Jonathan Lewis Whitaker papers, 1862-1865; 1924.

Creator: Whitaker, Jonathan Lewis, fl. 1862-1865.
Collection number: 3674-z
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Abstract: Civil War letters written home by Jonathan L. Whitaker, an Orange County, N.Y., physician serving as a United States Army surgeon at a hospital at Chester, Pa., and with the 26th U.S. Colored Troops near Beaufort, S.C.; and some family photographs. Most of the letters are addressed to Whitaker’s wife, Julia A. Wells Whitaker. They describe living conditions and physicians’ activities.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: Whitaker writes to his wife on 9 Feb 1864 about hearing an African American minister preach in New York and conduct among African American soldiers. Other letters (31 March 1864, 2 May 1864) mention other African American troops and a black female cook in the camp.

On 11 April 1864, Whitaker writes a very detailed letter that spans several days, as they travel from the coast of North Carolina down to Beaufort, S.C. On 13 April (page 6), he notes that though several Union soldiers have taken over houses and other buildings abandoned by plantation owners, most of the dwellings in that area are occupied by the formerly enslaved community.

On 6 June 1864, Whitaker writes about a Dr. Uglow who struck the husband of “his woman” (presumably one of the African American women in the camp), imprisoned the man in the Guard House, and sent the woman away. Whitaker notes that the Dr. will be going to trial regarding the affair.

On 30 December 1864, Whitaker notes the arrival of several African American men and women arriving into the U.S.C.T.’s camp as “contraband”. Many, he cites, were formerly enslaved by the man on whose property the camp is currently residing on.