Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
David McKinney Papers, 1776-1921

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, October 1997

Summary Information
Title: David McKinney papers
Creator: McKinney family
Inclusive dates: 1776-1921
Bulk dates: 1863-1865
Extent: 82 items
Abstract:
The David McKinney papers consist primarily of letters written by McKinney while serving as a quartermaster during the Civil War and include detailed descriptions of his work.
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: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

Donated by Frances McKinney Gamble, 1987. M-2352.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

David McKinney Papers, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

The collection is arranged chronologically.


Biography

McKinney, David, 1829-1903

Rank : 1st Lieutenant; Captain

Regiment : 77th Illinois Infantry Regiment (1862-1865)

Service : 1862 September 3-1865 December

Born on September 5, 1829, in Newburg, Pa., David McKinney was the eldest of the nine children of Abraham Smith McKinney, Sr. (1791-1872) and his wife Margaret Reynolds McKinney (1801-1886). McKinney's father was a successful and respected farmer, tanner, and surveyor, and a veteran of the defense of Baltimore during the War of 1812. The stature and respect accorded to the elder McKinney eventually earned him several years of service in the Pennsylvania state legislature.

David McKinney attended Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pa., impressing his professors with his intelligence, good nature, and integrity. Graduating in 1849, he began to pursue a career in teaching, a profession that he shared for a time by his younger brother, Abraham Smith McKinney, Jr. (1834-1921), but in 1856, the family moved to Peoria, Ill., to begin a new life in the west.

With the crisis of the Civil War upon them, David McKinney assisted his friend, and later brother-in-law, David Perkins Grier, in organizing a volunteer infantry regiment. The 77th Illinois was mustered in to the federal service on September 3, 1862, and on September 12, McKinney received a staff commission as first lieutenant, assuming the duties of regimental quartermaster. Ordered to take part in the campaigns to wrest control of the Mississippi Valley and divide the Confederacy, the 77th Illinois took part in the Vicksburg Campaign and subsequent capture of Jackson, Miss., and later in the Red River Campaign and other operations in northern Louisiana and Texas. It was in September, 1863, when flush with the victory of Vicksburg, "Perk" Grier took the opportunity to marry McKinney's sister, Anna.

A Democrat, politically, McKinney distanced himself from the conservative wing of the war-time Party. Considering himself above politics, and above the divisions that he saw dividing the north and imperiling the war effort, he argued that national unity, rather than partisanship, ought to be the overriding concern of all Americans. "I am very sorry indeed," he wrote to his sister, whom he felt was fraternizing with dissidents, "that you have any sympathy with those called Copperheads of the North -- they are a dangerous & disloyal set of men... They may be Democrats or abolitionists, I care not what, but they are not true Union men, & therefore I don't like to see them receiving any sympathy or continuance -- I don't know & do not want to know anything about party down here or elsewhere until this rebellion is put down" (1863 August 9).

Honest and capable, McKinney was called upon to fill increasingly responsible positions as a quartermaster following the Red River Campaign. When Grier was promoted to the command of the 2nd Brigade, 10th Division, XIII Corps, McKinney was appointed Acting Assistant Quartermaster on brigade staff, later serving in the same position on the staff of Brig. Gen. George F. McGinnis (3rd Brig., 3rd Div., XIX A.C.). Just as he was about to rejoin his regiment in New Orleans in December, 1864, McKinney was ordered to assume the position of post Quartermaster for the important Union supply depot at Mouth of White River, Ark. As Master of River Transportation, McKinney effectively controlled all military and commercial traffic passing the post down either the White or Mississippi Rivers -- a position that he noted was important and, in the wrong hands, could be used for personal profiteering.

In March, 1865, McKinney was rewarded with a promotion to captain, and shortly thereafter was appointed Assistant Quartermaster of the Department of Arkansas, in which position he supervised several supply depots and a large staff. He longed to remain in the service, and was willing to take on any post that would further that goal. Long after the close of the war in the West and the demobilization of his regiment, McKinney continued to perform valuable service for the army, organizing public sales of surplus military stores, however his application to transfer into the regular army was denied, and he was finally discharged in December, 1865.

McKinney's post-war activities are less clear. His brother, Abraham, became a successful businessman and banker in Peoria, after an abortive attempt to profit from running a plantation in Mississippi with a family friend, David Keighin. David McKinney never married, but seems to have enjoyed a successful career and comfortable life, as he was able to afford a variety of treatments for the illness which eventually claimed his life on January 10, 1903, in Peoria.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the McKinney papers, 57 items, consists of letters written by David McKinney to his sister, Jeanette, and other siblings between June 25, 1863, and December 9, 1865, covering most of the period of his military service. As quartermaster, McKinney had little combat experience, though his descriptions of conditions during the siege of Vicksburg (13) and the battles of Sabine Cross Roads and Pleasant Hill (30) are detailed and colorful. He comments frequently and forthrightly about generals, generalship, and Copperheads and often alludes to the French presence in Mexico. McKinney's letters are perhaps most noteworthy for the interesting and unusual glimpse they offer into the workings of the Quartermaster's Department. Particularly in his letters from Mouth of White River (47-63), McKinney provides detailed discussions of his responsibilities and his brushes with the ubiquitous profiteers. In a later letter (66), he describes his personal role in the reconstruction of the South -- the hiring of a former Rebel colonel as a teamster.

The remainder of the collection, 24 items, consists of miscellaneous materials relating to various members of McKinney's family. Among these items are two Revolutionary-War-era letters (1, 2), a will from 1796 (3), and a series of five letters of recommendation written for David McKinney by his professors at Jefferson College (5). In the post-war period, three items relating to Abraham Smith McKinney's involvement with the Ingleside Plantation are noteworthy (70-72), as are three short letters written by David McKinney just prior to his death (78). Genealogical charts and material regarding the provenance of the papers are located in the last folder of the collection (82).

The most important of these family letters is one written in December, 1859, that includes a discussion of the role of Chambersburg, Pa., as headquarters for John Brown's forces prior to the raid on Harper's Ferry, and an account of the fate of some of the insurrectionists (11).

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Copperhead movement.
    • Plantations--Mississippi.
    • Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877)--Mississippi.
    • Smith, Andrew Jackson, 1815-1897.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Campaigns.
    • United States. Army. Quartermaster's Dept.
    Genre Terms:
    • Clippings (information artifacts)
    • Letters of recommendation.
    • Wills.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   34, Schoff Civil War Collection  
    David McKinney papers,  1776-1921 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The letters of Charles Otto Henthorn, another soldier represented in the Schoff Collections, provide a different perspective on the 77th Illinois, written by a motivated private directly involved in the drudgery of war.

    Bibliography

    Bentley, William H.History of the 77th Illinois Volunteer Infantry ... (Peoria, 1883).

    Partial Subject Index
    African-American domestics.
    • 1865 August 14
    African-Americans--Mississippi.
    • 1866 February 8
    Banks, Nathaniel Prentiss, 1816-1894.
    • 1864 April 17
    • 1864 April 26
    Brown, John, 1800-1859.
    • 1859 December 14
    • 1864 September 12
    Chambersburg (Pa.)--History.
    • 1859 December 14
    Copperhead (Nickname)--Illinois.
    • 1863 August 9
    • 1864 July 2
    • 1864 September 12
    • 1864 September 22
    Copperhead (Nickname)--Pennsylvania.
    • 1863 June 25
    Cotton.
    • 1865 February 9
    Death.
    • 1864 March 2
    Dysentery.
    • 1865 November 1
    Education--Pennsylvania.
    • 1849 July 16-August 1
    • 1852 March 24
    Elmwood Academy (Elmwood, Ill.)
    • 1857-1859
    Finance, Personal.
    • 1864 December 6
    • 1864 December 19
    Floods.
    • 1865 March 28
    • 1865 April 13
    • 1865 June 15
    Fourth of July celebrations.
    • 1864 July 4
    Garrison duty--Louisiana.
    • 1864 October 10
    Grier, David Perkins, d. 1891.
    • 1863 November 24
    • 1863 November 30
    • 1863 December 4
    • 1864 May 22
    • 1864 August 7
    • 1864 September 5
    • 1864 December 21
    • 1865 March 21
    Harpers Ferry (W.Va.)--History--John Brown's Raid, 1859.
    • 1859 December 14
    Jackson (Miss.), Battle of, 1863.
    • 1863 July 14
    Jefferson College.
    • 1849 July 16-August 1
    Kagi, John Henry, 1835-1859.
    • 1859 December 14
    Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
    • 1863 August 9
    • 1864 September 22
    Louisiana--Description and travel.
    • 1864 March 25
    Loyalty.
    • 1863 August 9
    Marches--Louisiana.
    • 1864 May 22
    Matagorda Bay (Tex.)
    • 1864 January 23
    • 1864 February 7
    McClellan, George Brinton, 1826-1885.
    • 1864 September 12
    • 1864 September 22
    McGinnis, George Francis, 1826-1910.
    • 1864 December 1
    • 1864 December 6
    • 1865 January 30
    Mobile Campaign, 1865.
    • 1864 August 7
    Morgan, Charles Hale, 1834-1875.
    • 1865 October 27
    Motion sickness.
    • 1864 January 23
    Officers' wives.
    • 1864 May 28
    • 1864 July 2
    Plantations--Louisiana.
    • 1864 March 25
    Plantations--Mississippi.
    • 1866 February 8
    • 1867 November 15
    • 1867 December 27
    Pleasant Hill, Battle of, 1864.
    • 1864 April 17
    Presbyterian Church--Clergy.
    • 1864 October 10
    • 1865 January 30
    Presidents--United States--Election--1864.
    • 1864 September 12
    • 1864 September 22
    Prisoners of War.
    • 1864 May 22
    • 1864 May 28
    Reconstruction--Mississippi.
    • 1865 November 14
    • 1866 February 8
    • 1867 November 15
    Red River Campaign, 1864.
    • 1864 March 9
    • 1864 March 25
    • 1864 April 17
    • 1864 April 26
    • 1864 May 22
    • 1864 May 28
    Religious gatherings.
    • 1864 February 21
    Riots--Illinois--Decatur.
    • 1864 July 2
    Sabine Cross Roads, Battle of, 1864.
    • 1864 April 17
    Shaler, Alexander, 1827-1911.
    • 1864 November 7
    Smallpox.
    • 1865 February 9
    Smith, Andrew Jackson, 1815-1897.
    • 1864 March 25
    • 1864 April 17
    • 1864 April 26
    Soldiers--Religious life.
    • 1864 February 21
    Steamboat travel--Gulf of Mexico.
    • 1864 January 23
    Teamsters.
    • 1865 November 14
    Texas Coast Operations, 1863.
    • 1863 November 16
    Texas--Description and travel.
    • 1864 January 23
    • 1864 February 7
    Thanksgiving Day.
    • 1863 November 30
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--African-Americans.
    • 1863 November 10
    • 1865 August 14
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Prisoners and prisons.
    • 1864 May 22
    • 1864 May 28
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Songs and music.
    • 1863 November 16
    • 1864 July 11
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Women.
    • 1863 August 9
    • 1863 November 10
    • 1864 October 10
    United States. Army of the Potomac.
    • 1863 June 25
    United States. Army--Appointments and retirements.
    • 1862 September 12
    United States. Army--Bands.
    • 1863 November 16
    • 1864 July 11
    United States. Army--Corrupt practices.
    • 1865 February 9
    • 1865 June 15
    • 1865 July 21
    • 1865 August 14
    United States. Army--Pay, allowances etc.
    • 1864 December 19
    United States. Army--Promotions.
    • 1864 December 6
    • 1864 December 26
    • 1865 March 21
    United States. Army--Quartermasters.
    • passim, but see:
    • 1862 September 12
    • 1865 January 23
    • 1865 February 9
    • 1865 March 21
    • 1865 March 28
    • 1865 April 13
    • 1865 June 15
    • 1865 July 21
    • 1865 August 14
    United States. Army--Regiments--Relations.
    • 1863 November 21
    United States. Army--Supplies and stores.
    • 1865 November 1
    • 1865 November 24
    Vallandingham, Clement Laird, 1820-1871.
    • 1863 August 9
    Vicksburg (Miss.)--History--Siege, 1863.
    • 1863 June 25
    Wills--Illinois.
    • 1869 June 17
    • 1880 April 1
    Women prisoners.
    • 1864 October 10
    Women's Union League.
    • 1863 August 9
    Women--Conduct of life.
    • 1863 August 9
    • 1865 October 27
    Wood, Fernando 1812-1881.
    • 1863 August 9