Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
George Henry Bates Papers, 1862-1865

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, May 1995

Summary Information
Title: George Henry Bates papers
Creator: Bates, William
Inclusive dates: 1862-1865
Extent: 150 items
The George Henry Bates papers consist of letters written home by a teenage soldier in the Civil War describing military camp life, the battles of Cold Harbor, Hatcher's Run, Petersburg, and Winchester, and life in a military hospital.
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:

Donated, 1974. M-1687.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

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


The collection is arranged chronologically.


Bates, George Henry

Rank : Pvt., Cpl. (1865)

Regiment : 19th Connecticut Infantry Regiment. Co. D (1862-1863)
2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery Regiment (1863-1865)

Service :1862 September 11-1865 July 7

George Henry Bates was the eldest of four children of William Bates of Terryville, Conn. As a teenager, Bates enlisted in the 19th Connecticut Infantry, which was re-outfitted as the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery in November, 1863. His motives for enlisting remain unclear, but the financial pull of military employment appears to have played a part in his decision, as did a sincere and abiding patriotism.

Over six feet tall, Bates was an unusually sensitive young man in love with song-fests and religion, and he was deadly serious about maintaining his high standards of morality. During his service, Bates evinced a concern with the lack of Sabbath observance in the army and was highly offended by the open prostitution he witnessed in Alexandria, Va. He regularly sponsored weekly prayer meetings in his tent, undaunted by the jeers directed at the "Terryville Pious Squad."

The 19th Connecticut Infantry was stationed in Virginia throughout its enlistment, but never engaged in battle until it had been reorganized as the 2nd Connecticut Volunteer Artillery. Bates' first encounter with heavy fighting was at Cold Springs in June, 1864, and thereafter, the regiment entered into six further battles in the Shenandoah Valley and Petersburg theaters. Wounded at the third Battle of Winchester in September, 1864, Bates missed two of these engagements while recuperating in a hospital, but was present at Cold Harbor, Hatcher's Run, and Petersburg, as well as at Winchester.

Collection Scope and Content Note

George H. Battes's letters provide an insight into army life as seen by a soldier still in his teens, and away from home probably for the first time. He provides vivid descriptions of four important engagements: Cold Harbor, Winchester (where he was wounded), Hatcher's Run, and Petersburg. Fond of decorating his letters with sketches and red-and-blue ink designs, Bates possessed of an exuberance that is illustrated by his breezy style. Although he evidently did not get along well with his mother, his letters to his siblings are especially tender.

For George Bates, the first two years of his service were, more than anything else, uninterrupted boredom. He complains constantly of having nothing to report, yet is not in any hurry to be done with the war for fear of unemployment. Yet through these pages emerges a fascinating depiction of daily life in the military camps: the quality and quantity of food, foraging for provisions from local residents, the invaluable services given by the Sanitary Commission, and the diversions and amusements that diverted the soldiers. Bates appears not to have understood the true implications of war until his first battle, after which he wrote, "I shant reenlist." The series of letters written after his wounding at the Battle of Winchester afford an inside look at military hospitals.

Subject Terms

    • Alexandria (Va.)
    • Cold Harbor, Battle of, Va., 1864.
    • Boydton Plank Road, Battle of, Va., 1864.
    • Military camps--Virginia--Alexandria--1860-1870.
    • Petersburg Crater, Battle of, Va., 1864.
    • Soldiers--Religious life.
    • United States. Army. Connecticut Artillery Regiment, 2nd (1863-1865)
    • United States. Army. Connecticut Infantry Regiment, 19th (1862-1863) . Company D.
    • United States. Army--Recruiting, enlistment etc.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Hospitals.
    • United States Sanitary Commission.
    • Virginia--Description and travel.
    • Winchester, 3rd Battle of, Winchester, Va., 1864.
    • Bates, George Henry
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    George Henry Bates papers,  1861-1865 [series]
    Box   3, Schoff Civil War Collection  
     1862-March 1863
    Box   4  
     April 1863-1865
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Partial Subject Index

    • African-American laundry workers.
    • African-Americans.
    • Agriculture.
    • Alexandria (Va.)
    • Alexandria (Va.), Skirmish at, 1861.
    • Ammunition.
    • Appomattox Campaign, 1865.
    • Bathing.
    • Boredom.
    • Camps (Military)
    • Christmas.
    • Cold Harbor, Battle of, 1864.
    • Copperhead (Nickname)
    • Courage.
    • Deserters, Military.
    • Draft.
    • Draft Riot, New York, N.Y., 1863.
    • Emancipation Proclamation.
    • Executions and executioners.
    • Explosions.
    • Food.
    • Foraging.
    • Funeral rites and ceremonies.
    • Georgia--Description and travel.
    • Grant, Julia Dent, 1826-1902.
    • Hatcher's Run (Va.), Battle of, 1864.
    • Indians of North America.
    • Inflation (Finance)
    • James Guy (Vessel)
    • Laundry.
    • Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
    • Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865--Assassination.
    • Lincoln, Mary Todd, 1818-1882.
    • Liquors.
    • Marches--Virginia.
    • Maryland--Description and travel.
    • Military ethics.
    • Peddlers and peddling.
    • Petersburg Campaign, 1864-1865.
    • Picket duty.
    • Poetry.
    • Prayer meetings.
    • Presidents--United States--Election--1864.
    • Richmond (Va.)
    • Russia.
    • Ships.
    • Skirmishes.
    • Soldiers--Mental health.
    • Soldiers--Religious life.
    • Spies.
    • Spring.
    • Target practice.
    • Thanksgiving Day.
    • United States. Army--Chaplains.
    • United States. Army--Drumming out.
    • United States. Army--Recruiting, enlistment etc.
    • United States Sanitary Commission.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--African-Americans.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Hospitals.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Participation, African-American.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Prisoners and prisons.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Scouts and scouting.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Songs and music.
    • Vermin.
    • Virginia--Description and travel.
    • Washington (D.C.)
    • Winchester, 3rd Battle of, Va., 1864.
    • Winchester (Va.), Skirmish at, 1864.
    • Wit and humor.

    Vaill, Theodore F. History of the 2d Connecticut Volunteer Heavy Artillery originally the 19th Connecticut Vols. Winsted, Conn., 1868.