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Vermonters in the Civil War

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Collection Overview

Vermont soldiers in the Civil War wrote an enormous quantity of letters and diaries, of which many thousands have survived in libraries, historical societies, and in private hands. This collection represents a selection of letters and diaries from the University of Vermont and the Vermont Historical Society.

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Time Period Covered: January 1, 1861 - February 28, 1864 


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Browsing by:    Topic: ("Slaves") remove term

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Title:   Erastus Fairbanks to John Wolcott Phelps

Creator:  Fairbanks, Erastus

Date:  1862-09-23

Resource type:   correspondence

Topics include the conduct of the 7th Vermont Regiment and the lack of newspaper coverage of the Regiment's positive attributes. The battles in Maryland would include Antietam Creek, one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Fairbanks also mentions a rumor of Phelps's resignation, which had indeed occurred in August, 1862. Some thoughts about slavery, government, and the Constitution.

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    Title:   Joseph Rutherford to [Hannah Rutherford]

    Creator:  Rutherford, Joseph Chase, 1818-1902

    Date:  1862-11-05

    Resource type:   correspondence

    Dr. Rutherford writes of a battle near Leesburgh some 14 miles from the camp near Seneca Creek (Maryland?) the outcome of which is not known, of the filthy condition of some of the soldiers, of an epidemic of Typhoid fever with the loss of over a dozen men to the illness. He writes of his winter living accommodations of which he is very happy and mentions "Mose the Moor", the runaway black slave boy who tends to him. Also writes of a review from the Brigadier General, and the health of Rutherford’s family.

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      Title:   Joseph Rutherford to [Hannah Rutherford]

      Creator:  Rutherford, Joseph Chase, 1818-1902

      Date:  1862-10-07

      Resource type:   correspondence

      Rutherford writes to his wife, Hannah, about life in camp along the Potomac River. Many soldiers have fevers, his assistant surgeon is ill but he continues to keep up with all the work needing to be done. He writes of a 17 year old male runaway slave named Moses, who takes care of him and his horse, Lady Lightfoot and complains of how slow the mail is.

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        Title:   Justus E. Gale to Family

        Creator:  Gale, Justus F., 1837-1863

        Date:  1862-08-31

        Resource type:   correspondence

        Topics include a train crash, confiscating rebel property including horses, cattle, sheep and mules. Writes of having plenty of food on their travel back to camp including dining on lamb. Provided a meal at an old planters house. Mentions Negroes (slaves) and 1500 Blacks at camp, sending troops to Gen. Phelps, the expectation of getting paid, rebels killed in an encounter with the enemy.

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          Title:   Justus E. Gale to Father

          Creator:  Gale, Justus F., 1837-1863

          Date:  1862-12-13

          Resource type:   correspondence

          Topics include the health of Justus Gale, the mistaken attack (friendly fire) by the Indiana regiment, the process of making sugar done by the slaves, and the daily drilling in camp.

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            Title:   Justus F. Gale to Sister Almeda

            Creator:  Gale, Justus F., 1837-1863

            Date:  1862-08-16

            Resource type:   correspondence

            Topics include guard duty, being able to pick some sweet potatoes, having fresh fruit melons, a trip into the city, a description of a plantation, mentions how much work it is for owners to look after their slaves, states care must be taken of their dress suits and boots in spite of whatever their living conditions may be and the improved health of some of the men in the regiment.

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              Title:   Ransom W. Towle to Parents and Friends

              Creator:  Towle, Ransom W., d. 1864

              Date:  1862-05-23

              Resource type:   correspondence

              Topics include Towle’s not receiving wages, the high prices of food, poverty in camp, the destruction of the countryside by the Rebels, how the Union soldiers are forbidden to even touch any property, the movement of the regiment in Virginia, and the attitude of the slaves towards the Yankees.

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                Title:   Roswell Farnham to [Mary Farnham]

                Creator:  Farnham, Roswell, 1827-1903

                Date:  1861-07-19

                Resource type:   correspondence

                July 19, 1861. Writes from Camp Butler, Newport News, Va. of family matters, fleas and mosquitoes at camp, salt baths, mentions Lt. Peckett, Maj. Worthen, Adj of NY 4th Henricus, of riding out into the country to call on two houses, observations about the owners' slaves.

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                  Title:   William C. Holbrook to Frederick Holbrook

                  Creator:  Holbrook, William Cune, 1842-1904

                  Date:  1862-05-27

                  Resource type:   correspondence

                  Topics include the Union gaining control of New Orleans, General Shepley becoming Military Commandant of the city, and the news that the Vermont Brigade has been gaining control on the Potomac. Evaluations of Generals Butler and Shepley. Also mentions the "contrabands" or slaves coming within Union lines. (Butler would later start recruiting African Americans to be Union soldiers.)

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                    Title:   William C. Holbrook to Frederick Holbrook

                    Creator:  Holbrook, William Cune, 1842-1904

                    Date:  1862-07-29

                    Resource type:   correspondence

                    Topics include returning to Baton Rouge and the comforts that came with this move, expresses his decided opinion on the ramifications of releasing “unlettered Negroes” (i.e. slaves), feels the blacks are well enough cared for in general, speaks against blacks as a possible fighting force, the treatment of the slaves who enter Union lines by the Union soldiers, feels politicians need to experience first hand the habits of black slaves of the south and not hold such lofty ideals, the attempted “cut off” of the Mississippi River by the Union, and the death of W. C. Holbrook’s grandfather.

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                      Title:   William Wirt Henry to Mary Jane Henry

                      Creator:  Henry, William Wirt, 1831-1915

                      Date:  1862-12-28

                      Resource type:   correspondence

                      Change of camp location to Monocacy, letters in the mail not catching up with him, getting a new servant named Johnny Cole of Walden, Vt., having Christmas dinner with a local citizen named Trundell a Southerner (perhaps same as Mr. Trundle that Joseph Rutherford helped heal) but who wishes good relations with Union so his chickens & loose property will not be stolen), a slave (contraband) coming into camp & taken as a servant to the Lieut, speculation on who will command the brigade, and that he is in good health.

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                        Title:   William Wirt Henry to Mary Jane Henry

                        Creator:  Henry, William Wirt, 1831-1915

                        Date:  1863-01-04

                        Resource type:   correspondence

                        Reflects on God's will regarding his children, Rebel cavalry movements, Union scouts were thought to be Rebels, a cow disturbing a picket guard and rousing the camp, the general despondency of the army and the worsening of the war if slaves enter the fighting turning on their masters. He also writes of his hopes of being promoted to colonel of the 10th Vermont.

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                          Creator:  Barney, Valentine G., 1834-1889

                          Date:  1863-05-09

                          Resource type:   correspondence

                          Topics include leveling Rebel fortifications after a retreat by the Confederate Army, rumors about General Hooker’s movements, praise for Vermont troops in the New York newspapers, worry about the safety of his brother, Colonel Elisha Barney, and the results of foraging by his company. He also writes of hiring a “darkey” to help carry his luggage while on march, meeting a cousin in the 118th New York Regiment, and sending money home.

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