Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Doctor Tarbell and Mary Conant Papers, 1864-1881

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens, July 2004; Philip Heslip, June 2010

Summary Information
Title: Doctor Tarbell and Mary Conant papers
Creator: Tarbell, Doctor, 1838-1895 and Conant, Mary, 1838-1899
Inclusive dates: 1864-1881
Bulk dates: 1864-1865
Extent: 113 items
Abstract:
This collection consists of 113 letters, written primarily between Union soldier Doctor Tarbell and his fiancée, and later, wife, Mary Lucy Conant. Doctor served as a Sergeant in New York's 32nd Infantry, Co. A, and as a Lieutenant, Captain, and Brevet Major in the Commissary Regiment, U.S. Volunteers.
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:

1987. M-2361.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

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

Preferred Citation:

Doctor Tarbell and Mary Conant papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

This collection is organized chronologically.


Biography

Tarbell, Doctor

Rank : Maj.

Regiment : 32nd New York Infantry Regiment. Co. A (1861-1863)

Service : 1861 May 1-1865 July 27

Doctor Tarbell (1838-1895) was born in Groton, New York, to Thomas B. Tarbell and Lydia Miller. On May 1, 1861, he enlisted as a sergeant in the New York 32nd Infantry, Company A. He was promoted to full commissary sergeant and transferred to Company S of the same regiment two months later. He was transferred back to Company A on June 23, 1862, and promoted to first lieutenant. He rose to the rank of captain in the U.S. Volunteers and saw action at Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. While stationed near Winchester, Virginia, he was captured by Confederate cavalry on September 21, 1864, and taken to Libby Prison. On October 2, 1864, the Confederates transferred Tarbell, along with the other officers at Libby, to Salisbury, North Carolina, and then to Danville Prison in Virginia two weeks later. On February 18, 1865, he was transferred back to Libby and paroled just a few days later. He was granted 30 days leave to return to Peruville, New York, to marry his longtime sweetheart Mary Lucy Conant on March 14, 1865. Shortly after his wedding, Tarbell traveled to Washington to return to his company. He was made a brevet major on July 10, 1865, and was honorably mustered out of service on July 27, 1865. After the war, Tarbell was elected clerk of Tompkins County and worked in the life insurance business. He died in 1895.

Mary Conant (1838-1899) was born in Charlton, Massachusetts, and was raised by her aunt and uncle, Sylvanus and Silence Larned, in Groton and Peruville, New York. Doctor and Mary had three children: George Schuyler, born July 15, 1868, in Peruville; Bertha Mary, born December 15, 1872, in Ithaca, New York; and Clarence D., born May 5, 1878, in Ithaca. Doctor Tarbell died before December 1897, when Mary applied for a widow’s pension based on his Civil War service.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Doctor Tarbell and Mary Conant papers are comprised of 112 letters, written primarily between Union soldier Doctor Tarbell and his fiancée (and later wife), Mary Lucy Conant, and one genealogical document. Doctor served as a sergeant in the New York 32nd Infantry, Co. A, and as a lieutenant, captain, and brevet major in the U.S. Volunteers. The collection covers Doctor’s war-time service in the Union Army and some of his post-war career. The Civil War letters form a remarkably dense series that highlights the intimate relationship of Tarbell and his fiancée Mary. The collection contains 35 letters from Doctor to Mary, and 46 letters from Mary to Doctor, mainly during 1864 and 1865. Additionally, Doctor wrote one letter to his parents T. B. and Lydia Tarbell, and received two letters from them and two from his siblings. The remaining 29 letters are either from relatives of Mary or they pertain to post-war activities of the Tarbells.

Both Tarbell and his fiancée wrote in an educated and literary style; their letters reveal an affectionate relationship. Between January and February 1864, both Tarbell and Conant wrote almost exclusively about their relationship. However, as the Army of the Potomac moved south, both writers began to focus more on the progress of the war and to assume a more fervently patriotic tone. Many of Mary's letters contain political asides ("Does the Army weary of Gen. Meade, or is it politicians & aspirants that wish to oust him?" March 13, 1864); references to life at home during wartime; and several extended lyrical passages and pro-Union sentiments. Tarbell's responses, which were also substantive and descriptive, often referred to military matters, his work as a commissary, and army morale.

At times, Tarbell's patriotism and pride in his commission shine through, as during his company's inspection by General Ulysses S. Grant (April 18, 1864). Tarbell described the journey down to Richmond, his regiment's movements, what he knew of the progress of the war, the actions of the 6th Cavalry Corps, and his encounters with southern civilians. He wrote to both Mary and his parents from Danville Military Prison, expressing his hopes that an exchange of officers was imminent (October 22, 1864, and November 20, 1864). After his release, he recounted the parades in Washington, D.C. following the ending of the war, and the review of General Sherman’s Army (May 25, 1865). On July 28, 1865, he mentioned his promotion to brevet major.

The 5 letters written to Mary during Tarbell's imprisonment are filled with sympathy and encouragement, along with family news. In a letter from Mary's young niece, Hattie Carpenter, she described the return of soldiers to Iowa (January 15, 1865). Mary A. E. Wages wrote to Miss Hardy requesting funds to establish a freedman's high school in Richmond: "The black people of Richmond are the only loyal people in the whole city...They not only need help, but are worthy objects of it" (Nov. 18, 1866).

The 13 letters from 1881 suggest that the Tarbells were in some unspecified financial difficulty, and that Doctor had been employed as a typewriter agent. The remaining 10 letters were written by Tarbell or Conant relatives and friends.

This collection also contains one genealogical document that lists the birth and marriage dates for members of the Conant and Tarbell families (1793-1884). Included is a list of Doctor and Mary Tarbell's children. This document is undated and unattributed.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • African American soldiers.
    • Barracks.
    • Cavalry.
    • Crickets.
    • Danville (Va.)
    • Davis, Jefferson, 1808-1889.
    • Diseases.
    • Dishwashing machines.
    • Escapes.
    • Flies.
    • Fort Sumter (Charleston, S.C.)
    • Fredericksburg, Battle of, Fredericksburg, Va., 1862.
    • Gettysburg (Pa.)
    • Grant, Ulysses S. (Ulysses Simpson), 1822-1885.
    • Groton (N.Y.)
    • Horsemanship.
    • Investments.
    • Lee, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1807-1870.
    • Libby Prison.
    • Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
    • Love-letters.
    • Marriage.
    • Meade, George Gordon, 1815-1872.
    • Military Passes.
    • Military Pensions.
    • Mourning customs.
    • Musicians.
    • Newport News (Va.)
    • Parades--Washington (D.C.) .
    • Phrenology.
    • Poetry.
    • Presidents--United States--Election--1864.
    • Prisoners of war.
    • Quilting.
    • Railway Mail Service--Cars.
    • Rapidan River (Va.)
    • Richmond (Va.)--History--Siege, 1864-1865.
    • Salisbury Prison (N.C.)
    • Soldiers, black.
    • Suffrage.
    • Temperance.
    • Transportation, Military.
    • United States. Army--African American troops.
    • United States, Army--Commissariat.
    • United States. Army. New York Infantry Regiment, 32nd (1861-1863)
    • United States. Army of the Potomac.
    • United States. Army--Transfers.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Battlefields.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Casualties.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Prisoners and prisons.
    • Warrenton (Va.)
    • Wilderness, Battle of the, Va., 1864.
    • Winchester (Va.)
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Box   77, Schoff Civil War Collection  
    Correspondence [series]:
    Folder   11  
      January 3, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      January 4, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      January 7, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      January 8, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      January 11, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      February 6, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      February 9, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      February 12, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      February 14, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      February 14, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      February 17, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      February 18, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      February 21, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      February 21, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      February 21, 1864: E. W. King to Cousin Mary Conant
    Folder   12  
      February 21, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      February 22, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      February 23, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      February 28, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      March 8, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      March 13, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      March 17, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      March 21, 1864: Thomas B. & Lydia Tarbell to Doctor Tarbell
     
      March 24, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      March 27, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
    Folder   13  
      April 3, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      April 3, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      April 6, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      April 7, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      April 7, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      April 9, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      April 10, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      April 13, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      April 14, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      April 18, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      April 21, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      April 24, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      April 26, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      April 28, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
    Folder   14  
      May 1, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      May 5, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      May 8, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      May 8, 1864: Nellie Wickham to Doctor Tarbell
     
      May 12, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      May 15, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      May 19, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      May 22, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      May 25, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      May 25, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      May 28, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
    Folder   15  
      June 2, 1864: O.P. Hyde to Doctor Tarbell
     
      June 3, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      June 5, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      June 12, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      June 15, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      June 19, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      June 26, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      July 3, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      July 10, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      July 16, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      July 24, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
    Folder   16  
      August 3, 1864: T.B. & Lydia Tarbell to Doctor Tarbell
     
      August 4, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      August 4, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      August 7, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      August 12, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      August 12, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      August 14, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      August 18, 1864: J. M. Tarbell to Doctor Tarbell
     
      August 19, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      August 21, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      August 25, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      August 27, 1864: C. Tarbell to Doctor Tarbell (brother)
     
      August 28, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
    Folder   17  
      September 1, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      September 18, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      September 20, 1864: Mary Conant to Doctor Tarbell
     
      October 2, 1864: R. G. Conant to Mary Conant (cousin)
     
      October 22, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
     
      October 28, 1864: E. W. King to Mary Conant (cousin)
     
      November 20, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to T.B. & Lydia Tarbell
     
      November 26, 1864: Doctor Tarbell to Mary Conant
    Folder   18  
      January 8, 1865: Nancy M. McKinstry to Mary Conant (cousin)
     
      January 15, 1865: Hattie C. Carpenter to Mary Conant (aunt)
     
      February 16, 1865: Jerome Willoughby to Mary Conant (cousin)
     
      April 6, 1865: Doctor Tarbell to Mrs. Mary L. Tarbell
     
      April 7, 1865: Doctor Tarbell to Mrs. Mary L. Tarbell
     
      May 22, 1865: Doctor Tarbell to Mrs. Mary L. Tarbell
     
      May 25, 1865: Doctor Tarbell to Mrs. Mary L. Tarbell
     
      June 5, 1865: Doctor Tarbell to Mrs. Mary L. Tarbell
     
      June 11, 1865: Doctor Tarbell to Mrs. Mary L. Tarbell
     
      July 28, 1865: Doctor Tarbell to Mrs. Major D. Tarbell
     
      July 30, 1865: Hattie E. Carpenter to Uncle & Aunt.
     
      August 3, 1865: Doctor Tarbell to Mrs. Mary L. Tarbell
     
      August 4, 1865: Doctor Tarbell to Mrs. Mary L. Tarbell
     
      August 21, 1865: Wm. J. Campbell to Doctor Tarbell
    Folder   19  
      January 16, 1866: T. S. Whitbeck to Doctor Tarbell
     
      November 18, 1866: Mary A. E. Wager to Miss Hardy
     
      June 28, 1869: E. W. King to Mary Tarbell
     
      February 28, 1879: L. Bradford Prince to Secretary Schurz
     
      March 15, 1881: Bertha Tarbell to Doctor Tarbell (father)
     
      March 19, 1881: T. L. Brown to Doctor Tarbell
     
      March 19, 1881: Mary Tarbell to Doctor Tarbell
     
      March 20, 1881: Mary Tarbell to Doctor Tarbell
     
      April 11, 1881: Elisha Field to Doctor Tarbell
     
      April 18, 1881: John E. McIntosh to Doctor Tarbell
     
      April 19, 1881: G. W. Miller to Doctor Tarbell
     
      April 21, 1881: E. Remington & Sons to Doctor Tarbell
     
      May 7, 1881: W. O. Wyckoff to Doctor Tarbell
     
      May 12, 1881: Mary Tarbell to Doctor Tarbell
     
      May 16, 1881: Asahel Clapp to Doctor Tarbell
     
      May 23, 1881: Mary Tarbell to Doctor Tarbell
     
     Undated genealogical document
    Additional Descriptive Data

    List of Correspondents:

    • Brown, T. L.
    • Campbell, William J.
    • Carpenter, Hattie E.
    • Clapp, Asahel.
    • Conant, Mary L. (also Mrs. Mary L. Tarbell)
    • Conant, R. G.
    • Field, Elisha.
    • Hyde, O.P.
    • King, E. W.
    • McKinstry, Nancy M.
    • McIntosh, John E.
    • Miller, G. W.
    • Prince, L. Bradford.
    • Remington, E. & Sons.
    • Tarbell, Bertha.
    • Tarbell, C.
    • Tarbell, Doctor.
    • Tarbell, J. M.
    • Tarbell, T.B. & Lydia.
    • Wager, Mary A. E.
    • Whitbeck, T. S.
    • Wickham, Nellie.
    • Willoughby, Jerome.
    • Wyckoff, W. O.