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Frederic S. Olmsted journal, 1863, 1889 (majority within 1863)

1 volume

Frederic Olmsted’s pocket journal contains brief, almost daily entries of his life in the Union Army from January 1, 1863, to September 5, 1863. During this time, he was assigned the task of overseeing slaves on several Louisiana sugar plantations. Olmsted was taken as a prisoner of war at Brashear, Louisiana, after which he spent several weeks on Ship Island (as a parolee) before returning home to Connecticut in August 1863.

Frederic Olmsted's journal contains an account of his service with the Union Army’s 23rd Connecticut Infantry, which was attached to the defenses of New Orleans and the district of Lafourche, Louisiana. The journal is 3"x5" and is made up of brief, almost daily entries.

For January and February, his entries describe the daily life of a Union soldier while not engaged in active combat -- foraging for food, hunting, and endless drilling. Beginning in March 1863, he was involved in overseeing slaves on several sugar plantations near Houma, Louisiana. His responsibilities included shipping hogsheads of sugar and barrels of molasses, retrieving runaway slaves for return to the plantations, and sometimes delivering punishments. If he had any qualms about his duties, they are not recorded in his journal. An entry for March 14, 1863, reads: “this morning I was sent by the captain to take a Negro up to Gibson plantation and see the negro whipt 50 lashes. stayed… and had a butifull dinner.”

On June 22, Olmsted took part in a battle at Brashear City (now Morgan City), Louisiana, where he and other Federals were taken prisoner. After their parole on June 25, 1863, Olmsted described being marched to the point of exhaustion in the sweltering heat, with many parolees dying on the journey. The Union men were held briefly at the Belleville Iron Works before making their way to Ship Island, where Olmsted noted that the rations were scarce and that they lived in tents on the blazing sand. On July 29, Olmsted wrote: “This morning went into the woods 9 miles from camp for wood, had to float it down to camp by wading up to our arms in water. Sun so hot that we burnt our legs to a blister but love of country overpowers all this.” Olmsted departed Ship Island on August 4, traveled upriver to Cairo, Illinois, boarded a train for Indianapolis, and eventually made his way back to Connecticut. He returned home sick and exhausted. “I had not been shaved in over 8 months, my wife did not know me at first, but I am overjoyed to meet her and my little boy. I am ragged and dirty, have an old straw hat with only a part of [the] brim, am entirely worn out with my army service.” (August 25, 1863). On September 5, Olmsted traveled to New Haven to obtain his discharge papers, and ended his service with the Union Army.

The journal also includes several brief entries regarding financial accounts; one notation from July 3, 1889, records a meeting in Bridgeport; and a separate document gives Olmsted permission to “pass the lines at all hours.” On a "Memoranda" page at the end of the diary is a very brief note concerning an A.W.O.L. fling on November 23.


Griffin family papers, 1799-1942 (majority within 1835-1868)

47 items

The Griffin family papers contain the letters of a family from Sempronius, New York, and are comprised primarily of correspondence from Lavalette and Reynolds Griffin while serving with the 75th New York Volunteers during the Civil War.

The Griffin family papers contain the letters of the Griffin Family of Sempronius, New York, and are comprised primarily of correspondence from Lavalette and Reynolds Griffin while serving with the 75th New York Volunteers during the Civil War. The collection is composed of 20 letters, 4 miscellaneous compositions, 2 newspaper clippings, and 16 photographs and negatives.

The Correspondence series contains 20 letters, four of which date before the war. The earliest letter is from a group of men, including Daniel Griffin, to their landlord requesting that their credit be extended, because of a bad harvest (1799). The next two are between Adnah H. Griffin and Ephraim, Louisa and Jane Griffin, and concern family issues (1835). Gideon Wales (resident of Pike Pond, [New Hampshire]) wrote a letter to Jennie L. McConnell, in which he discussed many of his relative's struggles with mental illness.

The Civil War letters are from brothers Lavalette and Reynolds Griffin and are primarily addressed to their parents, Adnah H. Griffin and Jane Reynolds Griffin, and their sisters Loretta and Jennie Griffith. The letters were written from several camps in Virginia and Louisiana, and from on board the ship Daniel Webster. The bulk of the letters are in a 103-page letterbook dated October 1861-March 1863. These letters were likely copied by a relative around 1900. Both brothers were competent writers and discussed typical soldier gripes regarding food, pay, bad officers, and the boredom of the army. In a letter from December 30, 1862, Lavalette wrote: "If you want to fix a man so that he does not know anything in this world, nor care a d__m for the next, just put him to soldiering, and keep him shut up in camp for one year."

Seven separate Civil War letters are from Lavalette Griffin, dated April 1862-February 1865, and addressed to his father and sister Loretta ("Rett"). In these, he wrote favorably of the New York Soldiers' Depot, which he found well managed with many amenities for the troops. In an April 1864 letter, he recounted a trip to the capital while stationed at Camp Distribution, Virginia. In the next letter, he spoke highly of General Grant: "One thing is in our favor Since General Grant has assumed command there is not so many shoulder straps lying round Washington and there papers are examined as closely as the meanest private -- There is scarcely a day that there is not some dismissals and there aught to be more[.]" Even after the loss of his brother and his own illnesses, Lavalette found a way to keep his good humor through the war.

The lone post-war letter (1868) is an interesting item from Jennie Griffin to her brother-in-law Silas McConnell, in which she complained about the difference between salaries for male and female teachers in New York.

The Miscellaneous series has 13 items, which include two newspaper clippings; 4 pages of family birth records (1780-1878) from the family Bible; two journals by Mary Jane Wilson, which are entitled Compositions Written by Mary Jane Wilson During the Summer of 1861, A present to her Teacher Jennie Griffin (14 pages), and The Scholar's Casket, A Journal of Councils and Companion for the Young, January 1862, containing amateur essays such as Being Honest, Fault Finding, and Courage; two essays entitled On the Death of Lois Jane Griffin and On the Death of Polly Griffin, Written for her Mother (3 pages); and a receipt for groceries from Syracuse, New York, 1915.

This collection contains 11 photographs and modern prints of 5 negatives of the Griffin family. The original photographs are located in the Clements Library Graphics Division.


Heman H. Gillett papers, 1861-1870 (majority within 1862-1865)

0.5 linear feet

This collection consists of 186 letters and documents concerning Heman H. Gillett's participation in the Civil War as a surgeon for the 8th Vermont Volunteers.

Heman H. Gillett papers consist of 186 letters and documents concerning Gillett's participation as a surgeon in the Civil War. The items are primarily incoming general and regimental orders, circulars, and administrative letters addressed to Gillett. Throughout the collection are records, receipts, invoices, and copies of returns; these track medical expenditures, resources, and finances, as well as the maladies of the troops. For example, a document dated December 31, 1862, records the types of illnesses and numbers of persons affected for that month and lists the names of dead for his regiment that month. A June 14, 1863, report logs the sick and wounded for that week. Other documents list the supplies needed for the hospital or brigade. Gillett signed off on the prices and invoices for medicines, hospital stores, bedding, etc. and submitted them to various suppliers and departments. The reports show that Gillett was stationed in Louisiana (Algiers, New Iberia, and New Orleans) in 1863 and 1864. In 1864, he requested supplies from James A. Holmes at the General Hospital at Brashear, Louisiana, which was the primary receiving depot for sick Union soldiers in the area. In 1865, Gillett was stationed at Summit Point, Virginia (January-April 1865), Munson Hill, Virginia (June 1865), and back at Camp Babcock in Summit Point, Virginia, by June 1865.

Throughout the collection are general and personal orders and circulars, including many letters from the Surgeon General's office in Washington. Some reports are assessments of the conditions of the facilities of Gillett's division (December 1864), while others are accounts of how coordinating hospitals are accommodating the wounded. One long circular from September 1864 lays out new policies for how the regiment will account for the sick, including updates of required types of personnel and their new paperwork responsibilities. This circular also details the accoutrements and personnel for each medical wagon. The provisions are very carefully measured out and regulated.

The collection's sole personal letter is from Heman’s brother, S.H. Gillett, but even this letter focuses mainly on medical issues, while touching on .H. Gillett's political opinions (August 5, [1865?]).

Fourteen undated items and fragments document the need for or use of supplies for medical units during the war. One undated item is a list of fallen soldiers. The three post-war documents are all testimonials for solders that were wounded in battle who were petitioning for pensions. The collection's oversized items include 15 reports of sick and wounded and inventories and invoices for medical supplies.

In general, this collection provides much evidence for the management, supplying, and policies of Union hospitals in the South during the Civil War. The Gillett papers demonstrate the high level of administration and infrastructure used by Union medical troops, which, in policy if not practice, relied on organization, accountability, and reports.