The Martin papers consists of fifty-one letters written by Lewis Martin to his mother, Charlotte Martin, and sisters, Ellen and Sarah, and one written by Martin's commanding officer, Colonel Henry L. Cake, informing the family of Martin's death at Crampton's Gap. Martin's letters are an engaging chronicle of early Union Army activities in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. The first eight items in the collection date from Martin's association with the National Light Infantry. The remainder of Martin's letters document the travails of the 96th Pennsylvania Infantry, of which he was major, including their involvement in the Peninsular Campaign (West Point, Gaine's Mill, and Malvern Hill), 2nd Bull Run, and Crampton's Pass.
Martin's high rank and friendship with the staff officers of the regiment are not well represented in his letters home, nor are his letters particularly good resources for military information. Apart from the occasional asides, and some tangential references during the Peninsular Campaign, his letters are almost entirely consumed by problems at home, from finances, to friends, to minor controversies over the regiment as played out in the newspapers. For Martin, seemingly the most exasperating aspects of army life were the uncertainty, the waiting, and the irregularity of mail service.
There is a gap in the correspondence between the mustering out of the 25th regiment and the organization of the 96th, and no indication of his role in recruiting and organizing the 96th. Many of the letters written in the late spring and summer of 1862 concern McClellan's cautious planning and frustrating vigil on the outskirts of Richmond, and Martin believed that a single victory there, perhaps a direct attack on Richmond, would bring the war to a quick end. Though the hoped-for battle never took place, Martin nevertheless expressed total confidence in McClellan as a leader and in the arms of the Union Army.
Among other interesting topics covered in the correspondence are Martin's oft-expressed opinions on the course of the war, the situation of the army, and their health, and anecdotes such as an evening ride in an observation balloon, a great military review in Washington in November, 1861, a visit to fort Monroe, and of course the battles in which he participated.