It’s here!

The wait is finally over! HSP is happy to announce its first publication in many years; a facsimile of Ellen Emlen’s Cookbook dated to 1865. The manuscript contains over 200 recipes which are clearly organized with a table of contents. Written by Mrs. Emlen’s own hand the recipes are legible and give a sense of her character that would be lost in printed text.

The book includes many tips and tricks passed down through the family, as well as additional recipes collected from friends.Experienced cooks and those with a sense of adventure will enjoy cooking from this book.

Our purpose in reproducing this primary source is to inspire individuals and organizations to create a better future through historical understanding.

Copies are available for purchase at HSP’s front desk or at our Online Shop.

A few more tidbits about HSP’s Civil War resources

Over the course of 2010, you saw several of the society’s Civil War-related collections come to light through our Digital Center for Americana project.  2011 marks the beginning of a four-year event organized by the Civil War History Consortium (CWHC) to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.  The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is a member of the CWHC, which serves as a meeting ground for organizations and researchers.

Last week we posted an updated version of our Guide to Civil War Manuscripts and Newspaper Collections, which now contains links to many of our finding aids, as well as descriptions of the society’s newer Civil war-related acquisitions.  Though these new collections are unprocessed and don’t have finding aids, they are still available for research.  Here’s a couple highlights:

George D. Coleman and Charles B. Forney letter copybooks, 1856-1870, 2 volumes (Accession number 2002.057).  Coleman owned the Lebanon Forge, North Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and was generous benefactor of Pennsylvania’s 93rd Regiment during the Civil War. Forney worked as Coleman’s furnace manager.  This collection includes information on iron production during the Civil War, and there are typed transcriptions of many of the letters.

Letter from George Coleman to Mr. Charles E. (name illegible), 30 January 1862

Charles Henry Coxe letters, 1861-1866, 7 items (Accession number 2002.030) Letters from Charles Henry Coxe, a Harvard student, to his brother Frank Morrell Coxe in Philadelphia.  Both Charles and Frank enlisted as commissioned officers in units of colored troops. Charles joined the 24th U. S. C. T., while  Frank joined as second lieutenant in the 87th U. S. Colored Infantry.

In his letter of 23 September 1862, Coxe explains his reasons for wanting to join a colored regiment. Pages 2-4 follow.

Major family papers, 1836-1891, 1958, undated, 0.2 linear feet (Accession number 2007.037) Two scrapbooks of material from the Major family of Pottstown, PA.  Both Nelson W. Major (d. 1868) and Charles A. Major (d. 1867), who were probably related, served as volunteer soldiers during the Civil War.  Nelson eventually held the rank of sergeant of the 48th Regiment Company B, Pottsville, PA; Charles became 1st sergeant of the 90th Regiment Company B.

Nelson A. Major appointment to sergeant, Company 'B', 48th regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, 23 December 1862

If you’re doing Civil War research, whether genealogical or historical, be sure to check out HSP’s other online guides: Civil War Resources and Guide to Women During the Civil War.  Also keep an eye on HSP’s calendar for upcoming Civil War-related events.

The Path to the Civil War

Though I’m now working with more recent materials, I couldn’t resist one last Civil War-related post as we approach the 150th anniversary of the war.

Much attention will be placed on the anniversary of the start of the war: April 12, 1861, the date that Confederates opened fire on the federal Fort Sumter in South Carolina. But obviously tensions had been rising for years before that final breaking point.

South Carolina had seceded from the United States on December 20, 1860, and six more states followed before President Abraham Lincoln took office in March 1861. All of that (and much more!) happened on the watch of Lincoln’s predecessor: President James Buchanan.

Buchanan’s papers are here at HSP (collection 91), and I had a chance to work with them as my first project with the Digital Center for Americana pilot project.

The collection spans the entirety of Buchanan’s lengthy legal, political and diplomatic career, including his service as Pennsylvania assemblyman, U.S. representative, minister to Russia, U.S. senator, secretary of state, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Great Britain, and finally president of the United States.

I’d guess that those last few months of his political career were among the most stressful.

Some evidence of the turmoil is obvious in the collection, like these notes Buchanan took listing each state’s secession:

Buchanan's notes on secession

On the reverse, Buchanan added one more state that seceded after he left office: Arkansas.

But other evidence is more personal.

For instance, Buchanan saved a copy of a personal letter that he wrote to Varina Davis in January 1861. Varina’s husband was a U.S. senator from Mississippi, and the family left Washington after his state seceded. (Of course, soon after, her husband Jefferson became president of the new Confederate States of America.)

Washington 20 January 1861

My dear Madam,

I deeply regret that the servant yesterday on account of the session of the Cabinet, did not inform me that you had come to bid me farewell. Had I been aware of your presence nothing should have prevented me from seeing you. I have [kept?] many agreeable hours in your society & cherish for you the warmest and most respectful regard. The troubles of these unfortunate times may prevent us from meeting again; but wherever your lot may be cast I shall ever feel a deep interest in your prosperity and happiness.

From your friend,

James Buchanan

Buchanan's letter to Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis

Reverse of Buchanan's letter to Davis, where he notes that it is a copy

After the end of Buchanan’s presidency, he retired to his Lancaster, PA, estate, Wheatland. “The troubles of these unfortunate times” largely fade from view in his papers. Just two letters in the collection mention the 1865 assassination of President Lincoln, including this letter written to the former president on April 15:

You can read the full finding aid for the James Buchanan papers here.

Women’s Views on the Civil War

Our processing work for the Digital Center for Americana pilot project is winding down. Over the last year, we’ve processed, conserved, described, and selectively digitized 51 collections at HSP that have ties to the Civil War.

We worked on the papers of President James Buchanan, Treasury Secretary and Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, General George G. Meade, Alexander H. Stephens (vice president of the Confederacy), and many others.

We also processed collections that provide insights into women’s views on the war, especially the Wister and Butler families papers (collection 1962) that I wrote about last month.

In that collection, researchers can learn more about what women like Fanny Kemble, Sarah Butler Wister, and Frances Butler Leigh thought about the war and its aftermath.

But the collection also offers interesting Civil War-era commentary from family friend Jeannie L. Field Musgrave.

A few of the images of Jeannie Field Musgrave saved by her friend, Sarah Butler Wister.

Jeannie was the daughter of a prominent New York Republican, David Dudley Field (1805-1894), and a lifelong friend of Sarah Butler Wister. She wrote to Sarah about her views on the war, and relayed pieces of the military and political information that her father had received through his political connections.

Jeannie also popped up elsewhere in the collection, among the papers of William Rotch Wister. She wrote to him on June 30, 1861, and included a ribbon favor she had made:

Keep the favor, my dear Mr. Wister, until you are tired of it, or of what it is intended to represent, devotion to our flag, whether you can show that devotion in the field or not. Women are so powerless in these stirring times that each one of that unhappy sex feels eager to do her little [part] toward exciting the patriotism and stimulating the efforts of those who can do anything for our country.

I am very sorry that any difficulties should have intervened to prevent your taking your troops to the war, for though I do not doubt that you will serve truly the cause of liberty wherever you may be, still I like to see all who are not tied at house by that troublesome anchor, a wife, going forth to do battle for it . . .”

The finding aid for the Wister and Butler families papers is now available online.

UPDATE: To learn more about HSP collections that provide insights into women’s lives during the Civil War, visit our online guide.

More on Confederate prisons

Archaeologists in Georgia announced yesterday that they have found the site of Camp Lawton, a Confederate prison camp near Millen, Georgia. You can read more about the project at Georgia Southern University’s Camp Lawton web site.

As you may remember, we processed a collection earlier in the Digital Center for Americana project that included images of Confederate prisons. Previously absent from HSP’s catalogs, the collection is now titled Sketches of Confederate Prisons (drawings) by Robert K. Sneden (Collection 3129).

I decided to check to see if Camp Lawton was depicted in our set of Sneden sketches. It is!

Here’s how Sneden sketched the camp in 1864:

For more on HSP’s collection of Sneden sketches, check out Cathleen Miller’s earlier post.

Our collection includes eight mounted wash and ink drawings, depicting not only Camp Lawton, but also prisons in Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Here are a few more:

Libby Prison, Richmond, Virginia

Prison on the South Common in Savannah, Georgia

Prisons in Salisbury, North Carolina (left) and Charleston, South Carolina (right)


As one of the digitization technicians for the Digital Center of Americana, I come across a lot of correspondence. When I have a moment to read some of the letters I often ask myself what may have caused the writer to send this particular set of words to his loved one, family member, boss, or friend. Many times the letter I am scanning is a response to a letter that we do not have in our collection, and without having the time to research the item I am left to wonder what started the exchange. It’s a little like that game you find yourself playing on the train when you can overhear someone’s cellphone conversation, and you imagine what the person on the other end of the line is saying.

In the last few months no piece of correspondence I’ve seen here at HSP has had as much of an emotional impact as this letter to Mrs. Mary Acton about her husband’s death. It is part of the Edward A. Acton Papers collection. Edward Acton was an officer with the  New Jersey Volunteers during the Civil War. This letter describes his death at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run, August 29, 1862.

Government waste, circa 1863

I recently finished processing the Citizens’ Bounty Fund Committee records, another Civil War-era collection that we are working on as part of the Digital Center for Americana project.

The Citizens’ Bounty Fund Committee formed in Philadelphia during the summer of 1862, in response to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for another 300,000 Union troops. Concerned about a possible draft, Philadelphia Mayor Alexander Henry led a public meeting in July 1862 to discuss how best to increase enlistment. The meeting attendees decided to create a bounty fund to pay volunteers for enlisting, a tactic that other cities were using.

Mayor Henry himself chaired the new Citizens’ Bounty Fund Committee. Philadelphia City Council voted to allocate $500,000 to the fund, and private donors added approximately $200,000 more.

A description of the committee's various bounty and premium payments.

Philadelphia did indeed fill its enlistment quota without needing to turn to a draft, but by other measures, the bounty system failed.

The Citizens’ Bounty Fund Committee concluded in early 1863 that “the payment of bounties has not worked as well as was expected, and that the continuance thereof is a waste of money in many instances being an incentive to desertions.”

This draft resolution notes that the committee decided the bounty system wasn't worth the money.

HSP’s collection includes the administrative records of the committee, as well as a variety of enlistment, muster, and bounty records of the men who qualified for bounties under the system. The collection is open to all researchers and its finding aid is now available online.

You can learn more about Mayor Henry, who served as Philadelphia mayor from 1858-1865, in another HSP collection: the Alexander Henry papers (collection 278). Its finding aid is also now available online.

One of our unknown gems

Early on in the Digital Center project, I worked on a description for the Robert Knox Sneden collection of “Sketches of Confederate Prisons.”  I discovered that not only did this collection have an obsolete call number, but it was not listed in either our OPAC or our graphics card catalog.  The only way to find this collection was by searching our Access database.  This still remains true, and will until we import our database into Archivists’ Toolkit sometime toward the end of the DCA project.  It pains me to know that little gems like the Sneden drawings are unknown to researchers, so I thought I could at least add a little plug for it here until it gets an OPAC record and is visible in our still-in-progress DAMS.

This collection consists of eight mounted wash and ink drawings of Confederate prisons by Robert Knox Sneden during his service with the 40th New York volunteers during the Civil War.  Each is captioned, identifying the prison, describing the site, listing the number of prisoners, noting how many deaths occurred there, along with the date when he was imprisoned there.  The watercolors are copies of original sketches done by Sneden while in the service.  They offer extensively detailed perspectives on the prisons, and suggest the difficult conditions within the walls of the buildings Sneden illustrated.

Sneden was a mapmaker with the 40th NY Vols., Army of the Potomac.  Sneden was captured by Confederate forces in 1863, and was imprisoned in the Confederate prison at Andersonville, Georgia.  His nearly 1,000 maps and paintings, along with his 5,000 page manuscript were edited and abridged into a book published by the Virginia Historical Society, “The Eye of the Storm.”