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Amos E. Stearns memoir, 1864-1865

82 pages

Amos Stearns, who enlisted in the 25th Massachusetts Infantry during the Civil War, was held as a prisoner of war by the Confederates from May 1864 to March 1865. His account of his Civil War service and imprisonment, entitled Life in Rebel Prisons, offers insight into his experiences and the ways in which the experiences of war were recrafted in the minds of veterans as the years passed.

Amos E. Stearns's account of his Civil War service and imprisonment, entitled Life in Rebel Prisons, is remarkably free of visible animosity towards his Rebel captors and is therefore a rather unusual document. Beginning with his capture at Drewry's Bluff and ending with his release, Stearns depicts his captivity as part of a harsh reality, but without attributing cruel intentions to anyone: even Henry Wirz, the infamous commandant at Andersonville, receives relatively favorable treatment. Since the narrative was written following the war (published in 1887 as Narrative of Amos E. Stearns, A Prisoner at Andersonville), time may have softened Stearns's opinions of the Confederates, or it may be that he was simply more empathetic or more forgiving.

Stearns's published diary, which probably provides the original source material for this narrative, provides a more downhearted sense of the despair and hardships suffered during imprisonment. Together, the two volumes provide a balanced record of Stearns' experiences, offering insight as well into the ways in which the experiences of war were recrafted in the minds of veterans as the years passed.


Doctor Tarbell and Mary Conant papers, 1864-1881 (majority within 1864-1865)

113 items

This collection consists of 113 letters, written primarily between Union soldier Doctor Tarbell and his fiancée, and later, wife, Mary Lucy Conant. Doctor served as a Sergeant in New York's 32nd Infantry, Co. A, and as a Lieutenant, Captain, and Brevet Major in the Commissary Regiment, U.S. Volunteers.

The Doctor Tarbell and Mary Conant papers are comprised of 112 letters, written primarily between Union soldier Doctor Tarbell and his fiancée (and later wife), Mary Lucy Conant, and one genealogical document. Doctor served as a sergeant in the New York 32nd Infantry, Co. A, and as a lieutenant, captain, and brevet major in the U.S. Volunteers. The collection covers Doctor’s war-time service in the Union Army and some of his post-war career. The Civil War letters form a remarkably dense series that highlights the intimate relationship of Tarbell and his fiancée Mary. The collection contains 35 letters from Doctor to Mary, and 46 letters from Mary to Doctor, mainly during 1864 and 1865. Additionally, Doctor wrote one letter to his parents T. B. and Lydia Tarbell, and received two letters from them and two from his siblings. The remaining 29 letters are either from relatives of Mary or they pertain to post-war activities of the Tarbells.

Both Tarbell and his fiancée wrote in an educated and literary style; their letters reveal an affectionate relationship. Between January and February 1864, both Tarbell and Conant wrote almost exclusively about their relationship. However, as the Army of the Potomac moved south, both writers began to focus more on the progress of the war and to assume a more fervently patriotic tone. Many of Mary's letters contain political asides ("Does the Army weary of Gen. Meade, or is it politicians & aspirants that wish to oust him?" March 13, 1864); references to life at home during wartime; and several extended lyrical passages and pro-Union sentiments. Tarbell's responses, which were also substantive and descriptive, often referred to military matters, his work as a commissary, and army morale.

At times, Tarbell's patriotism and pride in his commission shine through, as during his company's inspection by General Ulysses S. Grant (April 18, 1864). Tarbell described the journey down to Richmond, his regiment's movements, what he knew of the progress of the war, the actions of the 6th Cavalry Corps, and his encounters with southern civilians. He wrote to both Mary and his parents from Danville Military Prison, expressing his hopes that an exchange of officers was imminent (October 22, 1864, and November 20, 1864). After his release, he recounted the parades in Washington, D.C. following the ending of the war, and the review of General Sherman’s Army (May 25, 1865). On July 28, 1865, he mentioned his promotion to brevet major.

The 5 letters written to Mary during Tarbell's imprisonment are filled with sympathy and encouragement, along with family news. In a letter from Mary's young niece, Hattie Carpenter, she described the return of soldiers to Iowa (January 15, 1865). Mary A. E. Wages wrote to Miss Hardy requesting funds to establish a freedman's high school in Richmond: "The black people of Richmond are the only loyal people in the whole city...They not only need help, but are worthy objects of it" (Nov. 18, 1866).

The 13 letters from 1881 suggest that the Tarbells were in some unspecified financial difficulty, and that Doctor had been employed as a typewriter agent. The remaining 10 letters were written by Tarbell or Conant relatives and friends.

This collection also contains one genealogical document that lists the birth and marriage dates for members of the Conant and Tarbell families (1793-1884). Included is a list of Doctor and Mary Tarbell's children. This document is undated and unattributed.


Edward Barker journals, 1855, 1865

296 pages (2 volumes)

Edward Barker's journals include documentation of Mr. Barker's 1855 emigration from England to America and his later Civil War service as chaplain in the 40th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.

Barker's Civil War diary contains a unique record of the events leading up to the fall of Richmond. It is written, interestingly enough, in a ledger book taken from the Confederate Provost Marshal's office in Fredericksburg when the 40th Massachusetts occupied that town. The first six pages of the ledger contain brief medical records (little more than notes) on Confederate soldiers, apparently kept by a Confederate surgeon at Fredericksburg in February, 1865.

As a Chaplain, drawing comparatively high pay and being freed from many of the routine duties of other soldiers, Barker had far more opportunities to observe the area around Richmond and to visit different parts of Richmond than the average soldier. Barker's curiosity led him to visit several of the better-known sights, including Chimborazo Hospital, Hollywood Cemetery, the prison, and the area of town where the "F.F.V.'s" lived. Most interestingly, he often took the opportunity to speak with local inhabitants, both Union sympathizers and die-hard Confederates, other clergymen, and physicians. Barker writes clearly, intelligently, and with insight about the end of the war, and he provides vivid accounts of the first days of Union occupation in Richmond. The diary also includes a particularly valuable account of Fredericksburg when occupied by Union forces in February, 1865.

The diary that Barker kept during his passage from England to America in 1855 contains daily accounts of his activities from the first of the year through the time of his sea voyage and arrival in Monson. A few entries, most notably those at the beginning of the diary, during the days surrounding his departure, and those written immediately preceding and upon his arrival in Boston are very full, and contain unusually detailed accounts of the emotions and experiences of a young man emigrating to America for economic betterment, who is forced, albeit temporarily, to leave most of his family behind. Like his Civil War diary, it is marked with intelligent, though occasionally overly moralistic observations. Included at the end of the diary are 18 poems written by Barker during the voyage on various topics, including freedom in a slave-holding society, the ocean, his family, and emigration.


George Ballantine collection, 1865

9 items

The George Ballantine collection contains 8 letters that Ballantine wrote to his brother, William A. Ballantine, in 1865, as well as 1 letter by an officer in Ballantine's regiment. The letters concern Ballantine's internment in Libby Prison and his subsequent imprisonment by the Union Army for unspecified reasons.

The George Ballantine collection contains 8 letters that Ballantine wrote to his brother, William A. Ballantine, in 1865, as well as 1 letter by an officer in Ballantine's regiment. The letters concern Ballantine's internment in Libby Prison and his subsequent imprisonment by the Union Army for reasons unknown. One broadside is also present.

George Ballantine wrote 8 letters from June-November 1865, while attempting to muster out of the Union Army following his lengthy imprisonment. He discussed his detention by the Union Army and his ongoing efforts to clear his name. Ballatine often mentioned the legal aspects of his case, which he believed put him in double jeopardy. In his letter of June 10, 1865, he asked William to write to the commanding general on his behalf and included a brief history of his imprisonment, suggesting that his arrest related to an escape from Libby Prison; he did not provide further details about the specific charges against him. Throughout the summer, he tried to return to his regiment and muster out, despite the fact that his term of service had expired the previous October. As of November 4, 1865, Ballatine was at Richmond, where he anticipated being mustered out within the week. The collection includes a letter from a Union Army major regarding George's case, as well as a printed memorial broadside for members of the 3rd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery Regiment, Battery F.


Horatio Noyes collection, 1838, 1862-1880

7 items

The Horatio Noyes collection is made up of letters and essays pertaining to Louisiana sugar plantations, life on the Wyoming frontier, travels through the South, the history of astronomy, and other subjects.

The Horatio Noyes collection is made up of 5 letters (28 pages) and 2 essays (70 pages). Noyes wrote a detailed letter to his son Charles in December 1871 about his travels in rural Louisiana, including his impressions of riverboat steamers and sugar plantations. A later draft (unsigned) describes the author's travels in Virginia and North Carolina, with a detailed description of Richmond and observations about Southern culture. Two unsigned letters from late 1879 and early 1880 describe a soldier's life on the Wyoming frontier, with Horatio Noyes's requests for the letters to be proofed and returned to him. Two lengthy essays concern the history of astronomy and contemporary astronomical knowledge, particularly about the Solar System. See the Detailed Box and Folder Listing for more information.


James Forsyth papers, 1851-1881

0.25 linear feet

The James Forsyth papers contain letters, primarily from Forsyth's colleagues in the military during and after the Civil War. Items include an important series of letters between Forsyth and Philip H. Sheridan, in which they discuss their political and military opinions.

The James Forsyth papers (61 items) contain 47 letters and documents, primarily from Forsyth's colleagues in the military; 1 copy of a diary and 2 eye-witness accounts of military engagements; and 6 printed items and ephemera.

Eight letters relate to the Civil War, including an important series of items between Forsyth and Sheridan. Twenty-one items date from after the war (1866-1868) and provide information about Washington and military politics, including letters from Sheridan and George Armstrong Custer. Twelve letters were written while Forsyth accompanied Sheridan to Europe as an aide-de-camp, including a telegraph from Otto von Bismarck, which is a brief telegram in German to Sheridan.

The Diary and Personal Accounts series contains material from Europe including an incomplete eyewitness account of the Battle of Sedan (September 1, 1870); an incomplete account of the surrender of Napoleon III after the Battle of Sedan (recounting September 2, 1870, but written in 1881); and a 68-page diary of his observation of the Franco-Prussian War from German lines, including the Battle of Sedan in 1870.

The Printed items include a West Point Roll of the Cadets for the year 1846, lists of Fourth Class members in 1846 and 1852, and an Official Army Register for September 1861. Ephemera include an official bridge and ferry pass (1864), Forsyth's 1870 passport, and a complementary Union Pacific Railroad pass to board a special train bringing the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia and party from Omaha to McPherson Station in Nebraska, for a "Grand Buffalo Hunt," under direction of Lieutenant General P. H. Sheridan.


James G. Derrickson diary, 1864-1865

1 Volume

This volume consists of a serialized newspaper reprint of James G. Derrickson's Civil War diary concerning his time as a prisoner of war in the south. He wrote about food, shelter, sickness, morale, rumors, prayer meetings and sermons, and treatment by the Rebels.

This volume consists of a serialized newspaper reprint of James G. Derrickson's Civil War diary. The series is presented by Chauncey K. Buchanan, Derrickson's nephew, in the newspaper The Argus. The article is entitled "Diary During My Imprisonment in Dixie." The diary is divided into nine installments, and covers the period from June 22, 1864, to June 22, 1865. The entries describe Derrickson's daily experiences as a prisoner of war in the south; he reports on food, shelter, sickness, morale, rumors, prayer meetings and sermons, and treatment by the Rebels. As he is moved from prison to prison, he describes the differences among the facilities. Derrickson, an officer, can send and receive mail and has access to newspapers, allowing him to follow and comment on the war from prison.


Lewis Carlisle Mead typescripts, 1862-1910s

1 volume

This collection is made up of typescripts and copies related to Lewis C. Mead's service in the 22nd Michigan Infantry Regiment, Company I, during the Civil War, including his time as a prisoner of war. He wrote letters home while serving in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia, and during his imprisonment in Libby Prison and other Confederate prisoner-of-war camps.

This volume (177 pages) contains typescripts and copies related to Lewis C. Mead's service in the 22nd Michigan Infantry Regiment, Company I, during the Civil War. The collection includes an introduction by Mead's youngest daughter.

Pages 1-148 largely consist of letters that Mead wrote to his parents and sister during his military service. He described camp life, marches, and scenery in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia (particularly in and around Lexington, where the regiment was stationed for much of the winter of 1862-1863). He mentioned Lexington's African American population, his African-American servant in Nashville (shared with his tent mates), promotions and officer elections within his company and regiment, executions of deserters, and a skirmish with Confederate forces. From October 1863 to November 1864, he wrote from Libby Prison and other Confederate prisoner-of-war camps. Mead discussed his health and his possible release or exchange. By the time he resumed his correspondence in March 1865, he had returned to the regiment. He remained with the unit until at least May 1865.

A small number of letters by other writers include an early order by J. W. Trueman authorizing Mead to raise a company for a regiment of lancers (October 3, 1861) and several written to the Mead family during the war. E. S. Woodman, an acquaintance, and other soldiers provided news about Lewis C. Mead's capture and imprisonment in October 1864. Postwar correspondence includes family letters and a letter from H. S. Dean to Lewis C. Mead regarding a visit to the Chickamauga battlefield by Michigan veterans (October 25, 1893).

The letters are followed by Mead's ca. 1886 reminiscences of his Civil War service, including his experiences during the Battle of Chickamauga and his subsequent imprisonment (pp. 149-164); a speech by Mead about the 22nd Michigan Infantry Regiment's Civil War service (pp. 165-172); and additional reminiscences written after a 50th anniversary visit to the Chickamauga battlefield, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and other locations related to Mead's wartime experiences (pp. 173-177).

The volume contains a photocopy of a newspaper obituary for Lewis C. Mead, published in The Daily Press. Photocopied photographs include Lewis C. Mead around the time of his enlistment and as an older adult; "Johnny Clem," a 12-year-old soldier who was embedded with Mead's regiment (pictured in uniform holding a gun); James Arthur Gallery wearing Mead's dress uniform; and Owen Carlisle Frost in a World War I-era army uniform.

A typescript copy of a letter by William Hayden Smith regarding his experiences with the 1st Michigan Infantry Regiment around the time of Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox is pasted into the volume's back cover (April 9, 1865).


Litchfield-French papers, 1862-1918 (majority within 1862-1899)

1 linear foot

The Litchfield-French papers contain correspondence and documents related to the Civil War service of Allyne C. Litchfield and the Spanish-American War participation of his Litchfield's son-in-law, Roy A. French.

The Litchfield-French papers consist of 414 items ranging in date from February 15, 1862, to 1918, though the bulk of the collection lies between 1862 and 1899. The collection includes 335 letters, 60 documents, and several clippings, photographs, and receipts. Approximately 280 of the letters cover the period of Allyne Litchfield's Civil War service, including letters from Litchfield to his wife, letters among and between the Litchfield and Carver families (especially Lysander Carver and Susan Carver), and other correspondence pertaining to Allyne Litchfield. Roy French either wrote or received around 65 of the letters, primarily during the 1890s.

Between early 1863 and Litchfield's capture in March 1864, he wrote near-daily letters to his wife, describing movements, battles, and camp-life, and expressing his love for her. On May 9, 1863, he described the exhaustion of cavalry forces, led by George Stoneman, to whom the 7th Michigan sent reinforcements: "you can imagine perhaps the condition of men and horses after being saddled and ridding [sic] for 7 days. One can see the bare bones on the backs of some of them." His letters of July 6 and 7, 1863, are almost entirely devoted to his experiences at Gettysburg, and contain his accounts of his horse falling on him after it was shot in battle, and his regiment's extremely heavy losses. At times, Litchfield's correspondence also reveals his managerial side, as in a letter from Michigan Governor Austin Blair, recounting an anonymous complaint about "Col. Man" (almost certainly Col. William D. Mann) and requesting Litchfield's perspective on the matter (June 18, 1863). Also of interest is a letter of December 19, 1863, in which Litchfield detailed having dinner with 24-year old George Armstrong Custer and expressed his admiration for him.

After his capture, Litchfield wrote infrequently; however, ,in his letter of March 16, 1864, he described his conditions: "I have been kept in an 8x12 feet cell… 4 negro soldiers with us." More prevalent are letters to Susan Litchfield from family members, expressing support for her and suggesting solace in religion. The few letters to his wife, Litchfield generally communicated an optimistic attitude and gratitude for his good health, as in his letter of November 4, 1865, from prison in Columbia, South Carolina: "I have shelter, still retain my old overcoat and have plenty of blankets, which I am sorry to say is not the case with most of the officers."

Very little correspondence exists between 1865 and 1893. In the latter year, Roy A. French began writing a series of letters to his relatives, which became more frequent when he joined the military. In 1898, he commenced writing to his future wife, Almira "Myra" French (daughter of Allyne and Susan French). He described "monotonous" camp life at Camp Townsend in Peekskill, New York (July 15, 1898), his voyage to Puerto Rico on the Chester, during which he was very seasick, and his observations of Ponce, Puerto Rico, including the people, their modes of transportation, and the wild fruits that he saw (July 15, 1898).

On September 25, 1898, he wrote from "Camp Starvation" ("that is what the regulars call this camp because we are fed so poorly"). He reported prolonged health problems, from which he would die in 1911.

The 60 documents and miscellaneous items include newspaper clippings, military and family documents (such as a will, a passport, and a wedding invitation), a wallet, and a metal nameplate. Of particular interest is a manuscript copy of a letter of recommendation for Litchfield by George A. Custer. The copy is dated February 24, 1881. Other items document Litchfield's service in India to some extent.


McCreery-Fenton Family papers, 1818-1948 (majority within 1860-1940)

12 linear feet (in 13 boxes) — 1 oversize folder

The McCreery and Fenton families were prominent Genesee county, Michigan residents some of whose members distinguished themselves in local and state government, as soldiers during the Civil War, and in the United States diplomatic service. Papers include diaries, correspondence and other material relating to the Civil War, local and state politics and aspects of diplomatic service in Central and South America.

The McCreery-Fenton family collection documents the individual careers of family members who served their community and their nation in a variety of roles. Through correspondence, diaries and other materials, the researcher will find information pertaining to the Civil War, to the history of Flint and Fenton in Genesee County, Michigan, and to facets of America's diplomatic relations with some of the countries of Central and South America. Arranged by name of the three principal family members represented in the collection - William M. Fenton, William B. McCreery, and Fenton R. McCreery, the papers also include series of general family materials, business records, and photographs.