Introduction: "Massachusetts at last has found her voice"

by Elaine Grublin, Head of Reader Services

On 8 January 1861, as the nation anxiously waited to see if civil war would come, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner wrote to newly inaugurated Governor John A. Andrew, "Massachusetts at last has found her voice." To Sumner, Andrew was that voice, demonstrated in his powerful inaugural address delivered in the Massachusetts State House three days before, on 5 January.
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January 1861: "Massachusetts ... will respond with an alacrity & force"

by Melanie Leung, Intern
This three-page draft of a letter written by John A. Andrew, the newly inaugurated governor of Massachusetts, to General Winfield Scott concerns the preparation of Massachusetts' troops to assist with "maintaining the laws and integrity of the country" in the face of the seccession crisis.
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February 1861: "The best hope ... is that civil war and bloodshed may be avoided"

by Timothy Holt, Intern
In this four-page letter to his youngest son, Willy, a recent Harvard graduate who was studying in England, Edward Everett expresses his displeasure at not being appointed as a delegate to the Peace Conference meeting in Washington, reflects on the growing national crisis, and shares his view on what must be done to save the Union.
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March 1861: "Mr Lincoln then rose and proceeded to read his address in a clear, distinct voice which was heard by every body"

By Elaine Grublin
In this diary entry, Charles Francis Adams reflects on events in Washington on the day of Lincoln's first inaugural address, 4 March 1861. Adams describes last minute activities in the House of Representatives, reflects on his role as a member of Congress, and gives an eyewitness account of the inauguration and inaugural ball, including commentary on Lincoln's character.
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April 1861: "And finally ... we leave the Old Bay State to do which we can to sustain her character for heroic deeds untarnished ..."

By Elaine Grublin
In this eight-page letter written to his wife Lydia, Charles Bowers offers a detailed description of his journey from Concord, Massachusetts to Washington as a member of the Fifth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Militia in response to Abraham Lincoln's first call for troops. He describes all facets of the journey: departing Concord for Boston on 19 April 1861; travel by train from Boston to New York City and by ship from New York to Annapolis, Maryland, where he views the USS Constitution at sea traveling north to the safety of the harbor in Newport, Rhode Island; a 20-mile overnight march from Annapolis to Annapolis Junction; and finally his arrival by train in the "beautiful Federal Capital of the nation" on 27 April. Bowers also offers insight into his motivations for joining the regiment and the hardships faced by the men on their long journey, and expresses wonder at being offered "a genuine corncake, made by the hand of a real slave" in Maryland.
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May 1861: "The undersigned will give the sums set against our names to sustain Andrew Johnson & the Union men of Tenn. ..."

By Elaine Grublin
This four-page document contains a subscription list identifying twenty-two Massachusetts men pledging monetary assistance to pro-Union advocates in East Tennessee in support of their struggle to maintain themselves as citizens of the United States as Tennessee prepares to secede from the Union. The subscription was born out of a meeting (described in a letter from Boston businessman Amos A. Lawrence to Tennessee Senator Andrew Johnson) held in the Boston office of Amos A. Lawrence on 22 May 1861. At that meeting, fourteen prominent Massachusetts men, having "undoubted information that a crisis exists in East Tennessee involving the safety of the Union men," recommended that the citizens of Massachusetts lend support to that cause.
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June 1861: "… the ladies of Stockbridge feel an earnest interest in their welfare …"

By Bethany Hirsch, Intern
This two-page letter, written by Jeanie Pomeroy to Captain Richard Goodwin on 12 June 1861, accompanied parcels of clothing and towels made for the men of Stockbridge, Massachusetts serving in Company K of the Second Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. In the letter Pomeroy states that the women of Stockbridge wish that the parcels "prove to promote [the troops] comfort, and aid them in performing faithfully the duties they have undertaken in their country's service."
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July 1861: "... I was on a 'field of battle' cannon ball & shells, were whistling over our heads …"

By Bethany Hirsch, Intern
In this twenty-page letter to his wife Sarah, dated 27 July 1861, Lieutenant John C. Robertson of the Eleventh Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry offers the “full particulars” of his experiences during the Battle of Bull Run. Informing Sarah that he has “been in battle,” Robertson offers a detailed description of the day’s events, including the silent overnight march from Centreville to Manassas, the horrors he witnessed during the battle, the disorganized retreat of the Union troops, and the forty-mile march back to Washington immediately following the battle.
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August 1861: "Such quantities of medicine as I pour down their throats, Heaven forgive me for inflicting upon their poor stomachs..."

By Liz Francis, Intern
In this four-page letter Hannah Stevenson writes to her family about her work as a nurse at Columbia College Hospital in Washington during the early months of the Civil War. She describes the suffering of the young soldiers in her care and “how ignorantly careless of their health their commanders have been.” Hannah laments the hazards many of the soldiers encounter in the hospitals, including disease, mistreatment by superiors, hunger, and homesickness, while celebrating the soldiers' dedication to the Union cause and the endless work of her fellow nurses “whose muscles never surrender” to the demands of the work.
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September 1861: "I am in the very midst of the great warlike preparations of the West."

By Elaine Grublin
In this four-page letter, written 29 September 1861, Howard Dwight relates the state of Union affairs in Missouri to his father, William Dwight, Sr. Having recently arrived in St. Louis, Howard shares his thoughts about the command of Major General John C. Frémont and his own attempts to secure a commission from Frémont.
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October 1861: "I never saw such a sight and God grant I may never see such another."


In this seven-page letter to his mother, Harriet Sears Crowninshield, Captain Caspar Crowninshield of the 20th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry describes in great detail his experiences on the field during the Battle of Ball's Bluff. Writing on 22 October 1861, the day after the battle, Crowninshield tells his mother that he and his men "stood firm and fought bravely" amid the confusion of the battle in which Union forces suffered large casualties. He also comments on witnessing the death of Colonel (Senator) Edward D. Baker, who "behaved with the utmost Courage and coolness all through the fight."
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November 1861: "That it should be impressed upon Govt to make its next demonstration upon the coast of Texas..."

By Liz Francis, Intern

In this four-page letter dated 15 November 1861, Boston lawyer Horatio Woodman aims to convince Massachusetts governor John A. Andrew that the Union army must capture Texas in order to end the Confederate rebellion.
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December 1861: "… only waiting to sink the Stone fleet and to finish up the business of Fort Pulaski…"

By Liz Francis, Intern

In this six-page letter dated 19 December 1861, John Call Dalton, Jr. (1825-1889), an army surgeon, writes to his brother Charles Henry Dalton (1826-1908), assistant quartermaster-general of the Massachusetts militia, from his position at Hilton Head, South Carolina. In the letter Dalton describes collecting souvenirs inside the recently captured Fort Walker, references the beginning of the siege of Fort Pulaski in Georgia, and makes observations about the local slaves interacting with the Union army.
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January 1862: "You've no idea of the fearful state of the camp ground..."

By Joan Fink, Volunteer

In this letter of 31 January 1862 to his brother, Robert, Lieutenant Charles Fessenden Morse, gives a detailed description of the poor conditions that the Second Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry endured during the long winter months of 1862, and tells of the adventuresome journey he shared with his good friend and fellow officer, Lieutenant Robert Gould Shaw when they secured a brief leave from their military duties to visit friends stationed in Annapolis.
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February 1862: "And thus hath it ever been in the foreign dealings of our canny parent!"

By Zachary Reisch, Intern

When Charles Francis Adams penned this letter to Richard Henry Dana, Jr. on 6 February 1862, the diplomatic maelstrom caused by the so-called Trent Affair had already passed, temporarily securing Great Britain’s continued neutrality in the American Civil War. In this letter, Adams, the American minister in Great Britain, writes to Dana, considered by many to be America’s foremost expert on maritime law at that time, expressing his view that the British government’s reaction to the Trent Affair was typical of that nation’s traditionally profit-oriented foreign policy. Stating that he believes this policy could, as in the past, have unfortunate consequences for Great Britain, Adams outlines for Dana the “desperate quibbles” Britain presented in defense of her position on the Trent Affair, and offers counterarguments for each point.
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March 1862: "The Merrimac played us a pretty trick ...."


By Joan Fink, Volunteer

On 14 March 1862, Captain Richard Cary of the Second Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment wrote this eight-page letter to his wife Helen. In this letter Captain Cary references the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack (rechristened by the Confederates as the CSS Virginia), and meeting John Wilkes Booth. The letter also describes how a group of soldiers under Captain Cary's command occupied and looted a plantation deserted by everyone except the slaves. Captain Cary and his men found ham, corn bread, and native wine, which the Captain brought back to company headquarters hidden underneath his overcoat to "keep it from the gaze of envious or objecting eyes" (page 3).
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April 1862: "The battle field in the day of battle is awfully exciting: afterwards terribly disgusting."

By Joan Fink, Volunteer
"The Waterloo of this hemisphere" is the description used by Lieutenant Horace Newton Fisher to portray the devastation wrought by the Battle of Shiloh in this 8 April 1862 letter. Lieutenant Fisher, an aide-de-camp on the staff of Brigadier General William Nelson, wrote this letter to John Ward, a family friend living in Louisville, Kentucky, in hopes that Mr. Ward would telegraph Fisher's family in Massachusetts to notify them that he had escaped with "not even scratches." In addition to supplying estimates of the number of casualties for both the Union and Confederate armies, Lieutenant Fisher relates how he narrowly missed having his head shot off by a cannonball.
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May 1862: "I had a fair view of 'Old Abe' as he rode by..."

By Joan Fink, Volunteer
In this 24 May 1862 letter to Ruth Ann Prouty, Charles Barnard Fox, a lieutenant in the Thirteenth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, describes for his future wife an encounter with "Old Abe." On 23 May 1862, President Lincoln reviewed the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac, which at that time included the Thirteenth Massachusetts. Lincoln routinely reviewed the army in order to inspect the troops, in addition to boosting morale and demonstrating his appreciation for their sacrifice. Lieutenant Fox, in a candid moment of levity, opines that President Lincoln was "not likely to be hung for his beauty." However, he notes that Lincoln had a "good honest face" and appeared to be a man that would "do his duty as he sees it, to the best of his ability."
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June 1862: "...I have ascertained the following particulars of your brother's death..."

By Elaine Grublin

In this three-page letter, dated 27 June 1862, Corporal Julius M. Lathrop describes the death of Private George H. Baxter in a skirmish at Tranter’s Creek, near Washington, North Carolina. Lathrop, a friend and fellow soldier in the Twenty-Fourth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, did not witness Baxter’s death, but prompted by a request from Baxter’s brother, Lathrop “ascertained the following particulars” from Sergeant George W. Nichols, who was fighting beside Baxter when he received his mortal wound.
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July 1862: "...now is the time that tries a good soldier..."

By Joan Fink, Volunteer

Politicians should keep to politics and let the military handle its own affairs. That is the philosophy espoused by Captain George H. Johnston, a Bostonian serving as assistant adjutant general to Brigadier General Henry Naglee, in this 15 July 1862 letter to his wife, Amanda. Writing at the close of the failed Peninsular Campaign, Captain Johnston offers a description of the current state of the Army of the Potomac and his opinion on what must be done in order for the Union to win the war.
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September 1862: "10.A.M. commenced shelling them in a cornfield across Antietam Creek..."

By Joan Fink, Volunteer

“The battle field presents an awful spectacle this morning & the ground for miles is covered with dead & wounded in many places 3 & 4 deep.” This is how William Clark Hawes, of Milford, Massachusetts, described the scene before him on the morning of 15 September 1862 after a long day of fighting in the Battle of South Mountain during the Antietam Campaign (page 7). Hawes, a private in the Eighth Battery Massachusetts Light Artillery Volunteer Militia, kept a diary that provides a detailed account of the critical days between 14 and 19 September when General George B. McClellan and the Army of the Potomac confronted Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in and around Sharpsburg, Maryland.
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