Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Leach Family Papers, 1857-1865

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, April 2010

Summary Information
Title: Leach family papers
Creator: Leach, Anna Marie, 1843-1897
Inclusive dates: 1857-1865
Bulk dates: 1861-1865
Extent: 83 items
The Leach family papers are primarily comprised of the Civil War correspondence of the three Leach brothers to their sister in Cranston, Rhode Island. Joseph and Edwin Leach served in the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, and Leander Leach, in the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry.
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:

1994. M-2998.

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:

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


The collection is arranged into two series: "Correspondence" and "Printed materials and miscellany." Within correspondence, items are arranged by sender, and then chronologically.


Lewis Searle Leach was born in 1804 in Providence, Rhode Island. In the 1830s, he married Sarah Howard Thornton and they settled on a farm in Cranston, Rhode Island. They had at least five children: Joseph Howard (1840-1923), Anna Marie (1843-1897), Edwin J. (1845-1903), Leander W. (1848-1865), and Sarah (born c. 1850). In 1861, Joseph and Edwin were mustered into the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery. Their younger brother, Leander, joined the Union effort in 1864, with Company E, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry. All three survived the war, although Leander died soon after, on December 25, 1865.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of 69 letters, spanning 1857-1865. The most frequent writer was Edwin Leach, who contributed 33 letters, while Joseph wrote 19, and Leander wrote 7. Edwin's letters cover 1861 through 1864, and he wrote all but one to his sister, Anna. He described camp life, fighting, and the hardships of war, such as cold weather, mud, and boils. On April 26, 1862, he wrote a letter describing the siege of Yorktown and noted, "you wanded [sic] to know if I was friten when we was in the fight I was in the first of it but when I had ben in there a little while I dind care … " Edwin also described the pervasive illness in the camps: "the guys is gitting sick we havd got men enough to work the Battery" (May 31, 1862).

Joseph's letters, also written primarily to Anna Leach, span 1861-1862 and contain rich details about camp life, movements of the battery, and battles. On August 26, 1861, he wrote a description of Washington, D.C., in wartime: "the streets is all dirt and hogs cows and every thing else runging around in the streets." He also expressed cynicism about payment: "I don't think that they will pay us untill we go into a battle and get some of us killed of and then they will not have so many to pay." In addition, he mentioned an axe fight between men and officers (November 7, 1861), gave his negative opinion of General Charles Pomeroy Stone's decisions at the battle of Ball's Bluff (February 12, 1862), and described the respiratory illness that led to his medical discharge in 1862 (March 12, 1862).

Leander entered the war in 1864, when he was only around sixteen years old. His letters include family news, his picket and cooking duties, and briefly recount a skirmish at Petersburg, Virginia (March 28, 1865). Leander wrote to both his brother Edwin, and his sister Anna.

Friends and relatives wrote an additional 11 letters to Anna, including two letters by Nathan B. Searle, of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. These letters shed light on Anna's friendships and provide some additional details concerning the Leach family.

Subject Terms

    • Ball's Bluff, Battle of, Va., 1861.
    • Cranston (R.I.)
    • Leesburg (Va.)
    • Military life.
    • Poolesville (Md.)
    • Rhode Island--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Soldiers--Rhode Island.
    • Stone, Chas. P. (Charles Pomeroy), 1824-1887.
    • United States. Army--Military life.
    • United States. Army. Rhode Island Heavy Artillery Regiment, 3rd (1861-1865)
    • United States. Army. Rhode Island Infantry Regiment, 2nd (1861-1865)
    • United States. Army. Rhode Island Light Artillery Regiment, 1st (1861-1865)
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Participation, Juvenile.
    • Washington (D.C.)--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Yorktown (Va.)--History--Siege, 1862.
    • Leach, Joseph Howard, 1840-1923.
    • Leach, Leander W., 1848-1865.
    • Leach, Edwin J., 1845-1903.
    Genre Terms:
    • Correspondence.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   79, Schoff Civil War Collection  
    Correspondence [series]
    Folder   1  
    Edwin J. Leach letters,  October 28, [1861]-April 11, 1862
    Folder   2  
    Edwin J. Leach letters,  April 22, 1862-December 23, 1862
    Folder   3  
    Edwin J. Leach letters,  January 15, 1863-June 28, 1864
    Folder   4  
    Joseph H. Leach letters,  August 15, [1861]-November 7, 1861
    Folder   5  
    Joseph H. Leach letters,  November 15, 1861-August 31, 1862
    Folder   6  
    Leander W. Leach letters,  September 25, 1864-March 28, 1865
    Folder   7  
    Miscellaneous writers,  April 12, 1857-September 19, 1864
    Printed Materials and Miscellany [series]
    Box   79, Schoff Civil War Collection Folder   8
    "Providence Conference Seminary Program" ( 1861) and currency fragment [n.d.]