready to sit down. At 9 A.M. I went with Cousin J. to the Barracks, the Hospital, the Soldier’s Rest & described the Slave Pen to him as well as I cd. from the outside. Then we went to the Soldiers burying G. The ground wh. is made use of now is low & wet. To bad when better ground can be had just as well.—Went through the other grounds where he could see across Hunting Ck. The bridge is 2/3 of it submerged. Then to the Contraband B. Ground which is the most repulsive & heathenish looking place I ever saw. But no more are buried here now. Came back & rested a little while & then went round by Christ Ch. to Grantville. Went in to the meeting & staid a few minutes.—& then came back. Tired enough after such a long tramp. Jeptha left in the 2 P.M. boat for W. I have cleaned up a little, & so the day is nearly gone.—

Apr. 11th

Attended in clothing Room all day. Head & eyes have ached since I first awoke. My meals have been miserable.

April 12th.

One of the busy days. Went to baker’s on Fairfax St. Then to Hospital & a loaf of light bread was divided & given to the hungriest ones. Some spelling books & first readers. They were very glad to get too. Then I cam back to Clothing Room & fitted out Eliza Smith all except shoes, even to a breastpin, which she asked for & I happened to have it. She wanted dark gloves but I had none. The old lady was very thankful & almost happy. She has not a particle of bedding & no one to help her, has a wen on her shoulder & cannot work much. The poor woman! After dinner went in to a large secesh house but the Auction was just over. Very massive furniture but it has had hard usage. A Union family has occupied it. Then went to Old Mill. Tamar the paralyzed woman was delighted with a calico wrapper.—Two very sick in Nellie Ball’s fitting room.—Made several other calls. Then went in the Ambulance to the new Contraband Burying Ground. 65 graves there already. It is as good a spot as could be obtained but very wet now. Mr. G. is spending all his energies on this. He no doubt intends this as a monument to commemorate his reign, the reign of Albertus I.— Went to Hospital again. The well people have had permission to leave today. & they have left rejoicing. A matron is needed exceedingly & also men to do the work in the men’s ward.— They have sufficient food now & better too. They have received some things from the Sanitary Com. & now if the people can get them! Well, we shall see! The city has been very lively today. Have letter from Joseph Van B. He is in Annapolis. I am tired tonight. Called on Miss C. & Miss Evans.— Mrs. Jacobs is ill today.

APA Citation:
Wilbur, Julia. “Julia Wilbur’s Diary Entries” (April 10–12, 1864) . (2022, April 26). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Wilbur, Julia. "“Julia Wilbur’s Diary Entries” (April 10–12, 1864) " Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (26 Apr. 2022). Web. 19 May. 2024
Last updated: 2023, September 11
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.