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Albert Wilder papers, 1862-1864

34 items

The Albert Wilder papers primarily consist of Wilder's letters home to his sister, Sarah, and brother-in-law, William, while he served in the Civil War. Wilder enlisted in the 39th Massachusetts Infantry in 1862 at the age of 21 and died after being wounded near Spotsylvania, Pennsylvania, 1864.

The Albert Wilder Civil War letters are written almost entirely to his sister, Sarah, and her husband, William, whose last name may have been Flaisdell. One letter, written from the hospital following his wounding, is addressed to his mother, and the final letter in the collection, written a week before his death, is badly tattered, showing how much it was fondled, read and reread, as a relic from the late Albert. Because his regiment saw so little military action for so long, the war news which Albert encloses in his letters is almost entirely second hand; he had little to report first-hand. There are no letters at all for three months after Mine Run, suggesting that the collection may be incomplete.

A constant theme of the early letters is advice to friends back home as to whether or not they should come to the war. He advises his married brother-in-law to stay at home, because there are enough single men to fight the war. He discusses the shoe trade back home in Massachusetts, and politics in the home state, with some information on camp life and the common soldiers' perspective on the leaders of the war. His letters to William are more substantive on the whole; those to Sarah are little more than one-liners in answer to her letters.

Two letters in the collection were written by James R. French to his parents. Men from the French family were in the 39th Massachusetts, but James was not among them. His letters are semi-literate, but illustrate well the quality of life found in the lower (rural?) class: he writes that morale in the regiment is low "sens we found out we ar fitine for nigers" and admonishes his parents to keep the money he sends to them: "I dont want that wife of mine if I must carle her wife to have a sent of it."


Dwight-Willard-Alden-Allen-Freeman family papers, 1752-1937

2,910 items (11 linear feet)

This collection is made up of the papers of five generations of the Dwight, Willard, Alden, Allen, and Freeman families of the East Coast and (later) U.S. Midwest, between 1752 and 1937. Around 3/4 of the collection is incoming and outgoing correspondence of family members, friends, and colleagues. The primary persons represented are Lydia Dwight of Massachusetts and her husband John Willard, who served in the French and Indian War; Connecticut mother Abigail Willard along with her husband Samuel Alden, who ran an apothecary in Hanover, New Jersey; Allen Female Seminary School alumna and teacher Sarah J. Allen; American Civil War surgeon Otis Russell Freeman; Presbyterian minister and temperance advocate Rev. Samuel Alden Freeman; and prominent public librarian Marilla Waite Freeman. The papers also include diaries and journals, writings, school certificates, military and ecclesiastical documents, photographs, newspaper clippings, advertisements, business and name cards, invitations to events, and brochures for plays and other performances.

The collection is arranged first by family grouping, then by material type. These series roughly reflect the arrangement of the collection when it arrived at the William L. Clements Library.

The Dwight-Willard-Alden Family Papers are comprised of around 250 items, dating between 1752 and 1884. One fifth or so of this grouping is predominantly correspondence between Lydia Dwight/Lydia Dwight Willard, her father, stepmother, siblings, husband, and sons, 1752-1791. These intermarried families were based largely in Sheffield and Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The letters include discussions about mending and cleaning clothing; feelings about their father/husband gone to serve in the French and Indian War; putting up a monument to replace faltering graves; the return of Elijah and Col. Williams from the field on account of sickness; coming and going of soldiers; moral and practical advice; teaching and boarding young students during the war; settling into (“no longer free”) married life; the death of Bathsheba Dwight; the meeting of local men in private homes and the training of minute men in Stockbridge; the prolonged case of smallpox experienced by Lydia’s son in 1785; and news of John Willard, Jr.’s admission to Harvard.

The remaining four fifths of this grouping are largely incoming correspondence of Abigail Willard Alden (1771-1832) and her daughter Abigail Alden (1809-1854). Their correspondents were located in Stafford, Connecticut; Hanover and Lancaster, New Hampshire; Lunenburg, Vermont; and elsewhere. They begin with letters from siblings and parents to the newly married Abigail Willard Alden (ca. 1800); Samuel Alden travel letters to New York City; and news of a Stafford doctor named Chandler who had promised marriage to a woman and then fleeced her for $500 before fleeing to parts unknown. A group of letters regard pharmacy matters, the burning of Samuel Willard’s drugstore (January-April 1802), and the state of Anti-Federalists and Federalists in Stafford (1802). A large portion the letters include content on sickness and health, with varying degrees of detail, including several family members sick and dying from measles in 1803. Other topics include Hanover, New Hampshire, gossip on local premarital sex; a debate on whether or not to hire a black female domestic laborer; comments on a local suicide attempt; a young woman deliberating on objections to women spending time reading novels (April 10, 1806); and treatment by a quack doctor. These papers also include two diaries, poetry and essays, two silhouettes, genealogical manuscripts, and miscellaneous printed items.

The Allen Family Papers are largely incoming letters to Sarah Jane Allen prior to her marriage to Samuel A. Freeman (around 300 items), and from her father-in-law Otis Russell Freeman (around 60 items) between 1860 and 1865. An abundance of the letters were written to Sarah while she attended the Allen Female Seminary in Rochester, New York, and afterward when she lived at Honeoye Falls, New York. They include letters from her parents, cousins, friends, and siblings. A sampling suggests that the bulk are letters by young women attempting to eke out a life for themselves through seminary education, teaching, and domestic labor. Among much else, they include content on Elmira Female Seminary, New York state travel, and female friendship and support.

The Otis Russell Freeman letters date between 1862 and 1865, while he served as a surgeon in the 10th and 14th Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers. He wrote about the everyday camp life with a focus on the health and sickness of the soldiers. His letters include content on the defenses of Washington, D.C., fighting at Cold Harbor and outside Richmond, Virginia, the surrender of Robert E. Lee, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and Lincoln's body lying in state at Jersey City. Two carte-de-visite photographs of Otis Freeman are present.

A diary kept by Sarah J. Allen began on the day of her marriage, September 26, 1865, documents her honeymoon to Niagara Falls. It ends in November 1865. The remainder of the volume is filled with recipes for baked goods, pickles, and other foods. The printed items include ephemera from Sarah Jane Allen’s tenure at Elmira Female College five issues of the Callisophia Society’s newspaper The Callisophia (vol. 1, nos. 1, 3-6; March/April 1860-January/February 1861), as well as a Catalogue of Books in Callisophia Library, December 1862.

The Samuel Alden Freeman Family Papers include approximately 300 largely incoming letters to Presbyterian minister S. A. Freeman, plus printed materials, ephemera, photographs, and bound volumes, dating in the 1810s and from the 1860s to 1880s. Correspondence of his second wife Olive dates from the 1810s in central New York. The collection includes letters to S. A. Freeman from his first wife Sarah, daughter Abigail Alden Freeman (1873-1925), and Sara Harriet Freeman (1879-1946). These materials include courtship correspondence of Sarah Jane Allen and S. A. Freeman. A considerable portion relates to Presbyterianism and at least one temperance society pledge sheet is present. Approximately 50 photographs, about half of them identified, are largely of Samuel A. Freeman and the Freeman daughters Marilla and Abigail. Among the printed ephemeral items are advertisements for programming at Corinthian Hall (probably Rochester, New York), items related to a Sunday School Association (including a printed broadside catalog of books at a N.J. Sunday School), and pamphlets on Presbyterianism. A medicinal recipe book from the mid-19th century and a commonplace book of poetry are examples of the S. A. Freeman family bound volumes.

The collection concludes with letters, photographs, ephemera, and printed items comprising the Marilla Waite Freeman Papers. Around 600 letters are largely incoming to public librarian M. W. Freeman from female educators and librarians. They discussed their profession, books, reading, and intellectual topics. A small clutch of letters, about three dozen manuscript and typed poems, and a dozen or more newspaper clippings, 1900s-1910s, comprise poet Floyd Dell’s contributions to the collection. Marilla also corresponded with poets and writers Margaret Todd Ritter, Robert Frost and Mrs. Frost, and Marie Bullock about public and private recitations and lectures. Examples of subjects covered by the printed materials include orations, educational/school/college items, library-related items, newspapers and clippings, fliers, women's clubs, New York City theater, the American Library Association, Poetry Society of America, poems by various authors, such as Ina Robert and John Belknap, visiting and business cards, and travel.


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.


John S. Corliss papers, 1861-1863

17 items

The Corliss papers contain the correspondence of a middle-aged Union soldier serving primarily on light duty in South Carolina and Florida. Corliss' letters express his views, including his dislike of African Americans and his lack of support for the Union cause.

All of Corliss' 17 letters are addressed to his daughter, Mary, and son-in-law, John Hastings in North Grantham, N.H. The letter's content offers a limited description and has frequent grammar and spelling errors.

In one of the best letters in the collection (11 August 1862), Corliss, who by that point had been off duty with diarrhea for 52 days, rails against the idea of his son-in-law enlisting, arguing that if he could earn 50 cents a day at home, he should stay. Corliss maintains that northerners were being deceived into enlisting, that the war was not being fought to save the union, but to save the "Negro." He adds that slaves are better treated in South Carolina than the soldier, and that he works so that "every offersor ha[s] a neger wench hung far to his ass if I may be loud to use such words to express myself."

A racist and strong Democrat, probably a peace Democrat who had converted from the Republican Party, Corliss later (1863 February 21) writes that Union officers favor the black man over the white and "as long as the north stand on that ground the south will fight and we are not a goin to fight to save black rascals[. W]hen theu get redy to fight fore the unon then we are redy to fight and not til then this fightin fore black laisy raskels and son of black biches..."

Several of Corliss' letters from Saint Augustine are steeped in religion and discussions of missing his family. While they are fairly formulaic, making for less interesting reading, they do suggest the effect that religious evangelism had on the mind of some soldiers.


John W. Burke memoir, 1861-1862

84 pages

This memoir, tentatively attributed to John W. Burke, documents one man's Civil War service. The writing style vividly conveys the emotions of the battlefield, the sights and smells of death, and the trivia of daily life in camp.

The Civil War memoir/journal attributed to John W. Burke is unsigned and of uncertain provenance. The author provides innumerable clues to his identity: he was from Sag Harbor, had served previously in the 16th and 71st State Militias (the latter in the three months' service), had mustered in on December 19th, when Capt. John Raulston appointed him clerk of Co. H and Col. Rose named him "his private Secratary to take charge of the regimental mail with a promise of promotion to rank of Lieut. at the first vacancy" (p. 6). At one point, the author mentioned as well that he had "sold my surgeon's sash," though he appears to have been neither surgeon nor assistant surgeon to the regiment.

The author is very tentatively identified as John W. Burke, who came with the Sag Harbor contingent and was mustered into Co. H as a private on December 19th, later becoming Sergeant and Lieutenant (shortly after the end of this diary). On balance, internal references in the memoir seem to indicate that the author might have been a sergeant in Co. H, however Burke's presence in the 71st Militia has not been confirmed. It remains a possibility that the author may have been assistant surgeon Carrington MacFarlane (who published an unavailable memoir of his experiences); although the author treated wounded and appears to have been somewhat knowledgeable about doing so, there are no indications that medical care was part of his regular duties. An even less likely possibility for the author's identity is found in an enclosed petition sent to Col. John T. Sprague, requesting that the position vacated by the discharge of Lt. George W. Steadman be filled by Sgt. Drayson Fordred. Fordred also died at Cold Harbor, but served in the 7th Militia (not 71st), while Steadman was a member of Co. I, not H.

Although the problem of identity remains unresolved, the memoir stands as an outstanding document of one man's Civil War service. It was clearly written after the events described, though apparently from notes or a diary made at the time, and if the author were truly Burke, it must have been written prior his death at Cold Harbor in June, 1864. Whoever he was, the author was a proficient writer, able to convey the emotions of the battlefield, the sights and smells of death, and the trivia of daily life in camp with a pleasing vibrancy and intelligence. The author's comments on the Peninsular Campaign, and particularly the period from the Battle of Williamsburg through the end of the Battles of Fair Oaks and Seven Pines, are of particular interest. Although severely ill at Fair Oaks and Seven Pines, the author had the unusual liberty to roam around from the front to the rear -- with the front sometimes overtaking him -- seeing the battle develop from several different perspectives. He was pressed into service to treat the wounded, came under intense enfilading fire himself on more than one occasion, and was able calmly, almost dispassionately, to view the artillery batteries attached to the brigade perform their work on Johnston's charging rebels.

The memoir also provides very good accounts of Burke's semi-disoriented perambulations around the Peninsula in the day before the Battle of Williamsburg, the carnage following the battle, and the morale and slowly deflating siege at Yorktown. He provides some wonderful vignettes of miscellaneous facets of a soldier's life, from keeping pets, to visiting friends, interacting with devastated Virginia citizens, to an interesting story of an Irish-American soldier's wife (also Irish) who had followed the regiment.


Lewis Van Tuyl papers, 1861-1865

101 items

The Lewis W. Van Tuyl Papers contain the Civil War correspondence of Van Tuyl, primarily to his father Isaac and other family members. Van Tuyl served with the 10th Illinois Infantry from September 1861 to July 1865, with an interim stint with the Pioneer Brigade of Engineers from November 1862 to November 1863.

The Lewis Van Tuyl papers contain 101 letters written by Van Tuyl to members of his family during his Civil War service with the 10th Illinois Infantry. The letters span September 1861 to July 1865. Van Tuyl wrote primarily of camp life, skirmishes and battles along the Mississippi River, and his participation in Sherman’s march through Georgia and South Carolina. The collection opens with three letters describing his time at Camp Defiance in Cairo, Illinois. Van Tuyl noted that the area was situated on "low ground" and permeated by "a stench that does not improve the health of the camp" (September 5, 1861). On October 6, 1861, he wrote that the regiment had moved to Camp Morgan in Mound City, Illinois, to escape its own waste (October 6, 1861). Other early letters concern such topics as Union uniforms (September 11, 1861), a visit to a plantation in Kentucky and the activities of slaves living on it (September 23, 1861), and the meals prepared for the company by a cook (November 6, 1861).

After a period spent in the hospital, described in several letters during late-February and early-March 1862, Van Tuyl rejoined the regiment. He gave a lengthy account of action at Tiptonville, Tennessee, during the Battle of Island Number Ten (April 10, 1862), as well as an account of an engagement near Fort Pillow (April 15, 1862). On May 11, 1862, he reported the death of a "valuable man," Major Zenas Aplington, who had been targeted by a sharpshooter during a reconnoitering mission near Corinth, Mississippi. His letter of June 21, [1862], contains a small pencil sketch map of the Union and Confederate fortifications, troop positions, and Union camps during siege of Corinth, Mississippi. Van Tuyl also described the Confederate raid on Holly Springs, Mississippi, and called the Union garrison commander, Colonel Robert Murphy, a "second [Benedict] Arnold" (March 11, 1863). In the summer of 1863, Van Tuyl wrote home concerning frequent marching, pickets, and some aspects of camp life. The collection contains a gap between November 21, 1863, and March 1, 1864, and just six of Van Tuyl's letters cover 1864. In these, he discussed the severe treatment of Union prisoners at the hands of Confederates (March [14], 1864), the health of the company (April 24, 1864), and money that he sent home to his family (November 9, 1864). On December 16, 1864, he wrote about the regiment's arrival in Savannah, Georgia, and noted that "all approaches to the city are closely guarded and…it can neither be reinforced or evacuated." He also noted that he felt very isolated from news and happenings in the North.

In 1865, Van Tuyl participated in Sherman's March through the Carolinas. In a letter of January 25, 1865, he stated that Sherman was currently in the camp, and "his presence indicates action." He also mentioned the construction of a portable trestle to be used for river crossings. In a later letter, he described the slog through North Carolina's swamps and quicksand and frequent travels over difficult "Corduroy Road[s]." He worried about contracting yellow fever, which he called the "great Hydra Headed monster promised by the Rebels from the beginning" (March 25, 1865). Van Tuyl's correspondence closes with a letter announcing his readiness to return home, dated July 3, 1865, the day before he was mustered out.


Otis family papers, 1861-1862

40 items

The Otis family papers contain letters home from four members of the 57th Pennsylvania Infantry, describing camp life, the battles of Williamsburg and Fair Oaks, and the hardships of war.

The Otis family papers consist of 39 letters written home by several Civil War soldiers between November 30, 1861, and December 2, 1862. Louisa Otis and her parents are the most frequent recipients. Louisa's brothers, Ferdinand and Israel, wrote the majority of letters in the collection; her cousins, Dudley Otis and Mortimer S. Roberts, also contributed several letters each. The brothers sometimes collaborated in their letters, each writing a portion, thereby giving two perspectives on events.

Early letters repeatedly reference pay, health, and camp life. On January 3, 1862, Ferdinand wrote to his parents concerning the rapid spread of mumps through the camp and reported that he had been vaccinated, likely against smallpox, and was very sore. Both brothers frequently anticipated upcoming paydays and how much they would send home, and requested items such as mittens. On February 2, 1862, Ferdinand provided a detailed description of how soldiers laundered their clothes.

By mid-1862, the correspondence had become more focused on battles, injured and dead comrades, and the hardships of war. A letter from Israel, Ferdinand, and Otis gives a description of the Battle of Williamsburg, which Israel called a "long and bloody struggle," which lasted into the evening. He also recalled the Union band's performance of "Dixie," and the cheers of the soldiers, which "must have sounded anything but pleasant" to the Confederates (May 12, 1862). Another letter, dated June 7, 1862, references the Battle of Fair Oaks, in which the 57th Pennsylvania Infantry lost several officers, including Major Jeremiah Culp. Ferdinand described the morale of the soldiers, noted "we have got only our field officer left," and gave an account of the stench of rotting corpses in the woods. Israel noted that a bullet went through Ferdinand's coat and that his haversack was shot open, scattering his belongings. Other correspondence documents receiving family photographs (August 30, 1862), finding Southern cows to milk (November 28, 1862), and desiring more letters from home.


Palmer B. Holdridge letterbook, 1862

70 pages (12 letters)

Palmer Holdridge was a volunteer in Company D of the 114th New York Infantry during the Civil War. The Holdridge letterbook contains copies of 12 letters to Holdridge's wife, Kate, written from his mustering in to shortly before his departure for Louisiana in late November 1862.

The Holdridge letterbook contains retained copies of 12 letters to Holdridge's wife, Kate, written between his mustering in, in August, 1862, to shortly before his departure for Louisiana in late November. The letters are literate and engaging, and contain some interesting anecdotes and observations. Of interest are letters in which he describes guard duty, deserters, the hospital and patients in Baltimore, and the letters in which he writes of the interminable delays while staging for Banks' expedition and of the regiment's ongoing battle with disease.


Samuel C. Taylor journal, 1863; 1890

295 pages

From about 1860 through at least the end of the Civil War, Samuel C. Taylor worked as a salesman for the Philadelphia clothing firm of Charles Stokes & Co. The 1863 portion of his journal contains almost daily entries between February and May, vividly describing his travels from Philadelphia to Memphis and social life in Memphis during the Civil War. The 1890 portion of the journal consists of seven humorous essays, which are highly stereotypical, possibly semi-fictional, depictions of life in the south.

The Taylor journal is a single, 3/4 leather-bound volume in two sequential parts, the first dated 1863, the second, 1890. The journal is probably a transcript made in 1890 or 1891 from the original, based on the style of binding and paper, and the continuity in handwriting and pen between the two dated parts. The 1863 portion, 260 pages long, takes the form of almost daily journal entries from the time of Taylor's departure from Philadelphia on February 16th, through his stay in Memphis, until his return to Philadelphia on May 16th, and is uniformly well written and interesting. It is a far more polished piece of writing than many journals, and may have been corrected or embellished at the time of its transcription. At its best, Taylor's prose has the feeling of Mark Twain's exuberant descriptions of life on the Mississippi, leavened with the cynical undercurrents of Melville's Confidence Man., and though it is brief, covering only a four months' residence, the journal is a valuable social record of life in wartime Memphis as seen by a person come to take advantage of the quick money to be made. Taylor has a preference for the "colorful" aspects of life in Memphis, and includes vivid descriptions of the shoddy accommodations, the venality and corruption, rampant violence and crime, and of soldiers, prostitutes, rebels, drunks and rowdies. Throughout, he displays an eye for the telling detail, a good sense of humor, and an unerring flair for making a good story out of difficult circumstances.

Among the several highlights in the journal is an excellent description of the steamboat trip to Memphis, during which a "Jewish" swindler/gambler managed to con his way out of several tight spots by his using his wits and his finesse with cards. Once in Memphis, Taylor provides memorable descriptions of the city in all its war-time depravity, and vivid accounts of long lines of ragged, worn-out soldiers marching in to town, of murder, robbery and charlatanism, of prostitutes and drunks shouting and shooting in the streets, and of the characters, like himself, who have descended on the city to turn a quick profit, legally or illegally. Taylor was somewhat less accomplished in his poetry, though his poem about life in Memphis during the war is an amusing, sarcastic look at the closet secessionists of the city, Memphis' cheerless, malattired women, crime, and the amusement he occasionally found, including listening to the "darkies" singing. One quatrain summarizes his attitudes well: "What an awfull place to live in / Now I'll stop or freighten you (sic) / Yet upon my word of honor / What I've written you is true" (p. 106).

Taylor's attitude toward Jews, synonymous with swindling merchants in his mind, and African-Americans is highly stereotyped. He is, however, somewhat sympathetic toward slaves and freedmen even as he is willing to have a laugh at their expense. In Memphis, he attended a religious service for freedmen delivered by a mulatto preacher named Revels. Taylor was genuinely moved by the sermon, and seems to have agreed with its message. He is also somewhat sympathetic with the "contrabands" he sees being trampled by Union soldiers, or boating up river, half-dressed and hungry to a mission in Missouri. In general, though, Taylor is inclined toward a cynical view of strangers, and is always on his guard for the cons and crooks that were abundant in Memphis.

The 1890 portion of the Taylor journal consists of seven humorous essays, which are highly stereotypical, possibly semi-fictional, depictions of life in the south. They include:

  1. "Sketches from the South," (Chattanooga, April 3, 1890: p. 263-268)
  2. "A Kentucky Wheelman," (Louisville, Ky., April 20, 1890: p. 269-271)
  3. "A Hodoo Doctor" (Birmingham, Ala., April 30, 1890: p. 272-275)
  4. "The Negro Drill Workers" (Memphis, Tenn., May 2, 1890: p. 276-279)
  5. "The Georgia Cracker, The Alabama Razor Back" (Atlanta, Ga., May 10, 1890: p. 280-284)
  6. "New Orleans, La." (May 20, 1890, New Orleans: p. 285-293)
  7. "Pensacola, Florida" (September 20, 1890, Pensacola: p. 293-295)

These essays are the interesting products of a talented writer, who, though sympathetic observer of southern society, is nevertheless mired in the ingrained attitudes and prejudices of his day. In the first essay, Taylor discusses the phenotype of African-Americans and the several "clases or sets" that comprise the African-American community in the South, from the rich, to the merchants, mechanics, drill men, tramps and the "poor old uncle." "The hoodoo doctor" and "The Negro drill workers" are somewhat longer essays along the same lines, and are written as first hand experiences. In "A Kentucky wheelman" and "The Georgia cracker, the Alabama razorback," Taylor turns his eye to the poor white community in the deep South, and paints a dismal view of the state of their culture. Essays 3, 4, and 5 also include crude, pen and ink illustrations of the subjects of the essay.


Thomas Hall diary, 1862-1863

1 volume

The Thomas Hall diary documents Hall's Civil War service with the 110th New York Infantry in 1862-1863, including camp life, encounters with African American vendors, health concerns, and his participation in the Siege of Port Hudson.

The Thomas Hall diary is a pocket-sized volume containing entries for August 28, 1862, to August 20, 1863. The diary documents Hall's Civil War participation in the 110th New York Infantry, from the time of his enlistment until a few days before his death from heatstroke and disease on August 25, 1863. In a series of brief entries, Hall described his regiment's experiences in Virginia; Maryland; Ship Island, Mississippi; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Port Hudson, Louisiana.

The opening entries of the diary are quite terse, generally providing only one to two lines of basic information. They primarily concern such topics as Hall's location, the letters he received and wrote, his church attendance, and his military activities. However, beginning in November 1862, Hall wrote with greater detail about his surroundings and actions. On November 5, 1862, he described the regiment's departure by steamship from Baltimore, noting that the bay was "dotted with sail vessels and steamers." While onboard the ship, he noted mechanical problems, extreme weather, his ship-related duties, health concerns, his surroundings, and food. During mid-November, while the regiment sailed south for New Orleans, he mentioned regular drilling using "the manual of arms" (November 10, 1862), and a brief stint in the hospital (November 13, 1862). On November 20, 1862, he wrote that he had visited the Virginia plantation of Confederate General John B. Magruder.

Soon after his arrival in the Deep South, Hall noted his extreme dislike of Ship Island, Mississippi, which he hoped never to see again (December 29, 1862), and referred to his time with military and the inexperience of the officers in his regiment. In the same entry, he lamented that he saw "No better prospect of peace then [sic] one year ago" (December 31, 1862). He also discussed the capture of a Confederate plantation near Carrollton, Louisiana, including the confiscation of its ducks and chickens (January 13, 1863) and the arrest of a soldier, Thomas Lake, for intoxication, commenting, "The devil to pay generaly [sic]." By mid-March, operations against Port Hudson, Louisiana, had begun, and Hall's entries mainly focused on these developments. He noted that each man now carried six days' rations (March 11, 1863), described the bombardment of Port Hudson as "fire & explosion on river" (March 15, 1863), and gave an account of a march through knee-deep mud (March 18, 1863). On April 12 and 13, 1863, Hall briefly commented on the Battle of Fort Bisland, noting that fighting had ended at 6 p.m. and the Confederate band had played "Dixie." Subsequently, he mentioned the capture of Confederate prisoners near Franklin, Louisiana, (April 15 and 16, 1863) and the poor condition of the men in his regiment due to a lack of regular rations and the absence of the quartermaster (April 25, 1863). On May 26, 1863, he discussed a skirmish near Port Hudson, stating that "marshy ground" had caused the Union artillery to fail. Other entries note the surrender of Port Hudson (July 8, 1863), the suicide of a man in the regiment (July 8, 1863), and a Zouave's failed attempt to escape from Port Hudson (July 9, 1863).

In his diary, Hall also wrote about several experiences with African Americans. On November 20, 1862, he recounted tricking an African American who sold him "ginger cakes." According to Hall, the man "could not count" and Hall exploited him by taking more cakes than he had purchased. Near New Orleans, he described buying bread from "an old negress who had a Mexican man…. Her man was lame and she supported Both" (December 19, 1862). On another occasion, he noted that several friends had gone to the "negro quarters" in Carrollton, Louisiana, and danced nearly all night (January 10, 1863). On March 4, 1863, he mentioned that the "contrabands expect to march tomorrow," but he gave no further details.