Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John and Alice Hecker Papers, 1861-1864

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Clements Staff, September 2007, and Philip Heslip, December 2009

Summary Information
Title: John and Alice Hecker papers
Creator: Hecker, John, ca. 1826-1900 and Hecker, Alice, b. ca. 1924
Inclusive dates: 1861-1864
Extent: 86 items
Abstract:
This collection contains Civil War era letters between John and Alice Hecker, written during the years of John's military service from 1861 to 1864. The letters provide valuable insight into the life of a rural farmer's wife on the New Hampshire homefront during the war.

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:

1997. M-3336.2.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

John and Alice Hecker papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

This collection is organized chronologically with undated items filed at the end.


Biography

Hecker, John

Rank : Pvt.

Regiment : 6th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment. Co. K (1861-1865)

Service : 1861 October 16-1864 November 28

John Hecker was born in Baden, Germany, c.1826 to Stephen Hecker and Susanna Schneider. He emigrated to the United States around 1850, and by 1854 had settled in East Jaffrey, New Hampshire, as a farmer. He married a British woman named Alice (born c.1824) and together they had four children. On October 16, 1861, John enlisted as a private in Co. K in the 6th New Hampshire Infantry, leaving his wife to raise the children, run the farm, and tend the homestead. The 6th Regiment participated in the battles at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Vicksburg, among others. He was discharged on November 28, 1864. After the war, John returned to his family in New Hampshire. He died in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, on September 3, 1900.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The John and Alice Hecker papers is comprised of letters between John and Alice Hecker, written during the years of John's military service in the Civil War, from 1861 to 1864. The collection consists of 56 letters from John Hecker to his wife Alice and 25 from Alice to John. John did not write most of his letters; he was born in Baden, Germany, and was not proficient in English. A friend, Ezekiel Haskell, wrote some of the correspondence for him. In later letters, especially in 1864, John wrote to Alice himself, using a mixture of German and English.

These letters provide information about the backgrounds of the couple, and reveal how they dealt with divisions of labor during the war. They discussed the business of their household and farm, for which Alice was responsible in John’s absence. John’s letters mainly contain directions for Alice: "I want you [to]… get a receipt for all the money you pay… you must get along as well as you can. You must get someone to help about haying" (June 8, 1862). They also frequently discussed their finances. John often sent Alice money, and instructed her to make payments on the farm and other bills. In her letters, Alice reported on her management of their farm and finances. She often asked for his direction, and rarely made decisions without his counsel: "You must tell me what is the best to do with the farm in the Spring" (December 4, 1863). Her financial situation was occasionally dire, however, and she was forced to make decisions without John’s consent. In one such instance Alice sold a colt for $50.00, which angered John, who thought the colt was worth $70.00: "I ham sorrey that you ar so mad to wards me for saling the colt[.] you no that I did the bast that I no of…I ham sorrey that I shod have given you so much trouble…there is no one to do haney thing for me" (May 1, 1864).

Alice also had to deal with a troublesome ex-farmhand named "Old Smith," who claimed that John owed him money, which, allegedly, was not true. Old Smith seemed to take advantage of Alice, while John was away: "he thinck he cud friten me but it will take a batter man than old Smith" (February 12, 1864). The Hecker papers provide valuable insight into life for the wife of a rural farmer on the New Hampshire home front during the Civil War.

Two letters in the collections include illustrations: The April 4, 1864 item features a stamp with red ink that depicts a dove carrying a letter with the following statement to its right: "The U.S. Commission sends this sheet as a messenger between the soldier and his home. Let it hasten to those who wait for tidings." The item dated June 14, 1864 has a patriotic letterhead, showing George Washington in blue ink holding an American flag while seated on a red horse rearing up on a blue platform inscribed with the word "Union."

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Camp Dennison (Ohio)
    • Family farms--Management.
    • Family farms--New Hampshire.
    • Immigrants--United States--History--19th century.
    • Jaffrey (N.H.)
    • New Hampshire--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • United States. Army. New Hampshire Infantry Regiment, 6th (1861-1865)
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Military life.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Participation, German American.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Social aspects.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Women.
    • Women in agriculture--United States.
    Contributors:
    • Haskell, Ezekiel.
    • Hecker, Mary Jane.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Box   86, Schoff Civil War Collection  
    John and Alice Hecker papers [series]:
    Folder   21  
      October 20, 1861-July 11, 1862
    Folder   22  
      July 12, 1862-February 19, 1863
    Folder   23  
      February 28, 1863-May 24, 1863
    Folder   24  
      June 17, 1863-November 29, 1863
    Folder   25  
      December 7, 1863-January 21, 1864
    Folder   26  
      January 30, 1864-March 6, 1864
    Folder   27  
      April 4, 1864-May 21, 1864
    Folder   28  
      May 28-September 25, 1864
    Folder   29  
      October 09-October 24, 1864 and 2  undated letters
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements library holds the following two related books: