Though few in number, Henry Shaw's surviving Civil War letters provide some marvelous descriptions of New Orleans and its residents, and the operations in southern Louisiana in 1862-1863. Two letters discuss the family problem of brother Stephen, a Southern-sympathizing physician living in Louisiana: Shaw's treatment of the difficulty is a classic portrait of brother vs. brother struggle. Also noteworthy are a good account of the siege and battle at Port Hudson, and a poignant letter describing the artillery assault on Fort Morgan, written to his little nieces, Maggie and Sarah Royall. One letter from New Orleans includes a magnificent, half-page engraving of Canal Street, New Orleans.
Informal and jocular in style, Shaw's letters occasionally veer into introspection, providing a small taste of reflection on his experience as a soldier, without dwelling overly long. Throughout, his spelling is phonetic, providing a good record of mid-nineteenth century Michigan dialect.