Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
William H. Shaw Papers, 1861-1865

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, October 1997

Summary Information
Title: William H. Shaw papers
Creator: Shaw family
Inclusive dates: 1861-1865
Extent: 18 items
Henry Shaw, born in Michigan in 1840, enlisted in the 6th Michigan Infantry in 1861. His surviving Civil War letters provide descriptions of New Orleans and its residents, and the operations in southern Louisiana, as well as accounts of the siege and battle at Port Hudson and the artillery assault on Fort Morgan. Two letters discuss the family problem of brother Stephen, a Southern-sympathizing physician living in Louisiana.
Language: The material is in English.
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1972. M-1606.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open to research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

William H. Shaw Papers, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Shaw, William Henry, 1840-1865

Rank : Corporal, Sergeant (1862 March 1)

Regiment : 6th Michigan Infantry Regiment. Co. F (1861-1865)

Service : 1861 August 20-1865 April 28

Henry Shaw was born in Michigan in 1840, the son of a blacksmith, Adna Shaw (b. Massachusetts, 1796) and his wife, Charlotte (b. New Jersey, 1807). In 1860, the family had settled in Saline, and Henry was listed in the census as a clerk. Curiously, Henry's brother, Stephen, a physician, had moved with his family to New Iberia, La., in about 1861 in sympathy with the Confederacy. His other siblings, Caroline (wife of Charles B. Royall), Martha, and Emma (b. 1841) remained in Michigan.

Enlisting in the 6th Michigan Infantry in June, 1861, mustering in a month later, Shaw was made Corporal of Co. F. After spending the winter of 1861-62 in the environs of Baltimore, anticipating assignment to the Army of the Potomac, the 6th were instead assigned to the Gulf and arrived in New Orleans shortly after its capitulation to Benjamin Butler in May, 1862. The 6th took part in a number of operations in Louisiana, including the Battle of Baton Rouge, the Bayou Teche expedition, and the siege of Port Hudson. In July, 1863, they were converted into a heavy artillery regiment, retaining their infantry numbering, and remained near Port Hudson for over a year.

Like many soldiers in Louisiana, Shaw fell prey to disease and was periodically quite unhealthy, serving a stint as hospital orderly late in 1863. In March, 1864, he was sent home on reenlistment furlough, perhaps, as well, to recover his health, but returned to the field to take part in the capture of Fort Morgan, Ala., late in the summer. After a fall and winter in which the heavy guns of the 6th were trained on Mobile, Shaw was sent home a second time early in 1865. He died in Saline on April 28, 1865, still on furlough.

Collection Scope and Content Note

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.

Subject Terms

    • United States. Army. Michigan Infantry Regiment, 6th (1861-1863)
    • New Orleans (La.)--Description and travel.
    • Port Hudson (La.)--History--Siege, 1863.
    • English language--Dialects--Michigan.
    Subjects--Visual Materials:
    • Canal Street (New Orleans, La.)
    • Shaw, William Henry, 1840-1865.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   9, Schoff Civil War Collection  
    William H. Shaw papers,  1861 December 10-1865 April 29 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Bacon, Edward. Among the cotton thieves (Detroit, 1867).

    Fowler, Smith W. Autobiographical sketch of Capt. S.W. Fowler... (Manistee, Mich., 1877).

    Partial Subject Index
    Brother versus brother.
    • 1863 July 25
    • 1863 July 25
    Camps (Military)--Virginia.
    • 1862 February 23
    Copperhead (Nickname)--Michigan.
    • 1863 July 1
    Dudley, Nathan Augustus Munroe, b. ca.1840.
    • 1862 November 6
    English language--Dialects--Michigan.
    • passim
    • 1861 December 10
    Fort Morgan (Ala.)--Capture, 1864.
    • 1864 September 17
    Louisiana--Description and travel.
    • 1862 June 17
    Loyalty oaths.
    • 1863 May 19
    McClellan, George Brinton, 1826-1885.
    • 1863 July 25
    New Orleans (La.)--Description and travel.
    • 1862 June 17
    • 1863 March 14
    • 1863 May 19
    • 1863 July 12
    • 1862 February 23
    Port Hudson (La.)--Description and travel.
    • 1863 July 25
    Port Hudson, Battle of, 1863.
    • 1863 July 12
    • 1863 July 25
    • 1863 May 19
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Participation, African American.
    • 1862 November 6
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Prisoners and prisons.
    • 1862 February 23
    United States. Army--Barracks and quarters.
    • 1862 June 17
    Vicksburg Campaign, 1863.
    • 1863 March 14
    • 1863 May 19