Orson D. and Mary L. Johnson papers  1862-1865
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Orson D. and Mary L. Johnson papers (35 items) contain 27 letters between Orson Johnson and his wife Mary from August 29-December 28, 1862, while he served in the 22nd Wisconsin Volunteers. Also included are 4 items from other family members and another Wisconsin Infantry service member, a photograph of Mary Johnson, and 2 poems clipped from a newspaper.

The letters between the Johnsons are tender, though Orson often complains of not receiving enough letters from his wife. Mary's letters provide a view of the hardships of trying to care for two children as a single mother living in Wisconsin. Orson tries to offer advice on how to manage the household and finances and is sympathetic to her difficulties. The letters offer little information related to military activities but reveal the mental and physical toll the war is taking on the family. In Orson's later letters, he discussed getting wounded, hospitalized, and discharged in early 1863 because of a disability. Orson first mentioned his time in a military hospital in November 23, 1862, and a friend wrote a letter for Orson on December 8, 1862, because he was not well enough to compose it himself. By December 18th he was well enough to write again but was discharged soon after.

This collection also holds one letter from Maria H. Stone to her brother, Orson D. Johnson and an item from H.L. Stone and O.D. Johnson to their "Dear Uncle." The final two dated letters are from privates in Co. G of the 43rd Wisconsin Infantry, one of them signed William L. Shumway, both addressed to siblings (1865). The last dated letter concerns some thoughts on Lincoln’s recent death and the end of the war (April 28, 1865). Both the 22nd Regiment, of which Orson was a member, and the 43rd Regiment were in the Army of the Cumberland at the time that these letters were written, though in different brigades. It appears that both of these regiments were involved in the defense of Nashville and the surrounding area in early 1865, making it possible that the soldiers' paths crossed.

This collection also contains a photograph of a Mary L. Johnson and two poems entitled The Wife of the Volunteers andThe American Girl , both clipped from newspapers.

The collection contains two illustrations. The letter from September 18, 1862, has a blue patriotic "head quarters" stamp depicting an eagle, a flag, and bayonets. The letter from October 7, 1862, has a large patriotic engraving for the letterhead depicting an angel with a sword leading the charge of a company of Union men, with a small Confederate flag in the distance.

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