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Aaron H. Ingraham papers, 1861-1862

12 items

This collection contains 12 letters from Union soldier Aaron Ingraham to his parents and sisters from 1861 to 1862, while he served in the 48th New York Infantry. Ingraham described his experiences at Camp Sherman in Washington D.C.; Annapolis, Maryland; Hilton Head, South Carolina; Camp Perry at Daufuskie Island, South Carolina; and Fort Pulaski, Georgia.

The Aaron H. Ingraham papers contain 12 letters from a Union soldier to his parents and sisters from 1861 to 1862, while he served in the 48th New York Infantry. In them, he provided a description of his daily activities and responsibilities, and included basic information on troop movements. As Ingraham traveled from Camp Sherman in Washington D.C. to Annapolis, Maryland, Hilton Head, South Carolina, Camp Perry at Daufuskie Island, South Carolina, and finally to Fort Pulaski, Georgia, he described each of these settings. For instance, he reported that Annapolis was "a mere nothing, the houses being of inferior size and quality. The streets narrow and running in every direction but straight and there is naut of life and activity which makes it seem like anything but a northern city." In a letter to his sister, he mentioned a conversation with a free African American woman in Annapolis about her children whom had been taken north (October 17, 1861). Later letters concern the fortifications of Hilton Head and the effectiveness of mail delivery to the forts. Though he often described the monotonous life of a soldier, and complained about poor food and his lack of money, he used his keen sense of observation to highlight interesting events in the forts. The January 20, 1862, letter provides a wonderful account of eating at the fort and his excitement about receiving ginger snaps and bread in the mail. In this letter he also mentioned a friend who drowned after walking over the side of a boat in his sleep. Letters from November 29, 1861, and February 12, 1862, both recount instances of friendly fire. Ingraham wrote the letter of March 30, 1862, from Fort Pulaski, just after the Union captured the fort. He reported a rumor that Jefferson Davis was captured by Union troops, but he believed the rumors unfounded. While he held strong anti-Confederate views, he was not an abolitionist. In the final letter in the collection, he noted that slavery should simply be allowed to die out or at least contained in current slave territories.

The letter from January 9, 1862, has a red and blue patriotic engraved image of a woman carrying an American flag.


Samuel Ripley papers, 1864-1865

64 items

The Samuel Ripley papers contain correspondence from a soldier in the 36th Wisconsin Infantry, describing several months at Camp Randall, participation in the siege of Petersburg, and his feelings about the war.

The Samuel Ripley papers contain 60 letters, spanning February 1864-February 1865, two brief undated notes, and two photographs. Samuel Ripley wrote 58 of the letters between the commencement of his service in the 36th Wisconsin Infantry in February 1864, and his imprisonment at Salisbury Prison in August of the same year. The recipients were his wife Mary and his mother Abigail. Ripley's early letters, between February and mid-May 1864, describe life at Camp Randall near Madison, Wisconsin, including drilling, taking on the responsibilities of company clerk, and leisure activities. Several letters also mention attempts to visit Mary, as well as to bring her to Madison before his departure for the front.

Between June and August, Ripley wrote 37 long, richly-detailed letters, in which he discussed many aspects of the war: his opinions on its progress and how it was conducted, experiences participating in trench warfare during the Siege of Petersburg, attitudes toward fighting and the Union cause, and, to some extent, politics. He also frequently mentioned his ongoing rheumatism and digestive issues, but generally reported experiencing fair health. Correspondence from June 14-23, 1864, vividly depicts the siege of Petersburg, including being grazed by bullets and participating in an undermanned charge through an unprotected melon field (June 19, 1864). In a letter of June 20, 1864, Ripley described the variety of activity in the trenches: "any one fires from the trench who pleases and when they please, so some are firing some eating some cooking some hunting grey backs." Surprisingly, although an undated note in the collection states that Ripley was wounded on June 22, 1864, his letters do not mention such an event.

A strong believer in the Union and in the abolition of slavery, Ripley admitted to disliking warfare (June 27, 1864), but hoped that peace arbitrations would not succeed unless they ended slavery (July 25, 1864). In several other letters, he expressed distaste for "Copper-heads." He also frequently made predictions about movements and on the outcome of the war, which he believed had neared its end.

Ripley's later letters are particularly introspective and frank; on August 22, 1864, he wrote to his mother, describing his reasons for enlisting against the wishes and advice of friends, and alluded to his own shortcomings and disagreements with his deceased father. He also mentioned his distrust of some Union officers, whom he suspected of receiving bribes from Southerners and stealing packages from Union soldiers. In his last letter of August 28, 1864, Ripley notified his wife about his capture. Two letters from military officials, providing details on Ripley's imprisonment and death, close the correspondence.

The Miscellany Series contains lyrics to a Civil War song, a few biographical details, and two photographs of Ripley (one tintype and one carte-de-visite).