The Sturtevant papers contain 29 Civil War-date letters written by Francis Crayton Sturtevant to his mother (Mrs. C.F. Sturtevant), his sisters Ann or Eveline, or generally to his family. The collection also contains 9 post-war letters written to Hattie Ellis, Crayton's fiancé/wife; 5 letters from Hattie to Crayton; 8 letters from members of the Sturtevant family to Crayton; and 10 miscellaneous items relating to Sturtevant's sons, Harry, Albert, and Francis.
The Civil War letters reflect Sturtevant's perceptiveness and talent as a writer, as well as his strong ideological commitment to the war. Although his reasons for enlistment are somewhat obscure and his early departure from the war stands out, Sturtevant never displayed any doubt that his service was his patriotic duty. His letters are valuable for reconstructing life in the defenses of Harpers' Ferry in the fall and winter months of 1861-62, as well as the events of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862. His letters are of added value in being written from the unusual perspective of a musician, and are filled with depictions of the lives of musicians, who were not always subject to the same level of hardship or the same rigors of average soldiers. Sturtevant's letters provide several descriptions of practicing, playing, working on musical formations, and competing with other bands, and they also give an idea of the effect that the music had on his audience of soldiers and civilians.
Sturtevant was also a soldier, and his letters contain fine descriptions of hard marches and battles, particularly leading up and during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862. The accounts of Jackson's assault on Hancock, and of the battles of Kernstown and Winchester stand out as among the best letters in the collection.
The post-war material includes an eloquent letter addressed to Sturtevant's future mother-in-law, in which he defends his impending marriage to Hattie against his in-laws' opposition. Sturtevant argued that there can be no loss to Hattie or her family by the union, but only gain due to the genuineness of their love for each other. Also included is a powerful letter, grieving over the loss of his mother, who had died in his arms (1874 September 22).