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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]

Joseph Hooker collection, 1862-1865

22 letters

The Joseph Hooker Collection is comprised of 22 letters dating from May 10, 1862, to February 12, 1865. They describe Hooker's involvement in the Peninsula Campaign and the Western Theater. Additionally, this collection covers Hooker's leave from the army in Watertown, New York (September 1864), and administrative duty in Cincinnati, Ohio (1864-1865). Roughly half of the letters are addressed to Dr. Bela Nettleton Stevens, a physician at the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D. C.

Of twenty-two letters, nineteen were authored by Hooker. U.S. Senator of New Jersey John Conover Ten Eyck wrote the remaining three. Hooker sought Ten Eyck's help with repairing his reputation after the Battle of Williamsburg in May 1862.

The collection contains official battle reports, including two letters to Chauncey McKeever, one a report on the Battle of Williamsburg, and a report on the Battle of Fair Oaks. The collection includes one letter to L. Sherman and one to Samuel Wylie Crawford. Three letters to William Denison Whipple contain reports on Mill Gap and the Battle of Kolb's Farm.

A majority of the letters are of a personal nature, including one to William Pitt Fessenden and ten letters addressed to Dr. Bela N. Stevens, a physician at the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C.


J. Townsend Daniel letters, 1860-1868

40 items

This collection concerns the military career of J. Townsend Daniel, an Englishman who served in the Union Army during the Civil War. In letters to family members in England, Daniel related his experiences at the Battles of Bull Run and Fair Oaks, at an Annapolis military hospital, and in Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

This collection contains 38 letters and 2 newspaper clippings pertaining to J. Townsend Daniel, who served with the 36th New York Infantry Regiment, 10th Maryland Infantry Regiment, and 1st Maryland Cavalry Regiment in Washington, D.C., and Virginia during the Civil War. In letters to his parents and brothers in East Ardsley and Leeds, England, Daniel commented on military life, Union Army officers, and war news, and described his experiences at the First Battle of Bull Run (July 22, 1861); the Battle of Fair Oaks, where he was shot in the leg (August 1, 1862); and the Battle of New Market (September 14, 1864). Postwar letters to and by J. Townsend Daniel relate to his appointment in the 7th United States Cavalry Regiment and his visits to New York City and Boston (March 1, 1865) and the Great Lakes region (July 15, 1866). The collection contains multiple contemporary handwritten copies of some of Daniel's letters.

Other correspondence includes letters by religious official J. R. Davenport (August 4, 1862), and Maryland governor Augustus Bradford, both of whom Daniel had met while recovering from his leg wound in Annapolis; Bradford thanked the Daniel family for their support (October 15, 1864) and reported his ignorance about J. Townsend Daniel's postwar whereabouts (May 11, 1867). Newspaper articles are enclosed in 2 letters (May 11, 1867 and January 18, 1868); the collection also contains 2 loose clippings: an undated article about a military officer's visit to "Trinity Church" and a copy of the Washington, D.C., Evening Star (July 15, 1861).


Otis family papers, 1861-1862

40 items

The Otis family papers contain letters home from four members of the 57th Pennsylvania Infantry, describing camp life, the battles of Williamsburg and Fair Oaks, and the hardships of war.

The Otis family papers consist of 39 letters written home by several Civil War soldiers between November 30, 1861, and December 2, 1862. Louisa Otis and her parents are the most frequent recipients. Louisa's brothers, Ferdinand and Israel, wrote the majority of letters in the collection; her cousins, Dudley Otis and Mortimer S. Roberts, also contributed several letters each. The brothers sometimes collaborated in their letters, each writing a portion, thereby giving two perspectives on events.

Early letters repeatedly reference pay, health, and camp life. On January 3, 1862, Ferdinand wrote to his parents concerning the rapid spread of mumps through the camp and reported that he had been vaccinated, likely against smallpox, and was very sore. Both brothers frequently anticipated upcoming paydays and how much they would send home, and requested items such as mittens. On February 2, 1862, Ferdinand provided a detailed description of how soldiers laundered their clothes.

By mid-1862, the correspondence had become more focused on battles, injured and dead comrades, and the hardships of war. A letter from Israel, Ferdinand, and Otis gives a description of the Battle of Williamsburg, which Israel called a "long and bloody struggle," which lasted into the evening. He also recalled the Union band's performance of "Dixie," and the cheers of the soldiers, which "must have sounded anything but pleasant" to the Confederates (May 12, 1862). Another letter, dated June 7, 1862, references the Battle of Fair Oaks, in which the 57th Pennsylvania Infantry lost several officers, including Major Jeremiah Culp. Ferdinand described the morale of the soldiers, noted "we have got only our field officer left," and gave an account of the stench of rotting corpses in the woods. Israel noted that a bullet went through Ferdinand's coat and that his haversack was shot open, scattering his belongings. Other correspondence documents receiving family photographs (August 30, 1862), finding Southern cows to milk (November 28, 1862), and desiring more letters from home.


William Ellis Jones diary, 1862

1 volume

The diary of William Ellis Jones documents nine months of service in the Crenshaw Battery, Virginia Light Artillery, by a 24-year old private. Jones describes the mustering of Crenshaw’s Battery on March 14, 1862, participation in several battles, including the Battle of Gaines’ Mill and the Second Battle of Bull Run, and meeting Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

The diary of William Ellis Jones is contained in a single volume and covers the period of Jones’ service in the Confederate States Army between March 14 and December 31, 1862. Jones apparently found the mostly-blank book on the battlefield at the Gaines’ Mill; it had previously belonged to a Union Soldier named William Daugherty. Jones tore out most of the used pages and transcribed a narrative he had been keeping into the book, but Daugherty’s signature and a few of his notes remain.

Jones’ record begins when he was mustered into service in Crenshaw’s Battery, Virginia Light Artillery, and contains brief but extremely rich daily entries describing morale among Confederates, the intensity of battle, and frequent illnesses and deaths. Jones also described receiving medical treatment for several health problems (June 14: “Feel much better this morning, the calomel acting with talismanic effect on my liver”), the execution of deserters (August 19: “…the prisoners were marched up to their graves, preceded by the band playing the dead march and their company with loaded muskets”) and meeting Stonewall Jackson (August 11: “He… looks on the ground as if he lost something; altogether he presents more the appearance of a well-to-do farmer than a military chieftain.”).

In a particularly long entry on June 27, Jones described participating in the Battle of Gaines’ Mill, covering his psychological state, the “terrifically hot” enemy fire, and the battle’s casualties. Jones’ diary is a literate and observant record of nine months of service in Crenshaw’s Battery.