Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Elsie Leake Papers, 1861-1865

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, March 2010

Summary Information
Title: Elsie Leake papers
Creator: Leake, Elsie
Inclusive dates: 1861-1865
Extent: 44 items
The Elsie Leake papers consist of 44 incoming letters to Elsie Leake, a young woman from Rochester, New York. The letters range from 1861 to 1865, and are primarily from Union soldiers from Rochester, New York, but also from several female friends.
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:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1999. M-4058.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

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

Preferred Citation:

Elsie Leake Papers, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The Elsie Leake papers are arranged alphabetically by the correspondent’s last name.


Elsie Leake was born in 1835 or 1836, the daughter of farmer Daniel Leake and his wife Matilda. From 1861-1865, she received letters from a number of Union soldiers, whom she had known in her hometown of Rochester, New York, before they left for the war. Leake likely never married; the 1880 Census shows her residing in Rochester with her elderly parents.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Elsie Leake papers are comprised of 44 letters written to Elsie Leake, dated between 1861 and 1865, primarily from Union soldiers, but also from several female friends. Leake seemed to have a “pen-pal” relationship with a number of the soldiers from Rochester, New York. The most prolific correspondent was Henry Tracy, of the 13th New York Infantry, who wrote 14 letters to Leake between 1862 and 1864. In his correspondence, he describes a stay in the hospital on David’s Island, fighting in the Bermuda Hundred campaign, but above all, his heath, the weather, and food. Another of Leake’s correspondents is Tracy’s friend Richard Ambrose, also of the 13th New York Infantry, who wrote 12 letters about his adjustment to army life and its hardships (“The muck was knee deep but it is all for my country it is a big thing but i can not see it,” May 17, 1862). Elsie Leake’s nephew, Alonzo D. Baker, of the New York 89th infantry, also wrote three letters, briefly describing his regiment’s movements and his duties (“last night i was on picket it was purtey rough for the first time.” April 12, 1864). Two letters from William Simpson (26th New York Cavalry) and five from James Simpson provide similar views of the everyday experiences of soldiers.

Several letters from female friends and relatives shed more light on Elsie Leake herself. Both “B.” and “Louise” informed Leake of their attempts to find a husband for her. In a letter of December 9, 1861, Louise wrote, “I have a nice young man here for you. I was showing all of my likenesses one day and he fairly fell in love with you no joking.” Their letters also describe dinners, parties, and other social events.

Subject Terms

    • Battle casualties.
    • Bermuda Hundred Region--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Military hospitals.
    • Rochester (N.Y.)
    • Soldiers--New York (State)
    • United States. Army--Military life.
    • United States. Army. New York Infantry Regiment, 13th (1861-1863)
    • United States. Army. New York Infantry Regiment, 89th (1861-1865)
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Casualties.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Hospitals.
    • Ambrose, Richard.
    • Baker, Alonzo D.
    • Simpson, James.
    • Simpson, William.
    • Sweet, Phebe Ann.
    • Tracy, Henry.
    Genre Terms:
    • Correspondence.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   92, Schoff Civil War Collection  
    Elsie Leake papers,  1861-1865 [series]
    Folder   24  
    Richard Ambrose
    Folder   25  
    Alonzo D. Baker
    Folder   26  
    Folder   27  
    James Simpson
    Folder   28  
    William Simpson
    Folder   29  
    Phebe Ann Sweet
    Folder   30  
    Henry Tracy
    Folder   31  
    Henry Tracy
    Folder   32