Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Edmund Whitman Papers, 1830-1881

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, June 2010

Summary Information
Title: Edmund Whitman papers
Creator: Whitman, E. B. (Edmund Burke), 1812-1883
Inclusive dates: 1830-1881
Extent: 65 items
The Edmund Whitman papers contain personal and military accounts and records concerning Whitman's teaching, Civil War service as chief quartermaster, and post-war work locating the graves of Union soldiers.
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:

1976. M-1738.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

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


The items in the Edmund Whitman papers are arranged into series:

  • Series I: Non-Military Account Books/Diaries
  • Series II: Military Account Books and Letterbook
  • Series III: Miscellaneous


Edmund Burke Whitman was born in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, on October 18, 1812, the son of farmer Alfred Whitman, and his wife, Betsey Robbins. He left home at 15 and worked in an apothecary shop in Vermont; after taking several other short-term jobs in teaching and sales, he enrolled as a charity student at Phillips Exeter Academy and subsequently Harvard College. He received his A.B. degree from the latter in 1838, followed by his A.M. in 1841, and thereafter became headmaster of the Hopkins Classical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was involved in antislavery and temperance societies, and in 1855 moved to Lawrence, Kansas, to join the struggle to make that territory a free state; while there, he befriended abolitionist John Brown.

In October 1862, Abraham Lincoln appointed Whitman captain and assistant quartermaster, assigned to duty in Covington, Kentucky, with Brigadier General Green Clay Smith's brigade. In 1865, he was promoted to chief quartermaster, District of Tennessee, and was stationed at Murfreesboro. After the war Whitman became assistant quartermaster in charge of national cemeteries and mortuary records for the same district. Charged with inspecting cemeteries and battlefields, he located thousands of Union soldiers buried in Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, and Alabama, and oversaw the relocation of over 100,000 Union bodies. He left the service in 1868, taught briefly in Louisville, Kentucky, and returned to Cambridge, where he lived until his death on September 2, 1883.

On August 30, 1839, he married Nancy Russell in Kingston, Massachusetts, and they had four children: Amelia (b. 1840), Alfred (b. 1841), Russell (b. 1844), and James (b. 1847). After her early death, he married Lucretia Clapp on October 25, 1858, and they had a son named Edmund, born around 1860.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Edmund Whitman papers contain 23 personal account books/diaries, 3 military account and letter books, a document, and 38 newspaper clippings. The materials span 1830-1881.

The Personal Account Books/Diaries series contains 23 volumes covering 1830-1876. They primarily contain information on Whitman's financial transactions, but also record major life events and feature occasional brief diary entries. While most of the volumes contain information on only one year, Volume I covers 1830-1855 in many brief entries, and several pages in the back of the volume note events such as his wedding to Nancy Russell, which took place "in a Hurricane at K[ingston]" (September 30, 1839), the deaths of his parents and wife, and the dates and places of his children's births and school attendance. The volumes for the years 1851 and 1853 contain only financial entries, which document the economic aspects of running the Hopkins Classical School in Cambridge. In addition to accounts, the 1855 volume contains a page of genealogical information, compiled by Whitman, which sheds light on several generations of the Whitman and Russell lines. Other volumes contain lists of publications and books that Whitman wanted to purchase (1858), and beginning in 1862, scattered military transactions mixed in with personal accounts. Tucked into the pocket of the 1865 volume is a table of the burial locations of approximately 20 Union soldiers who died in Missouri. In late July 1866, Whitman wrote a lengthy entry about cemeteries in Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee. The later books in the series, 1872-1876, document Whitman's travel, interest from investments, and general transactions. The collection also contains two ongoing accounts, placed at the end: one spans 1856-1880, and records transactions related to the National Kansas Committee, and later, the schooling of Whitman's children; and another volume primarily records tuition transactions from the 1840s to the 1870s.

The Military Account Books and Letterbook series contains three items. The first account book covers May 1, 1863-December 1864 and lists payments made by Whitman, mainly to soldiers, on behalf of the United States government. The second volume contains similar records for the period of January 1, 1867-August 20, 1868, when the government undertook efforts to identify the graves of Union soldiers and rebury many of them in national cemeteries. Unlike the previous volume, this book provides information on the reason for each payment, whether "postage," "service," "hired men," "towing," or "purchase." The letterbook covers April 11, 1865-April 25, 1868, and records and summarizes the content of incoming letters to Whitman. The letters mainly contain requests for such items as fuel, clothing, and livestock, or for payments by the government for requisitioned items.

The Miscellaneous series contains a promotion document for Whitman, signed by Ulysses S. Grant (November 15, 1867), and 38 newspaper clippings from the 1850s to the 1870s, mainly pertaining to the Kansas controversy and its aftermath.

Subject Terms

    • Burial--United States.
    • Cemeteries--Missouri.
    • Kansas--History--1854-1861.
    • National Kansas Committee.
    • United States. Army. Quartermaster Corps.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Casualties.
    Genre Terms:
    • Correspondence.
    • Financial Records.
    • Military Records.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Non-Military Account Books/Diaries [series]
     1862 (continued)
    Box   2  
    Box   2  
    Military Account Books and Letterbook [series]
     May 1, 1863-[December 1864]
     January 1, 1867-August 20, 1868
     April 11, 1865-April 25, 1868
    Box   2  
    Miscellaneous,  1850s-1870s [series] (4 folders)
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library owns a map by Edmund B. Whitman: Whitman, E. B, and A. D Searl. Map of Eastern Kansas . Boston: J.P. Jewett & Co., 1856.