This collection is made up of letters written that Christopher H. Keller of the 124th Illinois Infantry Regiment and Albert C. Cleavland of the 42nd Illinois Infantry Regiment wrote to the Keller family and to Caroline M. Hall during the Civil War. The soldiers discussed their experiences in the South throughout the war.
The bulk of the collection is letters that Christopher H. Keller wrote to his parents, George H. and Esther Keller of Batavia, Illinois, and to his future wife, Caroline Matilda Hall of St. Charles, Illinois, between September 2, 1862, and August 14, 1865. He described his travels between camps and other posts in Illinois, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana, commenting on the weather, the scenery, and destruction caused by the war. His letters provide detailed descriptions of everyday aspects of military life, such as camp conditions, rations and supplies, religious services, and medical care; in February 1863, he described his stay at Overton Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Keller occasionally expressed his opinions on military doctors, conscripted soldiers, and the war, and reflected on soldiers' deaths. He sometimes shared stories about his interactions with Confederate civilians.
Keller participated in skirmishes throughout his service. Two groups of letters concern his experiences during the Siege of Vicksburg in mid-1863 and the Union campaign for Mobile in the spring of 1865. In March 1865, he visited New Orleans. In 1864, he briefly commented on Abraham Lincoln's presidential nomination and noted his regiment's overwhelming support for Lincoln as they voted; in 1865, he reacted to news of Lincoln's assassination and the death of John Wilkes Booth. Keller's final letters, written from Mobile just after the end of the war, include mentions of freed Confederate prisoners and freedmen. Keller's enclosed a dogwood blossom in his letter of April 10, 1865.
A small number of items in the collection are incoming letters to Christopher H. Keller and, to a lesser extent, Caroline M. Hall. Keller received one letter from Albert N. Hall about Hall's experiences at Pittsburg, Tennessee (March 25, 1862). Albert C. Cleavland wrote letters about his service with the 42nd Illinois Infantry Regiment from 1861-1865. He served in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, and his letters include descriptions of skirmishes near Chattanooga, Tennessee, in October 1863, the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, and a visit to Atlanta after its destruction by Union troops. His later letters sometimes include comments about Confederate civilians, the fall of Richmond, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Cleavland wrote his final letters from Port Lavaca, Texas, in late 1865. The final item in the collection is a letter that Mary Chind of St. Charles, Illinois, wrote to Caroline Hall Keller on December 31, 1865, congratulating Keller on her marriage and enclosing a pamphlet by Theodore L. Cuyler, "A Flaw in the Wedding Link."
The collection includes undated newspaper clippings from the Montgomery Daily Mail and an unknown paper, pertaining to troop movements and the restoration of telegraph services, respectively, and a tintype portrait of an unidentified Union soldier in uniform, posing beside a United States flag.