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Charles Snyder papers, 1857-1866

0.5 linear feet

The Charles Snyder papers contain correspondence between Snyder, a soldier in the 50th New York Engineers, his future wife, and other family members, concerning soldiers' duties and attitudes, religious activities, and other topics.

The Charles Snyder papers contain 182 letters to and from Snyder, 1857-1866, and one carte-de-visite photograph of him in uniform. Charles wrote 67 letters; his future wife, Hannah Wright, wrote 77; his sister Lizzie wrote 10; and his brother Steve wrote 8. Miscellaneous friends and family contributed an additional 20 letters.

The 14 letters predating Snyder's enlistment concern his teaching career, study at the University of Albany, religious activities, and family news from several of his sisters. After the outbreak of the Civil War, Snyder commented regularly on the conflict; he stated that the "strongest moral power" would be needed by soldiers in order to resist the temptations of camp life (September 17, 1861) and described a visit to the barracks of his brother William, a soldier in the 97th New York Infantry (January 25, 1861).

Between Snyder's enlistment in August 1862 and the end of the war, almost all of the correspondence is between Charles Snyder and his future wife, Hannah ("Nannie") Wright. In his letters, Snyder gave his frank opinions of various aspects of the war, often influenced by his strong religious convictions. Snyder initially felt that a recruiter had deceived him about the character of the regiment he had joined, particularly objecting to the men's swearing and drinking, and in several early letters, expressed his disillusionment with their behavior, as well as with the Union's mounting defeats. In other letters, he described his duties with the 50th Engineers, including building and destroying roads and bridges, constructing rafts, unloading trains, clearing brush, filling ditches, and moving boats, but wrote "that our country is receiving the full benefit of our sacrifices is not so clear to me" (November 27, 1862).

Snyder's letters provide many rich details of his experiences, such as the taunting by Confederates wielding a sign reading "Burnside stuck in the mud" (January 25, 1863), the universal dislike of the strict pass system instituted by the army (August 30, 1863), and the eating of a Thanksgiving turkey that he and his friends named "Jeff Davis" (November 28, 1863). On several occasions, he wrote to Hannah regarding the morale of the Army of the Potomac, discussing their "unabated" confidence in General Joseph Hooker (May 7, 1863) and stating that they did not consider Chancellorsville a total defeat, especially with the death of Stonewall Jackson, which he considered "equivalent to the loss of many thousand men" (May 20, 1863). Many of Snyder's 1865 letters relate to his promotion to first lieutenant and his desire to return home to Hannah, whom he intended to marry.

In her letters, Hannah Wright discussed religious activities (including involvement with the Tract Society), teaching, and family news, and she also expressed concern and affection for Charles. Later correspondence indicated her increasing involvement in the Union cause, including going to meetings of the U.S. Sanitary Commission (December 21, 1864), and knitting for soldiers. Wright shared Snyder's religious devotion and strict moral code. She reacted strongly to his news that Mary Todd Lincoln had worn makeup to a reception held for soldiers by President Lincoln, writing "It is a sad pity Mrs. Lincoln isn't a true woman" and calling it a "sin" (February 19, 1864). Letters from Snyder's brother Steve and sister Lizzie are primarily personal, regarding health, social visits, and news about other enlisted friends and neighbors.


Edward P. Bridgman autobiography, 1894-1985

108 pages

The Bridgman "autobiography" consists of a typescript of a long series of letters sent by Edward P. Bridgman to a cousin, which form a continuous, sometimes rambling narrative of Bridgman's life from the time he travelled to Kansas in 1856 through the end of the Civil War.

The Bridgman "autobiography" consists of a typescript of a long series of letters sent by Edward P. Bridgman to a cousin (?), Sidney, between June 10th, 1894 and April 9th, 1895. The letters were transcribed by another relative, Frank, and form a continuous, sometimes rambling narrative of Bridgman's life from the time he traveled to Kansas in 1856 through the end of the Civil War.

Written retrospectively, almost 30 years after the end of the war, many of the details of Bridgman's service have been lost, yet he manages to display a strong, if somewhat selective memory for anecdotes and for the emotions of the events that remained in his dreams for so many years. "As I look over some of my army letters," he wrote, "and Bowen's history [of the regiment], march after march and camp after camp are an utter blank to me. But the terrible battle scenes are stamped vividly in my recollection; they can never be forgotten" (p. 42). A fine writer with a gentle sense of humor, Bridgman's letters offer an interesting insight into the way that selective memory and time shaped veterans' experiences of the Civil War. The battles, numerous as they were, form the focus of the narrative, but the suffering faces of the dead and wounded and the small pranks he played assume almost equal prominence.

Bridgman's descriptions of the battles in which he was engaged tend to be somewhat generalized, but the emotional impact of these events clearly remained strong with him. His descriptions of the costly capture of Marye's Heights during the Chancellorsville Campaign, of the battle of Chancellorsville itself, and of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Campaigns are noteworthy. Always, his letters make for engrossing reading, whether he is writing about wormy hardtack, lice, making beds, drinking tainted water from the mouth of a dead mule, or doing battle. Because he served intermittently, unofficially, as a nurse and surgeon for his regiment, Bridgman also provides several brief, but powerful accounts of medical care, the wounded and the dead.


Francis Crayton Sturtevant papers, 1861-1913 (majority within 1861-1890)

70 items

The Sturtevant papers are made up of letters written by Francis Crayton Sturtevant, a musician in the 5th Connecticut Infantry Regiment, to his family during and following the Civil War. The collection also includes Francis' incoming correspondence after the war.

The Sturtevant papers contain 29 Civil War-date letters written by Francis Crayton Sturtevant to his mother (Mrs. C.F. Sturtevant), his sisters Ann or Eveline, or generally to his family. The collection also contains 9 post-war letters written to Hattie Ellis, Crayton's fiancé/wife; 5 letters from Hattie to Crayton; 8 letters from members of the Sturtevant family to Crayton; and 10 miscellaneous items relating to Sturtevant's sons, Harry, Albert, and Francis.

The Civil War letters reflect Sturtevant's perceptiveness and talent as a writer, as well as his strong ideological commitment to the war. Although his reasons for enlistment are somewhat obscure and his early departure from the war stands out, Sturtevant never displayed any doubt that his service was his patriotic duty. His letters are valuable for reconstructing life in the defenses of Harpers' Ferry in the fall and winter months of 1861-62, as well as the events of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862. His letters are of added value in being written from the unusual perspective of a musician, and are filled with depictions of the lives of musicians, who were not always subject to the same level of hardship or the same rigors of average soldiers. Sturtevant's letters provide several descriptions of practicing, playing, working on musical formations, and competing with other bands, and they also give an idea of the effect that the music had on his audience of soldiers and civilians.

Sturtevant was also a soldier, and his letters contain fine descriptions of hard marches and battles, particularly leading up and during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862. The accounts of Jackson's assault on Hancock, and of the battles of Kernstown and Winchester stand out as among the best letters in the collection.

The post-war material includes an eloquent letter addressed to Sturtevant's future mother-in-law, in which he defends his impending marriage to Hattie against his in-laws' opposition. Sturtevant argued that there can be no loss to Hattie or her family by the union, but only gain due to the genuineness of their love for each other. Also included is a powerful letter, grieving over the loss of his mother, who had died in his arms (1874 September 22).


George C. Nichols papers, 1861-1865 (majority within 1862-1863)

36 items

The George C. Nichols papers document Nichols' service with the 25th Massachusetts Infantry, including participation at the battles of Roanoke Island and New Bern, stays in hospitals, and changing attitudes toward the war.

The George C. Nichols papers consist of 36 letters written by Nichols to family members during his service with the 25th Massachusetts Infantry. His letters span October 5, 1861, to February 21, 1865. The tone of Nichols' correspondence changes drastically over the three years that it represents. Early letters describe the "fun" and "good times" that he had while occupied as a guard (October 5, 1861) and as a sailor on the steamer New York (January 10, 1862). However, by the summer of 1862, news of bad food and illness dominates the correspondence, as Nichols had begun a series of hospital stays. On August 10, 1862, Nichols wrote, "I wish I was out of this damd hot place & out of this war[.] don't you tell aney one for it would go al over the street that I was sick of it…" (August 10, 1862). In letters from this point on, Nichols wrote about such topics as his treatment at Beaufort Hospital, including care by nuns (September 21, 1862), his thoughts on the progress of the war (June 21, 1863 -- "The Rebs are making a raid up into Pennsylvania. I am glad of it the North are a sleep and hav [sic] been for the last six months they dont seem to care much about the War…"), and his desire to return home. Although Nichols barely mentioned the action that he saw as a soldier, his letters clearly document his morale and medical treatment. Several sources state that George C. Nichols of the 25th Massachusetts Infantry was captured at the siege of Petersburg on May 16, 1864; unfortunately, his letters, which are concentrated around 1862-1863, never address his capture or time in prison.


George Hale Nichols papers, 1853-1866

49 items

Hailing from an upstanding family from Haverill, Mass., George Nichols was a college student when the Civil War interrupted his plans to follow his siblings into life as an educator. His papers document over half of Nichols' brief life, beginning with his charming grade school compositions, "The Horse" and "Fall," and ending with a receipt concerning the settlement of his estate.

The George Nichols papers document over half of Nichols' brief life, beginning with his charming grade school compositions, "The Horse" and "Fall," and ending with a receipt concerning the settlement of his estate. While his Civil War letters are neither spectacularly eventful nor unusually informative, their juxtaposition with his pre-war letters provides an unusual view of the jarring transition between the life of a student and teacher to that of a soldier. The collection includes one letter of Joseph B., a member of the three months' 3rd Massachusetts Infantry.

The high points of Nichols' wartime letters are some excellent descriptions of the interminable marches endured by the 32nd Massachusetts. While he avoided the worst of the fighting at Antietam or Chancellorsville, Nichols was more than impressed with the fury of the engagements and was glad for his position in the reserve. His letters from Fredericksburg and the opening rounds of the Gettysburg Campaign are more informative, and provide a brief look into the hard work and high emotions of federal soldiers there. More interesting still is a joyous letter written by his mother on July 7, 1863, describing the celebrations in Haverill sparked by news of the victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. She had read a newspaper article that gave "the whole particulars [of the battle] showing the whole ground at Gettysburg," but which did not include George's name on the list of casualties. She wrote that she had read that George's "Corpse, the 5th was there in the hottest of the fearful fight" (1863 July 7), unaware that her son's corpse was at that moment being transported to prison in Richmond.

The pre-war letters are particularly valuable for documenting the attitudes of Victorian teachers toward their students and toward their mission as educators. Formally and informally, his brothers offer advice on the proper conduct of teachers, their goals and their experiences, and the characteristic nineteenth-century marriage of education, religion, and middle-class morality shines through in many of the letters.


Hugh and George Roden papers, 1861-1898 (majority within 1861-1864)

68 items

George and Hugh Roden, sons of English immigrants, enlisted in the 2nd and 7th New Jersey Infantry regiments respectively during the Civil War. This collection contains 62 letters from Hugh and five letters from George, which offer an excellent look at the ordinary soldier's view of politics, the army, and its commanders.

The Roden brothers collection represents only a portion of a much larger body of material. There are five letters written by George Roden, Jr., all between June 17th and August 19th, 1861, and one letter written to him by a fellow veteran in 1898. The remainder of the collection consists of letters from Hugh Roden, who was described by the original cataloguer of this collection as "a charmingly precocious drummer boy."

Like those of many of his fellow soldiers, Hugh Roden's letters contain frequent references to food, both that issued by the commissary and that sent from home. His best letters, though, offer an excellent look at the ordinary soldier's view of politics, the army, and its commanders. Probably younger than his 21 year old brother, Hugh's early letters are strongly optimistic and reflect a confidence in his leaders. He is occasionally introspective, giving thought to the toll exacted on its participants and the families of soldiers on both sides, and can muster a little humor at times. A Lincoln supporter, Roden is nevertheless incensed at the Emancipation Proclamation, which he predicts will turn the army against the President, and further predicts that passage of the Proclamation will result in racial equality, in theory and fact.

The best series of letters are Hugh's six letters from the Peninsular Campaign, in which he describes the positions before Yorktown, the battlefield at Fair Oaks, removing bodies from the field after Williamsburg, and the aftermath of the battle of Seven Days' Battles. His diary-like account of Chancellorsville is also worthwhile. Unfortunately lacking from the collection are the brothers' letters from Fredericksburg, Mine Run, and the battles between the Wilderness and Cold Harbor.


Robert Sherry papers, 1861-1867

60 items, 1 tintype

Robert Sherry enlisted in the 21st New York Infantry during the Civil War, a regiment that was beset with discipline and logistical problems, and and by a pattern of mutual animosity between officers and enlisted men. His letters to his wife, Caroline, provide valuable insight into the problems of the regiment and his deep hostility toward officers.

The Sherry papers includes 50 letters written by Robert Sherry to his wife, Caroline, and two to a friend, Oscar. The eight remaining items in the collection include letters and documents addressed to Caroline Sherry regarding the death of her husband and arrangements to receive a widow's pension.

Sherry was a rough-edged man, whose strong personality is reflected in the tintype that accompanies the collection, in which he stands glaring at the camera, leaning casually against his rifle, pistol stashed in his belt. Sherry writes what he feels without reservation, even when those feelings are murderous, and as a result, his letters are always interesting to read. His candor in discussing the problems in the regiment and his deep hostility toward officers provides a particularly valuable insight into the mind of many soldiers subjected to harsh conditions and to the extraordinary military inefficiency and arbitrariness that characterized some units.

Personal finances were among Sherry's greatest concerns, and the money offered to recruits may have been the primary factoring in inducing him to enlist and reenlist. He is vocal about the fact that he is not fighting for "adam nigger" or for the Republican Party, and he berates his wife because she no longer denigrates Blacks in her letters. He relished the opportunity to loot an elegant Virginia home in October, 1861, and wrote proudly of having taken $2,000 in Confederate money from a dead Virginian, which he buried by the banks of the Rappahannock, should he ever return. Sherry talked of returning to Virginia after the war, where he had been assured by a plantation overseer that he could make an easy living and high wages.


William and Isaac Seymour collection, 1825-1869

27 items

The Seymour papers contain materials relating primarily to the Civil War service of Col. Isaac G. Seymour (6th Louisiana Infantry) and his son, William J., both residents of New Orleans.

The Seymour papers contain materials relating primarily to the Civil War service of Col. Isaac G. Seymour (6th Louisiana Infantry) and his son, William J., both residents of New Orleans. The most important items in the collection are the two journals kept by William Seymour describing his experiences in the defense of New Orleans, 1862, and as Assistant Adjutant General in the 1st Louisiana Brigade, Army of Northern Virginia. The first of these "journals" was begun by Col. Isaac Seymour as a manuscript drill manual for his regiment (55 pp.), but it appears to have been taken up by William following Isaac's death. This volume is arranged in four sections and includes a record of William Seymour's experiences from March, 1862 through May, 1864. The second volume is organized in a similar manner, but covers the period from April, 1863 through October, 1864, terminating in the middle of a description of the Battle of Cedar Creek. Both of William's "journals" are post-war memoirs drawn extensively from original diaries and notes, with some polishing and embellishment.

William Seymour's "journals" contain outstanding descriptions of life in the Confederate Army and are one of the premier sources for the Confederate side of the Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip. His journals also contain very important accounts for Chancellorsville, 2nd Winchester, Gettysburg (Cemetery Hill), Mine Run, the Wilderness and Spotsylvania (the Bloody Angle), but almost as important are the descriptions of camp life, and the morale and emotions of the troops. Seymour is an observant, critical, and knowledgeable writer who was placed in a position where he had access to information on fairly high level command decisions. Yet while his journal is focused on the military aspects of the war, he includes a number of brief personal sketches of officers and soldiers, and vignettes of life in the army, ranging from accounts of Union soldiers bolstered in their courage by whiskey, to the courage of an officer's wife stopping a deserter and the Knights of the Golden Circle surfacing in Pennsylvania during the Confederate invasion.

The remainder of the collection includes three Civil War-date letters relating to Isaac Seymour, one written from Camp Bienville near Manassas, Va. (1861 September 2), one from the Shenandoah River (1862 May 2), and the third a letter relaying news of Seymour's death at Gaines Mills. The letter of May 1862 is a powerful, despairing one, and includes Isaac Seymour's thoughts on the Confederate loss of New Orleans and severe criticism for Jefferson Davis, a "man of small caliber, with mind perhaps enough, but without those qualities which go to make up the great and good man." At this moment, Seymour reported that he was disappointed in the quality of his officers, and regretted that he had not resigned his commission upon his son's enlistment, and further, he felt that the Confederacy was being held together only tenuously, due solely to the "the righteousness of our cause, and the innate, deep rooted mendicable hatred to the Yankee race." The remainder of the correspondence consists primarily of documents, but includes an interesting Seminole War letter of Isaac to Eulalia Whitlock and a letter from "Sister Régis" to Isaac, as editor of the New Orleans Bulletin, begging the aid of the press on behalf of the Female Orphan Asylum.


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.