Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Jacob van Zwaluwenburg Memoir, Undated

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Manuscript Division Staff

Summary Information
Title: Jacob van Zwaluwenburg memoir
Creator: van Zwaluwenburg, Jacob, b. 1843
Inclusive dates: Undated
Extent: 69 pages
Jacob van Zwaluwenburg's memoir contains a discussion of his experiences during the Civil War along with an account of his childhood in the Netherlands and America.
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:

Donated, 1978. M-1824.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Jacob van Zwaluwenburg Memoir, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


van Zwaluwenburg, Jacob, b. 1843

Rank : Private

Regiment : United States. Army--Infantry Regiment, 16th

Service : 1861 May-1865

Born on January 16, 1843, in Elburg, Netherlands, Jacob van Zwaluwenburg emigrated to America with his family in 1850 to avoid the military conscription of his elder brother. Shortly after settling in western Michigan, his father contracted typhoid and died, and the family was split and spread out over the state, with Jacob being shuttled from one elder sibling to another.

Ironically, in a fit of patriotic fervor, Jacob enlisted in the 16th U.S. Infantry at the start of the Civil War, and saw considerable action in the western theatre, including the Battles of Shiloh, Corinth, Perryville, and Stones Rivers, as well as the Chattanooga Campaign.

Collection Scope and Content Note

Jacob van Zwaluwenburg's autobiography contains discussion of his experiences during the Civil War along with an account of his childhood in the Netherlands and America. He discusses his family, schooling, and religious upbringing in the Hervormde Kerk (Reformed Church in the Netherlands). He describes the ocean voyage and Erie Canal journey which brought the family to Michigan.

Van Zwaluwenburg describes his wartime experiences in the 16th U.S. Infantry, from his humorous efforts to volunteer through the end of his enlistment. He provides particularly detailed descriptions of the battles of Shiloh and Stones River and the fighting around Chattanooga. His account centers on the experiences of a private and strays little into the fields of politics and the evaluation of generals. Although there are a few geographical and chronological errors, the account provides an interesting view of the common soldier in the regular army.

The journal is in both manuscript and typescript; however, the two are not entirely the same. The typescript copy, 36 pages long, follows the manuscript copy, 33 pages long, with only minor differences until page 18 of the manuscript and page 22 of the typescript. From this point the copies differ greatly, although they cover roughly the same events. The manuscript is incomplete, lacking an ending.

Subject Terms

    • African American cooks.
    • Buell, Don Carlos, 1818-1898.
    • Camouflage (Military science)
    • Chattanooga, Battle of, Chattanooga, Tenn., 1863.
    • Corinth, Battle of, Corinth, Miss., 1862.
    • Food.
    • Franklin, Battle of, Franklin, Tenn., 1864.
    • Lee, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1807-1870.
    • Military discharge.
    • Military ethics.
    • Nashville, Battle of, Nashville, Tenn., 1864.
    • Perryville, Battle of, Perryville, Ky., 1862.
    • Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh), 1820-1891.
    • Shiloh, Battle of, Tenn., 1862.
    • Stanton, Edwin McMasters, 1814-1869.
    • Tents.
    • United States. Army--Recruiting, enlistment etc.--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Campaigns.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Casualties--Statistics.
    Genre Terms:
    • Memoirs.
    • Typescripts.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   99, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection Folders   6-11
    Jacob van Zwaluwenburg memoir,  undated [series]    [Note: Following is a list of topics discussed in the typescript copy. The details and page numbers vary in the manuscript copy.]
    Page   1  
    Memories of childhood in the Netherlands
    Page   2  
    Experiences in the Reformed Church in the Netherlands
    Page   8  
    Arrival in New York (Castle Garden)
    Page   9  
    Westward trip to Michigan
    Page   10  
    Settlement of Holland, Mich.
    Page   12  
    School days in Holland
    Page   13  
    Experiences in the Reformed Church of America
    Page   17  
     1860 Election Beginnings of the war
    Page   18  
    He joins the 16th U.S. Infantry Enlists at too early an age
    Page   20  
    Description of Sibley tents and other equipmentFood preparation
    Page   21  
    Vices: drinking and gambling March on Nashville, Tenn.
    Page   22  
    March to Pittsburg Landing to reinforce Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)
    Page   23  
    Battle of Shiloh
    Page   24  
    Aftermath of Shiloh Capture of Corinth, Miss. Use of foliage as camouflage
    Page   25  
    Gen. Don Carlos Buell refuses to allow runaway slave to become regiment cook Battle of Perryville
    Page   26  
    Reasons for Gen. Buell's removal Battle of Stones River Soldier shot through head while talking to author; survives
    Page   27  
    Incompetence of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton's nephew, "Capt. Stanton"
    Page   28  
    Blames Gen. Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) for war deaths last two years of the war
    Page   29  
    Fighting around Chattanooga
    Page   32  
    Fraternizing with enemy troops
    Page   33  
    Death of Gerret Van Zwaluwenburg (d. 1864) from wound suffered at Battle of Cold Harbor
    Page   34  
    Gen. William T. Sherman (1820-1891) and refugees from Atlanta
    Page   35  
    Discharge from service and return home
    Page   36  
    Post-war occupations