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Disosway family letters, 1861-1864

80 items

This collection contains 77 letters that members of the Disosway and Wilkins families of New York, Maryland, and Virginia wrote and received between 1861 and 1864. Correspondents include several Union soldiers who wrote about their military experiences, women who commented on wartime life in Maryland and Virginia, and southern sympathizers.

This collection contains 77 letters that members of the Disosway and Wilkins families of New York, Maryland, and Virginia wrote and received between 1861 and 1864. Correspondents include several Union soldiers who wrote about their military experiences, women who commented on wartime life in Maryland and Virginia, and southern sympathizers. The collection also includes 2 reflections on the death of William W. Disosway and the lyrics to a military song.

The bulk of the Correspondence series is made up of letters that Annie R. Disosway received from her brother, First Lieutenant William Wilkins Disosway of the 1st New York Cavalry Regiment and 1st New York Mounted Rifles; from a friend, Captain Richard H. Lee of the 1st New York Cavalry Regiment and 16th Independent Battery of the New York Light Artillery; and from several aunts and cousins living in Baltimore, Maryland, and in Virginia. In his 16 letters (13 to Annie R. Disosway and 3 to Eliza Disosway), William Disosway described camp life, particularly at Camp Kearney, Virginia, and related his experiences in the army; he occasionally mentioned participating in skirmishes or other actions in southern Virginia, such as the Union Army's move into Yorktown, Virginia (May 6, 1862), an action at Blackwater, Virginia (December 14, 1862), and "Spear's Raid" (August 4, 1863). On March 30, 1863, he mentioned his intent to join the French invasion of Mexico.

Richard Lee's 8 letters concern similar military topics and details about camp life, including his vow to remain temperate while in the Army (September 29, 1861). Lee enclosed a carte-de-visite portrait in one letter (August 14, 1862). Another Union soldier, Russell P. Forkey, wrote 2 letters in late 1861; in one, he mentioned the case of a fellow soldier charged with an intention to defect (December 22, 1861).

Most civilians' letters pertain to the impact of the war on daily life, particularly in Maryland and Virginia, where several members of the Wilkins family lived. Annie and Eliza Disosway also received letters from Annie's aunts, Achsa and Louise, and from Annie's cousin Rebecca C. ("Beck") Davis, a Southern sympathizer. In addition to providing family news, the women discussed the impact of the fighting on local churches, noted their personal interactions with the armies, and shared their opinions on the war. Davis described an encounter with Burnside's army and reported the soldiers' apparent dissatisfaction with military life (September 25, 1862), and others mentioned Baltimore's struggles under martial law. Other letters refer to Fort Sumter (April 11, 1861) and to Union supporters living among Confederate supporters in Virginia (October 27, 1862).

The Disosway family also received approximately 20 condolence letters following William Wilkins Disosway's death, including Captain L. W. Bates's description of the man who shot Wilkins (November 11, 1863) and a letter from Isabella Hurry, who enclosed a newspaper obituary (December 17, 1863). The collection also contains a letter from congressmen Harrison Gray Otis Blake, Benjamin Franklin Wade, and John Hutchins, asking President Abraham Lincoln to appoint Reverend J. W. McFarland of Wooster, Ohio, as a chaplain for contrabands at Port Royal (April 24, 1862).

The Writings series includes 2 reflections and resolutions respecting the death of William W. Disosway: 1 by Annie R. Disosway, offering sympathy and forgiveness for her brother's killer, and 1 by officers of the First Regiment Mounted Rifles, New York. The series also contains manuscript lyrics to "Punch 'em in the Eye," a song of the 45th Regulators.


District of Carrollton (La.) letters, 1864

5 items

This collection contains 5 official copies of letters exchanged by United States Army officers regarding African American regiments in the Carrollton District of New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1864. The writers discussed topics including courts martial, troop transfers, commemorations of the Emancipation Proclamation, and soldiers' wives and families.

This collection contains 5 official copies of letters exchanged by United States Army officers regarding African American regiments in the Carrollton District of New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1864. The writers discussed topics including courts martial, troop transfers, commemorations of the Emancipation Proclamation, and soldiers' wives and families.

The box and folder list for this finding aid includes information about the contents of the letters in the collection.


Elizabeth Rous Comstock papers, 1740-1929 (majority within 1860-1880)

0.5 linear feet

The Elizabeth Rous Comstock papers contain letters and writings related to Comstock's family, her Quaker ministry, and her social reform activities. The letters span her entire career with the greatest concentration of correspondence centering on her work with the Kansas freedmen's program and her family life. In addition to the Elizabeth Comstock material, the collection includes content related to her daughter Caroline, her grandchildren, and papers related to the Kempton family.

The Elizabeth Rous Comstock papers (282 items) contain letters and writings related to Comstock's family, her Quaker ministry, and her social reform activities. The letters span her entire career with the greatest concentration of correspondence centering on her work with the Kansas Freedmen's Association and on her family life. In addition to the Elizabeth Comstock material, the collection contains content related to her daughter Caroline, her grandchildren, and to the Kempton family.

The Correspondence series (151 items) contains 123 items related to Elizabeth Comstock and her family. The bulk of the collection consists of letters written by or addressed to Elizabeth Comstock between 1847 and 1890.

These letters fall into roughly two groups:
  • Elizabeth’s correspondence with her friends, acquaintances, and immediate family, particularly with her husband, daughter, and sister Caroline.
  • Correspondence related to Elizabeth’s work with social reforms and social justice, primarily concerning her relief work in Kansas in 1879 and 1880.

The family and friends correspondence primarily relates to everyday life, such as work, homemaking, visiting, family life; contemporary issues such as the Civil War and slavery; and news of friends and family, including illnesses, marriages, and deaths. Elizabeth wrote many of the letters, which document her perspective on her work, her marriage and relationship with her husband, and on religion and the Society of Friends. Elizabeth’s preaching, charitable work, and travels are often mentioned in these letters, including her trip across the Atlantic in early 1884. These letters cover both theoretical discussions of religious topics and discussions of the Society of Friends, its policies, and its schools. A subset of these letters regards Caroline De Greene’s serious illness and "mental suffering" in 1870, which may have been related to childbirth. Also of note is a letter from Elizabeth Steere that describes her experiences living in the remote Minnesota Territory (December 9, 1856).

The second group of Elizabeth's correspondence mainly consists of letters between Elizabeth and Joshua Longstreth Bailey, a dry goods merchant and philanthropist, who assisted her in her work with the Kansas Freedmen’s Relief Association from 1879 to 1881. Elizabeth discusses the logistics of supplying newly arrived African Americans with food, shelter, and a means of subsistence, and relates information about the migrants and their experiences in both the South and in Kansas. Elizabeth shares, in depth, her perspective on this large migration, which she refers to as "the Exodus." An item of note is a letter from John W. Snodgrass proposing a plan to buy land to aid resettled former slaves in Kansas (May 3, 1881). Other items concern Comstock's work to improve the lives of former slaves and prisoners during the Civil War, including a letter from Ed Howland who wrote to Comstock of a "plan before Congress to change the whole plan of taking care of colored people" (February 3, 1865). B. Dornblaser, the warden at the Illinois State Penitentiary, wrote to Comstock about pardoning Frederick Marx from Kentucky who was "tricked" into buying a stolen mule (April 5, 1865). She also communicated with Thomas Story Kirkbride, superintendent of the Philadelphia Hospital for the Insane (March 6, 1870).

The collection also contains material related to her daughter Caroline and to Elizabeth's grandchildren. Much of this is correspondence between Caroline and members of her family, regarding news, daily life, traveling and visiting, religion, work, and school. Of interest are letters of reference for Caroline "Calla" De Greene in support of continuing her education and recommending her for positions teaching French and German at the college level (May 2, 1893, July 11 and October 5, 1898, May 10, 1905, and March 19, 1906).

The Kempton Family material consists of 26 letters, which largely concern religious issues, everyday life, and news of family and friends. These include the 7 earliest items in the series, from 1827-1828, with the rest scattered throughout.

The Commonplace Book and Diary series (2 items) contains an 1839 commonplace book (52 pages) of poems and essays inscribed as belonging to Charity Kempton. Many entries center on the theme of a loved one leaving on a sea voyage. These include passages called "Seamen's Hymn," "Matrimonial Chart," and "The Old Oaken Bucket." The second item is Elizabeth Comstock's 34-page travel diary (8 blank pages) during the summer of 1878. It contains Biblical verses, brief descriptions of places she visited, notes on her activities, and notes on religious services she attended.

The Poems Series (10 items) contains handwritten copies of poems, all of which are religious in nature. Included among the 9 unattributed poems are a cautionary poem on dancing and drinking, a 16-page poem called "The Ministry of Angels," and a poem entitled "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism: A Dialogue in Verse." The single attributed poem is a copy of William Cowper's "God Moves in Mysterious Ways."

The Corrections for Caroline Hare's Life and Letters of Elizabeth Comstock series (1 item) is 7 pages of notes and corrections for Caroline Hare's biography of Elizabeth Comstock (see the Related Materials section for information on the Clements' copy of this book). The comments range from grammatical edits to insights into personal events and her ministerial efforts.

The Miscellaneous Writings series (25 items) contains non-correspondence material including: religious quotations, miscellaneous notes jotted down on scraps of paper, Friends meeting minutes, recipes, and essays on religion and marriage. Most of these items are unattributed but are likely from Elizabeth Comstock, Chastity Kempton, and others. Of note is a three-page item containing "Dying expressions of Soldiers," including the last words of a soldier on the Battlefield of Fredericksburg (December 13, 1862), and those of a man about to be hung in Nashville, Tennessee. This series also contains instructions for refining sugar, and remedies for common maladies, such as heartburn, dysentery, snake bites, and nausea, "By the celibrated Indian Doctor John Mackintosh, of the Cherokee Nation; None of which have ever before been communicated to the world" (undated).

The Documents series (11 items) contains various official documents related to the Comstock and Kempton families.

Of note are:
  • Elizabeth Comstock's ancestors’ 1740 marriage covenant between William and Mary Moore
  • A deed from Isaac Steer to Aaron Kempton in Woodstock, Michigan (1845)
  • A handwritten pass from Philip Henry Sheridan allowing Comstock and her companion Mary B. Bradford to travel by rail to Baltimore, through enemy lines (December 9. 1864)
  • A document entitled "The Colored Exodus. A Statement of Monies Received from Various States, Canada, and England.
  • Elizabeth's sister Lydia Rous' last will and testament (March 5, 1889).

The Accounts series (6 items) contains 3 lists of books to be sent to various Friends libraries and associations, 1 list of donated goods such as fabric and clothes addressed to E. Smith of Victoria Road, an 1875 bill for goods, and an item documenting money owed with interest for an unspecified purpose.

The Printed Ephemera series (24 items) includes miscellaneous printed material: passes to cross Union and Confederate lines during the Civil War; 8 "Bible Reading Leaflets;" two Quaker related essays; a fragment of a book labeled "Self-Communion" (pages 3-10); 4 poems (prayers); 4 event cards; and a catalogue for mechanical farming equipment. The collection also holds one of Comstock's hymn books entitled, Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs (Words Only) , by P.P. Bliss and Ira Sankey. The handmade cover is reinforced with a portion of a postcard stamped March 9, 1878 (95 small pages of hymns).

The Newspaper Clippings series (50 items) is composed of printed items related to the Kansas Freedman's Relief program. These include several essays and articles written by Comstock and her colleagues, as well as newspaper stories about Comstock's activities aiding African American "refugees" in Kansas, who were suffering from sickness, poverty, and unemployment. Many of these include pleas for charity. The clippings come from newspapers across America, as well as from England.

The Prints and Photographs series (8 items) consists of 7 photographs, including 2 of Elizabeth and 1 of her daughter Caroline, one print of the residence of R. Hathaway in Rollin, Michigan.

The photographs depict:
  • Elizabeth Comstock, taken in Philadelphia for De Greene, undated
  • Elizabeth Comstock portrait, hand colored and in a small square wooden frame (Behind his photograph, as part of the backing, is a small picture of 7 angels with trumpets, clipped from a postcard).
  • Carrie Wright De Greene O'Harrow, 1881
  • Freddie Hare at age 4 ½, August 1874, labeled "for Carrie" (Carte-de-visite)
  • Unlabeled picture of a girl, undated
  • Woman reading (likely Caroline Hare), accompanying the letter dated February 22, 1882 (Carte-de-visite taken by J. Cooper)
  • A portrait of a woman in a small metal frame accompanying the letter from March 16, 1870.
Other Images include:
  • A machine catalogue with images of: Cooks Sugar Evaporator, Cross-Cut sawing machine, a victor mill, vertical mill with sweep below, and a back-geared mill
  • Ink sketch of Caroline Hare’s home in letter, February 13, 1870
  • An engraved portrait of Comstock in a newspaper clipping from early 1881

Ella Dillard Bates diary, 1862

1 volume

Ella Dillard Bates, originally of Alabama, kept this diary from January to April 1862 while residing in the "upper country" of Georgia, likely in Bartow County. She wrote of domestic affairs, tending to her infant son, Horace, relationships with neighbors, gardening, her husband's travel and visits to plantations, and interactions with "servants," likely enslaved men and women. Occasional references to Civil War events also appear in the volume, as well as brief references to conflict with the likely enslaved "servants."

Ella Dillard Bates kept this diary from January to April 1862 while residing in the "upper country" of Georgia, likely in Bartow County. She wrote of domestic affairs, tending to her infant son, Horace, relationships with neighbors, gardening, her husband's travel and visits to plantations, and interactions with the household "servants," likely enslaved men and women. Occasional references to Civil War events also appear in the volume, as well as brief references to conflict with the likely enslaved "servants."

Ella's descriptions of Gustavus Bates' activities indicate that he was travelling to tend to business affairs, seemingly related to agriculture. He travelled to Allatoona, Acworth, Cartersville, Marietta, Covington, Cassville, Carsonville, and Atlanta and Ella noted instances when he dealt with corn and arranged for the slaughter and sale of hogs. At times, she wrote of him going to or returning from unnamed plantations, but his role at those sites is unclear. On several occasions, she referred to travelers staying with the family, including an African American man on his way to North Carolina (March 18).

Ella wrote of her infant son's health and development, daily activities, clothing, and relationship with his father. Several times she mentioned short trips taken with him, as well as the desire to get his ambrotype taken, "if he can sit still long enough." Entries also provide insight into the domestic work Ella Bates performed, including references to selling her butter, hardening lard, collecting broom straw, mending clothing, dealing with chickens, geese, and turkeys, gardening, and trading goods with neighbors. Ella also noted social visits and letters from family members, providing a glimpse into the work she performed tending to relationships and the family's social circle.

While Ella referred to those performing labor around her as "servants," it is likely that many if not all of these individuals were enslaved. Several people feature prominently, including Toney, of whom Ella wrote, "I think it is almost impossible for me to keep house without him" (January 3). Toney also appears throughout the volume performing various jobs like running errands or making deliveries, fixing Ella's garden, tending to candle molds, and other tasks. Likewise, a man named Ellick appears several times, running errands, salting meat, working with mules, and he appears to have had carpentry skills. Other named individuals who may have been enslaved workers appear only sparingly, performing various jobs.

Ella's diary provides glimpses into female domestic labor she oversaw. While unclear whether the women were enslaved, it is likely that they were. Mary and Francis labored in the household, cooking, cleaning, washing and tending to clothes, and other various tasks like sewing corn sacks and handling geese. Francis appears to have been pregnant, as Ella referred to her impending confinement (February 21). They may have also assisted in tending to Horace, as on April 7 Ella noted Mary falling with him. There are indications that a larger enslaved population was laboring for the family, including references to Francis "boil[ing] the hog feet & ears for the negroes" (January 8) and stopping with Gustavus to "see the servants plough" a field (April 11).

At times, the entries indicate conflict or resistance, including on January 13 when she wrote, "Some of the negroes have been trying to break in my hen house. I took Joe this evening and made him fix it up nicely." On January 17, she referred to May, a likely enslaved African American woman, as "impudent" and noted that upon being slapped "she was mad enough to knock me down." That same day she commented on Toney wanting to keep his clothes in the house, "if I do he will keep my dining room dirty all the time." Other events pertain to Mary who labored in the house, including her breaking a cup (January 20) and a workbox, which Ella accused her of doing to "steal my needles and thread" (February 17). Entries for February 21 and 22 refer to a man named Henry running away from a Mr. Cooper, and Ella commented about African American children "not let[ting] me raise many chickens this year" (March 28).

The diary includes passages that seem to imply conflict between Ella and a woman named Emma from Allatoona, who may have come to the Bates household with three young children (February 22). While unclear if Emma was enslaved, she may have been, as Ella wrote that "she is a splendid servant about a house" (February 24). Several days after the arrival, tension arose between Ella, Emma, and Gustavus, when Ella remarked, "Mr. Bates got so mad with me last night about Emma. He says he will never forget or forgive me for it as long as he lives" (February 27). On March 1, Ella acknowledged feeling jealous "about something I heard today it makes me sick," and on March 3, Ella stated her pleasure that Emma would be leaving; she departed on March 9, 1862.

Ella Bates occasionally referred to wartime events, including the fall of Nashville (February 26), Union forces taking "the engine from Big Shanty" (April 12 and 13), soldiers taking the railroad to Corinth (April 14), and anxieties about her husband enlisting in the Confederate Army (February 18, February 28, March 2, April 3, April 14). She also documented people in the household who ventured out to acquire newspapers, which may have been to follow wartime news among other purposes.

One page at the end of the volume appears to be a list of household tasks to accomplish, including those related to gardening, chickens, geese, and clothing. Several poems are also included at the end of the volume, including one entitled "Stone Mountain."

The inscriptions "Tennie Bates" and "T.M.B. Waverly Tenn" appear on the front pastedown and flyleaf, indicating the volume was in the possession of Tennessee Mae Bates, Ella Bates' granddaughter. Other names inscribed in the volume include "Aleck McClaren, Memphis Tennessee," "Miss Jennie Tidwill," and "G. H. Bates - 1861" suggesting Gustavus may have given the volume as a gift to Ella.


Ellen and Peddy Finch letters, 1862-1863

6 items

Captain Ozro B. Gould of the 55th Ohio Infantry Regiment received 6 letters from his female cousins Ellen and Peddy Finch in 1862 and 1863. The Finches discussed their education, provided news from Green Springs, Ohio, and shared stories of mutual acquaintances who served in the Union Army.

Captain Ozro B. Gould of the 55th Ohio Infantry Regiment received 6 letters from his cousins Ellen and Peddy Finch in 1862 and 1863. The Finches discussed their education, provided news from Ohio, and shared stories of mutual acquaintances who served in the Union Army.

Ellen and Peddy Finch wrote to their "Soger Coz." from their home in Green Springs, Ohio. The Finch sisters attended evening classes and reported on marriages and other social events, such as a visit from "G. W. S.," an officer from Grand Temple of Ohio (of the Independent Order of Good Templars) who stayed with Finch family. The letters also include updates about local men who served in the Union Army, collected from the soldiers' letters to Green Springs, and occasional comments about the war. On January 17, 1863, Nellie Finch wrote that her sister Peddy had hoped that the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation would bring the war to a quick end. Ellen Finch's letter of March 8, 1863, is written on stationery with an imprint of a Union flag and the words "Union forever."


Fannie Preston diary, 1861-1863

1 volume

Fannie Preston's diary spans 120 pages and reflects her experiences during a stay in Baker County, Georgia, from November 1861 to September 1862, and of life in Baltimore, Maryland, from 1862 to 1863. Preston discussed daily life, wartime hardships, battles, Confederates, Confederate-sympathizers, African American people, slavery, religion, education, and wartime hardships.

Fannie Preston's diary spans 120 pages and reflects her experiences during a stay in Baker County, Georgia, from November 1861 to September 1862, and of life in Baltimore, Maryland, from 1862 to 1863.

Preston's writings while in Georgia include descriptions of daily life and wartime hardships. Preston was elated at finding something as simple as a "tangled skein of black silk" on the floor, having been forced to take apart old garments for thread to repair a dilapidated wardrobe (February 22, 1862). Preston's entries reflect the all-encompassing nature of the war, women's struggles on the home front, and her daily duties and responsibilities amidst the turmoil.

While in Baker County, Georgia, Preston worked as a teacher and taught a variety of fundamental topics to students. She considered herself somewhat proficient in "how to make a good grammarian, or a good reader, or to make [a student] proficient in History, Geography, Mathematics, etc." (January 23, 1862), but struggled with the belief that she did not know how to form her students' character. Deeply religious, Preston often included Christian teachings and practices with lessons.

After Preston returned to Maryland, she continued to write about the effects of the war on civilian life. On April 18, 1863, her family discussed heavy firing heard in the distance that morning, but still "returned to [their] various pursuits and meditations, as if [they] had not just admitted the probability of a murderous conflict within a few miles." This desensitization to war was not new to Fannie: "the idea of war, a year ago, tho' painful, was romantic", but her sensibilities were "somewhat deadened by familiarity with details of carnage and destruction" (March 21, 1862). Mentions of disputes over the American flag--as well as farmers learning how to deal with a lack of an enslaved work force--paint a picture of a Maryland occupied by Union forces, but whose populace leaned towards the Confederacy.

Preston, a Confederate-sympathizing Protestant, also wrote about her internal conflicts regarding slavery and whether it was ordained by God or was a sin. She questioned her personal duties and remarked on what she would do if "Providence made me the slave" (June 8, 1863). She consulted scripture for answers to these questions, but did not seem to draw a hard conclusion. Her brief description of African Americans in Georgia and Maryland during the Civil War includes building entrenchments, attending school, singing hymns, and continuing work as laborers and caretakers. These remarks provide glimpses of the lived experiences of African American communities during a time of extreme tumult. In October of 1863, she noted the passage of Black people escaping enslavement: "Some of them inform their mistresses beforehand that they are getting ready to leave. Most of the men have been gone some time, and every once in a while, the wife and children of one of the absentees disappear into the night carrying with them their effects" (October 18, 1863).


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.


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.


Hamilton-Schuyler family papers, 1820-1924 (majority within 1820-1877)

0.5 linear feet

The Hamilton-Schuyler family papers contain correspondence, a diary, and documents related to the family of James Alexander Hamilton, including his daughter, Eliza Hamilton Schuyler; son-in-law, George Lee Schuyler; and granddaughter, Louisa Lee Schuyler. The material pertains to upper-class life in New York during much of the 19th century.

The Hamilton-Schuyler family papers (approximately 110 items) contain material related to the family of James Alexander Hamilton, including his daughter, Eliza Hamilton Schuyler; son-in-law, George Lee Schuyler; and granddaughter, Louisa Lee Schuyler. The papers provide insight into upper-class life in New York throughout much of the 19th century.

The Correspondence series (78 items) makes up the bulk of the collection. George Lee Schuyler composed much of the earliest correspondence in the collection, informing his brother William of his experiences while away at school in Bloomingdale, New York; one of these is written in Spanish. Other early material in the collection describes Hamilton family vacations, including several letters by James A. Hamilton written while he toured Europe in 1836 and 1837. These letters are notable not only for their descriptions of 19th-century Europe, but also for Hamilton's opinions on the financial crisis that developed in the United States during the Panic of 1837. Later correspondence includes letters written to Louisa Lee Schuyler concerning her charitable work, particularly focusing on her advocacy of humane care for the mentally ill. In addition to loose correspondence, the collection includes a letterbook outlining the contents of "Correspondence between Mrs. G. L. Schuyler (Eliza Hamilton) & Rev. Orville Dewey" (1848-1863). Many of these letters are represented by excerpts, and include Schuyler's reactions to the Civil War.

Louisa Lee Schuyler composed the collection's Diary from January 1-June 3, 1861, about the opening stages of the Civil War. She witnessed sermons by Henry Bellows and Henry Ward Beecher, and attended several theater performances by Edwin Booth.

The Documents and Photograph series (4 items) includes a military commission signed by Lewis Cass (June 30, 1832), a detailed household inventory for the Schuyler family farm (1848), a marriage certificate (March 1, 1856), and a photograph of Julia Boggs Livingston (Undated).

The School Papers series (15 items) is made up of two subseries, both related to the education of George Schuyler. The first subseries, Marks and Rewards of Merit (4 items), contains accolades for high performance. School Exercises (11 items) in language and mathematics comprise the second subseries, reflecting work in French and trigonometry.

The Writings series consists of 4 political essays by various authors, with occasional comments by George Schuyler; 5 typed memoirs and reminiscences, including an outline for an autobiographical sketch by Eliza Hamilton Schuyler; a typed copy of a poem by Washington Irving (to Rebecca McLane, beginning "There's a certain young lady"); an acrostic poem entitled "The Heron to the Ibis, with the Compliments of the Season: A Key to Egyptian Hieroglyphics" (1868); and a notebook containing genealogical and correspondence information, 1830-1863.


Henry Grimes Marshall papers, 1862-1865

212 items (0.5 linear feet)

The Henry Grimes Marshall papers consist of letters written by Marshall to his family while serving with the Union Army, including time spent as an officer in the 29th Connecticut Infantry Regiment (Colored). Marshall's letters describe the events taking place around him as well as his thoughts about African American regiments, women's roles in war, and his reactions to the war.

Henry Marshall is among those writers whose letters provide insight into the workings of the mind, but also the workings of the heart. As a result, his surviving correspondence ranks among the outstanding collections in the Schoff Civil War Collections, providing a sensitive and deeply introspective view into the experience of a white officer in a "colored" regiment. An exquisite writer, Marshall was also among the most punctual of correspondents, rarely allowing a week to pass without sending something to his family at home. As a result of this fidelity and his meticulous eye for detail, it is possible to reconstruct nearly every day of Marshall's life under arms, the swings in his emotions, and the sudden changes in fortune that marked his career.

The high point of the collection is a remarkable series of letters written while Marshall was captain of Co. E, 29th Connecticut Infantry (Colored). Unlike the vast majority of white Americans, Marshall saw African-Americans as capable soldiers, brave and willing, and though afflicted with an unrelenting paternalism and sense of his own racial superiority, he generally refrained from swinging to the romantic extremes of many white abolitionists or the vicious extremes of his more racist compatriots. Marshall provides good accounts of daily life in camp, the inevitable rumors circulating among the soldiers, and opinions of officers. Of particular value are the ruminations on African American troops and their officers, living conditions while on duty guarding plantations in South Carolina or in the trenches before Petersburg, and the heavy labor while working at construction of the Dutch Gap Canal.

Among the military engagements described by Marshall are Fredericksburg, the sieges of Suffolk and Petersburg (particularly the battles of New Market, Darbytown Road and the Darbytown and New Market Roads), and the capture of Richmond. Furthermore, Marshall was involved in a number of minor skirmishes, many of which are exceptionally well documented. Overall, the best accounts are those for New Market Heights, where African American troops again distinguished themselves, and for a smaller, but significant skirmish during the Petersburg Campaign on October 12 and 13, 1864.

Marshall's letters are made more valuable in that his observational scope extends beyond the military, to report on such things as contraband children's schools (April 30, 1863), "shouts" and religious services (1864 July 5), and the local civilianry. An educated man with a keen interest in botany, he frequently sent home lengthy descriptions of southern flowers, often enclosing samples and seeds, and he left a rare record of the reading material available to a soldier. Marshall was also a keen observer of the religious life in his regiment, writing scathing attacks on his regiment's chaplain, whom Marshall felt was suspect of character.