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Andrew S. Parsons papers, 1864-1865

54 items

In February, 1864, Andrew S. Parsons left his farm to become a recruit in a veteran regiment, the 33rd Wisconsin Infantry for the duration of the Civil War. His letters to his wife Louisa give detailed accounts of battles and campaigns, and provide glimpses into his home life and relationships with his wife and children.

The Andrew S. Parsons papers document the life of a recruit added to the rolls of a veteran regiment of the western theatre. The 47 letters written by Andrew Parsons to his wife, Louisa, comprise the bulk of the collection, along with two letters to his children and one to a temperance society of which he was a member. In addition, there are two letters from Parsons' nephew Charles Spencer to Louisa Parsons, and one letter from a friend named Laura to Andrew Parsons. Well written and eventful, Andrew Parsons' letters have many strong points. Among the letters are detailed accounts of skirmishes in northern Mississippi, the battles of Blair's Landing, Franklin and Nashville, and Spanish Fort, as well as the Red River, Tupelo, Missouri, Franklin and Nashville and Mobile Campaigns.

Equally interesting are the glimpses that emerge through Parsons' letters of his home life and his relationships with his wife and children. His letters are laced with a fine sense of humor, and convey a sense of concern for the well being of his home and family. The occasional hint of jealousy that peers subtlely through some letters is leavened by his advice to Louisa on managing the farm, caring for the children, and seeing to the family finances. He seemingly accepts the trying circumstances of a wartime separation, and tries to make the best of the situation, all the while eager to return home.


Charlie and John Moore papers, 1839-1864

15 items

Charlie and John Moore, who appear to have been cousins, both received captains' commissions in the 99th U.S. Colored Infantry. Their letters describe training at Camp Lyon in Connecticut, a journey to Ship Island, and stationing in New Orleans.

The John and Charlie Moore papers (15 items) contain the letters of two cousins serving as captains in the 5th Engineers, Corps d'Afrique, writing to John's father in Hartford, Connecticut. The collection falls into two distinct parts, the first of which includes nine letters written by John Moore, covering his training at Camp Lyon in Connecticut, to his transport and arrival at Ship Island. John Moore's letters are generally well-written, suggesting that he was well educated, however his descriptions of Camp Lyon are routine, focusing mainly on food and requests for stockings, books (James Fenimore Cooper's The Spy and The Wept of Wish-Ton-Wish), and other daily needs. Two letters stand out: one describing the unpleasant journey to Ship Island aboard the Steamer Fulton (1862 May 3-5), and another desribing the wildlife that he and his fellow soldiers encountered around Ship Island while gathering logs for construction (1862 March 29).

Moore had trepidations about becoming ill in the South, and on June 16, 1862, he wrote that he had become lame and was being considered for a medical discharge. The presence of an additional letter from Moore, dated April 17, 1864, suggests that he did not receive a discharge. By that time, Moore had been commissioned as Captain in the 5th Engineers, Corps d'Afrique (later designated as the 99th U.S.C.T.), and was involved in Banks' Red River Campaign.

Charlie Moore is less articulate than John, and the letters he wrote while an officer in the 99th U.S. Infantry (Colored) were written while stationed in relatively calm New Orleans. Most of Charlie's five letters discuss bad news he received of Banks' campaign, and rumors of good news of Grant's success in the east. Moore's company appears to have spent much its time overseeing "contrabands" who were working plantations.


Clinton H. Haskell Civil War collection, 1841-1895

120 items

Clinton H. Haskell Civil War collection contains miscellaneous letters, military orders, telegrams, and documents related to the Civil War.

Clinton H. Haskell Civil War collection (120 items) contains miscellaneous letters, military orders, telegrams, and documents related to the Civil War from 1843 to 1895. The bulk of the collection is comprised of letters written by army officers and politicians, both Union and Confederate, during and after the Civil War.


David McKinney papers, 1776-1921 (majority within 1863-1865)

82 items

The David McKinney papers consist primarily of letters written by McKinney while serving as a quartermaster during the Civil War and include detailed descriptions of his work.

The bulk of the McKinney papers, 57 items, consists of letters written by David McKinney to his sister, Jeanette, and other siblings between June 25, 1863, and December 9, 1865, covering most of the period of his military service. As quartermaster, McKinney had little combat experience, though his descriptions of conditions during the siege of Vicksburg (13) and the battles of Sabine Cross Roads and Pleasant Hill (30) are detailed and colorful. He comments frequently and forthrightly about generals, generalship, and Copperheads and often alludes to the French presence in Mexico. McKinney's letters are perhaps most noteworthy for the interesting and unusual glimpse they offer into the workings of the Quartermaster's Department. Particularly in his letters from Mouth of White River (47-63), McKinney provides detailed discussions of his responsibilities and his brushes with the ubiquitous profiteers. In a later letter (66), he describes his personal role in the reconstruction of the South -- the hiring of a former Rebel colonel as a teamster.

The remainder of the collection, 24 items, consists of miscellaneous materials relating to various members of McKinney's family. Among these items are two Revolutionary-War-era letters (1, 2), a will from 1796 (3), and a series of five letters of recommendation written for David McKinney by his professors at Jefferson College (5). In the post-war period, three items relating to Abraham Smith McKinney's involvement with the Ingleside Plantation are noteworthy (70-72), as are three short letters written by David McKinney just prior to his death (78). Genealogical charts and material regarding the provenance of the papers are located in the last folder of the collection (82).

The most important of these family letters is one written in December, 1859, that includes a discussion of the role of Chambersburg, Pa., as headquarters for John Brown's forces prior to the raid on Harper's Ferry, and an account of the fate of some of the insurrectionists (11).


Edwin Davenport papers, 1861-1863

30 items

The Edwin Davenport papers contain 29 letters that he wrote to his family (parents, brothers, and sister) while he traveled west to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Illinois, and during his time as a Union soldier the Civil War. Davenport served as private and corporal with the Massachusetts 52nd Infantry, Co. B. before dying of a fever 1865.

The Edwin Davenport papers contain 29 letters that he wrote to his family (parents, brothers, and sister) just before and during the Civil War. The first letter recalls his trip west in the spring of 1861. He travelled by stage to the base of Mt. Greylock and continued on foot to North Adams, Massachusetts. Davenport travelled by train ("car") through Troy, Utica, Rome, and Buffalo, New York, and walked south to Ellington to stay with his uncle. He reported changes in terrain and climate and mentioned attending a Methodist spiritual meeting. In other early letters, from Oil Creek and Titusville, Pennsylvania, Davenport described the oil boom and the growth of towns and cities in the area, and commented on the difference between living in, what was then, the West and the East. One letter, for instance, referred to two men who had recently died from rattlesnake bites. In his letters from Wisconsin and Illinois, he continued to update his family on his experiences. By August of 1862, he was considering joining the Union army and wrote passionately about the crisis.

After entering the war, Davenport wrote detailed descriptions of his regiment's movements and the notable activities of the forces, Confederate and Union, around him. While he carefully reported on his orders, he also observed interesting details about the south and about the events that had taken place around him. In one undated letter, Davenport described an encounter with a runaway slave, for whom he found clothes and work for wages.

In a letter from March 25, 1863, Davenport described the destruction of the rebel gunboat Mississippi:

At 2 o'clock at night a bright light was seen in the direction of the fort: Firing immediately ceased, the light moved down the River, explosions frequently came from it. Thus for two hours it moved when a flash that lit the heavens and an explosion that shook the ground like an earthquake and the light disappeared: Sunday morning dawned all quiet. Soon we heard that the big gunboat "Mississippi" had been set on fire and blown up.

The last dated letter in the collection is from Thomas Parrish, Head Nurse at the Brashear City Hospital, who wrote the Davenport family about Edwin's death.

Davenport occasionally drew pictures on his letters. The letter from May 5, 1861, contains a sketch of an oil derrick, and the letter from September 12, 1861, contains drawings of a man stepping on a snake and a man hunting squirrels. His letters from Madison, Wisconsin, have large engraved letterheads picturing a view of the lake.

This collection also contains Davenport's corporal stripes.


George Schubert papers, 1862-1911 (majority within 1862-1863)

26 items

As a young man, George Schubert emigrated from Germany to Connecticut, and in September 1862, he enlisted in the 25th Connecticut Infantry. His letters to his wife Sophia during the Civil War are filled with news of his doings and his longing for home, including information on the siege and capture of Port Hudson and the skirmishes at Irish Bend and Bayou Lafourche.

George Schubert's letters to his beloved wife, "Sophie'chen," cover the soldier's entire service in a nine month Civil War regiment. From his enlistment in Co. I of the 25th Connecticut Infantry to his return home in the summer of 1863, Schubert wrote faithfully, sending affectionate letters filled with news of his doings and his longing for home and wife.

The defining moments of Schubert's tour of duty were surely his protracted participation in the siege and capture of Port Hudson and some minor skirmishes in the near vicinity. Several long, well-written letters provide useful information on the siege and on the skirmishes at Irish Bend and Bayou Lafourche, and while they are written from the perspective of a lowly non-commissioned officer in a nine months' regiment, the reflect Schubert's intelligence and far-sightedness, as well as his somewhat lax ambition to rise in the ranks.

All of Schubert's letters are all in English, and while not his native language, his syntax and grammar are better than that of many of native-born soldiers, and his handwriting is thoroughly "American." However, Schubert's spelling is essentially phonetic, resulting in a frozen picture of a mid-Victorian German accent. In writing, as he must have in speech, he freely substituted "t" for "d", "j" for "y", and "b" for "p." His German background may also explain his habitual salutation of "Dear Wife!" or "Dear Sophie!"


Our Generals, 1862

1 volume

"Our Generals" is a lithograph album (17 x 13.25 cm) consisting of 24 gray-toned lithograph carte de visite sized portraits of Union Civil War generals sold commercially by Leavitt & Allen of New York in 1862.

"Our Generals" is a lithograph album (17 x 13.25 cm) consisting of 24 gray-toned lithograph portraits of Union Civil War generals sold commercially by Leavitt & Allen of New York in 1862. The initials "A.W." appear in pencil on the inside front cover. There is a pre-printed index of names.

On each page, there is one lithographed carte de visite mounted into pre-cut slots surrounded by red and white decoration. The images themselves are either close ups or full body portraits. The name of the subject is handwritten in pencil under each image.

The album's covers are brown leather embossed with a floral pattern, with two large decorative brass clasps. The two brass closure tabs are stamped with "Our Generals."


William S. Burns papers, 1860-1864;1886

64 items

The William S. Burns papers consist of correspondence and a scrapbook that document Burns' time as a well-connected Union officer during the Civil War.

The collection includes a series of 57 letters and documents written by Burns to his brother, Charles, plus a scrapbook assembled for his son, Ned, in December, 1886. The scrapbook includes a mounted albumen photographic portrait of Burns, and consists of a series of articles written by Burns for a newspaper. These articles include excerpts of his war-time letters (some included in the collection), but are more fleshed out, including more anecdotes and information than the surviving correspondence. They appear to be very faithful accounts of his experiences, based on first-hand notes. Among the better accounts in the scrapbook are lengthy descriptions of the Battles of Pea Ridge and Pleasant Hill, a good narrative of the Meridian and Red River Campaigns. For Pleasant Hill and the Red River Campaign in general, Burns comments extensively on the course of the battle and where blame for the defeat should lie, suggesting that despite the best efforts of Smith, Banks lost the day.

Strongly committed to the Union cause, but not an abolitionist, Burns had the unusual benefit of high level connections that allowed him to negotiate fairly effectively for military appointments that suited his tastes and abilities. Burns appears to have been very highly regarded by his superior officers and his subordinates, and maintained very high standards that led him to be a harsh critic of the military inefficiency of several "political generals," particularly Samuel Curtis and Nathaniel Banks. His high standards did not preclude foraging (stealing) food from civilians, though he was repulsed - not to the point of taking disciplinary action - at the summary execution of guerrillas and at being ordered by A.J. Smith to burn the residence of Jacob Thompson, Secretary of the Interior during the Buchanan administration, in retaliation for offences committed by Lee's army in Virginia. Burns was not keen to set fire to Thompson's house, but after allowing the removal of personal and family items, he followed orders.

Burns seems either to have loved or hated his commanding officers, and was as fixated on them as he was critical. He comments extensively on the performance of Union generals under whom he served, reserving his highest praise for A.J. Smith and Sherman, a sort of bemused appreciation of Asboth, and scorn for any who crossed them.