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Albert Davis papers, 1861-1874 (majority within 1861-1864)

0.25 linear feet

The Albert Davis papers contain letters written by Civil War soldier Albert Davis, of the 15th Massachusetts Regiment, Co. G. Davis described his regiment's roles in the battles of Ball’s Bluff, White Oak Swamp, Gettysburg, Bristoe Station, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.

The Albert Davis papers consist of 97 letters written by Civil War soldier Albert Davis of the 15th Massachusetts Regiment, Co. G, 3 letters written by his friends and family, one allotment receipt, his military discharge papers, and a photo of Albert Davis.

Albert Davis wrote letters while stationed with the Union army in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, between August 1861 and June 1864. Of the letters, Davis sent 83 to his widowed mother and 14 to his teenage sister, Angeline, both living in Upton, Massachusetts. The collection also holds one letter from Albert's mother to his sister (June 30, 1864), a letter from R. W. Ellis to Angeline Leland Davis (March 5, 1864), and a letter from W. I. Scandlin to Albert Davis (July 2, 1874).

Albert's letters document his participation as a soldier in the 15th Massachusetts Regiment from the beginning of the regiment’s formation in July 1861, until its dissolution after the battle of Petersburg (June 22, 1864), when all but eight men and one officer were killed or captured. In the early letters, Davis described his initial training near Worcester, Massachusetts. At first, he enjoyed soldiering, and sent home souvenirs: a piece of wood from the Harper's Ferry Bridge (October 6, 1861), and a piece of cotton from the breastworks at Yorktown (May 24, 1862). He wrote of snowballing a barge while on picket duty (January 4, 1862), and of picking wild blackberries during the fighting at Malvern Hills (August 2, 1862). Upon seeing the Monitor anchored among other boats at Hampton, Virginia, he wrote "it dont look as though it could take a Canal boat" (April 2, 1862). Many of his letters mentioned food, either what he was eating or what he would like to receive from home (cheese, tea, molasses, catsup, preserves, baked goods, chocolate, and checkerberry extract). On August 2, 1862, he sent a recipe for pudding made from hardtack. By December 1863, his feelings about soldiering had changed and he became determined not to reenlist. He was irritated by the "bounty men" who fought for money rather than patriotism (March 9, 1863; August 6, 1863). He witnessed several military executions (September 4, 1863; April 26, 1864). Davis also described his six months spent in hospitals and convalescent camps, and his part in the battles of Antietam, Cold Harbor, Gettysburg, and Bristoe Station.

His letters describing the Battle of Gettysburg are of particular interest not just for their accounts of the battle (July 4, 17, and 27, 1863), but also for his corrections of inaccuracies in the newspaper coverage of the battle (August 13 and 21, 1863). On May 14, 1864, Davis wrote from "mud hole near Spotsylvania Court House" and stated that the battle was "the hardest fight of the War." A few weeks later, on June 6, 1864, he wrote from the battlefield at Cold Harbor that "we are about sick of making Charges [--] we are not successful in one half of them and the loss on the retreat is great...there is some wounded men that are a lying between the lines that have laid there for three days and have not had a bit of care perhaps not a drop of water."

Davis occasionally used Union stationery that included printed color images:
  • October 22, 1861
  • October 29, 1861
  • November 6, 1861
  • November 16, 1861
  • November 17, 1861
  • November 26, 1861
  • May 6, 1862
  • November 2, [1862]

George C. Nichols papers, 1861-1865 (majority within 1862-1863)

36 items

The George C. Nichols papers document Nichols' service with the 25th Massachusetts Infantry, including participation at the battles of Roanoke Island and New Bern, stays in hospitals, and changing attitudes toward the war.

The George C. Nichols papers consist of 36 letters written by Nichols to family members during his service with the 25th Massachusetts Infantry. His letters span October 5, 1861, to February 21, 1865. The tone of Nichols' correspondence changes drastically over the three years that it represents. Early letters describe the "fun" and "good times" that he had while occupied as a guard (October 5, 1861) and as a sailor on the steamer New York (January 10, 1862). However, by the summer of 1862, news of bad food and illness dominates the correspondence, as Nichols had begun a series of hospital stays. On August 10, 1862, Nichols wrote, "I wish I was out of this damd hot place & out of this war[.] don't you tell aney one for it would go al over the street that I was sick of it…" (August 10, 1862). In letters from this point on, Nichols wrote about such topics as his treatment at Beaufort Hospital, including care by nuns (September 21, 1862), his thoughts on the progress of the war (June 21, 1863 -- "The Rebs are making a raid up into Pennsylvania. I am glad of it the North are a sleep and hav [sic] been for the last six months they dont seem to care much about the War…"), and his desire to return home. Although Nichols barely mentioned the action that he saw as a soldier, his letters clearly document his morale and medical treatment. Several sources state that George C. Nichols of the 25th Massachusetts Infantry was captured at the siege of Petersburg on May 16, 1864; unfortunately, his letters, which are concentrated around 1862-1863, never address his capture or time in prison.


Henry Benton Austin collection, [1861]-1862

4 items

The Henry Benton Austin collection contains letters that Austin wrote to a woman named "Hettie" and a manuscript map depicting the Battle of Ball's Bluff. Austin commented on his experiences while serving in the Union Army during the Civil War and expressed his displeasure with a transient lifestyle.

The Henry Benton Austin collection contains 3 letters that Austin wrote to a woman named "Hettie" and a manuscript map depicting the Battle of Ball's Bluff. The map, drawn with ink and pencil, shows geographic landmarks such as the Potomac River and the road to Leesburg, Virginia, as well as picket lines, battery positions, and the Confederate Army's furthest point of advancement ([1861]). Two of Austin's letters pertain to his war service (January 26, 1862, and undated). He reflected on the Battle of Ball's Bluff, which he referred to as "a day of human butchery," and described a boat carrying wounded soldiers. Austin reported that his unit had been equipped with Enfield rifles, complained about poor drinking water, and mentioned soldiers' difficulty drilling with heavy uniforms, knapsacks, and cartridge boxes in high heat. In his final letter, also undated and unsigned, Austin discussed his case of the "blues" and dissatisfaction with a "roving wandering kind of life."


James M. Holloway typescripts, 1861-1961 (majority within 1861-1898)

0.25 linear feet

This collection is primarily made up of typescripts of letters that Dr. James M. Holloway wrote to his wife Anne while serving as a Confederate Army surgeon during the Civil War. Additional materials include typescripts on 19th-century medicine and clippings including full-color illustrations, from The Philadelphia Inquirer (1959-1961).

This collection (0.25 linear feet) is made up of typescripts related to Dr. James M. Holloway's service as a Confederate Army surgeon during the Civil War, typescripts related to 19th-century medicine, and illustrated newspaper clippings related to United States Army uniforms, national coats of arms, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, during the Civil War.

The bulk of the collection consists of Typescripts, including approximately 121 letters that Holloway wrote to his wife Anne on January 7, 1861, and from July 25, 1861-September 5, 1864. His earliest letters recount his experiences as a surgeon with the 18th Mississippi Infantry Regiment in Virginia, including his treatment of the wounded from the Battle of Ball's Bluff. Holloway, who took pride in his medical career, occasionally described specific patients, including amputees, a woman whose head had become detached from her body, and a dead soldier he dissected. He continued to write about his medical work after being promoted to the command of the hospitals of Richmond, Virginia, in 1862, and also discussed other aspects of his life there, such as the cost of food and other goods. Holloway expressed his devotion to the Confederate cause, and his early letters refer to his commitment to Christianity, which he maintained throughout the remainder of his correspondence. Some of Holloway's letters refer to the movements of Union and Confederate troops in Virginia and the western theater, the possibility of European intervention, specific battles, and the general progress of the war. By the fall of 1864, he feared that Richmond would be cut off from the rest of the Confederacy. In one late letter (written after the Emancipation Proclamation), he advised his wife to sell a female slave.

Holloway wrote 3 letters to his wife in May 1865, expressing his fear that the North would seek retribution from Southerners; he also reported that Beverly Tucker's home had been searched as a result of his suspected connection to the Lincoln assassination. In August and October 1865, Holloway wrote 3 letters to his wife from Louisville, Kentucky, primarily about local churches. Holloway's Civil War correspondence is followed by typescripts of his presidential address to the Tri-State Medical Society (or Mississippi Valley Medical Association) regarding current medical and surgical advancements and the increasing popularity of homeopathy (1882), a partial article about the history of medical education in the South (undated), and an obituary for Samuel Wilcox Warren (January 1878). He wrote 2 additional letters from Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Berlin, Germany, in September 1898, regarding his observations of local hospitals and medical procedures.

The Printed Items series (4 items) contains 3 full-color inserts from issues of The Philadelphia Inquirer, including photographs of toy soldiers wearing historical United States Army uniforms (July 5, 1959); a map of Civil War-era Philadelphia showing the locations of military camps and hospitals (July 5, 1959); a photograph of the coat of arms of the United Kingdom (February 7, 1960); and an editorial commemorating the centennial of the Star of the West incident (January 9, 1961).


Leach family papers, 1857-1865 (majority within 1861-1865)

114 items

The Leach family papers are primarily comprised of the Civil War correspondence of the three Leach brothers to their sister in Cranston, Rhode Island. Joseph and Edwin Leach served in the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, and Leander Leach, in the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry.

The collection consists of 100 letters, spanning 1857-1865. The most frequent writer was Edwin Leach, who contributed 64 letters, while Joseph wrote 19, and Leander wrote 7. Edwin's letters cover 1861 through 1864, and he wrote all but three to his sister, Anna. Edwin's letter from July 13, 1862, also includes a note from Anna to their brother, Joseph, as she forwarded the letter. Edwin's letters described camp life, fighting, and the hardships of war, such as cold weather, mud, and boils. On April 26, 1862, he wrote a letter describing the siege of Yorktown and noted, "you wanded [sic] to know if I was friten when we was in the fight I was in the first of it but when I had ben in there a little while I dind care … " Edwin also described the pervasive illness in the camps: "the guys is gitting sick we havd got men enough to work the Battery" (May 31, 1862).

Joseph's letters, also written primarily to Anna Leach, span 1861-1862 and contain rich details about camp life, movements of the battery, and battles. On August 26, 1861, he wrote a description of Washington, D.C., in wartime: "the streets is all dirt and hogs cows and every thing else runging around in the streets." He also expressed cynicism about payment: "I don't think that they will pay us untill we go into a battle and get some of us killed of and then they will not have so many to pay." In addition, he mentioned an axe fight between men and officers (November 7, 1861), gave his negative opinion of General Charles Pomeroy Stone's decisions at the battle of Ball's Bluff (February 12, 1862), and described the respiratory illness that led to his medical discharge in 1862 (March 12, 1862).

Leander entered the war in 1864, when he was only around sixteen years old. His letters include family news, his picket and cooking duties, and briefly recount a skirmish at Petersburg, Virginia (March 28, 1865). Leander wrote to both his brother Edwin, and his sister Anna.

Friends and relatives wrote an additional 11 letters to Anna, including two letters by Nathan B. Searle, of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. These letters shed light on Anna's friendships and provide some additional details concerning the Leach family.