The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Beehive series: From Our Collections

Just Launched! Nine Fully Digitized Civil War Collections

Reading handwritten letters and documents by men who experienced Civil War battles and military life can be a riveting experience.  Nine collections of Civil War manuscripts are available at the Massachusetts Historical Society's website as complete online collections.   You are invited to examine digital facsimiles of over 9,000 pages including letters from a surgeon (Charles Briggs) serving in the 54th Regiment, letters from a 16-year-old drummer (Edward Peirce, who later served as a private) describing routine life within a military unit, and warm and informative letters from a Captain (Richard Cary) in the 2nd Regiment to his wife.

The following collections are available on our website:

Charles E. Briggs letters

This collection primarily contains letters by Dr. Charles E. Briggs, assistant surgeon with the 24th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, 1862-1863, and surgeon with the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment, 1863-1865. 

Richard Cary letters

Captain Richard Cary served in the 2nd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.  Unfortunately he was shot during the battle at Cedar Mountain in Virginia and died a short time later.  This collection includes the letters he sent to his wife, as well as condolence letters she received after her husband’s death.

Norwood Penrose Hallowell papers

Hallowell began his service in the Civil War in the 20th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and then later served as lieutenant colonel of the 55th  Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the second Black regiment in the state.  This collection contains letters and a large number of clippings assembled in scrapbooks. These materials relate to a wide variety of Hallowell’s activities—from his time as a student at Harvard College, through his years serving in the Civil War, to his activities as a Boston businessman.

Frederick Newman Knapp papers

Knapp was a clergyman and teacher from Plymouth, Massachusetts. He wasn’t a soldier, but he held the position of superintendent of the Special Relief Department, U.S. Sanitary Commission.  The focus of this commission was to assist sick and wounded Union soldiers.  This collection includes Knapp’s personal and professional letters as well as a manuscript of a history of the Sanitary Commission.

Francis William Loring papers

This collection contains letters Loring wrote to his mother and sister while he served in a variety of military units.  Loring was a sergeant major in the 24th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry; first lieutenant and adjutant in the 38th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry; and aide-de-camp for Gen. William H. Emory of the 19th Corps.

Edmund Miles papers

Miles was a lieutenant in the 41st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, later renamed the 3rd Regiment of Cavalry Massachusetts Volunteers.  This collection includes letters Miles sent to his family describing his activities in the Civil War, and letters he received from his family in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Charles F. Morse papers

This collection contains letters (some with drawings) written by Lieutenant Colonel Morse of the 2nd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, who saw action at Cedar Mountain, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Resaca, and the Siege of Atlanta in 1864. The collection also includes some correspondence relating to his post-war activities in the railroad business.

Edward Burgess Peirce letters

Peirce was a drummer and a private in Company F. of the 2nd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Heavy Artillery, from July 1863 to September 1865. This collection includes letters he wrote to his parents in Lowell in which he described many aspects of day-to-day activities as an enlisted soldier including accounts of camp life and troop movements.

Stephen Minot Weld papers

This collection contains letters written by Weld who was promoted several times during the four years he served in the Union Army. Weld was a second lieutenant and then captain in the 18th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1862-1863, and later was lieutenant colonel and then colonel in the 56th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1864-1865.

Please explore and read these collections from any location where you have a web browser and access to the Internet!

Funding for the digitization of the nine Civil War manuscript collections that enabled both the creation of preservation microfilm and the online version of the collections was provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act grant as administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Thursday, 2 October, 2014, 1:00 AM

The Mysteries of the Elisha W. Smith, Jr. Logbook, 1853-1857: Part II

In a prior blog post I discussed a note on the inside cover of the logbook of the schooners Flying Dragon (1853) and William Freeman (1857), which identified the log keeper as Elisha W. Smith. This particular logbook contains a mystifying collection of logs, sketches, poems, engravings, and literary clippings. The engravings caught my attention with the bright crayon colors. A scrapbooker clipped, hand-colored, and pasted images into this logbook. Intrigued by the scrapbook curation, I hoped that identifying the engravings would tell me when the creator fashioned this curious assemblage.  

After coming up empty searching Google Books and Internet Archive for the poems and literary clippings within the volume, I examined the engravings in closer detail. The informative images depict locations such as the White Mountains and Lapland and highlight the creator’s clear interest in travel. Other selections within include maps, images of sailing ships, more distant locations and depictions of native peoples.

 

Then I spotted a timeworn masthead of a literary magazine pasted under the engraving of travelling Laplanders. Through the wear and tear I could clearly read the words “Gleason” and “Companion.” The Gleason’s Literary Companion masthead appeared several times in the scrapbook. The inclusion of an official “citation” made my day. I researched the Literary Companion and found that Frederick Gleason published this literary magazine from his Boston home near Franklin Park from 1860 to 1870. He also published several other pictorial magazines during his career. The MHS does not hold Gleason’s Literary Company but does hold Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-room Companion (1851) and several of Gleason’s engravings.

Satisfied that I had discovered the origin of the engravings, I remained curious about the scrapbook’s creator. Who put the care into selecting, coloring, and pasting these images into the logbook? In my final post, I will delve into discovering the scrapbooker’s identity.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 19 September, 2014, 1:00 AM

The Art of Ludvig Sandöe Ipsen

 

 

On 27 January 1880, the Apollo Club of Boston, an all-male chorus, performed Mendelssohn’s Oedipus at Colonus at the Boston Music Hall. The program for that concert featured this beautiful design by Danish illustrator Ludvig Sandöe Ipsen (1840-1920). It is one of the 51 black-and-white ink illustrations that make up part of the Apollo Club records, on deposit here at the MHS since 2012.

The Apollo Club was founded in 1871, incorporated in 1873, and is still going strong. In fact, it is Boston’s oldest active male chorus and the second oldest continuously active male singing group in the country. Throughout its long history, the club has performed at many notable occasions, including the funeral of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner in 1874, the centennial celebration of the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1875, and the memorial service for President William McKinley in 1901.

Arthur Reed, the club’s first secretary, commissioned Ludvig S. Ipsen to design covers and page details for concert programs and publications. Ipsen was quite a “get” for the Apollo Club. After training as an architect in Copenhagen (not to mention serving in the Danish Army engineer corps during the Second Schleswig-Holstein War), he had immigrated to the United States in 1867 and soon made a name for himself in Boston as a designer of book covers, book plates, posters, etc. His illustrations appeared in volumes by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Sir Walter Scott, Mark Twain, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, but arguably his most important and best-known work was the illustrated edition of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese published in 1886.

Ipsen designed 130 program covers for the Apollo Club over 23 years. His illustrations include historical and mythological figures, as well as musical instruments and notes, trees and flowers, cherubs, birds, ribbons, seascapes, etc., all carefully composed and depicted in amazing detail.

 

Ipsen also designed the Apollo Club seal, still used by the organization today.

Many memorials of Ipsen and reviews of his illustrations note that he worked at a time when advances in printing technology made the reproduction of images faster and cheaper, and original hand-drawn artwork for mass-produced books was in decline. But Ipsen found a receptive audience in the Apollo Club, and the result is a beautiful and skillful synthesis of music and art.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 17 September, 2014, 1:00 AM

The Western Front Recedes: The St Mihiel Operation

In the autumn of 1918, the Great War in Europe was nearing its termination after four years of fighting. Beginning in August of that year, the Allies launched what became known as the Hundred Days Offensive, a series of attacks against the Central Powers which pushed the Western Front and the German lines out of France and, ultimately, resulted in an armistice. One such two-day offensive occurred near the French town of St. Mihiel on 12-13 September. The action was carried out by the 26th Infantry Division under the command of Maj. Gen. Clarence R. Edwards.

 

 

The 26th was formed by Edwards in the summer of 1917 and the first units of the Yankee Division sailed in September, “the first fully formed American division in France.” Over the next several months the division undertook training in France with their English and French counterparts so that they could acclimate to life in trenches and amidst hostile fire.

Fast forward to September 1918. Edwards and his division were in the area of St. Mihiel as a result of several months of fighting on the move in the northeast of France. Despite the rain and mud that slowed down some units from reaching their start line the night before the offensive, “the attack came off without any major hitch, following a tremendous artillery barrage during the early morning hours of September 12, 1918.”

Here at the Society are the Clarence Ransom Edwards papers, within which are several reports providing details about the operations performed by the 26th Division. One intelligence report, dated September 11 to September 12th, 1918, 16 o’clock to 16 o’clock, states that

The enemy, surprised by our attack, and with all communication to the rear out by our artillery fire, offered what resistance he could during the day, chiefly with his machine guns. In the open country the resistance was very weak. In the woods his machine gun nests proved fairly effective. The first day’s objective was reached before 22 o’clock.

These intelligence summaries, along with correspondence, memoranda, and other materials in the Edwards papers provide detailed insight into some of the operations of the “war to end all wars” and also highlight some of the personal drama between Edwards and his military colleagues. If you would like to learn more, visit the MHS library and see them for yourself!

 

-Shay, Michael E., Revered Commander, Maligned General: The Life of Clarence Ransom Edwards, 1859-1931. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, c.2011.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Saturday, 13 September, 2014, 5:18 PM

“Signed, sealed and delivered”: The Treaty that Ended the Revolutionary War

 

"On Wednesday the third day of this Month, the American Ministers met the British Minister at his Lodgings at the Hôtel de York, and signed, sealed and delivered the Definitive Treaty of Peace between the United States of America and the King of Great Britain.” John Adams reported this news to the President of Congress on September 5, 1783 and congratulated Congress on the “Completion of the work of Peace."

It was eight o’clock in the morning when John Adams along with Benjamin Franklin and John Jay, met the British peace negotiator, David Hartley, at his residence in Paris and months of negotiations, first the previous year leading to the preliminary peace treaty, and then in earnest from April until the end of August culminated in this definitive treaty.

While this was no doubt a significant moment—after all, eight long years of war were officially ending with complete American independence—the signing was more of an anticlimax for Adams. His immediate feelings, as he revealed to Abigail the following day, were that as the definitive treaty was no more than “a Simple Repetition of the provisional Treaty,” they had “negotiated here, these Six Months for nothing.” Nevertheless, Adams understood that given the political realities of their position relative to Great Britain, “We could do no better Situated as We were.”

The key provisions of the Treaty of Paris guaranteed both nations access to the Mississippi River, defined the boundaries of the United States, called for the British surrender of all posts within U.S. territory, required payment of all debts contracted before the war, and an end to all retaliatory measures against loyalists and their property. Throughout John Adams’s term as minister to Great Britain in the 1780s, he and the British foreign secretary, the Marquis of Carmarthen, regularly discussed the actions each side saw as breaches of and a failure to fulfill the treaty—a debate that went unresolved until the signing of the Jay Treaty in 1794.

When editors at the Adams Papers Editorial Project are asked to name our favorite document in the immense collection that is the Adams Family Papers, John Adams’s copy of the Treaty of Paris, is certainly a top choice. This duplicate original in the Adams Papers is the only original not in a government archive. One can easily imagine that the legal- and legacy-minded John Adams was keen to retain a copy of this founding document over which he had so long toiled so far from his home for his posterity. Of particular interest are the seals—as there was no official seal for the American commissioners to use, each used whatever was convenient to him. See here for a full discussion of the Boylston family coat of arms, which Adams used as his seal on both the preliminary and definitive treaty and for more on Adams’s thoughts at the conclusion see the newly launched digital edition of Papers of John Adams, volume 15.

 

Image: First and last pages of the Definitive Peace Treaty between the United States and Great Britain (Treaty of Paris), September 3, 1783, Adams Family Papers.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 3 September, 2014, 1:00 AM

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