Now Online: Our Civil War Graves Survey of Texas

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The Southwest Collection recently received thousands of files of grave surveys documenting the final resting place of Civil War veterans throughout Texas, and portions of Oklahoma and New Mexico. The project was conducted voluntarily by Texas’ Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) chapters as a part of their efforts to document such data throughout the United States. The surveys of cemeteries document the interment of Confederate and Union veterans, as well as able-bodied men at the time of the Civil War whose military affiliation is unknown. Many of these records have been digitized and can be found among our digital collections.

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Most surveys consist of a record of the veteran’s birth and death dates, as well as the county in which the veteran was interred. For example, on the form above James Adams Brandon was identified as buried in Nolan County, Texas, in 1894. Some records also contain the deceased’s service record, albeit using numerous abbreviations. Brandon was a private in Company F, 2nd Arkansas Infantry Battalion.

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Some surveys were conducted at the Military Unit level, rather than at the level of an individual Veteran. In the image above a surveyor has documented William Alva Phipps as a member of Company E, 12th Missouri Cavalry, in the Union. The form also notes that Phipps was buried in East Texas, at Wills Point in Van Zandt County. Phipps, among many other veterans, appears twice in the archive, once by personal name, and again as a member of a military unit.

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Some surveyors went the extra mile, photographing the burial site as well as providing written documentation. This is the headstone of Henry Eugene Bradford of the Texas Infantry. Not all photos are as clear as this one, but they all provide visuals that bring the otherwise dry documentation to life.

As with all our collections, this archive is available in its physical form in the Southwest Collection. But we encourage you to peruse it online. Although only around two thousand records are online at present, it will soon number more than 6,000. Check it out.

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The Field Diary of Union Lieutenant Austin Wiswall

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The Southwest Collection is home to a number of remarkable Civil War collections, including our Confederate veterans’ handwritten accounts and our massive registry of almost every veteran, from both sides of the war, who was buried in Texas. But unique among all of our holdings is the field diary of Lieutenant Austin Wiswall.

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Wiswall was the nephew of the famous abolitionist publisher and martyr Elijah Parish Lovejoy, and of U.S. Senator Owen Lovejoy. He served as a lieutenant in the 9th United States Colored Infantry, 3rd Division, 10th Corps, United States Army during the Civil War.

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The 9th remained on duty in Maryland until March 1864, when they began to see more dangerous service in South Carolina. One of their conflicts was the Ashepoo Expedition the following May. The journal entries above document Wiswall’s thoughts during that time.

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Wiswall was captured by Confederate forces later that year, and was held at Andersonville and Libby prisons. As a result, there are a large number of blank pages in the diary until his August release by prisoner exchange. On August 8th, 1864, he wrote “here we are with the glorious Army of the Potomac once more.” The diary contains no further entries.

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The last several dozen pages of the diary contain memoranda like those above. They consist of financial accounts and similar material, but no in-depth descriptions of his service or how these figures related to it. But don’t take this blog’s word for it! Read the whole thing, as well as correspondence and other materials documenting Austin Wiswall’s life, right here.

The Papers of Captain Robert G. Carter: Frontier Soldier

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The Southwest Collection is located on the Llano Estacado, also known as the South Plains. Folks have been visiting the region for more than a century in a half, which in those early years resulted in no small amount of conflict. One, the Battle of Blanco Canyon near the Brazos River in 1871, occurred between U.S. Soldiers and a Comanche raiding party. A survivor of that conflict, Captain Robert G. Carter, was awarded a Medal of Honor for his conduct in the fight. The Southwest Collection is fortunate to have his correspondence and related materials dating from the years after the fight, and we’re going to share some of it with you in this very blog!

The image at the top of this post is of a letter from Carter’s extensive correspondence with fellow veterans of the “Indian Wars.” Carter had served under Ranald Mackenzie both in that conflict and later along the Mexican border at the end of the 19th century. So, too, did this letter’s recipient, Col. R. P. Smyth. In this letter, Carter regales Smyth with some of the facts. Sadly, we do not have Smyth’s original or subsequent letters.

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Carter became well-known through his published memoirs, such as On the Border with Mackenzie (1935). He also sold maps of the conflict, such as the one referenced by renowned Texas historian J. Evetts Haley in the letter above. In another collection, we even have a copy of the map, which you can see below.

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History was Carter’s passion, and he promoted it not only through his publications, but also through participation in various organizations dedicated to preserving it. The 1932 newspaper clipping above (culled from a newspaper we unfortunately haven’t been able to identify) celebrating his elevation to commander of the Order of Indian Wars, an organization serving veterans of that conflict.

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And yet some of his papers are banal. Here we have a dispute with a bank over miscalculated interest. It rings as true then as it does for some of us today. In fact, Carter’s papers contain at least 14 pages of his back and forth with the Union Trust Company, full of pithy responses to their incorrect claims: “According to the mathematics taught me, two items of the same amount, one subtracted from the other, leaves 0.” Carter, telling it like it is!

The Robert G. Carter Papers comprise only a single archival box, but are packed with unique material like this, documenting Carter’s recollections of service, as well as his day-to-day life in the years following. They’re available in their entirety among our digital collections, and we’d love for any interested researchers (or the generally curious) to take a look through them.

Colonel Margaret M. Henderson, USMC

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March is Women’s History Month, so with that in mind we’re sharing the story of USMC Colonel Margaret Henderson (whose papers we are fortunate to house) and the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve.

Faced with manpower shortages in 1918, Marine Major General Commandant George Barnett asked the Secretary of the Navy’s permission to enlist women for clerical duties. That August, Opha Mae Johnson became the first woman to enlist in the Marines, with 305 eventually joining in 1918 and taking over stateside clerical duties from battle-ready Marines needed overseas. The women were nicknamed “Marinettes.” The vast majority of USMC Headquarters personnel—almost 85% in fact—were women by the end of World War II. The Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was officially established on February 13th, 1943. The MCWR was often referred to as the “Lady Marines.”

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Women held over hundreds of jobs: radio operator, photographer, parachute rigger, driver, aerial gunnery instructor, cook, baker, quartermaster, control tower operator, motion picture operator, auto mechanic, telegraph operator, cryptographer, laundry operator, post exchange manager, stenographer, and agriculturist. Soon they numbered over 800 officers and 17,640 enlisted troops, although by July 1946 only around 1,000 remained in service. Regardless, in 1948 Congress made women a permanent part of the regular Marine Corps, and thousands of active and reserve soldiers served actively in the Korean, Vietnam, and Persian Gulf conflicts.

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Margaret M. Henderson was one such Marine. Born in Cameron, Texas, on February 6, 1911, she received a degree in business administration from the University of Texas in 1932, and taught in Lubbock, Texas, until 1942 at which time she enlisted in the USMC. Her career began as a second lieutenant, and although her service officially ended in 1946 so that she could teach at Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University), she returned to the Corps in 1948. Ultimately, her time in the Marines spanned 21 years. She reached the pinnacle of her career when she was named the Director of the Women Marines, a post she held from 1959 to 1964.

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If you want to look deeper into Henderson’s papers, our Reference Staff would be happy to help you with that.