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Hacker Brothers papers, 1861-1988 (majority within 1861-1880)

0.75 linear feet

This collection consists primarily of letters that Rohloff and Philip Hacker wrote to their parents and siblings while serving in the 2nd and 5th Michigan Infantry Regiments during the Civil War. Also included are two of Rohloff Hacker's diaries, letters by additional Michigan soldiers and a female aid worker, and letters that William Hacker received from his brother Karl in Neustrelitz, Germany, from 1877-1880.

This collection consists of letters that Rohloff and Philip Hacker wrote while serving in the 2nd and 5th Michigan Infantry Regiments during the Civil War. The collection also includes two of Rohloff Hacker's diaries, letters by additional Michigan soldiers and a female aid worker, and letters that William Hacker received from his brother Karl in Neustrelitz, Germany, from 1877-1880.

Among the most valuable letters in the collection are Rohloff's written during the summer of 1861. These provide an excellent sense of life in the camps defending Washington, going beyond descriptions of the routine of camp life to discussions of morale, officers, and the preparedness of soldiers on both sides. Rohloff describes the equipment and uniforms issued to his Regiment -- late and in poor condition -- in great detail, and their involvement in skirmishes and in the 1st Battle of Bull Run. He displayed an unusual zeal in soldiering, remarking that he did not hesitate in firing at Confederate soldiers, even the first time, and making a number of caustic remarks about Confederate soldiers. The amusing rivalry he and Philip carried on through their correspondence with home over their regiments and relations with friends and women decreased after the First Battle of Bull Run, and seems to have ended altogether after the Peninsular Campaign, when both their moods turned darker and more serious. The brothers both wrote informative letters during the Peninsular Campaign, particularly during the siege of Yorktown, the Battle of Williamsburg, and the Seven Days' Battles. The letters describing the Battle of Fredericksburg are also absorbing, particularly Philip's account of his own wounding. Somehow, through their experiences, which included a number of disastrous defeats at the hand of the enemy, both brothers unwaveringly maintained their faith in their country and their religion.

Rohloff and Philip wrote clearly and succinctly, and both were sensitive to the larger issues of the conflict and to the effect of war on the participants and civilians. Both commented occasionally on strategy and the leadership of the Union Army. Philip's letters are somewhat more polished than Rohloff's. The majority of the brothers' letters were written to family members, with most addressed to their father and mother, William and Barbara Woll Hacker, their younger siblings, Serena and Theodore, or their sister and brother-in-law Augusta and Alpheus Macomber in various combinations. Rohloff also wrote more than 30 letters to his former employers, E.F. Albright and C. Thomson, or Mrs. Albright.

The collection contains letters of several other Michigan soldiers, most of who served with the Hackers, or were friends of the Hacker family from Brighton. Among these are four letters from Peter Smith (Co. G, 2nd Michigan), reminiscing about his friendship with Rohloff and describing visits to his grave; five from Newton J. Kirk (Co. E, 26th Michigan Infantry); four from Capt. John C. Boughton (Co. G, 2nd Michigan), two letters of Edward R. Bliss (4th Michigan Infantry), and six letters written in February and March, 1863, by W. H. Pratt, a Sergeant in the hospital in which Philip Hacker was dying (probably William H. Pratt, Co. E, 26th Michigan Infantry). Another group of additional correspondence consists of 16 letters that Julia Susan Wheelock wrote about her work for the Michigan Soldiers' Relief Association in Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia between 1863 and 1866. Wheelock is also mentioned in several of the soldier's letters. In 1870, Wheelock published a memoir of her war-time experiences, The Boys in White; the Experience of a Hospital Agent in and around Washington.

The collection also contains a group of 5 letters that Karl Hacker wrote to William Hacker, his brother, from Neustrelitz, Germany, between September 16, 1877, and February 12, 1880. The letters are written in German schrift. Hacker's correspondence concerns local news and events, including several festivals; changes in Neustrelitz and Germany since William left for the United States; and his work as a construction supervisor. He provided updates about his health, and also discussed news of family members and friends in the United States and Germany.

The collection also contains The Congregational Psalmist: A Collection of Psalm Tunes, three soldier's bibles, two belonging Rohloff C. Hacker and one from Alexander Reuben that also has Philip W. Hacker's name in it, a leather wallet with Philip Hacker and William A. Ferguson's name on it, and a sewn cloth case. Miscellaneous items such as newspaper clippings, stamps, hunting licenses, currency, 4 photographs, and photographic negatives are also included. A small selection of 20th century family correspondence about the Hacker brothers supplement the collection.


John Millis correspondence, 1877-1881

22 items

The 22 letters home of West Point Cadet John Millis are concentrated in his first two years at the United States Military Academy. To his mother and father, living on a farm in Wheatland Township, Michigan, Millis writes detailed accounts of his classes, his struggles to improve his academic standing, army drills and procedures, and events on campus, including the suicide of a classmate suffering from syphilis.

The 22 letters written by John Millis to his mother and father are rich with details of cadet life at West Point. He describes artillery drills, fencing lessons, horseback riding, meals, and his class schedule. John Millis is academically ambitious; a recurrent theme in the letters is his struggle to improve his class standing. He also discusses campus activities – a mild hazing incident (30 July 1877); "color-line entertainment" put on by first-class cadets (21 August 1878); an amateur theatrical (9 March 1879); and the graduation ceremony of 1878: "The graduates came down to dinner in citizens clothes, and most of them took leave of the Corps at the Mess Hall. Each one would call out 'attention!' swing his hat or cane, cry 'good bye boys!' 'God bless you!' or something of that kind, and go out of the great door and down the broad stone steps for the last time. And then every man would cheer and yell to the best of his ability….when a man who was well-liked went out, it seemed as though they would tear the roof off….Soldiers are not supposed to be very sentimental, but if you had been at the Mess Hall yesterday, you would have seen many eyes that were far from being dry." (14 June 1878)

In a letter of 21 August 1878, Millis relates the case of James Todd, a popular cadet who committed suicide. "He was without doubt the smartest man in the class, but he has suddenly come to a terrible end. He went to the Hospital just before examination last June, having sore was discovered that he had the most horrible and loathsome disease that is known, the Syphilis. He was kept in a small room by himself and no one was allowed to see him. The man who treated him could barely endure the sight and the smell. Fish was the last man of our class who saw him...He said that the man could hardly speak, and was 'just rotten.'" Todd left letters for his family and fellow cadets, and his clothes were found on the banks of the Hudson, but his body was never recovered.

Millis also mentions attending the trial of Fitz-John Porter, a Civil War general whose court-martial for disobeying orders at the Second Battle of Bull Run was overturned in 1879. (11 January 1879)


Nathan B. Webb journals, 1862-1864

1,165 pages (5 volumes)

The diaries of Nathan Webb include vivid descriptions of life in one of the most active Union cavalry regiments, the 1st Maine, during the Civil War. Webb's thoughtfulness, candor, and his insight into the minds of soldiers and civilians make his diary a rich resource for the study of the social and military history of the Civil War.

The strengths of Webb's diaries are his ability as a writer and his willingness to describe important incidents at great length. His descriptions range widely in content, but are always thoughtful, and he has a flawless aptitude for an anecdote. He seems particularly to have been interested in the attitudes of his fellow soldiers and of local civilians, particularly the women, but he comments extensively on daily life in the camps, strategy, officers, drilling, ethics in the army, and his feelings, positive and negative, towards those who remained in Maine. Webb's careful and detailed descriptions of every battle and skirmish in which he was involved include everything from vignettes relating an individual soldier's reactions, to specific information on the tactics and strategy of cavalry. But it is the incidents he records about day to day life that provide the greatest insight into the soldiers' minds, and Webb is both uncommonly detailed for a Civil War diarist and allows his personal opinions and perspective to dominate his descriptions. His description of Belle Isle is extraordinary in the intensity of detail and emotional impact.

These five volumes are copies from the original diaries, and were made by Webb in the late spring and summer of 1865. He notes that, with the exception of some additions made from memory to his descriptions of Libby and Belle Isle Prisons, he has copied the diary exactly as it appears in the original. Offering an interesting balance to the original, he includes occasional footnotes offering retrospective commentary on his own writing. For example, while in 1862 he wrote that the men were upset at the dismissal of McClellan, a footnote indicates that in 1865, Webb came to feel that the men had been deluded by McClellan's self-aggrandizing play for their affection. His later comments on his own vacillation while deciding whether to reenlist, on the opinions of the media and non-combatants regarding the war, and on his opinions of Meade and other leaders also include some revealing reflections.

The first fifty pages of volume 3 are severely damp-stained and written in faint ink, and in parts are very difficult to read. Included with the diaries are an 1878 receipt for the payment of poll tax in Boston and one issue and two supplements of the First Maine Bugle (Campaign II, call 3, 5 and 9), dated January and July, 1891, and July, 1892. The Bugle was the publication of the veterans' organization for the 1st Maine Cavalry. A war-time photograph of Webb was included in Tobie's regimental history.


United States. Army. 47th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment carte-de-visite album, [ca. 1861-1865]

1 volume

This volume contains carte-de-visite portraits of soldiers who served in the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment during the Civil War, additional loose photographs, and colored lithographs of Union generals.

This pocket album primarily relates to the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. The first four images are colored printed portraits of Winfield Scott, George McClellan, Fitz John Porter, and George Stoneman. An additional printed image of the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimack appears later in the volume. The bulk of the items are 31 cartes-de-visite with formal photographic portraits of soldiers in uniform. The few named soldiers all served in the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. Three loose photographs of William H. Gausler and two unidentified men (neither in military uniform) are laid into the back of the volume.