The Stearns collection consists of 45 letters written by Ezra Stearns to his sister, Ellen M. Brewer while he served as a private soldier in the 1st Michigan Engineers, plus two letters from his brother, Edwin (a private in the 20th Michigan Infantry), and 10 post-war letters from Stearns' wife, Mary, all written to Ellen.
Stearns' letters provide an account of service in an important Engineer regiment in Tennessee. While the letters do not include much insight into the engineering activities of the regiment, they are quite useful at documenting aspects of camp life, particularly the culinary activities and tastes of a talented military cook. Stearns relishes in his descriptions of cooking and he provides recipes for biscuits and pork soup, among other dishes. Other interesting letters include one with a description of a guerrilla attack on a train (1863 October 23), some letters with commentary on the recruiting and service of African-American soldiers, and the series of letters written during the Atlanta Campaign.
Finally, among the post-war correspondence are two excellent letters from Ezra's wife, Mary. The first, written from July 29-August 2, 1868, includes a description of settling into a new life on an isolated farm, becoming a "real Mohawk" in their new life in the woods and battling a fire threatening their new home. The second letter, written on October 11th, 1870, provides an account of the malarial infection afflicting Ezra and their young son, Arthur.