Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Emerson Family Papers, 1851-1881

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, October 2009

Summary Information
Title: Emerson family papers
Creator: Emerson, Amelia A. and Emerson, Irving
Inclusive dates: 1851-1881
Extent: 102 items
The Emerson family papers contain letters from a Massachusetts family with relatives in Maine, Connecticut, and Wisconsin. Two sons, Horace and Irving Emery, fought for the Union Army. The letters describe life on the home front and the battlefield during the Civil War, labor on the railroads in Wisconsin, and the life of a music teacher in Maine.
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:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1991. M-2662o.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

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

Preferred Citation:

Emerson Family Papers, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


This collection is organized chronologically with undated items at the end.


Amelia A. Emerson and Emery Emerson had three children in Bridgton, Maine. They later separated, with Amelia moving to Roxbury, Massachusetts, and Emery remaining in Maine where he remarried and had two children.

Horace Emery Emerson, Amelia and Emery's oldest son, was born on December 21, 1839. In 1856, Horace was living in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. He moved to Milwaukee in 1858 and joined the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry as a 3rd Corporal during the Civil War. He left the army a 1st sergeant in 1865, and married Emma C. Kittredge shortly after. They had three sons, Edwin H., George H., and Charles. By 1880, Horace was working as an engineer in Delano, Minnesota.

Horace's younger brother Irving, born in Maine in 1843, resided in Roxbury, Massachusetts, until age 21, when he enlisted in the 43rd Massachusetts Infantry, Co. E, as a 1st sergeant. He mustered out July 30, 1863, and worked in Maine, Massachusetts, and Connecticut as a music teacher. By 1880, he was working as a musician in Hartford, Connecticut, composing songs, conducting choirs, performing on the piano and organ, and teaching music.

Their sister, Maria A. Emerson, was born on October 4, 1837. She married William W. Tuttle in Boston in 1858.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Emerson family papers consist of 98 letters and 4 printed materials. The bulk of the letters are from Horace; his earliest letters are from Bridgton, Maine, in 1851-1852, and from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, in 1856. He wrote to his mother, Sister Maria, and brother Irving (Irvey) about his life in the West, his health, hunting bear and deer, killing cats that kept him up all night, and of leaning the engineering trade. He also requested that his wedding announcement be placed in most of the Boston papers.

Horace often used expressive language when describing his surroundings and his acquaintances. In a letter from April 15, 1858, he described Milwaukee as "the worst place I was ever in[...]Gambling is called an honorable business." Of a female friend back east he remarked, "she would comb my hair with a 3 leg stool if she could get a chance." He wrote to Irving about the railroad running between Milwaukee and Portage City: "Monday we killed 2 hogs and one cow...I wish you could have seen the cow. When we hit her it took her right up 10 feet and set her on her ass in a mud hole" (May 5, 1858). In 1861, Horace wrote a few letters from Bridgton, Maine, where his father, re-married with two children, was making shingles for a living. By April, he was beck in Wisconsin, and enlisted in the Portage City Light Guard (Second Regiment Wisconsin State Volunteers, Co. C. He described the daily routine training at Camp Randall in Madison, Wisconsin, and noted to his musical brother that they had 3 fiddles, one flute, a guitar, bones, boxing gloves and dum bells "for the mussle." When his regiment got to Washington, he called on "old Abe" at the White House and had a brief meeting and drink with him. His letter of July 26, 1861, recounts his part in the Battle of Bull Run, fighting with other "tough cusses of Wisconsin." Horace spoke often of bravery and described the enjoyable aspects of being a solder, and, like many Union soldiers in the first years of the war, thought highly of "the good General McClellan" (March 12, 1862). By January 31, 1863, however, Horace was disillusioned with the war. He wanted to leave the army and was hostile to the idea of fighting to free blacks from slavery. By July 1863, Horace was back in Wisconsin and considered enlisting in the Minnesota militia to fight the Indians: "I will go to fight Indians any time but to fight the Rebs, please excuse me." After 1863, his letters concern his work as an engineer for the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad and are about family life in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a new wife Emma and sons Irving and Horace Edwin.

In 1862, Horace's brother Irving received a number of letters from his mother, who lived in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and a few from his sister Maria. These concern family affairs and the state of the household, while her sons were at war. Irving Emerson's earliest letter is from April 3, 1863, when he writes from Camp Rogers to his mother and his sister Maria. By 1865, Irving was living in Belfast, [Maine], and was trying to earn his livelihood as a musician. Other family letters include an 1859 letter from Seth Webb to his grandchildren (Maria, Horace and Irving) and an 1864 letter from Amelia's brother Seth Webb, Jr.

Many of the letterheads, such as those dated May 27th, July 26, September 15, and October 6, 1861, have red, white, and blue images of a soldier with an American Flag. A letter from July 4, 1861, contains a large image of the Capitol.

In addition to the letters are four printed items: a monthly report of the Hartford Public High School, with the names of teachers and pupils, including Emma C. Tuttle (1875); and programs for Hartford Public Schools Fourth Musical Festival (1879), the Emerson Chorus concert on November 11, 1879, and the Collinsville Choral Union (1881), all conducted by Irving Emerson.

Subject Terms

    • Bull Run, 1st Battle of, Va., 1861.
    • Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
    • McClellan, George Brinton, 1826-1885.
    • McDowell, Irvin, 1818-1885.
    • Prisoners of war--United States--1860-1870.
    • United States. Army. Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, 43rd (1862-1863)
    • United States. Army--Military life.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Prisoners and prisons.
    • Emerson, Horace Emery.
    • Emerson, Maria A.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Printed ephemera.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   92, Schoff Civil War Collection  
    Emerson family papers [series]
    Folder   1  
     September 1851-October 1856
    Folder   2  
     November 1856-July 1859
    Folder   3  
     December 1859-January 1861
    Folder   4  
     March 1861-July 1861
    Folder   5  
     August 1861-December 1861
    Folder   6  
     January 1862-March 1862
    Folder   7  
     April 1862-January 1863
    Folder   8  
     January 1863-April 1863
    Folder   9  
     April 1863-May 1863
    Folder   10  
     May 1863-January 1863
    Folder   11  
     July 1863-January 1864
    Folder   12  
     January 1864-October 1864
    Folder   13  
     November 1864-February 1866
    Folder   14  
     June 1866-February 1868 and  undated
    Folder   15  
    Printed Materials,  1875-1881