Category Archives: Civil War

New Collection: Washington A. Lemons Papers (#5508-z)

Washington A. Lemons of Greene County, Tenn., was born in 1833. He served in the Union Army’s Company C, 2nd North Carolina Infantry Regiment, 6 October 1863-16 August 1865, in locations throughout western North Carolina, including Deep Gap, Boone, and Asheville. The collection contains two letters, 11 April 1865 and 1 May 1865, from Washington A. Lemons to his wife, Harriet Lemons, of Greeneville, Tenn., and two related documents. The April letter recounts capturing Confederate soldiers and supplies in Jefferson, N.C., and acquiring a secession flag in Boone. The May letter refers to the Shelton Laurel massacre of January 1863, in which the Confederate 64th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, led by James A. Keith, killed 13 alleged Union sympathizers in Madison County, N.C. The letter also describes the capture of a perpetrator of the massacre, insinuating that the soldier was punished severely. Also included are a transcription of the May letter and a list of North Carolina Union regiments that highlights Lemons’s regiment and company.

Click here to view the finding aid for this collection…

New Collection: James B. Caldwell Diary (#5365-z)

James B. Caldwell of Alabama was 19 years old when he entered the Civil War in the 13th Tennessee Infantry Regiment. He served in the regiment in Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Mississippi. The collection contains the diary James B. Caldwell kept during his service with the 13th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, 23 May 1861-13 August 1962. The diary chiefly describes daily activities of the regiment as it travelled throughout Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas, and camp life while waiting for active service, including card-playing and nightly dances. Included is a description of the Battle of Belmont, 7 November 1861, in Columbus, Ky.; sketched maps of camps and lists of Caldwell’s personal expenses; and declarations of love and verses dedicated to Caldwell’s fiance Maggie, including a passage written on 7 April 1962 that Caldwell recited when he proposed to her while on furlough. Most diary entries are undated and do not appear in chronological order. Also included are a typed transcript of the diary and other materials providing historical and geographical context for the diary.

Click here to view the finding aid…

New SHC collection: Harry Stanley mess book and other papers, 1863-1865.

Harry Stanley was born Tufton K. Stanley on 2 September 1832 in Boston, Mass. He first enlisted in the United States Navy in 1855 and then reenlisted on 21 September 1861. He was made master at arms, the chief disciplinary officer on the USS Ethan Allen, on 24 August 1863, and left the ship on 14 June 1865 as a yeoman. He died on 15 February 1890 in Boston, Mass.

The collection contains the mess book of Harry Stanley, the master at arms for the USS Ethan Allen. The beginning of the book lists the sailors on the ship, divided into the eight different messes with which they ate. The second part of the book is a list of disciplinary actions taken against crew members of the ship, listed by date. Typical entries contain the name of the crew member who was punished, the event for which they were punished, the dates on which they were punished and released, and by whom they were released. There are also drawings of the various semaphore flags and their meanings, a penciled copy of the list of members of the eight different messes, and a list of all money received and spent by Stanley on behalf of the USS Ethan Allen. There are also photocopies of Harry Stanley’s pension; his discharge; and a few documents relating to the widow’s pension of his wife, Margaret Stanley.

[You may click here to view the finding aid for this new collection.]


The lives of prisoners of war at Johnson’s Island

The SHC contains a number of collections that document the lives of Confederate prisoners at Johnson’s Island Prison near Sandusky, Ohio. [Click here to see a listing of catalog records of SHC material on the subject.]

Drawing of Johnson’s Island Prison, 7 October 1863, Sandusky Bay near Sandusky, Ohio

Drawing of Johnson’s Island Prison, 7 October 1863 (from Joseph Mason Kern Papers, SHC #2526-z)

The image above comes from the SHC’s Joseph Mason Kern Papers (SHC collection #2526-z).  Kern (b. 1842), of Romney, Va., served in the C.S.A. 13th Virginia Infantry Regiment during the Civil War, and was imprisoned for several months at Johnson’s Island. Kern compiled a scrapbook that documents his Civil War experiences and his time at Johnson’s Island, and includes this colored map of the prison.

A second example:  The SHC preserves two diaries of Robert Bingham (1838-1927) kept, 1863-1864, while he was a prisoner at Norfolk, Va., Fort Delaware, Johnson’s Island, Ohio, and Point Lookout, Md.  The diary describes prison life, including quarters, gambling, work, escape plots, sermons, food, illness, and hospitals at various prison camps.  Here’s his diary entry from August 26, 1863 (while imprisoned at Johnson’s Island):

Two months.  Yes it is a long time to be in prison. I have not heard a word from my wife in two months. It is very long.  How my heart has yearned for her in these two months! & for my child.  God bless them – & keep them.  The Lord make his face to shine upon them & be gracious to them.  The Lord lift up his countenance upon them & grant them peace.  Two months in prison.  I have suffered – some from sickness, much from anxiety about home – much from looking thro[ugh] bars & across bayonets – but I have much to be thankful for.  I have had money – not in abundance, but enough.  I have had books – & several very kind letters & have been very much more comfortable than I expected to be.  I wrote to Dell to day assuring her of this & I do hope the letter may get thro[ugh].  Other have got letters thro[ugh] both ways.

Legacy finding aids now available online

The SHC has some exciting news for our researchers: we’ve embarked on a 3 year project funded by a grant from NC ECHO to update and make available online over 1000 finding aids currently only available in paper format. Over 200 of these finding aids are now available online!

These finding aids represent some of the earliest acquisitions of the SHC. Many of these collections contain information about the Civil War and early North Carolina politics.

Some collections that have jumped out at us from the initial group of 200 include:

Abraham Enloe Papers, #4229

This collection contains a letter arguing that Enloe fathered Abraham Lincoln.

Spinsters’ Club Records, #4144-z

Membership in this Fayetteville, NC club was limited to women under the age of 30.

James E. Green Diary, #2678

Green, a farmer and physician, served in the 53rd North Carolina Regiment during the Civil War and his diary contains entries from his active duty in army hospitals in Virginia and North Carolina.

Lutie Kealhofer Papers, #1011

Included in this collection is a diary kept by Kealhofer describing her activities during the Civil War in Hagerstown, Md. and her travels to Canada and upstate New York.

We will be posting newly updated finding aids each month so stay tuned for more highlights!

A list of all finding aids published online through this project is now available.

Portrait of General James Johnston Pettigrew

Portrait of General James Johnston Pettigrew that hangs on an interior wall at the Southern Historical Collection

A portrait of General James Johnston Pettigrew, painted by William Garl Brown in 1866, hangs on an interior wall at the Southern Historical Collection.

Once in a while, the SHC acquires intriguing artifactual items.  Normally these artifacts are acquired during the acquisition of a greater collection of related manuscript material.  One such artifact was acquired at the time of the gift of the Pettigrew Family Papers (SHC Collection #592):  a framed portrait, in oils, of General James Johnston Pettigrew.

James Johnston Pettigrew (July 4, 1828 – July 17, 1863) was an author, lawyer, linguist, diplomat, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War. He was a major leader in the disastrous Pickett’s Charge and was killed a few days after the Battle of Gettysburg during the Confederate retreat to Virginia.

Our records indicate that the Pettigrew portrait was painted by William Garl Brown in 1866.  The portrait hangs on a wall within the SHC Curator’s office suite.  It’s just another great thing about working for the SHC – enjoying the many historical treasures that surround us as we go about our daily work.  We are pleased to offer this “behind-the-scenes” look at this portrait.

Civil War sketches of Herbert E. Valentine

Herbert Eugene Valentine (1841-1917) was a private in Company F of the 23rd Massachusetts Volunteers, who served in the United States Army between 1861 and 1864 in eastern Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

The SHC’s Herbert E. Valentine Papers contains a diary, pencil and watercolor sketches, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and maps, all contained in two manuscript volumes of Herbert E. Valentine. These volumes contain 184 sketches picturing towns, buildings, ships, bridges, fortifications, and everyday life at military bases. Valentine made birds eye view sketches of the towns in which he was stationed, as well as sketches of their principal buildings such as hospitals, churches, warehouses, and private residences that served as military command headquarters and as officers’ quarters. Locations with numerous sketches include Beaufort, Morehead City, and New Bern, N.C., and Hilton Head and Saint Helena Island, S.C. Seven color maps pertain to the operations of the 23rd Massachusetts Regiment in eastern North Carolina and Virginia.

We thought we’d share a few selections of these great Civil War sketches:

"Allison: Steamer" - from Herbert E. Valentine Papers, SHC #4397

"Steamer Allison, October 13, 1862" - from Herbert E. Valentine Papers, SHC #4397

"Broken Bridge: Over Broad Creek" - from Herbert E. Valentine Papers, SHC #4397

"Broken Bridge: Over Broad Creek" - from Herbert E. Valentine Papers, SHC #4397

"Convoy S. S." - from Herbert E. Valentine Papers, SHC #4397

"Convoy S. S." - from Herbert E. Valentine Papers, SHC #4397

"Chapel, Fort Monroe, Va., 1863" - from Herbert E. Valentine Papers, SHC #4397

"Chapel, Fort Monroe, Va., 1863" - from Herbert E. Valentine Papers, SHC #4397

"Pillow Fight" - from Herbert E. Valentine Papers, SHC #4397

"Pillow Fight" - from Herbert E. Valentine Papers, SHC #4397

What We’re Browsing: Confederate Spies!

Portion of transcription from John Y. Beall Papers (#2533-z)

Portion of court proceedings from John Y. Beall Papers (#2533-z)

Often, while clicking around in the library catalog, we stumble on these intriguing little pockets of content among the holdings of the SHC.  Sometimes it’s a matter of rediscovering what we forgot we had, or finding stuff that seems to be ‘hidden in plain sight.’ These serendipitous finds remind us of the great breadth and depth of the Collection and provide some fun topics to discuss and share.

Consider, if you will, a recent search we did on “Confederate Spies.” Here are two examples of SHC material found on this topic:

  • John Y. Beall Papers – “Two volumes, dated ca. 1865-1899 and ca. 1935-1942, documenting the trial and execution of John Yates Beall, acting master in the Confederate Navy, for espionage and breaking the laws of war.”  According to our biographical information, Beall was accused of attempting to free fellow Confederate soldiers from the confines of the prison at Johnson’s Island at Sandusky Bay, Ohio.
  • Letters concerning Sam Davis, 1863 -  “Three letters, November-December 1863, from Union soldiers in Tennessee, concerning the execution of Sam Davis at Pulaski, Tenn., on 27 November 1863, as a Confederate spy.”