Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Charles Otto Henthorn Papers, 1862-1864

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, September 1990

Summary Information
Title: Charles Otto Henthorn papers
Creator: Henthorn family
Inclusive dates: 1862-1864
Extent: 13 items
Abstract:
Charles Henthorn's papers consist of letters home during his service in the 77th Illinois Infantry, including descriptions of African Americans in the army, towns and plantations in the South, and his thoughts on the war.

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:

1990. M-2586c.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open to research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Charles Otto Henthorn papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Biography

Henthorn, Charles Otto

Rank : Private

Regiment : 77th Illinois Infantry Regiment. Co. D (1862-1865)

Service : 1862 August 3-1865 June 30

Charles Henthorn, a native of Lacon, Ill., enlisted in Company D of the 77th Illinois Infantry in August, 1862. This unit had recently been organized by David McKinney (see Schoff Soldiers' Letters 34: 1) and David Perkins Grier and was mustered in on 3 September 1862. The 77th Illinois was sent to Richmond, Kentucky, arriving shortly after the Battle of Richmond. The Regiment quickly earned the wrath of local citizens by ordering slaves they encountered to 'fall in.' "To such an extent was this slave propensity indulged, that Gen. Burbridge, a Kentuckian, was reported to have said that the Seventy-Seventh was an abolition regiment, and would steal all the niggers in Kentucky if they had a chance to do so." As the regiment marched south to join Grant's main army, slaves tagged along under the soldiers' protection. Local Kentuckians and Tennesseeans, however, were known to steal these camp followers and sell them back into slavery. Under this threat, several free black laborers employed by the Regiment were sent back to the north for their own protection. After the Vicksburg Campaign and the capture of Jackson, Mississippi, the 77th Illinois participated in Nathaniel Banks' operations in Texas.

Like many soldiers in his regiment, Henthorn was striken with illness during the Vicksburg Campaign, and spent seven weeks in the Van Buren Hospital at Milliken's Bend, La., before being sent to St. Louis for convalescence. This series of correspondence essentially ends when Henthorn leaves the south, however the regimental history for the 77th Illinois records Henthorn as mustering out only at the end of the war.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Henthorn papers consist of seven letters written by Henthorn to his father, Nelson, two to his younger brother, George, three to his sister, Sarah, and one letter from Nelson to George Henthorn. Charles Henthorn is an unusually powerful writer and provides thoughtful, evocative descriptions of the events unfolding around him. His observations on the varied roles of African Americans in the army are particularly noteworthy. They are depicted in several ways: as informers on Confederate sympathizers hiding from the Union Army, as victims of racism and southern hatred, and as highly motivated and effective soldiers at the Battle of Milliken's Bend. Henthorn appears to have a much more positive attitude toward blacks than many of his fellow soldiers, and he appears equally to be aware of this fact.

Equally interesting are Henthorn's descriptions of the land itself, including fine descriptions of towns in Indiana and Ohio, and of evacuated plantations in Louisiana. He makes several references to hostile southern attitudes toward the Union troops, and describes an instance of pillaging by members of his regiment. There are two second-hand accounts of battles, the Battles of Richmond and Milliken's Bend, but by and large, there is very little martial content in Henthorn's letters. He is instead at his best in his reflections on the effect of the conflict on the soldiers and civilians. The final two letters in the collection provide (respectively) an insight into the depth of Henthorn's religiously held pro-Union, anti-slavery views, and an account of a copperhead rally in Lacon during the 1864 presidential election which featured a coffin containing a likeness of Lincoln with buzzards flying overhead.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • United States. Army--Illinois Infantry Regiment, 77th (1862-1865)
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Participation, African American.
    • Fugitive slaves.
    • Milliken's Bend, Battle of, La., 1863.
    • Vicksburg (Miss.)--History--Siege, 1863.
    • Indiana--Description and travel.
    • Ohio--Description and travel.
    • Richmond (Ky.)--Description.
    • Tennessee--Description and travel.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Box   36 Schoff Civil War Soldiers' Letters  
    Charles Otto Henthorn papers,  1862 October 05-1864 September 18 [series]:
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library also holds the papers of David McKinney, quartermaster with 77th Illinois Infantry Regiment.

    Bibliography

    Bentley, W. H. History of the 77th Illinois Volunteer Infantry (Peoria: Edward Hine, 1883). p. 103.

    Partial Subject Index
    Camps (Military)
    • 1862 December 4 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Camps (Military)--Kentucky--Richmond.
    • 1862 November 11 to Henthorn, Sarah J.
    Canals--Mississippi--Vicksburg.
    • 1863 February 24 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Contagious diseases.
    • 1863 March 14 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Copperhead (Nickname)
    • 1864 September 18 to Henthorn, George F.
    Cotton.
    • 1863 March 14 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Death.
    • 1863 March 14 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Democracy--United States.
    • 1864 March 7 to Henthorn, Sarah.
    Electioneering--Illinois.
    • 1864 September 18 to Henthorn, George F.
    Farm produce.
    • 1863 March 14 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Fugitive slaves.
    • 1862 December 1 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Greenwood, Grace (1823-1904)
    • 1864 March 7 to Henthorn, Sarah.
    Henthorn, Lincoln.
    • 1863 March 2 to Henthorn, George F.
    Hull, Henry.
    • 1864 March 7 to Henthorn, Sarah.
    Indiana--Description and travel.
    • 1862 October 5 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Indianapolis (Ind.)--Description and travel.
    • 1862 October 5 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Kentucky--Description and travel.
    • 1862 November 5 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
    • 1864 September 18 to Henthorn, George F.
    Marching.
    • 1862 November 11 to Henthorn, Sarah J.
    Martial law--Kentucky--Richmond.
    • 1862 November 11 to Henthorn, Sarah J.
    Memphis, Tenn.--United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • 1862 December 4 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Milliken's Bend, La., Battle of, 1863.
    • 1863 June 10 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Mississippi--United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • 1862 December 21-27 to Henthorn, George F.
    Ohio--Description and travel.
    • 1862 October 5 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Ordnance.
    • 1862 November 5 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Pillage--Mississippi.
    • 1862 December 21-27 to Henthorn, George F.
    Plantations--Louisiana.
    • 1863 March 14 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Presidents--United States--Election--1864.
    • 1864 September 18 to Henthorn, George F.
    Richmond (Ky.), Battle of, 1862.
    • 1862 November 5 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Richmond (Ky.)--Description and travel.
    • 1862 November 11 to Henthorn, Sarah J.
    Sectionalism.
    • 1864 March 7 to Henthorn, Sarah.
    Slave traders.
    • 1862 December 1 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Slavery--United States.
    • 1864 March 7 to Henthorn, Sarah.
    Smallpox -- Preventive inoculation.
    • 1863 March 4 to Sister Henthorn, Sarah J.
    Smith, Andrew Jackson, 1815-1897.
    • 1862 December 1 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    • 1862 December 21-27 to Henthorn, George F.
    Soldiers--Death.
    • 1864 March 7 to Henthorn, Sarah.
    Tennessee--Description and travel.
    • 1862 December 4 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • 1864 March 7 to Henthorn, Sarah.
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--African Americans.
    • 1862 November 11 to Henthorn, Sarah J.
    • 1862 December 1 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Battlefields.
    • 1862 November 5 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Equipment and supplies.
    • 1862 November 5 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Flags.
    • 1862 November 11 to Henthorn, Sarah J.
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Guerrillas.
    • 1862 December 4 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    • 1863 February 24 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Health aspects.
    • 1863 March 14 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Participation, African American.
    • 1863 June 10 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Songs and music.
    • 1862 October 5 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Transportation.
    • 1862 October 5 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    • 1862 December 21-27 to Henthorn, George F.
    United States. Army--African Brigade.
    • 1863 June 10 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    United States. Army--Barracks and quarters.
    • 1862 November 11 to Henthorn, Sarah J.
    United States. Army--Chicago Mercantile Brigade.
    • 1863 March 14 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    United States. Army--Commissariat.
    • 1862 December 4 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    United States. Army--Illinois Infantry Regiment, 77th.
    • 1862 November 5 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    • 1862 December 1 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    • 1863 June 10 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    United States. Army--Iowa Infantry Regiment, 23.
    • 1863 June 10 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    United States. Army--Ohio Infantry Regiment, 48th.
    • 1863 March 14 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    United States. Army--Pay, allowances, et.
    • 1863 February 24 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    United States. Army--Soldiers.
    • 1862 December 21-27 to Henthorn, George F.
    Vicksburg (Miss.)--History--Siege, 1863.
    • 1863 February 24 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    • 1863 March 2 to Henthorn, George F.
    • 1863 June 10 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Women--Indiana--Indianapolis.
    • 1862 October 5 to Henthorn, Nelson G.
    Women--Kentucky.
    • 1862 November 11 to Henthorn, Sarah J.
    Yates, Richard (1815-1873)
    • 1864 March 7 to Henthorn, Sarah.
    Yazoo Pass Expedition, 1863.
    • 1863 March 14 to Henthorn, Nelson G.