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Collection

George T. and Harriet Stevens papers, 1850-1920

5.5 linear feet

The collection consists of correspondence, primarily between George T. Stevens and Harriet W. Stevens of Essex County, New York , as well as documents, writings, a scrapbook, printed materials, and realia reflecting the Civil War service of surgeon George T. Stevens of the 77th Regiment N.Y. Volunteers, Harriet W. Stevens' experiences on the home front, and George T. Stevens' post-Civil War medical career in Albany and New York City, New York.

The collection consists of correspondence, primarily between George T. Stevens and Harriet W. Stevens of Essex County, New York, as well as documents, writings, a scrapbook, printed materials, and realia reflecting the Civil War service of surgeon George T. Stevens of the 77th Regiment N.Y. Volunteers, Harriet W. Stevens' experiences on the home front, and George T. Stevens' post-Civil War medical career in Albany and New York City, New York.

The Correspondence Series is divided into two sub-series. The Chronological Correspondence Sub-Series spans from 1859 to 1866 with over 560 letters. While a few other correspondents are represented, the bulk of this series reflects both sides of the correspondence between George T. Stevens and Harriet ("Hattie") W. Stevens. Beginning with their courtship in 1859, the letters reflect George's early efforts to set up medical practice in Keeseville, New York, in 1861, his entry into the army, and their relationship and experiences throughout his service during the Civil War.

George's letters give a detailed glimpse into the practices of Civil War surgeons. Beginning with his efforts to secure an appointment as an Assistant Surgeon and the internal jockeying for position that caused infighting, George's letters to Hattie provide insight into the interpersonal conflicts and partnerships that undergirded his experience as an officer. Miscommunications about a medical furlough he took from May to October 1862 due to a case of typhoid fever led to his dismissal, and George's letters speak frankly about his efforts to reenlist as well as his frustrations with barriers to accomplishing this goal. Writing reports, securing transportation and goods, and tending to administrative details also pepper George's correspondence, shedding light on the clerical demands on his time.

George wrote frequently of daily life and tasks in camp, noting food, music and reading, camaraderie, mud, weather, camp health, and more. His detailed descriptions of camp life and activity also provide glimpses of others, including those who worked for him, like Dall Wadhams, who entered the army with him and stayed until March 1862, and James Mages, a young German-American, who worked for George from September 1863 to around June 1864 when he was taken prisoner of war.

George's commentary on camp life also at times reflects information about African Americans' experiences and white soldiers' opinions on race, slavery, and emancipation. Example references include:

  • African American workers (March 12, 1863; September 6, 1863; November 23, 1863; December 20, 1863; June 25, 1864)
  • "Contrabands" and refugees (March 25, 1862; June 20, 1863; August 2, 1863; October 17, 1863)
  • African American residents in Virginia who George encountered during marches (April 9, 1862; April 13, 1862; April 25, 1862)
  • Rumors of arson in Charleston (December 19, 1861)
  • Emancipation Proclamation (January 3, 1863; January 7, 1863)
  • African American soldiers (June 27, 1864)
  • Violence perpetrated against African American soldiers at Plymouth and Fort Pillow (April 26, 1864; May 3, 1864)

George T. Stevens' letters also reflect on marching conditions, as well as details about setting up hospitals and tending to the sick and wounded. Letters describing battles reflect not only on military movements and engagements but also on the fieldwork undertaken by surgeons, amputations in particular, and the dangers to which they were exposed. He commented on medicine, transport of the wounded, illness, and death. For much of May 1864, he was stationed in Fredericksburg tending to soldiers wounded during the Overland Campaign, before returning to his regiment late in the month, and his letters reflect this work.

In addition to passing references to additional battles, the military engagements or their aftermath that George T. Stevens' letters reflect on include:

  • Siege of Yorktown and Battle of Lee's Mill (April 1862)
  • Battle of Williamsburg (May 1862)
  • Chancellorsville Campaign and Second Battle of Fredericksburg (April and May 1863)
  • Battle of Franklin's Crossing (June 1863)
  • Battle of Gettysburg (July 1863)
  • Bristoe Campaign (October 1863)
  • Battle of Rappahannock Station (November 1863)
  • Battle of Mine Run (December 1863)
  • Battle of the Wilderness (May 1864)
  • Battle of Spotsylvania Court House (May 1864)
  • Battle of Cold Harbor (June 1864)
  • Siege of Petersburg (June 1864)
  • Shenandoah Valley Campaign (August 1864)
  • Third Battle of Winchester (September 1864)
  • Battle of Fisher's Hill (September 1864)

George and Harriet discussed their own health in good detail. George experienced a difficult bout of typhoid fever beginning in May 1862 and another illness in April 1864, which brought Harriet to tend to him during his recoveries. George and Harriet both commented on military and political events. Harriet was an avid reader of the news, tracking the 77th Regiment's movements and engagements. George commented several times that she was better informed than he was. "The rumors you have in regard to our moving are only the reports of the soldiers in camp who know as much of our future movements as they do of the next arctic expedition in search of Sir John Franklin," he wrote on January 24, 1862. Both were candid in their criticisms of military leaders.

As his regiment was periodically stationed near Washington, D.C., including for several months in late 1861 and early 1862, George's letters contain commentary about conditions in the city. Harriet's occasional trips to visit George in camp or to tend to him during bouts of illness also found her staying in D.C. She remained in the city hoping to visit George while the Battle of Gettysburg was being fought. Her letters during these times provide additional insight into how women and camp followers experienced D.C. and how residents responded to war news.

Harriet's letters written while she was staying with family at Wadham's Mills and Crown Point provide information about the home front. Discussions of finances, family news, anxiety for George's wellbeing, military events, health, music and reading, and more pepper her letters. As she and George wrote each other frequently, both sides of their conversation are often represented, showing the back-and-forth dialog that the couple sustained throughout the war. Notes written on envelopes by Harriet W. Stevens in later years identify letters that were of interest to her or provide clarifying information, hinting at George and Harriet's ongoing consultation of their wartime correspondence. George and Harriet's interest in botany is also well represented in the series. They discussed plants and sent each other pressed flowers and leaves.

Frances ("Frankie") Wadhams Davenport Ormsbee is also well reflected in the series. While she contributed only a small handful of letters, George T. and Harriet Stevens commented regularly on her and her husband George Davenport, beginning with a reference to their courtship in a letter from May 13, 1859. George T. Stevens discussed visits with George Davenport while they were both in active service, as well as with Frances while she was visiting him in camp. Letters referencing Frances, as well as George's own letters detailing his preparations for Harriet to visit him in camp, provide insight into officers' wives' experiences staying in the military encampments. Upon George Davenport's death at the Battle of the Wilderness, George T. Stevens wrote home with news he had about the nature of his death and burial, and corresponded with Harriet and Frances as they worked to recover his body and process their grief.

Several letters from other members of the Stevens and Wadhams families are also present. Additionally, as Wadham's Mills was located near the Canadian and Vermont borders, the series at times reflects on affairs in those regions. For example, Harriet W. Stevens' letter from December 19, 1861, states, "...the most prominent business men in Canada were drilling men three times a week. Frankie & I think that if we go to war with England, we shall just put on pants & go to." She also wrote of news regarding St. Albans Raid (October 20, 1864; October 23, 1864; October 30, 1864; November 2, 1864).

Correspondence from after George's service is far less frequent. It includes a letter from a former patient whose arm he saved during the war (February 19, 1865), a few letters from other members of the 77th Regiment, and material relating to the Stevens's move to Albany. One item written by James McKean on May 3-June 8, 1865, outlines reactions to news of the Civil War in Honduras, including references to an African American man and young indigenous Honduran boy.

George T. Stevens included sketches and drawings in some of his letters to Harriet. Letters that include pen-and-ink illustrations are listed below:

  • February 20, 1861: wedding ring designs
  • December 17, 1861: George T. Stevens' furnishings at the Regimental Head Quarters
  • December 29, 1861: decorated encampment of the Vermont 4th
  • January 8, 1862: sketch of Fredericksburg and vicinity
  • January 12, 1862: map of cross-roads where he got lost in D.C.
  • January 21, 1862: portrait of Dall Wadhams to illustrate weight loss
  • January 29, 1862: sketch of his quarters
  • February 2, 1862: possum
  • February 5, 1862: sketch map of Washington and Georgetown area
  • February 9, 1862: hospital wards
  • December 19, 1862: principal building of the Soldiers' Home in Virginia; chain bridge that slowed their march
  • March 11, 1862: makeshift tent while on march near Fairfax Courthouse
  • March 18, 1862: camp scene with makeshift tent near Alexandria
  • March 29, 1862: agricultural tools used by African Americans; wooden gun with hog's head placed in the muzzle
  • April 3, 1862: sketch map of march route in Virginia
  • April 9, 1862: musical notations and sketch of buildings
  • April 25, 1862: birds-eye-view of three farms and sketch of a farmhouse's steps and door
  • April 25, 1862: sketch of three farms
  • November 18, 1862: pattern for chevrons and illustration of where they will be attached to sleeves
  • November 27, 1862: steaming plum pudding served at Thanksgiving
  • December 25, 1862: camp for the 77th Regiment decorated for Christmas
  • February 24, 1863: snowball fight in camp
  • April 9, 1863: sketch of military insignia on the hat worn by a young girl who accompanied Abraham Lincoln on a review of the army
  • October 17, 1863: sketch map of troop positions
  • September 8, 1864: traced floral patterns

The Bundled Correspondence Sub-Series reflects the original bundling of these sub-sets of letters, with each then arranged chronologically. One bundle consists of nine letters and documents from ca. 1859-1860, as well as undated items, relating to Miss Slater's School for Young Ladies in Lansingburgh, New York. The other bundle includes six letters from 1868 relating to resolving an incident when George T. Stevens received double payment while in the service in 1864.

The Documents Series is divided into four sub-series. The Chronological Documents Sub-Series consists of eleven items ranging in date from 1856 to 1864, including Castleton Medical College admission tickets; a subscription receipt toFlag of Our Union ; a partially printed notebook listing voters in the town of Keene in 1858; a small leather wallet containing notes documenting George and Harriet's travels in 1861, money received, and letters; an 1864 document from the Office of the Chief Medical Officer relieving Stevens of duty; General Orders 222 from 1864; a partial copy of the regiment's participation in military campaigns from May to July 1864; undated GAR Roster; and an undated list of three people, "not paid."

The bundled documents sub-series represent the original bundling of the documents as they arrived at the Clements, but each grouping was then arranged chronologically. The Bundled Military Documents Sub-Series consists of:

  • Five Civil War Passes, 1861-1862
  • Six Reports of Sick and Wounded, compiled by George T. Stevens, December 1861- May 1862
  • Approximately 66 documents relating to "Monthly Reports of Hospital Supplies &c," February 1863- March 1865
  • Seven lists of casualties and enlisted men, primarily for the 77th Regiment, 1864-1865

The Bundled G.A.R. Documents Sub-Series consists of the following bundles:

  • "Papers relating to Soldiers & Sailors Union," with three petitions, 1866-1867, to charter subordinate unions in Eastchester, Utica, and Newburgh, New York, respectively, and one letter stating why the Yonkers Soldiers' and Sailors' Union would not be represented in a convention. A note written by Harriet W. Stevens in 1920 states that the Soldiers' and Sailors' Union merged into the Society of the G.A.R. in George T. Stevens' Albany office in 1867.
  • "Papers relating to the formation of the society of the Grand Army of the Republic of the state of New York," with approximately 23 documents dating between December 1866 and December 1867. These include general orders and circulars from the Headquarters Department of New York as well as undated petitions to apply for a charter for a post of the G.A.R. All of the petitions are blank, except one with a single signature.
  • "Special Orders [GAR], 1867," with 11 documents, written by Frank J. Bramhall or George T. Stevens regarding G.A.R. procedures
  • "1867," with approximately 25 documents dating between September 1866 and November 1867, many relating to G.A.R. charters, membership applications, reports and rosters, and other business.

The Miscellaneous Bundled Documents Sub-Series consists of two rolled bundles:

  • 8 appointments, certificates, and diplomas for George T. Stevens, 1864-1881, including his Army appointments to Assistant Surgeon and Surgeon, Army discharge, diploma from Castleton Medical College, certificate for his honorary degree from Union College, as well as several certificates for medical societies and the military organizations
  • 3 genealogical documents, including a blank genealogical form, "Ancestral Chart, 1879;" a copy of the chart filled out for Charles Wadhams Stevens' ancestry; and a small version of the Charles Wadhams Stevens genealogy.

The Writings Series includes:

  • George T. Stevens manuscript drafts of autobiographical writings. Dated notes range from 1910 to 1914. Sections include: Childhood; The School at Chazy; Elizabethtown; Personal Reminiscences: My First Wage Earning; My First Engagement as Schoolmaster; School at Keeseville; My First Field of Practice; [Leaving Keeseville and Entering the Army]; My Time as a Soldier; Notes of the Life in the Army; Williamsburgh; Albany Beginnings of Botanical Experiences; The Nature Club; [A Trip to Europe].
  • George T. Stevens biography, a brief two-page manuscript outlining his Civil War service and professional and academic achievements, particularly in relation to ophthalmology.
  • George T. Stevens typed reply to a G.A.R. questionnaire with manuscript additions, providing information about his military service and post-war career. Includes additional text, "Beginnings of the Grand Army of the Republic in the State of New York."
  • Harriet W. Stevens, "Some War Time Recollections by the Wife of an Army Surgeon," a 42-page typed draft with manuscript corrections of a paper she read before the National Society of New England Women. Particular attention is paid to the Peninsular Campaign of 1861, her visits with George T. Stevens in camp in 1863, stays in Washington, D.C., and tending to George during his bouts of illness. A shorter, 13-page copy is also present.
  • Frances Davenport Ormsbee, "A War Reminiscence," a 12-page typescript that relates George Davenport's service, her visits with him during the war, his death, and efforts to locate his grave and recover his body. Also includes a photocopy of a transcribed letter from June 10, 1865, from Frances describing the retrieval of George Davenport and Captain Ormsbee's bodies.
  • "Army Papers Written by Members of the Sixth Corps," with three different unattributed and undated items: "June 20th Fight at Mechanicsville," 2 pages, and two partial military recollections, 4 pages and 16 pages respectively.

The Scrapbook Series consists of one volume with material primarily relating to George T. Stevens' post-Civil War life and career tipped or pasted in. Dated items range from 1861 to 1918. Material relates to his work with the Albany Medical College, Nature Club of Albany, the Albany Institute and its Field Meetings, the Grand Army of the Republic, military reunions, the Troy Scientific Association, the Soldiers and Sailors Union, and some references to his publications. Some material relates to his medical career, primarily ephemera from medical associations, lectures, and notices of his awards and achievements. Two Civil War-era items include an 1861 newspaper clipping from Keeseville announcing George T. Stevens' appointment in the Army and an 1861 printed circular calling to organize a Bemis Heights Battalion. Only a handful of items relate to Harriet W. Stevens and their social life. Formats include newspaper clippings, postcards, disbound pages, fliers, programs, advertisements, business or calling cards, and circulars, among others.

The Photographs Series features the following:

  • 10 cartes-de-visite of "Officers of the 77th Regt. NYS Vols." Named individuals include Winsor B. French, Henry J. Adams (of the 118th Infantry), David J. Caw, [Isaac D.] Clapp, Martin Lennon, and "Robert."
  • Approximately 12 photographs of George T. Stevens appear in a variety of formats, including cartes-de-visite, cabinet cards, studio portraits, a framed photo, among others. The tintypes, ambrotypes, and daguerreotypes are detailed separately below.
  • 10 photographs of Harriet W. Stevens dating from 1861 into her older age.
  • 15 photographs of Frances Virginia Stevens Ladd, ranging from when she was a baby through her older age. Dated items range from 1866 to 1922, and several show her wearing theatrical garb.
  • 5 photographs of Charles Wadhams Stevens, ranging from when he was a baby into his middle age. Dated items range from 1868 to 1880.
  • 2 photographs of Georgina Wadhams Stevens, one a tinted reproduction of a photo on a cabinet card, and another a cyanotype of an interior scene displaying a framed painted portrait of her, likely anteceding her death.
  • 3 photographs of George Trumbull Ladd.

In addition to the above, the Photographs Series also includes two tinted ambrotypes of George T. Stevens; one tinted tintype of George T. and Harriet W. Stevens with George and Frances Davenport; one tinted daguerreotype of Frances and George Davenport; and a ca. 1864 tintype of George T. Stevens in the field in Virginia, wearing his uniform while mounted on a horse, with his groom, Austin, standing with his mule.

The Printed Materials Series primarily consists of pamphlets dating from 1850 to 1915 and includes material relating to the Sons of Temperance, Castleton Medical College, the Independent Order of Good Templars, Masons, and an Ex-Soldiers' Handbook. One pamphlet includes George T. Stevens' address to the Survivors' Association of the 77th Regiment, "The First Fighting Campaign of the Seventy-Seventh N.Y.V." There are also 165 copies of the print, "The Chimneys - April 5, 1862. Drawing by George T. Stevens." Six books are located in the Clements Library's Book Division. Please see the list in the Additional Descriptive Data below for a complete list.

The Realia Series includes the following items:

  • Pair of white leather gloves, with note by Harriet W. Stevens: "These white kid gloves were G. T. Stevens worn when we were married."
  • George T. Stevens Civil War uniform items, including dark green silk surgeon's sash, white cotton gloves, blue shoulder strap, and golden hat ornament.
  • Pair of white cotton gloves, with note by Harriet W. Stevens, "worn by Chas. W. Stevens when he was a drummer boy at Albany Academy."
  • Pair of children's leather gloves and shoes. Note by Harriet W. Stevens suggests they belonged to Frances V. Stevens Ladd.
  • Pair of knitted white and blue socks with ribbon, in envelope labeled "These were Little Georgies socks," likely referring to Georgina Wadhams (1871-1882).
  • 1910 G.A.R. badge.