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Collection

Calvin D. Mehaffey papers, 1862-1863

18 items

Calvin Mehaffey's letters to his (unnamed) mother document two periods of Mehaffey's Civil War service in the 1st U.S. infantry regiment. They especially provide coverage of parts of the Peninsular Campaign (March-June, 1862), as well as the period of time in which he was posted near Vicksburg, in the Teche Country, and in New Orleans (August-November, 1863).

Calvin Mehaffey's letters to his mother represent only a small percentage of a once voluminous correspondence. From the eighteen letters that survive, it seems clear that Mehaffey wrote home regularly. The collection documents two periods of Mehaffey's Civil War service, providing excellent coverage of parts of the Peninsular Campaign (March-June, 1862), as well as the period of time in which he was posted near Vicksburg, in the Teche Country, and in New Orleans (August-November, 1863). The remainder of Mehaffey's service is essentially undocumented.

Mehaffey's correspondence reflects the frenetic activities and experiences of a junior staff officer, shouldering administrative responsibility rather than muskets, and the letters provide a number of detailed, fleshed-out stories illustrating the duties and activities of staffers. Among the descriptive masterpieces in the collection is an outstanding account of Mehaffey patrolling the James, confiscating boats and securing supplies, and a novel-like account of the Teche country operations of October 1863. Although Mehaffey describes little in the way of military engagements in this letter, his stories of the local scenery, citizenry, and the movements of troops are engaging and important for conveying, if nothing else, a sense of the logistical demands confronting the federal army in the deep South. In other letters, his encounters with the brothers of George McClellan and ex-President John Tyler, and with the father of Ulysses S. Grant, provide unusual insights into those men.

Mehaffey's comments on Yorktown during the Peninsular Campaign are packed with details about the condition of the city after the Confederate departure and the response of federal officers. From a narrowly military perspective, the letter written in the wake of the Battle of Malvern Hill may be even more interesting. In it, Mehaffey provides a furious sketch of the confusion in federal forces after the battle, the pain of the wounded and the presence of shell shock among many of the survivors. His involvement in assisting in the organization of field hospitals and ferrying the wounded, and the palpable swing in mood from his previous admiration of McClellan to his dread at enduring the humiliation of retreat are equally noteworthy.

In a different vein, Mehaffey's position with the Provost Marshal put him in a unique position to see and comment upon the administration of military justice. Two letters are particularly valuable in documenting an incident in which a slave, Lightfoot, allegedly exacted revenge on the family of his slave master by tying them to a tree and raping the women. Tried and convicted, Lightfoot was himself tied to a tree overnight to await public execution. He escaped, however, setting in motion a full scale search.

Collection

Daniel B. Hutchins journals, 1864, 1866

2 volumes

Daniel B. Hutchins was raised in Wayne County, N.Y., and worked as a school teacher prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1864, Hutchins was enrolled as a sergeant in the 111th New York Infantry, serving in eastern Virginia. In two pocket diaries, covering the years 1864 and 1866, Hutchins recorded his singularly awful experiences as he was transported through a succession of Confederate prison camps, including Libby, Andersonville, Charleston, S.C., and Florence.

The Daniel B. Hutchins collection consists of two pocket diaries, covering the years 1864 and 1866. In 1864, Hutchins was enrolled as a sergeant in the 111th New York Infantry, serving in eastern Virginia. After his capture at the Battle of Spotsylvania on May 10, his journal records his singularly awful experiences as he was transported through a succession of Confederate prison camps, including Libby, Andersonville, Charleston, S.C., and Florence. Hutchins' entries throughout the year are quite brief, due partly to the constraints imposed by the size of the diary page, and partly by exhaustion. These entries, though, are highly literate, with frequent literary touches and pithy quotes, and they include several allusions to his life prior to his imprisonment.

The heart of this diary is the five months in which he is imprisoned at Andersonville. From the moment of his arrival, Hutchins considered the conditions at the prison severe and inhumane, suggesting that "the treatments of State's Prison would be far preferable to this," adding, "The fiery elements of hell would be to[o] good for men that would treat a brute in this way" (1864 June 4). His writing is impassioned, and he carefully includes important details on the amount of food, living conditions, relations with other prisoners and guards, and morale.

The 1866 journal includes some retrospective commentary on his prison experiences, but is consumed more with Hutchins' search and discovery of a suitable university at which to study.

Collection

Frederic S. Olmsted journal, 1863, 1889 (majority within 1863)

1 volume

Frederic Olmsted’s pocket journal contains brief, almost daily entries of his life in the Union Army from January 1, 1863, to September 5, 1863. During this time, he was assigned the task of overseeing slaves on several Louisiana sugar plantations. Olmsted was taken as a prisoner of war at Brashear, Louisiana, after which he spent several weeks on Ship Island (as a parolee) before returning home to Connecticut in August 1863.

Frederic Olmsted's journal contains an account of his service with the Union Army’s 23rd Connecticut Infantry, which was attached to the defenses of New Orleans and the district of Lafourche, Louisiana. The journal is 3"x5" and is made up of brief, almost daily entries.

For January and February, his entries describe the daily life of a Union soldier while not engaged in active combat -- foraging for food, hunting, and endless drilling. Beginning in March 1863, he was involved in overseeing slaves on several sugar plantations near Houma, Louisiana. His responsibilities included shipping hogsheads of sugar and barrels of molasses, retrieving runaway slaves for return to the plantations, and sometimes delivering punishments. If he had any qualms about his duties, they are not recorded in his journal. An entry for March 14, 1863, reads: “this morning I was sent by the captain to take a Negro up to Gibson plantation and see the negro whipt 50 lashes. stayed… and had a butifull dinner.”

On June 22, Olmsted took part in a battle at Brashear City (now Morgan City), Louisiana, where he and other Federals were taken prisoner. After their parole on June 25, 1863, Olmsted described being marched to the point of exhaustion in the sweltering heat, with many parolees dying on the journey. The Union men were held briefly at the Belleville Iron Works before making their way to Ship Island, where Olmsted noted that the rations were scarce and that they lived in tents on the blazing sand. On July 29, Olmsted wrote: “This morning went into the woods 9 miles from camp for wood, had to float it down to camp by wading up to our arms in water. Sun so hot that we burnt our legs to a blister but love of country overpowers all this.” Olmsted departed Ship Island on August 4, traveled upriver to Cairo, Illinois, boarded a train for Indianapolis, and eventually made his way back to Connecticut. He returned home sick and exhausted. “I had not been shaved in over 8 months, my wife did not know me at first, but I am overjoyed to meet her and my little boy. I am ragged and dirty, have an old straw hat with only a part of [the] brim, am entirely worn out with my army service.” (August 25, 1863). On September 5, Olmsted traveled to New Haven to obtain his discharge papers, and ended his service with the Union Army.

The journal also includes several brief entries regarding financial accounts; one notation from July 3, 1889, records a meeting in Bridgeport; and a separate document gives Olmsted permission to “pass the lines at all hours.” On a "Memoranda" page at the end of the diary is a very brief note concerning an A.W.O.L. fling on November 23.

Collection

H. H. Gillum journal, 1865

70 pages

Captain H. H. Gillum's narrative of Sheridan's final great raid, from Winchester to White House, Va. (February 27-March 19, 1865) is written from the perspective of a quartermaster and overseer of supply trains.

Capt. H.H. Gillum's narrative of Sheridan's final great raid, from Winchester to White House, Va., February 27-March 19, 1865, is written from the perspective of a quartermaster and overseer of supply trains. Composed after the fact, but apparently shortly after, the narrative is highly polished, literate, legible, and engaging, and may have been intended for public eyes, either as a report or for publication. Throughout, Gillum's narrative is concerned primarily with three factors: his duties in moving the creaky supply train along, the devastating effect of the war upon the civilians and their response, and the successes of the Union Army.

Although the details of Gillum's duties are sometimes difficult to extract, the narrative is valuable as an account of the emotions and camaraderie among the quartermasters and supply crews, and the difficult issues they encountered in keeping the army moving. While many Civil War collections focus on the dramatic moments of combat or the boredom of camp, Gillum presents the banalities of mud, mules, and meat and makes them interesting, making the challenge of moving supplies for 10,000 cavalrymen as interesting as any cavalry charge. Equally valuable, Gillum's position in the rear provides him a different perspective altogether in describing the few engagements involving Sheridan's force, most notably Waynesboro, and in dealing with the citizens. His descriptions of the arrival of the column in Charlottesville, enlivened by a visit to the University of Virginia and a vignette of a Confederate prisoner of war meeting his wife, is particularly interesting (March 4-5), as is his account of the punitive destruction of a mill (March 10).

The collection also includes a bill of fare (menu) from John Brewer's Restaurant, Petersburg, Va., apparently kept to show the fluctuating, inflationary prices near the end of the war. It is unclear whether the menu is a Confederate or Union imprint.

Collection

Nathan B. Webb journals, 1862-1864

1,165 pages (5 volumes)

The diaries of Nathan Webb include vivid descriptions of life in one of the most active Union cavalry regiments, the 1st Maine, during the Civil War. Webb's thoughtfulness, candor, and his insight into the minds of soldiers and civilians make his diary a rich resource for the study of the social and military history of the Civil War.

The strengths of Webb's diaries are his ability as a writer and his willingness to describe important incidents at great length. His descriptions range widely in content, but are always thoughtful, and he has a flawless aptitude for an anecdote. He seems particularly to have been interested in the attitudes of his fellow soldiers and of local civilians, particularly the women, but he comments extensively on daily life in the camps, strategy, officers, drilling, ethics in the army, and his feelings, positive and negative, towards those who remained in Maine. Webb's careful and detailed descriptions of every battle and skirmish in which he was involved include everything from vignettes relating an individual soldier's reactions, to specific information on the tactics and strategy of cavalry. But it is the incidents he records about day to day life that provide the greatest insight into the soldiers' minds, and Webb is both uncommonly detailed for a Civil War diarist and allows his personal opinions and perspective to dominate his descriptions. His description of Belle Isle is extraordinary in the intensity of detail and emotional impact.

These five volumes are copies from the original diaries, and were made by Webb in the late spring and summer of 1865. He notes that, with the exception of some additions made from memory to his descriptions of Libby and Belle Isle Prisons, he has copied the diary exactly as it appears in the original. Offering an interesting balance to the original, he includes occasional footnotes offering retrospective commentary on his own writing. For example, while in 1862 he wrote that the men were upset at the dismissal of McClellan, a footnote indicates that in 1865, Webb came to feel that the men had been deluded by McClellan's self-aggrandizing play for their affection. His later comments on his own vacillation while deciding whether to reenlist, on the opinions of the media and non-combatants regarding the war, and on his opinions of Meade and other leaders also include some revealing reflections.

The first fifty pages of volume 3 are severely damp-stained and written in faint ink, and in parts are very difficult to read. Included with the diaries are an 1878 receipt for the payment of poll tax in Boston and one issue and two supplements of the First Maine Bugle (Campaign II, call 3, 5 and 9), dated January and July, 1891, and July, 1892. The Bugle was the publication of the veterans' organization for the 1st Maine Cavalry. A war-time photograph of Webb was included in Tobie's regimental history.

Collection

Point Lookout Prison Camp collection, 1863-1865 (majority within 1863-1864)

1.5 linear feet

The Point Lookout Prison Camp collection includes official correspondence, prisoners' letters, sutlers' receipts, and other documents relating to Confederate prisoners of war held at the Point Lookout Military Prison, Maryland, largely between the summers of 1863 and 1864.

The Point Lookout Prison Camp collection includes official correspondence, prisoners' letters, sutlers' receipts, and other documents relating to Confederate prisoners of war held at the Point Lookout Military Prison, Maryland, largely between the summers of 1863 and 1864. The collection is made up of 770 letters and around 2,200 sutlers' accounts and receipts for goods sold to prisoners.

The Correspondence is comprised of 137 official letters pertaining largely to the disposition of prisoners; 147 letters written by prisoners of war, mostly requesting to take the loyalty oath or to be assigned duty as a non-combatant; and 486 letters by private individuals on behalf of prisoners, many seeking information, relaying information, or requesting goods to be forwarded.

Among the prisoners' letters are several discussing family hardships, bewilderment at arrest (for civilian prisoners), or simple expressions of exhaustion and a desire to find a way out of the war. The sample, of course, is biased, in that the letters in the Point Lookout Collection were all addressed to federal authorities--mostly to commandant, John N. Patterson. While some prisoners expressed an abiding loyalty to the southern cause, others complained of being drafted into the service against their will and principles, or claimed to have been so wrapped up in the emotions of the moment that they did not carefully consider their actions when enlisting. In a few cases, soldiers appeared to be genuinely disillusioned with the Confederacy. Twenty-nine of those who requested the loyalty oath can later be found serving with federal forces.

Within the prisoners' letters, the names of 255 men are mentioned in one way or another. Twelve of the men were civilians, and it was possible to identify the Confederate service unit of all but 23 of the rest of the men. The largest number of men were from Virginia, followed by Louisiana, Kentucky, and North Carolina; with considerably smaller numbers from Tennessee, Maryland, Missouri, and Mississippi; and the fewest men from South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, and Florida. While most came from Southern states, two men were born in Maine (James O. Goodale and Charles H. Small), two others in Illinois (Brice Holland and Minor Rogers/Rodgers), and at least one man from New York (Lucien A. Rudolph). Foreign-born men included Branilio Soza (Mexico), Paul Francis de Gournay (Cuba or France), Hector De Zevallos ("the West India Islands"), John Etchevery (France), Louis Tessandore/Tessandori (Tuscany, Italy), Frank Nidel/Neidell and George Tiefenbach (Germany), Thomas Larkin and William H. Smith (England), and Luke Baxter, James Fife, Patrick Cooper, Martin Griffin, and Michael Vahey (Ireland).

The prisoners' letters and letters from camp officials provide only very brief glimpses into the conditions of prison life, with very sporadic mention made of illness or crimes committed in camp.

Letters from third parties display a range of attitudes that are broadly similar to those expressed by the prisoners, with an understandable, rather heavier, emphasis on family hardship. Included in this series are numerous letters written by the wives, sisters or mothers of prisoners, but also some from women who may be inferred to have been members of relief organizations for Confederate soldiers.

The largest series of materials in the collection consists of approximately 2,200 sutlers' accounts and receipts for goods sold to prisoners.

Mary Parsons compiled detailed indices for the letters written by Point Lookout's prisoners: Prisoners' Correspondence Indices. Mary Parsons's research notes and copies are available for consultation in the Clements Library's reading room.

Collection

Thirza Finch diary and letter transcriptions, 1858-1870

480 pages

The Finch diary and letter transcriptions volume contains Thirza Finch's sporadic (or selected) diary entries from 1858-1870, plus copies of letters written to Thirza and other family members from her brothers who served in the Civil War.

The Finch diary and letter transcriptions contains Thirza Finch's sporadic (or selected) diary entries from 1858-1870, plus copies of letters written to Thirza and other family members from her brothers in the service. Unfortunately, in many cases the diary entries and letters appear to be extracts of the originals, rather than true transcriptions, and there is no way to know what has been omitted.

Except for a few entries written during the first year of the war, while Thirza was at Maple Valley, the diary entries are generally brief. These few entries, though, are a powerful record of the uncertainty felt by civilians caught in a war zone, and of the fear and suspicion surrounding the appearance of unknown persons, white or Black, soldier or civilian, northern or southern. The diary is at its best in the few days surrounding the 2nd Battle of Bull Run, when Thirza writes longer pieces, and when events take place at a very rapid pace and the tension reaches its peak. There are also several excellent entries relating her experiences nursing Union soldiers -- semi-voluntarily, it seems -- and hosting "deserters" from the Confederate Army.

Among the correspondence copied into the book, a few of the letters from Thirza's brothers are outstanding, though most are fairly routine, and many have been edited down during the copying process. Particularly noteworthy are a letter written by Richmond following the death of their father, in which he laments the fact that the family have drifted apart, and the series of letters written during the siege of Washington, N.C. Edwin's letters describing a spirited cavalry skirmish at Lacey Springs and the trenches at Petersburg three days before the fall are also excellent, as is his lengthy description of a huge snowball fight between members of three New York regiments and the 1st Vermont Cavalry.

Collection

William G. Putney memoir (typescript), ca. 1896

110 pages

The typescript of William Putney's history of Battery I, 2nd Illinois Artillery Regiment, bound and stamped in gold with the title, was presented to the captain of the battery, Charles M. Barnett, as a Christmas gift in 1897. Putney was only the final editor and compiler of the history, which was based on the recollections, letters, and diaries of a number of men in the regiment, with snippets culled from sources as diverse as Sherman's memoirs, reminiscences from soldiers in other regiments, and popular histories.

The typescript of William Putney's history of Battery I, 2nd Illinois Artillery Regiment, bound and stamped in gold with the title, was presented to the captain of the battery, Charles M. Barnett, as a Christmas gift in 1897. Putney was only the final editor and compiler of the history, which was based on the recollections, letters, and diaries of a number of men in the regiment, with snippets culled from sources as diverse as Sherman's memoirs, reminiscences from soldiers in other regiments, and popular histories. The full, and rather complex history of authorship of the volume is discussed in his preface.

In many ways, Putney's narrative is characteristic of the genre of post-war reminiscences, in its selectivity and its tendency to gloss over or reimagine certain events. It is not, however, as thoroughly sanitized as many memoirs, and presents some of the unpleasantries of military service and the war with a surprising freshness. Inclined toward a literary style, Putney balances small, humorous anecdotes, mostly personal in nature, with larger-scale perspectives on the campaigns and conflicts in which the Battery was embroiled. The intrusion of narratives drawn from high ranking officers (such as Gen. Sherman) provides some insight into the average soldier's post-war opinions on what was significant about their experience, but it is the recollections of the minutiae of service, the practical jokes played by soldiers, their everyday coping, that makes Putney's memoir so valuable.

The History of Battery I includes a roster of the battery, with brief notes on the post-war activities of each member. The manuscript maps are probably copies of some printed works rather than recreations from memory. They depict 1) Route of Battery I from 1862 to 1865; 2) military and naval operations about Island No. 10; 3) the last day of the battle of Chickamauga and the route of Battery I; 4) Chattanooga Campaign; 5) the Atlanta Campaign.