Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
William G. Dickson Papers, 1864-1865

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, October 1996

Summary Information
Title: William G. Dickson papers
Creator: Levassor, E.
Inclusive dates: 1864-1865
Extent: 12 items
Abstract:
A staunch unionist, William Dickson received a commission as major of the 1st Ohio Heavy Artillery Regiment in July, 1863. His letters during the Civil War, addressed to his grandfather E. Levassor, describe artillery and fortifications and include commentary on William T. Sherman's war policies and observations of people in the south. As a one-time resident of Savannah, Georgia, his return to that city in 1864 provides a unique "before" and "after" comparison of the war-torn city.

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: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1976. M-1730.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open to research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

William G. Dickson papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Biography

Dickson, William G.

Rank : Major, Lieut. Colonel

Regiment : 1st Ohio Heavy Artillery Regiment (1862-1865)

Service : 1863 July 3-1865 July 25

In May, 1861, William G. Dickson left Savannah, Ga., where he had apparently been a merchant, and made his way north to the home of his grandfather, E. Levassor, in Cincinnati. A staunch unionist, Dickson received a commission as major of the 1st Ohio Heavy Artillery Regiment in July, 1863. For several months, Dickson's regiment was occupied in building fortifications and combatting guerrilla activity in Kentucky. Although it is unclear, it appears that at some point, Dickson may have joined the staff of Gen. Davis Tillson, Chief of Artillery of the Department of Ohio, and head of defences at Cincinnati and Knoxville.

In April, 1864, when General William F. Barry, was named Chief of Artillery for the Military Department of the Mississippi under the command of William T. Sherman, Dickson was asked to join Barry's staff. Placed on detached leave from his regiment, Dickson became Assistant Inspector General of Artillery for Barry, and traveled to headquarters in Nashville. With the success of the Sherman's efforts in Georgia, Dickson traveled to Atlanta early in October to begin preparations for the Georgia campaign. The city still in a shambles, Dickson was witness not only to the devastation of war, but to the struggle between the vanquished, but defiant John Bell Hood, and the victorious, but no less defiant Sherman.

In October, Dickson accompanied the expedition to relieve John Corse at Allatoona, and then hove into the March to the Sea. Upon his triumphant entry into Savannah, his former home, he noted how much had changed, how the stars and stripes now flew and the merchants he had last seen four years before seemed to have aged so much. "It was a grand time for me," he wrote, "and I enjoyed it much... A set of more thoroughly whipped Rebels the world never saw" (1864 December 29). Surprisingly, the citizens seemed positively hospitable to their conquerors, even calling upon the governor to call a state convention to bring Georgia back into the Union. But not all was well. Dickson soon discovered that his brother had been unable to escape from Savannah in 1861, and had been imprisoned for eight months as a union sympathizer before being forced to serve in the Confederate Quartermaster's Corps. In January, 1865, now in the Carolinas, Dickson finally met up with his brother near Columbia, S.C., in a remarkably unremarkable moment. Called into his tent to meet someone, Dickson encountered his brother, who had managed to slip away from the Quartermaster Department and lay low until union forces had overtaken him. The fate of the Dicksons after the war is unknown.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The letters that survive from William Dickson's years as a Union soldier are few in number, but underscore several important aspects of the Civil War. All twelve letters are addressed to his grandfather, and each letter appears to have been written with great care, with a keen eye for detail and good narrative. Dickson's descriptions of artillery and fortifications are those of a professional, and his observations on the people of the south -- their appearance, ideas, and emotions -- show both his sensitivity and his dull awareness of the impact of war.

As a one-time resident of Savannah, his return to that city in 1864 as a conqueror is one of the high points in the collection, and his comparison of "before" and "after" pictures of the war-torn city are unique in that few persons could have written such an account. His commentary on William T. Sherman's war policies provides a glimpse from a man who apparently knew the General personally. In a very different way, his description of a "frolic" at Mammoth Cave, accompanied by bloomer-clad women and a heavy guard against guerrillas, is outstanding, providing an entertaining view of soldiers at play.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • United States. Army. Ohio Heavy Artillery Regiment, 1st.
    • Fortification--United States--History--19th century.
    • Knoxville (Tenn.)--Description and travel.
    • Savannah (Ga.)--Description and travel.
    • Sherman's March through the Carolinas.
    • Sherman's March to the Sea.
    • Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh), 1820-1891.
    • Soldiers--Recreation.
    Contributors:
    • Dickson, William G.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Box   4 Schoff Civil War Soldiers' Letters  
    William G. Dickson papers,  1864 January 31-1865 March 14 [series]:
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Partial Subject Index
    Allatoona (Ga.), Battle of, 1864.
    • 1864 October 7
    Armistices.
    • 1865 January 20
    Atlanta (Ga.)--Description and travel.
    • 1864 October 7
    Bloomer Costume.
    • 1864 August 27
    Brothers.
    • 1864 December 29
    • 1865 March 14
    Civilians--Tennessee--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • 1864 January 31
    Corse, John Murry, 1835-1893.
    • 1864 October 7
    Cotton.
    • 1865 January 20
    Domestics.
    • 1864 January 31
    • 1864 April 15
    Fortification, Field.
    • 1864 October 7
    Fortifications.
    • 1864 January 31
    • 1864 March 4
    • 1864 August 13
    Grant, Ulysses S., 1822-1885.
    • 1864 June 17
    Hood, John Bell, 1831-1879.
    • 1864 October 7
    Knoxville (Tenn.)--Description and travel.
    • 1864 January 31
    • 1864 March 4
    • 1864 June 17
    • 1864 August 13
    Louisiana--Description and travel.
    • 1864 April 13
    Mammoth Cave (Ky.)
    • 1864 August 27
    Morgan, John Hunt, 1825-1864.
    • 1864 June 17
    Plantations--Louisiana.
    • 1864 April 13
    Pontoon-bridges.
    • 1864 January 31s
    Prisoners of War--Confederate States of America.
    • 1864 April 13
    Savannah (Ga.)--Description and travel.
    • 1864 December 29
    • 1865 January 20
    Sherman's March through the Carolinas.
    • 1865 January 20
    • 1865 March 14
    Sherman's March to the Sea.
    • 1864 December 29
    • 1865 January 20
    Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh), 1820-1891.
    • 1864 October 7
    • 1865 January 20
    Ships.
    • 1864 April 30
    Soldiers--Recreation.
    • 1864 August 27
    South Carolina.
    • 1865 January 20
    • 1865 March 14
    Strategy.
    • 1864 June 17
    Tennessee--Description and travel.
    • 1864 January 31
    Union sympathizers--Georgia.
    • 1864 December 29
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--African Americans.
    • 1864 January 31
    • 1864 April 15
    Vicksburg (Miss.)--Description and travel.
    • 1864 April 13
    War widows--Confederate States of America.
    • 1865 January 20