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Soldiers and Camp Life

Photograph of Andrew P. Merrill, ca. 1861–1865An estimated 2.75 million soldiers fought in the Civil War, with more than 618,000 perishing in battle, from wounds, or from disease. More than 153,000 Virginians served in Confederate units during the Civil War, and most were native-born farmers between the ages of 18 and 39, with an average age of just under 26. Men on both sides of the conflict were inspired to fight by patriotism, state pride, the chance for adventure, and steady pay but soon found out that the war would last longer than they had ever imagined. Soldiers spent much of their time in camp enduring long hours of boredom, followed by daily drills and picket and guard duty. The Library has numerous published and unpublished accounts of soldiers, most of which relate to their experiences in battle and camp life.

How to Search the Catalogs:

Conduct a keyword or subject search heading in the catalog using the following examples of Library of Congress subject headings.

Confederate States of America Army
Confederate States of America Army Military life
Soldiers Virginia [Locality]
United States Army
    (NOTE: if looking for particular regiment or company, entry should look like: Confederate States of America Army Virginia Infantry Regiment, 4th.)
United States Army Military life
United States History Civil War, 1861-1865 Campaigns

Selected Published Resources

Billings, John D. Hardtack and Coffee: The Unwritten Story of Army Life. Boston: George M. Smith, 1887; reprint, Williamstown, Mass.: Corner House Publishers, 1980; reprint, Alexandria: Time-Life Books, 1982.

Bonner, Robert E. The Soldier’s Pen: Firsthand Impressions of the Civil War. New York: Hill and Wang, 2006.

Manning, Chandra. What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.

McPherson, James M. What They Fought For, 1861–1865. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994.

Mitchell, Reid. Civil War Soldiers. New York: Viking, 1988.

Sheehan-Dean, Aaron. Why Confederates Fought: Family and Nation in Civil War Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

———. The Vacant Chair: The Northern Soldier Leaves Home. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Wiley, Bell Irwin. The Life of Billy Yank, the Common Soldier of the Union. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Press, 1952; reprint, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971.

———. The Life of Johnny Reb, the Common Soldier of the Confederacy. Updated with a new introduction and a foreword by James I. Robertson Jr. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008.

Selected Manuscript Collections

Diary of George E. Albee, 1864. Accession 41695George Emerson Albee. Diary, 1864. Accession 41695.
Diary, 1864, of George E. Albee (1845–1918), while serving with the 3rd Wisconsin Light Artillery and the 36th Wisconsin Infantry, Company F. Topics include camp life, troop movements, a list of soldiers in his company, the Battle of Cold Harbor, the Siege of Petersburg, the Battle of Ream's Station, his imprisonment at Libby Prison in Richmond, and his exchange and return to Madison, Wisconsin, after visiting family members in New Hampshire. Also included is a pass dated 22 January 1864.

Robert H. Depriest. Letters, 1862–1864. Accession 37726.
Letters, 1862–1864, of Robert H. Depriest (1834–1892) of Augusta County, Virginia, to his wife, Mary I. Depriest (1838–1893), while he was serving in the 2nd Virginia Infantry. The letters relate to his service during the Civil War as a member of the Stonewall Brigade, and detail the activities of the regiment while stationed in Berkeley, Frederick, Hanover, Orange, Shenandoah, and Spotsylvania Counties. Depriest writes concerning troop movements and strength, rumors of his being killed at Gaines's Mill, his requests for a new detail, the prices of goods, deserters, the chances for peace, his family's farming activities at home, the death of his wife's mother, pay, furloughs, and visits from his wife's father, as well as the numbers killed, wounded, and taken prisoner during fighting. Depriest describes various battles in which he fought, including the confusion after the Battle of Kernstown, the fighting at the Second Battle of Winchester, the retreat after the Battle of Gettysburg, the buildup to Payne's Farm, and the retreat of his unit after the Spotsylvania Campaign.

Letter of Bettie Browning to Daniel A. Grimsley, 1864 Mar. 4 Letter of Bettie Browning to Daniel A. Grimsley, 1864 Mar. 4, page 2 Grimsley Family. Papers, 1799–1885. Accession 27129.
Papers, 1799–1885, of the Grimsley family of Culpeper County, Virginia. The majority of these items consist of correspondence, 1861–1865, between Daniel A. Grimsley (1840–1910) and Bettie Browning (1845–1894) concerning camp life, troop movements, and battles. Includes two letters from July 1861 regarding the First Battle of Bull Run. Grimsley enlisted in Company B, 6th Regiment of Virginia Cavalry, 22 April 1861, and served through the war.

Letter of James A. Seddon, Secretary of War, C.S.A., to Gen. D. H. Hill, 1863 July 3D. H. Hill. Papers, 1860–1888. Accession 32032.
Papers, 1860–1888, of D. H. Hill (1821–1889) of North Carolina, Arkansas, and Georgia, who served as a general in the Confederate army during the Civil War. The papers contain Hill's wartime correspondence concerning his participation in the Peninsula Campaign; the Battle of Fair Oaks (Seven Pines); the Seven Days' Battles, including Malvern Hill; the Maryland Campaign of 1862, including the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam; the Battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga; the Siege of Petersburg; and the Battle of Bentonville. It also describes his commands of a division in the Army of Northern Virginia and a corps in the Army of Tennessee as well as his command of the Department of North Carolina. The papers cover Hill's dispute with General Braxton Bragg and dismissal from active command after the Battle of Chickamauga and his subsequent correspondence with General Samuel Cooper regarding his efforts to be given a new command. The papers contain information on troop movements and strategy; on prisoner exchanges; and on the use of African American labor by the Confederate armies. Hill's postwar correspondence mainly concerns reminiscences of Hill's correspondents regarding the Civil War, especially concerning the Battles of Fair Oaks (Seven Pines) and the Maryland Campaign. The collection also contains depositions regarding William T. Sherman's March through the Carolinas and the burning of Columbia, South Carolina. The papers consist of correspondence, maps, orders, telegrams, battle reports, and speeches. Many of the wartime papers have been published in the Official Records of the War of Rebellion. (Click Here for Online Access to Cornell University's War of the Rebellion)

George Hupman. Letters, 1862–1864. Accession 38741.
Letters, 1862–1864, of George Hupman of Company G, 89th New York Infantry, to his parents in Windsor, New York, discussing his health, news of his brothers Charles and Elias Hupman, including hearing of Elias Hupman's death; camp life; campaigns in Virginia and South Carolina, including the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Siege of Petersburg, the Mud March, and the shelling of Fort Sumter. He comments on the possibility of reenlisting and his dislike of his company's captain. He remarks on the need for conscription and criticizes conscripts who injure themselves rather than join the army. Also includes two letters from family members in Windsor, New York, detailing the effects of the Civil War on people in Windsor.

James A. Littlefield. Letters, 1860–1867. Accession 37899.
Letters, 1860–1867, written by James A. Littlefield of Greenwood, Oxford County, Maine, while he was serving with the 5th Maine Volunteers in Virginia. The letters are written to his cousin Martha Rice of Waterville, Kennebec County, Maine. Subjects include his plans to enlist, his stay in the hospital, the Battle of Bull Run and Brigadier General Irvin McDowell's censure after his defeat, Littlefield's trip home after his term of service expired, his reenlistment, and subsequent regrets at doing so. Also includes comments on Major General John Charles Frémont, Henry Wise's defeat at Roanoke Island and the capture of many Confederate prisoners, camp life, marching, and inspections, troop movements, weather, his viewing of the Monitor at Fortress Monroe, battle strategies, Major General George B. McClellan's removal from command, the mistreatment of privates, his opinions on Brigadier General Joseph Hooker, battles and skirmishes fought, the Battle of Big Bethel, and his encampment near Charlestown and Harpers Ferry.

List of Commissioned Officers in the 18th Regiment, July 3 1863Henry Thweatt Owen. Papers, 1822–1929. Accession 28154. (Click Here for Finding Aid)
Papers, 1822–1929, of Henry Thweatt Owen (1831–1921) of Burkeville and Richmond, Virginia, and captain of Company C, 18th Virginia Infantry Regiment. Includes letters, 1856–1924, concerning Owen's military service, his desire for historical accuracy regarding the role of Pickett's Division in the Gettysburg campaign, postwar Virginia politics, and his career in the Second Auditor's Office. Also includes a diary, 10 February–10 July 1863, tracing the movements of the 18th Virginia Infantry; reminiscences of his military service, the Battle of South Mountain, and Pickett's Charge; military papers, 1862–1864, including letters, orders, and receipts, especially concerning Union prisoners; and lists of casualties at Gettysburg. Also includes broadsides entitled "To the Survivors of Pickett's Charge" and "Garnett's Brigade"; maps, 1876–1924, including one of the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg; articles on the Civil War; poetry; newspapers; and photographs. Papers also include the papers of James Whiteside, including a discharge from the 46th Virginia Militia Regiment.

Letter of J. E. Ross, Camp near Fredericksburg, to Mary E. Ross, 1862 Dec. 26 Letter of J. E. Ross, Camp near Fredericksburg, to Mary E. Ross, 1862 Dec. 26, page 2 Ross Family. Correspondence, 1861–1864. Accession 21089.(Click Here for Finding Aid)
Correspondence, 1861–1864, of the Ross family of Fluvanna County, Virginia, consisting mainly of letters from James Eastin Ross (ca. 1834–1863), Nathaniel Wheeler Ross (ca. 1838–1863), William Daniel Ross (ca. 1837–1863), and their cousin Richard P. White (ca. 1840–1864), all of Company C, 14th Virginia Infantry, to Frances H., Lucy W. (1848–1921), Mary Eliza (1828–1872), and Cornelia F. Ross. The Rosses and White describe camp life, including their health, food, clothing, religion, and guard duty. They recount the Peninsula campaign; the Maryland campaign and the Battles of Antietam (Sharpsburg), Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg. They also comment on other battles both in and outside of Virginia, including: Big Bethel; the West Virginia campaigns of 1861–1862; first and second Manassas; Burnside's North Carolina expedition; Fort Donaldson; Monitor-Merrimack fight; Corinth; Morgan's Kentucky raid of 1862; Murfreesboro; Vicksburg; Chancellorsville; Brandy Station; and the Battle of Winchester in June 1863. Letters comment on the Trent Affair, Union raids into Fluvanna County, the burning of Hampton by Confederate troops, a religious revival in camp, the use of African American labor in building fortifications and in company camps, and slaves in Fluvanna County. Letters describe fraternization with Union troops while on picket duty and hopes for peace. They also discuss social life in Fluvanna County and in Richmond during the war. Also includes a letter, 22 January 1936, from J. Ross Perkins (1877–1949), nephew of the Ross brothers and donor, giving information on the brothers' fate in the Civil War.

William S. Tippett. Diaries, 1861–1864. Accession 39949.
Diaries, 1861–1864, written by William S. Tippett (b. 1837) of Wheeling, West Virginia. There are six volumes of diaries detailing his activities while serving with the 1st Regiment West Virginia Infantry Volunteers (3 months) and the First Virginia Infantry (3 years), including his imprisonment at Belle Isle Prison in Richmond. The diaries also contain accounts, lists of rations, and names of individuals on picket duty, as well as those wounded, sick, or killed, prisoners taken, camp life and activities, family news, marching and drilling exercises, descriptions of rations eaten, weather, illnesses, and news of Union victories. Also included are details of his unit's troop movements, as well as those of the Confederate army. Fighting at Philippi, Blues Gap, Romney, and the Battles at Winchester, Port Republic, Cedar Mountain, Rappahannock Station, Thoroughfare Gap, as well as the Second Battle of Bull Run, are documented.

John G. Wallace. Papers, 1840–1910. Accession 41524.
Papers, 1861–1865, of John G. Wallace (1840–1910) of Norfolk County, Virginia, while serving as captain in the 61st Virginia Infantry. Includes accounts, certificates, vouchers, daybook, orders, ordnance records, receipts, regulations and instructions, published manuals and guides, clippings, clothing rolls, payrolls, muster rolls, and other items.

Oath of Allegiance of Byrd C. Willis, 1865 May 22Byrd Charles Willis. Papers, 1864–1908. Accession 23975.
Papers, 1864–1908, of Byrd C. Willis (1847–1911) of Orange County and Alexandria, Virginia, while serving with the 9th Virginia Cavalry. Includes a diary, 7 April 1864–22 May 1865, detailing his military service; Circular No. 2, 18 May 1865, Headquarters, Sub-District of the Rappahannock, Fredericksburg, Virginia, by Colonel E. V. Sumner, 1st New York Mounted Rifles, regarding "Guerillas, Horse-Thieves, and Marauders"; parole and oath of allegiance, 22 May 1865; and recollections of the war, 23 December 1908, by Willis.