Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Chester H. Ballard Papers, 1862-1864

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Robert S. Cox, May 1994

Summary Information
Title: Chester H. Ballard papers
Creator: Ballard, Chester H.
Inclusive dates: 1862-1864
Extent: 14 items
This brief 14-letter collection does not cover very much of Chester Ballard's Civil War service in the 37th Massachusetts Infantry, but he describes a few events well, namely the Wilderness-Spotsylvania campaign at the Bloody Angle, and the 3rd Battle of Winchester. In other letters, Ballard writes about camp life and morale in Virginia.
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:

1994. M-2662p, M-3099.1.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.


Eight of the 14 letters were apparently separated from the Joseph Field papers, and added to the Ballard papers.

Preferred Citation:

Chester H. Ballard Papers, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Ballard, Chester H.

Rank : Pvt., Cpl. (1862 Sept. 20); Sgt. (1864 July 1)

Regiment : 37th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. Co. A (1862-1865)

Service : 1862 August 18-1865 June 21

Chester H. Ballard and his older brother George, farmers from Chicopee, Mass., enlisted in Company A of the 37th Massachusetts Infantry in August 1862. Organized at Camp Briggs, and comprised mainly of men recruited in the four western counties of the state, the 37th Massachusetts was sent to the vicinity of Washington, D.C., via Fort Hamilton, N.Y., but it was some time before they found a definite corps assignment. Once attached to the 6th Corps of the Army of the Potomac, however, they soon found themselves involved in the thick of the war. Joining the main body of the army in the Blue Ridge in November, they participated in the Battle of Fredericksburg, helping to lead the crossing of the Rappahannock on December 11th, and covering the retreat on the 15th.

After overwintering near White Oak Church, the 37th participated in the assault on Marye's Heights (2nd Fredericksburg) on May 3rd, and were engaged on the following day at the Battle of Salem Church. Later in the summer, they were rushed into action at Gettysburg, arriving to participate in the action on July 3rd, and were then ordered to New York City to quell the draft riots. Their most memorable action, however, may have been during the Wilderness-Spotsylvania campaigns in May 1864. Thrown into confusion at the Battle of the Wilderness, the regiment lost 54 men, and a few days later that lost another 32 at the Bloody Angle in Spotsylvania. The 37th Infantry remained in the vicinity of Petersburg, suffering continual losses in both men and morale, until ordered to help repel Jubal Early's raid on Washington late in the summer. Newly equipped with Spencer seven-shot repeating rifles, the regiment pursued Early into the Shenandoah Valley and was placed under Philip Sheridan's command during the fall campaign of 1864. They were engaged at Charles Town and the 3rd Battle of Winchester, before being returned to the Petersburg front in December. Though their ranks were greatly reduced, the 37th remained active until the final battles of the war in the east, including the final assault on Petersburg, Sailor's Creek, and Appomattox Court House.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The collection of 14 Ballard letters is unfortunately incomplete, providing only spotty coverage of the Civil War service of Chester Ballard in the 37th Massachusetts Infantry, from shortly after his enlistment in 1862 until the winter of 1864. While Ballard is not a particularly eloquent writer, nor is he especially introspective, at his best he provides clear and occasionally powerful descriptions of events. Two letters in particular stand out. In one, written on May 13th, 1864, after the nine days of continuous combat during the Wilderness-Spotsylvania campaigns, a confused Ballard laments the terrible losses inflicted upon his regiment at the Bloody Angle, and notes that the "regiment does not look much as it did when we left camp 10 days ago." The other letter, written on September 20th, 1864, includes an account of the 3rd Battle of Winchester, in which the 37th distinguished itself when their colonel, Oliver Edwards, helped to turn the tide of battle by grabbing the regimental standard and exhorting his soldiers to continue their charge. Ballard's other letters provide interesting descriptions of camp life in Virginia and of the soldiers' activities and morale.

Subject Terms

    • Battle casualties.
    • Military camps--Virginia.
    • Shenandoah Valley Campaign, 1864 (May-August)
    • Spotsylvania, Battle of, 1864.
    • United States. Army--Pay, allowances, etc.
    • Winchester, 3rd Battle of, Winchester, Va., 1864.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   42, Schoff Civil War Collection  
    Chester H. Ballard papers,  1862 August 21-[1864] December 11 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library Manuscripts Division has the Edward P. Bridgman autobiography. Bridgman served in Company G, of the 37th Massachusetts Infantry.

    Partial Subject Index
    • 1864 August 1
    • 1863 May 31
    Battle casualties
    • 1864 May 13
    • 1864 September 20
    • 1863 May 31
    Camps (Military)--Massachusetts
    • 1862 August 21
    Camps (Military)--Virginia
    • 1863 April 3
    • 1863 April 19
    • 1863 May 24
    • 1863 May 31
    • 1864 August 1
    • 1864 August 1
    Shenandoah Valley Campaign, 1864 May-August
    • 1864 August 1
    • 1863 April 19
    • 1863 October 17
    Spotsylvania, Battle of, 1864
    • 1864 May 13
    • 1864 August 1
    United States. Army--Officers--Alcohol
    • 1863 April 19
    United States. Army--Pay, allowances, etc.
    • 1863 March 8
    • 1864 August 1
    Winchester, 3rd Battle of, Va., 1864
    • 1864 September 20