Henry Beck Civil War diaries
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Henry Beck Civil War diaries

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center. 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, GA 30305. 404.814.4040. reference@atlantahistorycenter.com
Creator: Beck, Henry, 1839-1905
Title: Henry Beck Civil War diaries
Dates: 1864-1865, undated
Quantity: 3.0 Folders (two diaries and one biography)
Identification: ahc.MSS422f

Biographical/Historical Note

Henry Beck (1839-1905) was born in the city of Koenigswart, then part of the Austrian Empire and later part of the Czech Republic. He immigrated to Havana, Alabama, in 1856. In April, 1861, he enlisted in the Confederate Army and joined the Army of Northern Virginia. Three years later he became the commissary clerk for Company D of Battle’s Brigade, Rodes' Division Second Corps. Following the war, Beck moved to Greensboro, Alabama. He worked as a mason and merchant, was an officer in the Knights of Pythias, and became a prominent member of the Jewish community. In 1866 Beck married Lucy (Louisa) Heller (1846-1891) and the couple had seven children: Herman (1868-1932), Maurice (1869-1917), Adolph (1872-1941), Louise (1876-1941), Dora (1866-1932), Julia (1870-1935), and Theresa (1878-?). The family moved to Birmingham in 1887 and joined the congregation Temple Emanu-El.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of two volumes of Beck’s diary compiled during his service in the Army of Northern Virginia. Beck’s diaries from 1861 through February 1864 were lost in a 1894 fire at the headquarters of a Confederate Reunion in Birmingham. In 327 diary entries, Beck provides detailed observations on the daily life of an enlisted man in the Confederate Army. Beck ruminates on weather conditions, daily marches, and his primary duty of feeding the troops. He gives detailed accounts of troop movements and battle strategies. Beck vividly recounts the battles at Spotsylvania, Second Cold Harbor, Monocacy, Cool Spring, Berryville, Opequon, Fisher’s Hill, and Cedar Creek. After the Confederate defeat at Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864, Beck embarked on a four month tour of Northern Virginia in which he attended numerous social functions; conducted daily business in the local towns; and met, courted, and fell in love with his future wife. Beck’s final diary entries find him back home in Alabama in February, 1865, on what turns out to be a permanent furlough.

Index Terms

Beck, Henry, 1839-1905
Beck, Louisa (Lucy) Heller, 1846-1891
Confederate States of America. Army. Alabama Infantry Regiment, 5th, Company D.
Jewish businesspeople--Alabama
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Equipment and supplies
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Participation, Jewish
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives, Confederate

General Notes

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.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Henry Beck Civil War diaries, MSS 422f, Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, 1981, with subsequent additions

Description Control

This collection was reprocessed in 2017.


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.

Container List



1Diaries, 1864-1865 View online.


2Transcriptions, 1864-1865 View online.


3Henry Beck Biography, undated