Charles M. Maxim papers  1864-1870
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Charles Maxim papers shed light on the attitudes of a Union soldier in the trenches during the last year of the war and the earliest period of Reconstruction in the South. An outstanding reporter of political views -- both his and his fellow soldiers' -- Maxim is at his best in discussing the morale and motivations of soldiers and the formal and informal politics during the election years of 1864 and 1868. Not inclined to extremes in his politics, he plied a middle road between the abolitionists and racial equality persons on one side and the much-despised copperheads on the other, yet never foregoing his strong Unionist principles. Even the postwar letters continue the thread of opposition to Democratic copperheadism.

Few letters in the Maxim papers contain discussions of military activities in the limited sense, though two letters include interesting discussions of the Battle of the Crater and what Maxim perceived as the failure of African-American soldiers under fire. More generally, several other letters, however, include discussions of generalship, morale, and soldiery, and the palpable increase in his resolve as the war winds down in the late spring, 1865, makes an interesting case study.

Finally, two letters from Maxim's friend and fellow veteran, J.C. Bolles, are worth special mention. In the first (July 17, 1869) Bolles describes his new homestead in Ottawa County, Kans., and the absurd fear on the parts of whites of Indian attack. The second letter (1870 June 1) includes an emotional reflection upon their service during the war, sparked by a Memorial Day celebration by members of the Grand Army of Republic.

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