Stephen W. Church papers (1859-1861)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Philip Heslip, September 2009
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: Stephen W. Church papers
Creator: Church, Stephen Wardwell, 1833-1906
Inclusive dates: 1859-1861
Extent: 35 items
The Stephen W. Church papers contain the letters of a Rhode Island merchant working in Charleston, South Carolina, in the late antebellum period just before the outbreak of the Civil War. He discusses business issues, such as the prices of food goods, and comments on the political climate in Charleston.
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

1996. M-3229.4.

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

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


This collection is organized chronologically with the two photographs at the end.


Stephen Wardwell Church was born in 1833 in Bristol, Rhode Island, to Stephen Tripp Church, a farmer, and Anna Fales Wardwell. During the period immediately preceding the Civil War, Church worked as a northern merchant operating out of Charleston, South Carolina. He may have returned north to fight in the war shortly after 1861.

Church married Rebecca Ann Norris in 1989, and is listed as a Customs Official as late as 1903. He died in 1906.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Stephen W. Church papers contain 32 letters, all addressed to his uncle and associate, Thomas Coggeshall, of New York. These letters primarily describe Church’s business dealings, including outstanding debts in Bristol, Rhode Island, and the local demand and prices for produce such as citrus fruits, potatoes, apples, cheese, and butter. In addition to offering revealing information on the state of trade in late-antebellum Charleston, Church also explained the ideological and logistical build-up to war. For example, in the final letter of the series, April 8, 1861, he remarks about the town's anticipation of an attack on Fort Sumter. He had received news of an officer from Washington meeting with the Governor and General Beauregard, and noted, "...we are to have a fight after all. There is the most intense excitement here, and people are perfectly wild, and vengeance is depicted upon every countenance." Church correctly predicted that the fort would be attacked before the letter had been delivered.

Also included in the collection are two cartes-de-visite of Union soldiers: one of Gilbert W. Thompson, Captain of the 16th Connecticut Infantry, and one of a captain with the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry.

Subject Terms

  • Anderson, Robert, 1805-1871.
  • Beauregard, G. T. (Gustave Toutant), 1818-1893.
  • Charleston (S.C.)--History--1775-1865.
  • Fort Sumter (Charleston, S.C.)
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
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   89, Schoff Civil War Collection  
Stephen W. Church papers [series]
Folder   20  
 October 26, 1859
 October 27, 1859
 November 5, 1859
 November 7, 1859
 November 9, 1859
 November 14, 1859
 November 16, 1859
 November 22, 1859
Folder   21  
 November 25, 1859
 November 28, 1859
 December 1, 1859
 December 5, 1859
 December 6, 1859
 December 7, 1859
 December 9, 1859
 December 10, 1859
 December 12, 1859
Folder   22  
 December 13, 1859
 December 15, 1859
 December 17, 1859
 December 22, 1859
 December 24, 1859
 January 5, 1860
 January 3, 1861
 January 15, 1861
Folder   23  
 January 18, 1861
 January 23, 1861
 January 28, 1861
 January 29, 1861
 February 8, 1861
 February 26, 1861
 March 15, 1861
 April 8, 1861
Folder   24  
Photographs (2 items)

Additional Descriptive Data

Related Materials

The Schoff Civil War collection, Letters and Documents series contains a letter from Samuel Wylie Crawford to Crawford Washington describing the deteriorating conditions within Fort Sumter just before the Confederate siege. This letter is dated April 9 and 14, 1861.

The Clements Library Graphics Division holds several items relating to Fort Sumter, including two engravings and a photograph of the interior of the fort from April 15, 1861.

Other related Clements Library material include:

The South Carolina Militia Orderly Book 1861 .

A Map of Charleston Harbor with location of Forts, 1860 by Jacob Weiss.