The James Hepburn Campbell papers are comprised of 98 correspondence, 2 legal documents, 5 newspaper clippings, and 2 miscellaneous items. The bulk of the collection was written between April and August of 1861, when Campbell, then a member of the House of Representatives, rushed to Washington to help defend the capital. Traveling by train, he arrived in the city on April 19, having passed through Baltimore at the height of the riots. Once in Washington, he entered into almost daily correspondence with his wife until his departure for Pennsylvania on August 3, 1861. This tightly-knit set of letters covers the initial panic in the District of Columbia when war broke out, the opening of Congress in July amid the crisis, early attempts of Clement Vallandigham to disrupt the Union, the death of the celebrated Colonel Ellsworth, and the fiasco at First Bull Run.
A series of ten letters, written in 1862 and 1863 to Campbell's wife, relate separate interviews with President Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln and give an account of a hastily formed regiment in the aborted attempt to cut off Lee's escape from Pennsylvania following Gettysburg. Of his hour-long meeting with Mary Todd Lincoln he wrote: "She is an ordinary woman with strong likes and dislikes...[S]he prides herself on being a 'little Southern," hates the angular Yankees" (January 27, 1863). Campbell also discussed family issues and military life. Eight letters and documents are extant from Campbell's years as Minister to Sweden (1865-1866) and Norway, including diplomatic correspondence concerning Lee's surrender and Lincoln's assassination.
The Documents series contains two items from the palace in Stockholm. The Newspaper Clippings series holds five undated articles: two on H.K. Brown, one about Ellis Lewis, Jr., a short poem called Three Calls, and a column on the soldiers stationed at Camp McDowell in Alexandria, Virginia. The Miscellaneous series consists of a seal from the Department of State of Sweden and Norway and a brief note about the collection's contents.