Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John S. Corliss Papers, 1861-1863

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, November 1992

Summary Information
Title: John S. Corliss papers
Creator: Hastings, John and Hastings, Mary
Inclusive dates: 1861-1863
Extent: 17 items
Abstract:
The Corliss papers contain the correspondence of a middle-aged Union soldier serving primarily on light duty in South Carolina and Florida. Corliss' letters express his views, including his dislike of African Americans and his lack of support for the Union cause.

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:

1992. M-2886.4.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

John S. Corliss papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

The collection is arranged chronologically.


Biography

Corliss, John S., d. 1863

Rank : Pvt.

Regiment : 7th New Hampshire Infantry. Co. C (1861-1865)

Service : 1861 November 6-1863 July 18

John S. Corliss was 42 years old, with a daughter already grown and married, when he enlisted in the 7th New Hampshire Infantry in October, 1861. After mustering in at Manchester, N.H., the regiment was ordered to Washington, D.C., on January 12th, 1862, only to be waylaid for a month in New York City. In February, they shipped out to Fort Jefferson, Fla., where they remained on light duty for four months. There, the regiment was stricken with smallpox: 48 men contracted the disease, of whom 10 died and several others were rendered unfit for active duty.

In June, 1862, the 7th New Hampshire was transferred to Beaufort, S.C., where they continued in bad health. They were afflicted sequentially with outbreaks of scurvy, malaria, typhoid fever, and chronic diarrhea, and were constantly pestered by fleas and extreme heat. Corliss himself fell ill with diarrhea in late June, and remained hospitalized -- he claims with minimal medical attention -- for more than 52 days. In Beaufort, relationships with the local black population were strained at best, the soldiers making a sport of stealing melons and other foods from blacks and otherwise engaging in antagonistic interactions with slaves and contrabands. During this time, Corliss became embittered by what he considered to be preferential treatment given to blacks and by the generally poor treatment of soldiers, and he advised his brother-in-law against enlisting in a war fought for the sake of the slave.

At the end of August, after several officers had resigned their commissions and a large number of enlisted men had died or fallen out with disease, the regiment was found unfit for active duty and was "condemned" and reassigned to the healthier climate at St. Augustine, Fla. Corliss' company remained there in the uneventful calm until the following spring. In May, after a two month assignment in Fernandina, Fla., Co. C was placed under Q. A. Gillmore, and transferred to Folly Island, S.C., to take part in the offensive on Charleston. On July 18th, 1863, Corliss was killed in the assault on Fort Wagner.


Collection Scope and Content Note

All of Corliss' 17 letters are addressed to his daughter, Mary, and son-in-law, John Hastings in North Grantham, N.H. The letter's content offers a limited description and has frequent grammar and spelling errors.

In one of the best letters in the collection (11 August 1862), Corliss, who by that point had been off duty with diarrhea for 52 days, rails against the idea of his son-in-law enlisting, arguing that if he could earn 50 cents a day at home, he should stay. Corliss maintains that northerners were being deceived into enlisting, that the war was not being fought to save the union, but to save the "Negro." He adds that slaves are better treated in South Carolina than the soldier, and that he works so that "every offersor ha[s] a neger wench hung far to his ass if I may be loud to use such words to express myself."

A racist and strong Democrat, probably a peace Democrat who had converted from the Republican Party, Corliss later (1863 February 21) writes that Union officers favor the black man over the white and "as long as the north stand on that ground the south will fight and we are not a goin to fight to save black rascals[. W]hen theu get redy to fight fore the unon then we are redy to fight and not til then this fightin fore black laisy raskels and son of black biches..."

Several of Corliss' letters from Saint Augustine are steeped in religion and discussions of missing his family. While they are fairly formulaic, making for less interesting reading, they do suggest the effect that religious evangelism had on the mind of some soldiers.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • African-Americans.
    • Soldiers--Religious life.
    • United States. Army. New Hampshire Infantry Regiment, 7th (1861-1865)
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Health aspects.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Box   43 Schoff Civil War Soldiers Letters  
    John S. Corliss papers,  1861 December 27-1863 June 5 [series]:
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Bibliography

    Little, Henry F. W. The Seventh Regiment New Hampshire volunteers. (Concord, N.H.: Ira C. Evans, 1896)

    Partial Subject Index
    Abolitionists.
    • 1863 February 21
    African-Americans.
    • 1862 August 11
    African-Americans--Florida.
    • 1863 February 21
    Camps (Military)--New Hampshire.
    • 1861 [December] 27
    Death.
    • 1862 August 11
    Death--Religious aspects.
    • 1863 January 30
    Democratic Party--New Hampshire.
    • 1863 February 21
    Diarrhea.
    • 1862 July 22
    Elections--New Hampshire--1863.
    • 1863 February 21
    • 1863 March 26
    Family.
    • 1863 February 14
    Heat.
    • 1862 August 11
    Patriotic letterheads.
    • 1862 August 11
    • 1862 September 12
    Prayer.
    • 1863 February 14
    • 1863 March 30
    Sherman, Thomas West, 1813-1879.
    • 1862 September 12
    Sick soldiers.
    • 1862 August 11
    Slaves--South Carolina.
    • 1862 August 11
    Soldiers--Religious life.
    • 1863 February 14
    • 1863 March 30
    Sons.
    • 1863 March 26
    • 1863 March 30
    United States. Army--Enlistment.
    • 1862 August 11
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Causes.
    • 1862 August 11
    • 1863 February 21
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Health aspects.
    • 1862 August 11
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Medical care.
    • 1862 August 11
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Participation, Afro-American.
    • 1863 February 21