McLean papers (1861-1913)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Shannon Wait
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: McLean papers
Creator: McLean, Sarah Kilbreth
Inclusive dates: 1861-1913
Extent: 0.25 linear feet
The McLean papers contain materials related to Major Nathaniel McLean's investigation of Captain Francis W. Hurtt in 1863, and his widow's subsequent court case.
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

1994. M-2981.12.

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

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


The McLean papers are arranged by type of material.


Nathaniel H. McLean was born in Piqua, Ohio, on November 27, 1827, to William McLean, a congressman from Ohio, and his wife, Sarah Fox. He spent most of his childhood in Cincinnati, Ohio, and graduated from West Point in 1848. He rose up the ranks in the army, being appointed second lieutenant of infantry in 1848, brevet captain assistant adjutant general in 1861, and major assistant adjutant general the following year. He was stationed with his regiment in California for much of the 1850s, and from late 1861 to 1863, served the Departments of Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri. In June 1857, he married Sarah "Sallie" Kilbreth, and they had four children, only two of whom, Mary and Carolyn, lived to maturity.

In July 1863, McLean was chosen to investigate the assistant quartermaster of volunteers, Captain Francis W. Hurtt. Hurtt, who was a prominent Cincinnati businessman, had allegedly defrauded the government by using public money for private purchases, speculating on rations sold to troops, and abusing his position. McLean reported his findings in September 1863. On November 23 and 24, General Ambrose Burnside issued Special Orders Nos. 436 and 437 to convene a court martial to try Hurtt. However, before McLean could reveal his conclusions, the War Department revoked the order for a court martial, and removed Major McLean from his post in Cincinnati to one in distant Vancouver, Washington Territory. Newspapers, such as the Cincinnati Gazette, speculated that Secretary Stanton had taken this action to avoid a large-scale embarrassment for the War Department. Hurtt was tried and convicted by court martial in 1864, but McLean's attempts at redress were futile, and he resigned June 24, 1864. Congress took up his case ten years later, and in March 1875, the Committee on Military Affairs agreed that he had been treated unjustly by the War Department, and appointed him to the rank of lieutenant colonel. McLean died July 5, 1884, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

McLean's widow, Sarah, sued for the payment to which her husband would have been entitled, and won back pay and emoluments in a case decided by the Supreme Court on December 23, 1912.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The McLean papers span the years 1863-1913 and contain material relating to the military service of Nathaniel McLean; his investigation of Captain Francis W. Hurtt; McLean’s relocation to Vancouver, Washington Territory; and Sarah McLean’s court case, decided by the Supreme Court in 1912.

The military orders document McLean's resignation in June 1864. The "Report of an Investigation…" contains details of McLean's findings against Hurtt, including accusations of speculation in the sale of rations to troops and of using his political influence to have an officer removed so that Hurtt could take his position. The "Report" also contains transcribed correspondence from Hurtt to various recipients, which McLean used to support his accusations. The printed pamphlets relate to Sarah McLean's court case and provide biographical information on Nathaniel McLean. Finally, the published volume pertains to the 1864 court martial in which Hurtt was convicted.

Subject Terms

  • Burnside, Ambrose Everett, 1824-1881.
  • Cincinnati (Ohio)
  • Corruption investigation.
  • Courts-martial and courts of inquiry.
  • Dennison, William, 1815-1882.
  • Fraud.
  • Hurtt, Francis W., d. 1884.
  • Misconduct in office.
  • Oregon Territory.
  • Stanton, Edwin McMasters, 1814-1869.
  • Taft, William H. (William Howard), 1857-1930.
  • United States. Army. Washington Territorial Volunteers.
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
  • United States. Supreme Court.
  • Vancouver (Wash.)
  • Washington (Territory)
  • McLean, Nathaniel Henry, 1827-1884.
Genre Terms:
  • Legal documents.
  • Pamphlets.
  • Reports.

Contents List (Request Materials)

Request materials for use in the Clements Library
Container / Location Title
Box   75, Schoff Civil War Collection  
McLean papers [series]
Folder   1  
Military orders ( 1864) and Taft White House invitation ( 1913)
Folder   2  
"Report of an Investigation…" ( 1863)
Folder   3  
"Report of an Investigation…," cont'd
Folder   4  
Printed pamphlets
Folder   5  
Printed pamphlets
Folder   6  
Folder   7  
Printed volume regarding the Hurtt court martial