The Griffin family papers contain the letters of the Griffin Family of Sempronius, New York, and are comprised primarily of correspondence from Lavalette and Reynolds Griffin while serving with the 75th New York Volunteers during the Civil War. The collection is composed of 20 letters, 4 miscellaneous compositions, 2 newspaper clippings, and 16 photographs and negatives.
The Correspondence series contains 20 letters, four of which date before the war. The earliest letter is from a group of men, including Daniel Griffin, to their landlord requesting that their credit be extended, because of a bad harvest (1799). The next two are between Adnah H. Griffin and Ephraim, Louisa and Jane Griffin, and concern family issues (1835). Gideon Wales (resident of Pike Pond, [New Hampshire]) wrote a letter to Jennie L. McConnell, in which he discussed many of his relative's struggles with mental illness.
The Civil War letters are from brothers Lavalette and Reynolds Griffin and are primarily addressed to their parents, Adnah H. Griffin and Jane Reynolds Griffin, and their sisters Loretta and Jennie Griffith. The letters were written from several camps in Virginia and Louisiana, and from on board the ship Daniel Webster . The bulk of the letters are in a 103-page letterbook dated October 1861-March 1863. These letters were likely copied by a relative around 1900. Both brothers were competent writers and discussed typical soldier gripes regarding food, pay, bad officers, and the boredom of the army. In a letter from December 30, 1862, Lavalette wrote: "If you want to fix a man so that he does not know anything in this world, nor care a d__m for the next, just put him to soldiering, and keep him shut up in camp for one year."
Seven separate Civil War letters are from Lavalette Griffin, dated April 1862-February 1865, and addressed to his father and sister Loretta ("Rett"). In these, he wrote favorably of the New York Soldiers' Depot, which he found well managed with many amenities for the troops. In an April 1864 letter, he recounted a trip to the capital while stationed at Camp Distribution, Virginia. In the next letter, he spoke highly of General Grant: "One thing is in our favor Since General Grant has assumed command there is not so many shoulder straps lying round Washington and there papers are examined as closely as the meanest private -- There is scarcely a day that there is not some dismissals and there aught to be more[.]" Even after the loss of his brother and his own illnesses, Lavalette found a way to keep his good humor through the war.
The lone post-war letter (1868) is an interesting item from Jennie Griffin to her brother-in-law Silas McConnell, in which she complained about the difference between salaries for male and female teachers in New York.
The Miscellaneous series has 13 items, which include two newspaper clippings; 4 pages of family birth records (1780-1878) from the family Bible; two journals by Mary Jane Wilson, which are entitled Compositions Written by Mary Jane Wilson During the Summer of 1861, A present to her Teacher Jennie Griffin (14 pages), and The Scholar's Casket, A Journal of Councils and Companion for the Young, January 1862, containing amateur essays such as Being Honest, Fault Finding, and Courage; two essays entitled On the Death of Lois Jane Griffin and On the Death of Polly Griffin, Written for her Mother (3 pages); and a receipt for groceries from Syracuse, New York, 1915.
This collection contains 11 photographs and modern prints of 5 negatives of the Griffin family. The original photographs are located in the Clements Library Graphics Division.