Nathanael Greene papers
1762-1852 (bulk 1780-1785)
Collection Scope and Content Note
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The letters that survive from William Dickson's years as a Union soldier are few in number, but underscore several important aspects of the Civil War. All twelve letters are addressed to his grandfather, and each letter appears to have been written with great care, with a keen eye for detail and good narrative. Dickson's descriptions of artillery and fortifications are those of a professional, and his observations on the people of the south -- their appearance, ideas, and emotions -- show both his sensitivity and his dull awareness of the impact of war.
As a one-time resident of Savannah, his return to that city in 1864 as a conqueror is one of the high points in the collection, and his comparison of "before" and "after" pictures of the war-torn city are unique in that few persons could have written such an account. His commentary on William T. Sherman's war policies provides a glimpse from a man who apparently knew the General personally. In a very different way, his description of a "frolic" at Mammoth Cave, accompanied by bloomer-clad women and a heavy guard against guerrillas, is outstanding, providing an entertaining view of soldiers at play.