150 Years Later: The United Confederate (Civil War) Records of Fort Worth, Texas

century war book-3In the spring of 1864, during the U.S. Civil War, Union forces under General Ulysses S Grant in the East and General William T. Sherman in the West began a coordinated campaign against the Confederacy. Now, 150 years later, we’d like to share some of the accounts of this, and other campaigns, written by Confederate veterans decades later when they began joining various Confederate Veterans organizations. The records we hold can be found primarily among our United Confederate (Civil War) Collection (UCV), which documents the history of Fort Worth’s UCV branch, the Robert E. Lee Camp No. 158.

The well-weathered item above is one of the dozen or so Century War Books in the UCV papers. It was published in 1894, at about the time R. E. Lee Camp 158 was gathering stories such as B. S. Landon’s (see below.) According to its authors, the Century War Book was “issued with the idea of bringing its picturesque features before a larger body of readers” than its predecessors. The mammoth volume that collected all of what would become the Century War Books, as well as THE CENTURY MAGAZINE. Altogether, the entire cost of the history in all its forms reached nearly $250,000.

b s landen account-1

“Descriptive Lists” are the handwritten accounts of war service that veterans submitted to the UCV. This one was written by B. S. Landon, a Confederate cavalryman under J.E.B. Stuart in the Army of Northern Virginia. “I was never in any regular battles or engagements,” he claims, but that wasn’t entirely true. He “rec’d during the war two balls through the body–one through the leg & one in the bottom of the left foot,” which no doubt kept him out of action for a time. But not forever: Landon was shot 3 additional times before the end of the war.

Roster-1 E. Lee Camp 158 had a large membership, as this roster can testify. Created by compiling the information gathered from hundreds and hundreds of Descriptive Lists, its pages aren’t as lively as veterans’ personal stories, but are equally useful because they gather members’ names in one place. To find a veteran they want to research, a researcher can avoid poring over pages and pages of Descriptive Lists and instead easily flip through this ledger. Names are most commonly found in the lists of those who paid their annual dues, as you can see in the page above.

j e johnson-1The final item we’ve got for you today is the Descriptive List of Pvt. W. C. Allen of the Army of Northern Virginia. Whereas B. S. Landon’s story was modest, W. C. Allen’s is an unpunctuated, brutally matter-of-fact account of a Private’s life. Once war erupted in April 1861, Allen wasted no time enlisting. He was present at the Battle of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and a host of others such as Sharpsburg where he was shot and left on the battlefield for 3 days while his wound “got full of worms.” After a surprisingly quick recovery, he went on to fight a bit more before he was captured. Released 22 months later, he was apprehended again after rejoining the Confederate army, put on trial for “bushwhacking,” jailed in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and then incarcerated in the “Penatenchury” in Nashville until April 1865. We’ve read a lot of these letters, and most of us agree that there are few stories to match Allen’s.

The entirety of this collection has been digitized and placed online, but if you’d like to see these incredible items with your own eyes then don’t hesitate to contact our Reference Staff who are always happy to make that happen.

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Correspondence & the Austin Wiswall Papers

Wiswall Envelope

Correspondence is often one of the most fruitful research materials in a manuscript collection. Communication between the record creator and his or her family, colleagues, and others can provide insight into their lives. It also sheds light onto less personal portions of a collection such as financial materials or legal documents. The SWC’s Austin Wiswall Papers, 1863-1912, recently digitized and made available online, is an example of the potential benefits of correspondence.

Wiswall to mom June 63 pre gettysburg

This correspondence dates from Wiswall’s service in the Army of the Potomac, and describes his activities just prior to marching to Gettysburg later that summer.

Austin Wiswall was born on April 5, 1840, in Princeton, Illinois, to Noah and Elizabeth Lovejoy Wiswall. He was the nephew of the famous abolitionist publisher and martyr Elijah Parish Lovejoy–whose papers the SWC possesses and has also made available digitally–and of U.S. Senator Owen Lovejoy. Wiswall served as a lieutenant in the 9th United States Colored Troops, 3rd Division, 10th Corps, United States Army during the Civil War. Captured by Confederate forces in August 1864, he was held at Andersonville and Libby prisons until released by exchange. After the war, he married Martha Francis Almy on November 15, 1865 with whom he had three children. He served on the Board of Trustees of Morgan Park, Illinois after the Civil War, where he died on September 9, 1905.

Wiswall to mom 8-9-64

This letter describes Austin’s release from Confederate custody and subsequent rejoining of the Army of the Potomac just prior to the end of the war.

The Austin Wiswall Papers consist of correspondence and a diary. The correspondence, often addressed to his mother, primarily concerns personal experiences during and after the Civil War. Of particular interest are letters describing the recruiting, behavior, fighting skills, and movements and activities of the 9th United States Colored Troops participating in the Civil War. When paired with the collected correspondence of his sister, Harriet Wiswall, as well as related collections such as those of Howard Hampton, Austin Wiswall’s correspondence reveals an intensely personal side of mid-19th century life both inside and outside of the U.S.’s most personal war.

Interested researchers can find much of Wiswall’s material, as well as many other digitized collection, here. Our Reference Department is always eager to provide access to our physical holdings as well.