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Civil War
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Ellen Marcy McClellan and George Brinton McClellan. Frederick Gutekunst, photographer. James Wadsworth Family Papers. Manuscript Division. LC-MSS-44297-33-141 (b&w negative)
bibliographic record

No military topic is better documented in the Manuscript Division's collections than the Civil War. The division holds the records of the Confederate States of America (18,500 items; 1858-72) [catalog record] and the papers of many of the leading generals and of hundreds of noncommissioned officers and enlisted personnel on both sides of the conflict. A leading component of most of these collections is family correspondence, notably letters between wives and husbands, and parents and children.

These collections range from the Thomas Ewing Family Papers (94,000 items; 1757-1941; bulk 1815-96) [catalog record]—which include letters Ellen Ewing Sherman (1824-1888) wrote to her mother describing the various army camps where she visited her husband, Union general William T. Sherman—to letters that Confederate army officers Roger Weightman Hanson (175 items; 1856-88) [catalog record] and John Singleton Mosby (40 items; 1861-1904; bulk 1860-69) [catalog record] exchanged with their wives.

Some women, including Ellen Marcy McClellan (1838-1907), used their diaries not only to record their own personal thoughts and activities, but also to record for their families and posterity their husbands' accomplishments. The remaining three volumes, 1866-72, of Ellen's deliberately detailed diaries were recently added to the George Brinton McClellan Papers (33,000 items; 1823-98; bulk 1850-85) [catalog record] .

Other parts of this web site (see especially Reform, Health and Medicine, and Congressional Collections) discuss collections reflecting women's roles as Civil War nurses, laundresses, welfare agents, and suppliers of food and clothing. Another area of continuing research interest is the role women played gathering intelligence information for both armies.

  • Union signal officer James M. McClintock (84 items; 1862-87) [catalog record] received help from his daughter in transcribing intercepted Confederate messages.
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    Lace cap and collar. Antonia Ford Willard. Willard Family Papers (container I:172). Manuscript Division. LC-MS-45757-6.

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    | bibliographic record

  • Quaker Rebecca M. Bonsal, a Union supporter living in Winchester, Virginia, in 1864, smuggled military intelligence to Union army officer Philip Henry Sheridan (18,000 items; 1831-91; bulk 1862-87) [catalog record], thus enabling him to capture the town.
  • The papers of the socially and politically active Willard Family of Virginia and Washington, D.C. (119,900 items; 1800-1968; bulk 1890-1954) [catalog record] include the papers of Antonia Ford Willard (1838-1871), an accused Confederate spy who was a commissioned aide-de-camp to Gen. Jeb Stuart. Her letters discuss the effects of the war on noncombatants, the whereabouts of friends and family in the Confederate army, and her secret romance with and subsequent marriage to Union Maj. Joseph Clapp Willard, who had arrested her for wartime espionage. Additional correspondence, research notes, and clippings about Willard and her part in the Confederate capture of Gen. Edwin Henry Stoughton were assembled by Antonia's daughter-in-law, Belle Layton Wyatt Willard (1873-1954), whose own papers provide important insights into her life as a diplomat's wife and businesswoman involved in her family's extensive real estate and hotel operations.
  • Information on other women spies may be found in the papers of Philip Phillips (see Congressional Collections), John C. Babcock (60 items; 1855-1913) [catalog record], who served in the military intelligence bureau of the Army of the Potomac, and in the aforementioned records of the Confederate States of America.

For descriptions of other Civil War collections, consult the Library's catalog and the printed guide Civil War Manuscripts: A Guide to Collections in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, compiled by John R. Sellers (Washington: Library of Congress, 1986; Z1242.L48 1986).

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