Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John T. Durang Papers, 1852-1881

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, May 1996

Summary Information
Title: John T. Durang papers
Creator: Durang, John T.
Inclusive dates: 1852-1881
Extent: 155 items (0.25 linear feet)
The John T. Durang papers consist of general orders received by Mr. Durang during his military career in the Pennsylvania National Guard and Infantry Regiments, as well as correspondence regarding reconstruction in North Carolina.
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:

1980. M-1898.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

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


The collection is arranged chronologically.


Durang, John T.

Rank : Capt.

Regiment : 19th Pennslyvania Infantry Regiment. Co. A (1861)
90th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. Co. A (1861-1864)3rd Regiment,
Veterans Reserve Corps (after 1864 February 24)
Pennsylvania National Guard, ca. 1846-61 and 1866-1877

Service : 1861 May 18-1866 April 23

John T. Durang had a long and distinguished career in the Pennsylvania National Guard. In about 1846, Durang, a lifelong resident of Philadelphia, joined the Pennsylvania National Guard that drilled on Race Street, attaining the rank of Captain. Probably the son of famed dancing master, Charles Durang (1796-1870), John was employed variously as a clerk and engraver before 1860. In December of that year, in response to the intensification of the secession crisis, his Guard unit expanded to eight full companies, with Durang at the head of Company A, and they were among the first militia units to offer their services to the governor at the outbreak of hostilities on April 16th. Within two weeks, the regiment had filled out its ranks and was mustered into the service for three months as the 19th Pennsylvania Infantry. From May through August, the regiment served in Baltimore, and had the distinction of arresting the "treasonous" federal Marshall, George Proctor Kane.

When their enlistment ended in August, the officers of the 19th Pennsylvania Infantry unanimously voted to reenlist. The 90th Pennsylvania Infantry mustered into the federal service on October 1, 1861, and passed the winter drilling at Camp McClellan, near Nicetown, Pa. Attached to the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division under Irvin McDowell, they participated in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862, and with the main body of the Army of the Potomac, were engaged in a laundry list of famous battles including South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg, as well as the Wilderness through Cold Harbor and Petersburg Campaigns. The 90th suffered terribly during their service, and reported a very high rate of both desertion and missing in action. For instance, the regiment entered the first day of fighting at Gettysburg with 190 men, of which 100 were killed, wounded, or reported missing. During the battle, Durang was shot through the left lung, unfitting him for further active duty.

On February 24, 1864, Durang was officially transferred to the 3rd Regiment, Veterans Reserve Corps (the Invalid Corps), retaining his rank. The 3rd performed guard duty at Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C., and, after February, 1865, were ordered to Auburn, N.Y., to guard against desertions among the conscripts of the 193rd New York Infantry.

After the war, many of Durang's compatriots from the Veterans Reserve Corps entered into work with the Freedmen's Bureau, overseeing government farms or performing other work in reconstruction. Durang, however, returned to Philadelphia and to duty with the National Guard. The most notable incident his post-war military career appears to have been his involvement in the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, in which the National Guard were sent by the Governor (on behalf of the railroad corporations) to break the strike. The regiment ended up in an exceedingly violent armed confrontation in which several on both sides were killed.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the John T. Durang papers consists of general orders. Capt. Durang appears to have saved every one he ever received, but this collection contains only those winnowed from an immense stack of such documents. The correspondence is very slender, though it is of considerable interest. While there is virtually no war-time correspondence at all, the value of the collection lies in the series of letters written by Durang's cronies from the Vetereans Reserve Corps who were involved in both reconstructing the Union and in pushing forward the Freedmen's Bureau. The several letters written from government-run plantations in North Carolina during the early reconstruction period offer a perspective on the progress of race and labor relations there, as well as on the work of the Bureau.

There are several items in folders 27, 28, 30 and 33 relating to the performance of the National Guard during the great railroad strike of 1877, when they shot into the crowd of strikers, killing several. The collection includes an unusual three-page printed document describing the events of the shooting, as well as some printed orders and documents relating to the aftermath.

Subject Terms

    • African-Americans.
    • Drill and minor tactics.
    • North Carolina--History--1865- .
    • Pennsylvania. National Guard.
    • Plantations--North Carolina.
    • Railroad Strike, U.S., 1877.
    • Riots--Pennsylvania--Pittsburgh.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • United States. Army. Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, 90th (1861-1864)
    • United States. Army. Veteran Reserve Corps.
    • United States. Army--Officers.
    • United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands.
    Genre Terms:
    • Orders (military records)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    John T. Durang papers,  1852-1881 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    Two cartes-de-visite have been transferred to the Graphics Division.


    Bates, Samuel, History of Pennsylvania Volunteers (Harrisburg, 1869-71) vol. 1, 176-184 (19th Pennsylvania Infantry); vol 3, 151-185 (90th Pennsylvania Infantry).