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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.


Carver General Hospital (Washington, D.C.) records, 1864-1865

218 pages

The Carver Hospital records contain entries for admissions and surgery performed during the last year of the Civil War.

The Carver Hospital records include terse entries for admissions and surgery performed during the last year of the war.


Harry A. Simmons journal and sketchbook, 1861-1862

2 volumes

The Harry A. Simmons journal and sketchbook contain diary entries and sketches relating to the Union Navy service of Simmons onboard the schooner Sophronia, particularly his involvement in the New Orleans and Vicksburg campaigns.

The Harry A. Simmons journal contains 58 pages of entries, and his sketchbook includes 117 individual sketches on 57 pages. The journal, which is entitled "Journal of a Cruise on the U.S. Schr. 'Sophronia'," contains lengthy and informative entries covering December 30, 1861-July 30, 1862. Simmons sent it home in several parts to his wife, in order to keep her abreast his activities and wartime experiences. The journal describes Simmons' adjustment to life on the sea, his duties on the ship, various locales in Florida and Mississippi, and several naval engagements, including participation in the New Orleans and Vicksburg campaigns.

Early entries reflect Simmons' initiation into life on the sea and his interest in the marine life that he and his shipmates encountered. On February 7, 1862, he wrote that he lacked "acquired or even instinctive 'sea larnin'," but noted the "fine qualities" of the Sophronia. A few days later, he described fishing for kingfish and seeing dolphins, coral, and sponges from the ship (February 11, 1862). He also described the hardships of life on the sea, including the sky-high prices of produce, eggs, and milk, which the sailors bought from sea-faring merchants (June 10, 1862); the dangers caused by drunken shipmates (February 19, 1862; March 15, 1862); and several outbreaks of illness. In another entry, he noted that he was glad to see a group of dolphins because they made good food, but unlike his shipmates, refused to eat sharks because he held a "prejudice" against them (July 27, 1862).

Simmons also wrote entries concerning the Sophronia's movements and engagements. On February 19, 1862, he noted that "gradually our end of the harbour is filling up" as the ships gathered to form a mortar flotilla under Captain David Dixon Porter near Key West, Florida. On their way west, the crew captured a southern ship with 400 bales of cotton and took a frightening-looking prisoner onboard (March 16, 1862). Around this time, Simmons also noted an overwhelming feeling among his shipmates that "we are the victims of a system of poor generalship" and commented that many of them spoke of resigning from the service (March 23, 1862). By the time the Sophronia reached the Mississippi River, engagements became increasingly common. On April 16, 1862, Simmons described a Confederate "fire raft," which had been filled with combustibles and sent downstream "to drift against our vessels & if possible encircle some of them in a warm embrace." Several days later, he gave an account of the bombardment of Forts St. Philip and Jackson, noting the glow in the sky from widespread burning and estimating that the flotilla had fired a total of 2000 shells (April 18, 1862). The next day, he described seeing a shell hit the Winona and several men die from the explosion. Simmons also described his participation in the Siege of Vicksburg, including rumors of raging fires (June 28, 1862), skirmishes and picket fighting (July 2, 1862), and his being constantly on guard. On July 6, 1862, he noted that he had grown so accustomed to the sound of firing that he no longer noticed it.

Simmons gave detailed descriptions of a number of locales. On March 21, 1862, he described Pilottown, Louisiana, as generally deserted, but noted that one house contained a family claiming to be loyal to the Union. Shortly after the bombardment of Fort Jackson, he and a few other officers were able to observe the wreck of Fort Jackson, which he called the "most terrible destruction." On a second visit to Ship Island, Mississippi, he noted that it had grown, with many new storehouses, workshops, and hospital sheds (May 8, 1862).

The diary also provides insight into the duties of a surgeon's steward and the medical issues that arose onboard the Sophronia. These included the difficulty of obtaining certain kinds of medicines (February 16, 1862), the problem of treating outbreaks of illnesses (July 13, 1862), and a description of a funeral and the burial of a sailor at sea, wrapped in his hammock (July 22, 1862). By July 29, 1862, Simmons noted that 15 of the 32 crew members, including himself, had become ill and he reluctantly tendered his resignation and went to the hospital. The diary closes with an entry noting that he had arrived at home with his family and that he hoped "to recover my lost health" (August 26, 1862).

Accompanying the journal is Simmons' sketchbook, containing 57 pages and 117 individual pencil and watercolor sketches. Subjects include ships he encountered, military activities, southern scenery, sailors, civilians, and buildings. The locations that Simmons drew include plantations and homes in Baton Rouge, numerous views of Vicksburg, Fort Adams, and the U.S. Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia. In several drawings, he depicted African Americans, including a contraband escaping from Vicksburg by riding a log down the Mississippi, a dog and a soldier playing together (labeled "Cuffee & Sambo"), a man in a sailor suit, and a group of women laundering clothes over a fire in Baton Rouge. Simmons also drew numerous military scenes, frequently teeming with detail. He depicted "fire rafts," a shelling by the Union Navy, the Sophronia "in fighting costume," an interior view of Fort Jackson, and the entrance to Fort St. Philip. Pasted into the sketchbook is a printed version of a sketch by Simmons, entitled "Attack on Vicksburg, Miss., by the Gun Boats and Mortar Fleet…"


Henry H. Seys papers, 1851-1864

94 items (0.25 linear feet)

This collection of letters by Civil War surgeon and medical inspector Henry H. Seys to his wife, Harriet, provide animated accounts of conversations in camp, fatiguing marches, and day-to-day military activities - particularly during the Tullahoma, Chickamauga, and Chattanooga Campaigns

Henry Seys' letters are the product of a well educated man: sprinkled with Latin and French phrases, and quotations from poetry, they are written in a lively and engaging style. The strength of the collection lies in Seys' animated accounts of conversations in camp, fatiguing marches, and of day-to-day life during the heat of the critical Tennessee campaigns of 1863. Something of an artist, he left one map of the Tullahoma Campaign, but unfortunately, his pencil sketches of army life and personnel -- done for the benefit of his children -- have been lost.

Seys' surviving letters cluster around the Tullahoma, Chickamauga, and Chattanooga Campaigns. While not a combatant, per se, he records the eerie sensation of living with the possibility, if not probability, of imminent death. As a member of Rosecrans' staff, he became intimate with the general, and his letters provide some penetrating personal glimpses into that man's character and his subordinates' feelings about him. In a different vein, Seys' devotion to his horse, "Dr.," gives a sense of the affection that some soldiers developed for their animal friends during the stress of war. Finally, as might be expected, the collection includes information on medical aspects of the war. Seys treated not only soldiers, but his family (by mail); one letter recommends chloroform to aid his mother-in-law's asthma.


Norton Strange Townshend family papers, 1807-1995

20.5 linear feet of manuscripts, 66 cased photographs, 3 linear feet of paper photographs, 8 cubic feet of photographic slides, 6 cubic feet of realia.

The Norton Strange Townshend Family papers include correspondence, diaries, essays, lectures, printed matter, clippings, financial and legal papers, photographs, daguerreotypes, ephemera, realia, maps, and books belonging to the Townshend and Dodge families, who were connected by the marriage of Margaret Wing (granddaughter of Norton Townshend) and Homer Levi Dodge (grandson of Levi Dodge) in 1917. Much of the collection documents the life and career of politician and agricultural educator Norton Strange Townshend, including his political, educational, and social reform activities.

The Norton Strange Townshend Family Papers consist of 20.5 linear feet of manuscripts, 66 cased photographs, 3 linear feet of paper photographs, 8 cubic feet of photographic slides, and 7 cubic feet of realia, arranged into 13 series. For more detail, see scope and content notes, below.

The Correspondence series (Boxes 1-10) contains all the collection’s letters, postcards, and telegrams (with the exception of official military correspondence, financial correspondence, and genealogy correspondence, which are under "Topical Files," "Financial Correspondence," and "Genealogical Correspondence," respectively). Correspondence spans the years 1827-1989 and makes up around one quarter of the collection. It is subdivided by family into the "Townshend Subseries" and "Dodge Subseries," and arranged chronologically, with undated items at the end. The series contains correspondence to and from prominent Ohio politicians, such as Salmon P. Chase; who wrote 34 letters to Townshend; William Medill; Rutherford B. Hayes; and notable agricultural educators, including James Sullivant and John Klippart. Correspondence among family members is also voluminous, and documents a wide variety of issues during the mid-19th to early-20th centuries, including social and family life, courtship, women’s work and viewpoints, travel, and attitudes toward education. For an index of correspondents, see "Additional Descriptive Data."

The Joel Townshend papers series (Box 10) brings together documents by and related to Norton Townshend’s father, Joel Townshend (1780-1864). It includes a few religious writings, as well as financial and legal documents that shed light on the family’s life in Northamptonshire, England, and Ohio. Most items date from 1810 to 1830, with the exception of a biography of Townshend written in the 1930s or 1940s by his great-grandson, H. Percy Boynton.

The Norton S. Townshend papers series (Boxes 10-26) is the largest series in the collection and contains diaries, published and unpublished writings, printed materials, clippings, broadsides, biographical materials, and other items relating to nearly every facet of Townshend’s adult life. These materials document Townshend’s political involvement, particularly in local and national antislavery, in agricultural movements, and in the U.S. House of Representatives. The series also includes papers about his educational career, family life, Civil War service, and religious views and work. Townshend frequently worked and reworked his ideas on paper, and both his published and unpublished writings are a rich source of intellectual and reform history. Townshend was also an inveterate collector and preserver of interesting items, including materials relating to northern Ohio’s Liberty Party, his admission tickets to medical courses and the World Anti-Slavery Convention, an application to the Ohio State Asylum for the Education of Idiotic and Imbecile Youth, of which he was a trustee, and dozens of fliers and handbills for lectures given by himself and others.

The Margaret Bailey Townshend papers series (Boxes 26-27) is comprised of two diaries, a rich autobiographical writing entitled "Genealogy," describing her childhood and education, a small number of clippings, and materials relating to her education and career as a teacher in Illinois and Ohio in the 1850s. Many items in the Realia series (below) also relate to Margaret Bailey Townshend.

The Other Townshend family members’ papers series (Boxes 28-30) contains materials relating mainly to Townshend’s children and their spouses, but also includes James B. Wood (Townshend’s father-in-law), Harriet Wood Townshend (Townshend’s first wife), Margaret Wing Dodge (Townshend’s granddaughter), and several other relatives. The bulk of this series is made up of their writings, which are autobiographical, religious, and cultural in subject. Also of interest is biographical information on family members, including articles on Townshend’s children, who were early students of Ohio State University, and a number of obituaries of these family members.

The Dodge family papers series (Boxes 30-34) consists of materials produced and collected by the Dodges of upstate New York, from 1839 to approximately 1970, and documenting their family life, travels, hobbies (in particular the outdoors and canoeing), financial and legal transactions, and civic engagement. Incorporated are some writings by various family members, including Levi R. Dodge, F. Isabella (Donaghue) Dodge, Homer Dodge, and family friend Lydia Sayer Hasbrouck; topical files, the bulk of which are 20th century; biographical materials such as obituaries and clippings; and periodicals on topics of interest to the Dodges.

The Genealogical research series (Boxes 35-37) reflects the family’s interest in its own history and consists of correspondence, family trees, historical essays, as well as commercially produced family histories for some lines. The materials reflect a particular interest in finding links between various family members and such prominent figures as the Townshends of Raynham Hall, the Green family of Vermont, and General Grenville Dodge. This series pertains mainly to the 20th century and is arranged by family, except for the correspondence, which is arranged chronologically.

The Collection-related materials series is made up of documents and articles that shed light on the outreach efforts made on behalf of the collection, particularly for the Easterly items, prior to their accessioning by the William L. Clements Library. The series is comprised of fliers, museum publicity materials, and articles on exhibits. Materials date from the late 20th century, particularly the 1990s.

The Books series contains three items that are housed with the collection: Sermons on Various Subjects by the Late Rev. Thomas Strange, Kilsby, Northamptonshire, with Some Memoirs of His Life (1807); the Townshend Family Bible (with manuscript notes on births, deaths and marriages); and Robert W. McCormick’s 1988 self-published biography of Townshend: Norton S. Townshend, M.D. Antislavery Politician and Agricultural Educator. The rest of the books, including books from the personal libraries of Norton Townshend, Joel Townshend, Margaret Bailey Townshend, and the Dodge family, are housed in the Book Division of the Clements Library; for the list of titles, search for "M-3437" in the University of Michigan's library catalog.

The Visual materials series is arranged by type of item and then by subject. This includes daguerreotypes by prominent daguerreotypist Thomas M. Easterly, other photographs, drawings/prints, and maps. The materials range from the 1840s to the 1970s. See also Realia series below.

The Realia series contains approximately 8 linear feet of objects, including items from the childhood and teaching career of Margaret Bailey Townshend, intricate hairwork jewelry and a hair wreath made with the locks of at least 16 family members, geological materials and fossils collected by Norton Townshend and possibly Thomas Easterly, and other three-dimensional objects such as a glass vial for medicine, ribbons from the Ohio State Fair, and decorative objects. Also noteworthy are a number of paper objects, such as Civil War era chromolithograph animal toys, a Japanese paper lantern, and an alphabet game for children.

The Dodge Photographic Slides series includes eight cubic feet of photographic slides, totaling approximately 22,000 slides, attributed to Homer L. Dodge. They document travels around the southwest United States and to countries such as Japan, Canada and Sweden.

The Miscellaneous series contains envelopes without accompanying letters, blank letterhead, and a binder of transcriptions of select letters from Harriet Wood Townshend to Sarah Wood Keffer.


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.