Josiah Edmond King papers  1862-1865
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Collection Scope and Content Note

Josiah Edmond King served in two of the most active and "efficient" regiments from the state of Pennsylvania, although his first letters home contain few details about combat. Like many soldiers, he was preoccupied with the rigors of marches and camp life, and with requests for funds and packages of food and other essentials. His itemized lists for goods to be forwarded from home are excellent and unusually specific.

Beginning in July, 1863, the quality of King's correspondence noticeably improves, and his letters become increasingly detailed and peppered with keen observations. King witnessed some of the most memorable events of the war, including Gettysburg, Atlanta, and the March to the Sea, and although his letters provide little actual description of the engagements, they are full of thought-provoking -- and occasionally poignant -- asides. King was a particularly interesting, staunchly Republican commentator on the Presidential election of 1864, and thereafter it appears that his political leanings veered ever more into the Radical camp. An interesting motif in his letters is King's experimentation with handwriting styles, doubtless brought about by his heavy load of paperwork for the Army.

Three of the letters in the collection were written by Dr. Richard C. Halsey, surgeon with the 142nd Pennsylvania between August 4, 1862, to March 29, 1863. His two letters from before, during, and after the Battle of Fredericksburg are exceptional from the medical view. Halsey's casual style exhibits an interesting blend of sincere patriotism and cynicism. His letter of March 10, 1863 in which he reports excellent health and no plans to be home for some time to come, is interesting in light of the fact that he was discharged nineteen days later.

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