Isaac Jackson papers  1862-1865
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Isaac Jackson papers are an outstanding example of the Civil War correspondence of an ordinary soldier. While Jackson may not have been a literary giant, and while he was "merely" a rank private, his letters are crammed with interesting details about the daily lives and extraordinary moments of a soldier's life. Although possessed of deep moral convictions and a keen interest in the politics of his fragmenting country, Jackson was not inclined to introspection or lengthy moralizing. His letters are instead chronicles of his activities -- all of his activities -- spiced with his thoughts of the moment. Whether lamenting the lack of patriotism at home, extolling the virtues of southern fruits and vegetables, or discussing his meals, Jackson brings a keen eye for observation to nearly every topic. His observations on the southern citizenry, camp life and regimental politics, or the movements of troops are evocative and unfailingly interesting, and the last letter in the collection (1865 May 28) is one of the best descriptions available of the massive munitions explosion that rocked Mobile.

The most detailed letters in the collection are those written during the Vicksburg Campaign, and particularly during the siege, proper, when Jackson was almost constantly occupied with military matters. His letters from the Teche expedition are equally important, and are perhaps more so, in that they document a far lesser known series of events. Throughout, Jackson maintained an optimistic, even cheerful attitude, and unlike many of his fellow soldiers, seldom elected to focus on the blood in which he was immersed.

The Jackson papers were edited by Isaac's grandson, Joseph, and published almost in their entirety in 1961 (see above for reference). Seven letters that currently reside in the Clements' collections were not included (1862 August 14, 18, 22, 25; 1863 April 23; 1864 September 4; and 1865 May 28), two of which (1863 April 23 and 1864 September 4) were written by William Hedges, a friend in the 83rd Ohio. Two letters contained in the published volume were not included in the donation, 1862 November 1 (to Ethan A. Jackson), and 1863 February 27 (to Sarah Jackson).

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