George Driver family papers (1861-1875)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Mary Parsons, July 2007 and Philip Heslip, October 2009
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: George Driver family papers
Creator: Driver, George Hibbert Smith, 1842-1920
Inclusive dates: 1861-1875
Extent: 0.5 linear feet
This collection contains letters written to George H. S. Driver from family members and friends between September 16, 1861, and February 1865, during his service with the 23rd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, Co. F, of Annapolis, and while he was on board the Union ship Highlander. Also included are two lists of food stores for the Highlander, and one photograph of a soldier holding a cap with a Co. F, 23rd Regiment insignia.
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

1992. M-2818.

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

George Driver Family Papers, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


This collection is organized into three series:
  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Documents
  • Series III: Photographs

The Correspondence series is ordered chronologically with undated items filed at the end of the series.


Stephen Driver (1797-1868) was a prosperous shoe manufacturer in Salem, Massachusetts. He married twice and had six children who survived to adulthood. His first wife was Mary Berford (born c.1798), by whom he had three children: Mary B. Driver (born c.1822); Helen Elizabeth Driver (born 1828); and Stephen P. Driver (born c.1830). The second wife of Stephen Driver, Sr., was Susanna Payson Smith (born c.1805) whom he married in 1835, and with whom he had three additional children: Susan S. Driver (born October 1, 1839); George Hibbert Smith Driver (born February 4, 1842); and Samuel Driver (born August 29, 1844). By 1860, the family had moved from Salem to live in Danvers, Massachusetts, but the shoe manufacturing business continued to operate out of Salem, with Stephen Driver, Sr., traveling back and forth as his business required. Two of his sons, George H.S. Driver and Stephen P. Driver, served in the Civil War in the 23rd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, Co. F. George H.S. Driver enlisted as a private on October 7, 1861, at the age of 19. His 31-year-old half brother Stephen P. Driver enlisted the next day as a quartermaster sergeant.

George H.S. Driver was part of General Burnside's Floating Coast Division, and after some time in Annapolis, he worked as a supply officer on board the Highlander in Annapolis and off the coast of Roanoke Island, North Carolina, before becoming ill and receiving a disability discharge on September 28, 1862, in New Bern, North Carolina. Stephen P. Driver was discharged on Jan. 1, 1863, also in New Bern. Both men returned to the Danvers/Salem area. George married Lucretia Larkin in 1868, and worked in the family shoe manufacturing trade for a number of years, but by 1897, he had become a real estate and insurance agent with his own company in Boston. He died in Wakefield, Massachusetts, on September 7, 1920.

Stephen P. Driver, George's older half brother, was born 1829, and died c.1891. In 1860 he, his wife Mary Goodhue, and their two young children, were living in Salem with his sister Helen [Driver] Brooks and her family. Stephen was employed in his father's shoe manufacturing business in Salem until he joined the army in 1861. After the war he continued to work in the shoe business in Salem, until sometime in the 1870's, when he moved to Lowell, Massachusetts, and became an agent for Scribners.

Helen Elizabeth Driver, George's older half sister, was born c.1828, and in the early 1850's married David Brainard Brooks, a publisher and bookseller in Salem, Massachusetts; they had two children, Stephen (born c.1853) and Helen (born c.1857).

Susan Smith Driver (b. October 1, 1838), older sister of George H.S. Driver, attended Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary for two years (1865-1867) and taught there in 1867 and 1868. After that she worked as a teacher and tutor in Salem and Danvers, Massachusetts. She never married. She died on April 9, 1920.

Samuel P. Driver, George's younger brother, and the youngest child of Stephen and Susanna Driver, was born August 29, 1844. He married Laura Putnam c.1866; they had two sons. Samuel followed the family tradition of working in the shoe manufacturing business, first in Salem, and later in Bradford and Lynn, Massachusetts.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of 95 letters, two lists of food stores for the vessel Highlander , and one photograph of a soldier holding a cap with the Co. F, 23rd Reg. insignia on it. The March 2, 1862, letter contains a small sketch of a robin. Four of the envelopes are embossed: two with " D.B. Brooks & Brother, Publishers & Booksellers, Stationery & Music, Salem, Mass. " and two with " Revere Bank, Boston ." Enclosed with the letters are several newspaper clippings and some strands of cat fur from a family pet.

The letters were written to George H. S. Driver from family members and friends between September 16, 1861, and February 1865, during his service with the 23rd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, Co. F., while he was stationed in Annapolis, and when he was on board the Union ship Highlander . The collection contains one partial letter written by George himself, during his Civil War service. The remaining letters were addressed to him in Boston between the fall of 1862 and 1865. The most frequent family correspondents were George's half sister Helen [Driver] Brooks, his parents, his younger brother Samuel, and his sister Susan. His seven-year-old nephew Stephen D. Brooks wrote several short letters. George also received letters from several friends, but most frequently from Ned R. Bigelow in Salem.

These letters, written to a Union soldier early in the Civil War from his parents and siblings, combine an optimistic view of the war with practical parental advice about problems that their son had obviously shared with them. His father advised him not to express his views about officers or " the strictness of the soldier's life " (December 17, 1861). " As to your Officers you must remember they are all about as green in actual service, as yourself, they have got the trade to learn, and allowance must be made for them " (December 22, 1861). The letters from his mother and older sister Helen are often religious in nature, urging him to use his military service to foster Christian values in his fellow soldiers. They stress that he has two distinct duties -- one to his country, and one to God. Letters from his younger brother Sam are breezy youthful letters describing local news, from ice skating conditions on the nearby pond, to the murder of a local woman (April 3, 1862). Sam went into great detail about the " chamber pot " incident at a local fire (December 31, 1861; January 1, 1862) and passed on the shocking rumor that water for " our soldiers " has been put into used " Kerocene oil casks " (February 14, 1862). Sam recounted having his photograph taken for a teacher's album, complaining that it made his face look fat (February 4, 1862; March 1, 1862).

The entire family was sympathetic to the plight of the slaves: Helen took tea with a blind, black lecturer on slave life, Mr. Johnson of "N.B." (December 11, 1861); George's mother sent a care package to " the poor contrabands at Fortress Monroe " (December 17, 1861); his grandmother sent him a newspaper clipping about the iron collars used on slaves (April 13, 1862); and his father urged him to " become the instrument of salvation to [the darkies]" (November 26, 1861). In the only letter written by George himself, he strongly denounced slavery (December 1861): " As to slavery I hope it too will be done away with. Whenever I see or talk with any slaves my blood boils with indignation to think that such a system is allowed in a free country. I hope and pray that slavery will be abolished simultaneously with the war. I have advised slaves to run away and tell them I am fighting for their freedom ." References were made to the capture of Mason and Slidell (November 20, 21, 26, & December 5, 1861), and to fear of the Merrimac : " Our Government have been asleep on this subject, but we are awake now, and are building lots of iron clad steamers " (April 13, 1862). Two letters describe, in great detail, the military funeral for Sam Brooks, who returned home wounded, and died two weeks later (April 3 and 7, 1862).

Subject Terms

  • Highlander (Ship)
  • Slavery--United States.
  • United States. Army. Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, 23rd (1861-1865) Company F.
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Regimental histories.
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Food supply.
  • Brooks, Helen Driver, b. 1828.
  • Driver, Samuel P., b. 1844.
  • Driver, Stephen Pierson, 1797-1868.
  • Driver, Stephen Pierson, b. 1829.
  • Driver, Susan Smith, 1838-1920.
Genre Terms:
  • Cartes-de-visite (card photographs)
  • Letters (correspondence)

Contents List (Request Materials)

Request materials for use in the Clements Library
Container / Location Title
Box   94, Schoff Civil War Collection  
Correspondence [series]
Folder   9  
 September 16-November 20, 1861
Folder   10  
 November 21-26, 1861
Folder   11  
 December 1-15, 1861
Folder   12  
 December 16-31, 1861
Folder   13  
 January 1-February 8, 1862
Folder   14  
 February 10-March 1, 1862
Folder   15  
 March 2-29, 1862
Folder   16  
 April 3-19, 1862
Folder   17  
 May 24-October 5, 1862
Folder   18  
 October 7-December 31, 1862
Folder   19  
 January 13-June 9, 1863
Folder   20  
 June 11, 1863-December 31, 1864
Folder   21  
 January 2-February 8, 1865
Folder   22  
Box   94, Schoff Civil War Collection  
Documents [series]
Folder   23  
Civil War Food Supply Requisition Lists,  1861-1862
Photographs [series]
Box   94, Schoff Civil War Collection Folder   24
 Undated carte-de-visite

Additional Descriptive Data

Related Materials

The Schoff Civil War Collection contains collections from two soldiers documenting the 23rd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, in which George and Stephen served:
  • Samuel Lincoln of the 23rd Massachusetts infantry, Company H.
  • Charles M. Maxim of the 23rd Massachusetts infantry, Company E.

The Joyner Library at East Carolina University holds the other side of this correspondence, the Civil War-era letters written by George H. S. Driver and his brother Stephen Driver, while serving with the 23rd Massachusetts infantry, Company F.


Emmerton, J. Arthur. (1886). A record of the Twenty-third regiment Mass. vol. infantry in the war of the rebellion 1861-1865 with alphabetical roster; company rolls ... etc.. Boston: W. Ware & co.

Valentine, H. Eugene. Story of Co. F, 23d Massachusetts volunteers, in the war for the union, 1861-1865. Boston: W.B. Clarke & co.