Francis E. Vinaca papers  1850-1871 (bulk 1861-1865)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Vinaca papers contain 46 letters written by Francis Vinaca to his parents during the Civil War; 10 from his cousin, Henry Chase addressed to Francis; two letters from Francis' close friend, Martin Dealing (also of the 186th N.Y. Infantry); and two from a cousin, James Miner of the 35th New York Infantry. Although he is not the most observant writer, Francis' letters are a valuable resource for examining the attitudes of a soldier entering the war in its latter stages. His motives for enlisting appear to have been as much tied as much in profit and personal advancement as they were in patriotism, and the time that he spent in the unglamorous work of building roads or digging for fortifications was typical of the experiences of many soldiers, as were the periods of inactivity. Vinaca's unsuccessful attempts to secure a commission in a "colored" regiment are meagerly documented.

Henry Chase's rough-edged and occasionally offensive letters include some colorful descriptions of the theatre of action near New Bern, N.C., with particularly negative comments reserved for discussions of African Americans and the idea of fighting for the end of slavery.

Vinaca's letters from March and April, 1865, provide an indication of how low Confederate morale had sunk, as measured by the large number of deserters crossing the lines, and the level of desperation they must have felt. The most interesting letters concerning military action are the two in which Francis discusses his bloody experiences in the assault on Fort Mahone and the fall of Petersburg -- the last major engagements of the war in Virginia.

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