Soldiers’ Relief Society of Haverhill and Bradford (Mass.) papers  1860-1866
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Soldiers' Relief Society of Haverhill and Bradford papers contain 601 items: 58 letters, 517 financial records, and 26 speeches and reports relating to the Society's activities, expenditures, and personnel, 1860-1865.

The Correspondence series contains letters spanning June 1860-June 1865. The earliest correspondence mainly relates to the establishment of the Society and the appointment of its leadership, including several letters from women who declined roles as officers. Other letters reflect personnel changes, such as resignations and the addition of new positions in the organization. Letters also document the types of materials requested from and sent by the Relief Society, as well as the reactions of recipients. Enlisted men wrote approximately one quarter of the correspondence, thanking the organization and describing their pleasure at receiving food, blankets, clothes, and other items. Occasionally, they offered suggestions on the sorts of items that were particularly useful. For example, in a letter of [August] 10, 1861, Captain Luther Day, of the 50th Massachusetts Infantry, wrote that "no gifts to soldiers are more acceptable than nice socks" and suggested that dry feet were essential to the soldiers' happiness. As the war went on, requests for medical supplies, particularly bandages and "lint," became more frequent, and several letters describe the conditions of hospitals and the difficulty of procuring sufficient supplies. One letter, dated September 2, 1864, gives such an account of Campbell Hospital in Washington, D.C. Other relief organizations, such as branches of the U.S. Sanitary Commission and the U.S. Christian Commission, wrote a few of the later letters in order to coordinate efforts and shed light on areas of particular need.

Financial records make up approximately 90% of the collection and span April 1861-October 1866. The records are mainly receipts; they document the purchase of materials used in the production of clothing, bedding, and other supplies for soldiers, as well as the rental of venues for fundraisers and knitting circles. Also present are a number of lists documenting the Society's output and activities, as well as records of charitable donations to the Society. The financial documents illuminate many details of fundraising and the profitability of the Relief Society's many endeavors. Like the correspondence, later financial documents show a shift toward donations of medicine and medical supplies. A receipt of January 12, 1864, lists the medical items purchased by the Relief Society at Emerson & Howe Apothecaries. After the end of the war, financial records show that the organization continued to donate supplies to the sick and wounded who still resided in hospitals.

The Speeches, Reports, and Meeting Notes series contains records of several meetings in 1864-1865 as well as speeches delivered by several officers. The meeting records document debates over the direction of the Society and how to spend its money. One undated 1865 speech, given by Sophia Hill, alludes to "sectarian" tensions among the members. An 1863 printed "Biennial Report" provides background on the formation and composition of the organization and includes its "Articles of Association."

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