Clement Abner Boughton papers  1839-1906 (bulk 1861-1864)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Clement Boughton papers include 86 letters from Clement Boughton to his mother, brothers and sister, 85 of which were written during his service in the 12th Wisconsin Infantry. The remaining 59 items in the collection include five documents relating to Boughton's service, four letters from a cousin, Mariette Bent, to Clement while he was in the service, a letter from an officer in the 12th Wisconsin relating news of Clement's death and several letters of bereavement from relatives and acquaintances. The balance of the collection is comprised of letters form other members of the Boughton family, both pre-War and post, most addressed to Clement's mother.

Boughton's Civil War letters form the heart of the collection and provide a complete account of the military service of an upright young farmer. While Boughton considered himself to be religious and while he held high standards of conduct for himself and his comrades, he was not prone to moralizing or quick condemnation. He was instead an avid, well-intentioned soldier doing his duty far from home, who felt pangs of guilt at being away during the harvest, and who continued to provide support, encouragement and advice to his mother, younger brother and sister on running the farm and leading their lives. His letters to his younger siblings Augustus and Anna are very affectionate and indicate how important he must have been in raising the children. His relationship with his twin, Clarence, is more difficult to ascertain. Clarence appears to have been an unusually poor correspondent and while Clement's tone in the one letter that survives between them seems strained, it is not clear whether there was actual tension between the two.

Among the more interesting letters in the Boughton are the series describing their duties in Kansas and Natchez. Devoid of any real action, they nevertheless paint an interesting portrait of military life away from the front, and include some good descriptions of Union-occupied territory. Boughton's letters written during the Vicksburg siege are also excellent, and include an interesting account of McPherson's attempt to tunnel under the Confederate fortifications as well as a fine sense of the tense, but at the same time boring life in the rifle pits awaiting the capitulation. Finally, Boughton's journal-like letter of the failed expedition from Memphis into northern Mississippi in December, 1862, to January, 1863, graphically details the hardships of field service in the deep south, the exhausting marches, mud, cold and hunger the soldiers faced, and the swings in morale that resulted when the objectives could not be attained.

Among the related materials, there is an interesting letter from members of the Baptist congregation at Chester, Conn., to Eliza Boughton, sending a small amount of money to help support her and her children after the death of her husband, Newell. A typescript of most of the Civil War letters was prepared by a descendant and is available upon request.

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