The William L. Curry papers provide excellent documentation of a cavalry officer's life in the western theater of the Civil War. Educated, highly motivated, and occupied with everything from active campaigning to the stultification of awaiting exchange as a prisoner of war, Will Curry's letters evoke the varied emotions felt by many soldiers serving in a conflict that seemed to have demoralized everyone who came in contact. For over three years, Curry fought off his longing for home and family and his repulsion at the degrading influence of the war on soldiers, and remained steadfast in his determination to do his service and see his enlistment through to the end.
While there are comparatively few letters describing campaigns or battles, the collection provides particularly good insight into the non-combatant experience of war -- training, learning to forage, performing scout and guard duty, and idling away in a parole camp. A few scattered letters suggest the depth of feeling cavalry men could hold for their horses, particularly, in Curry's case, his old horse, Billy. Equally valuable are the letters received by Mattie Robinson (later Mrs. Curry) from women friends, describing the home front, local politics, and life during war time, and from friends and relatives in the military service. The overall impression is one of a very tightly knit community, that zealously maintained ties even while separated by the exigencies of war or aging. There are two particularly fine letters discussing battles during the Atlanta Campaign, one written in the flush of "victory" describing Kilpatrick's raid to Jonesboro (1864 August 23) -- although the modern assessment is that the raid failed to accomplish its object -- and another, sadly incomplete, describing the battle of Lovejoy Station.
The collection includes five pocket-sized journals, four of which provide a nearly unbroken record of Curry's service in the 1st Ohio Cavalry. Although the journal entries are very short, the continuity of the documentation constitutes an important record of the activities of the regiment. There is a gap in the sequence of journals, however, from December 31, 1862-March 18, 1863, when Curry was a paroled prisoner of war at Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio.
Memorandum book and journal, 1857-1858
Journal, 1862 January 1-December 31
Journal, 1862 October 2 (very sparse entries)
Journal, 1863 March 18-1864 March 1 (much smearing of pencil throughout, some illegible)
Journal, 1864 March 1-December 30
The entries in Journal 4 are longer and more informative than in the other journals, particularly for the Chickamauga Campaign. Journal 4 includes an excellent, though still somewhat brief, account of the battle itself and the withdrawal to Chattanooga.
Will Curry's letters are supplemented by a small number of letters from friends and relatives in other Ohio regiments, including his brother Ott Curry and Stephen B. Cone (both in Co. A, 121st Ohio Infantry), Samuel H. Ruehlen and Will Erwin (Co. K, 1st Ohio Cavalry), James Doig Bain (Co. E, 30th Ohio Infantry), David G. Robinson (Co. E, 86th Ohio Infantry); George P. Robinson (Co. D, 40th Ohio Infantry), Oratio McCullough (Co. K, 136th Ohio Infantry -- 100 days), and Frank W. Post (unidentified regiment).
After the war, Curry was active in veterans' organizations and wrote several historical sketches of his regiment and the campaigns in which they participated. Although the Clements does not have any of these histories in its holdings, a partial list is provided below for reference.