The Leach family papers are primarily comprised of the Civil War correspondence of the three Leach brothers to their sister in Cranston, Rhode Island. Joseph and Edwin Leach served in the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, and Leander Leach, in the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry.
The collection consists of 100 letters, spanning 1857-1865. The most frequent writer was Edwin Leach, who contributed 64 letters, while Joseph wrote 19, and Leander wrote 7. Edwin's letters cover 1861 through 1864, and he wrote all but three to his sister, Anna. Edwin's letter from July 13, 1862, also includes a note from Anna to their brother, Joseph, as she forwarded the letter. Edwin's letters described camp life, fighting, and the hardships of war, such as cold weather, mud, and boils. On April 26, 1862, he wrote a letter describing the siege of Yorktown and noted, "you wanded [sic] to know if I was friten when we was in the fight I was in the first of it but when I had ben in there a little while I dind care … " Edwin also described the pervasive illness in the camps: "the guys is gitting sick we havd got men enough to work the Battery" (May 31, 1862).
Joseph's letters, also written primarily to Anna Leach, span 1861-1862 and contain rich details about camp life, movements of the battery, and battles. On August 26, 1861, he wrote a description of Washington, D.C., in wartime: "the streets is all dirt and hogs cows and every thing else runging around in the streets." He also expressed cynicism about payment: "I don't think that they will pay us untill we go into a battle and get some of us killed of and then they will not have so many to pay." In addition, he mentioned an axe fight between men and officers (November 7, 1861), gave his negative opinion of General Charles Pomeroy Stone's decisions at the battle of Ball's Bluff (February 12, 1862), and described the respiratory illness that led to his medical discharge in 1862 (March 12, 1862).
Leander entered the war in 1864, when he was only around sixteen years old. His letters include family news, his picket and cooking duties, and briefly recount a skirmish at Petersburg, Virginia (March 28, 1865). Leander wrote to both his brother Edwin, and his sister Anna.
Friends and relatives wrote an additional 11 letters to Anna, including two letters by Nathan B. Searle, of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. These letters shed light on Anna's friendships and provide some additional details concerning the Leach family.