Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John Love Papers, 1840-1853

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, May 1995

Summary Information
Title: John Love papers
Creator: Love, John, d. 1881
Inclusive dates: 1840-1853
Extent: 28 items (0.25 linear feet)
The Love papers contain 27 letters and one journal relating to John Love or his wife, Mary, which relate information on two areas of interest: the study of the military presence in the West during the 1840s and of courtship, marriage, and male-female relationships.
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:

1995. M-3118; M-3123.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

John Love Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan

Biographical/Historical Note

A Virginian by birth, John Love embarked upon a career in the military with an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy from Tennessee. After graduating fourteenth in the class of 1841, a class that produced twenty Civil War generals, John Love was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant of the 1st Dragoons and sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, under the command of Capt. Philip St. George Cooke. Over the next several years, the Dragoons operated widely over the west, serving to protect emigrants and interlopers onto Indian lands, and providing military muscle against Indian resistance.

Love rose slowly, but steadily through the ranks. During the Mexican War, the 1st Dragoons played a significant role in several engagements in Alta California and Mexico, and for his actions, Love was promoted to 1st Lieutenant (June 1846) and a received brevet Captaincy for gallant and meritorious service at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Rosales (March 1848). Upon his return to the States, he initiated a courtship with Mary F. Smith of Indianapolis, a belle, as some of her friends suggested, with tendencies to coquettery, who was simultaneously entertaining the attentions of at least two other men. In the early fall of 1849, the couple married and shortly thereafter, moved to Fort Leavenworth where Love assumed duties as quartermaster for the 1st Dragoons (1849-50). Subsequently, he was posted in the more civilized environs of Jefferson Barracks, Mo. (1849-51) and was assigned to recruiting duty (1851-52) before finally resigning his commission in February, 1853, to settle down to life as a railroad contractor in Indianapolis. The couple appear to have a had at least one child, a daughter born within a year of their marriage.

Love returned to military service during the Civil War. As an experienced military man and captain in the Indiana militia (1858-1861), Love was well prepared for his service in the West Virginia campaign during the summer of 1861. Late in 1861, he was commissioned Major General of the Indiana Legion, and filled various assignments, including training troops, coordinating the defenses at Cincinnati, and repulsing Morgan's raiders at Mount Vernon, Ind., in July, 1863. He officially resigned in January, 1863, and once again retired to Indianapolis, where he worked as a real estate broker and European agent for the Gatling Rifle Gun.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Love papers contain 27 letters and one journal relating to John Love or his wife, Mary, all written between 1840 and 1853. This very incomplete collection contains information on two areas of interest, the study of the military presence in the west during the 1840s and of courtship, marriage, and male-female relationships.

One of the highlights of the collection is Love's journal of an 1843 expedition of the 1st Dragoons from Fort Leavenworth along the Santa Fe Trail. Written as a running, daily narrative of events, the journal provides excellent insight into the mentality of a well-educated eastern soldier along the frontier of the 1840s, and how his preconceptions for what he would see on the prairies of Kansas were met with "reality." On this trip, his first in the west, Love describes encounters with crowds of emigrants bound for Oregon, with traders, wild animals, and mountain men, and he paid close attention to the landscape throughout. Always in the back of his mind were Indians. The journal ends with a description of the long-awaited sighting of a herd of buffalo, only to find that the herd was being hunted by Indians. Love was cautious, fearing that he had run into a band of Comanches, but discovered they were Kansas and not hostile. It appears that the journal is incomplete and either because Love was unable to continue writing it, or because the remainder has been lost. It ceases while the Dragoons are still in central Kansas, moving southward to Santa Fe.

Among the correspondence is a letter from fellow West Pointer, Edgar Gaither (1840 May 6), that includes a fine account of the hardships of an expedition to the newly established Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, "the object of which was to produce that peace so much need as apparently so little desired by the nation." Gaither surprised himself by the degree of "culture" among the Cherokee: "There is a great deal of polished society in the Cherokee natives as different from all conception I had ever formed of the Indian character as black from white, and the baleful spirit of party intrigue & unfriend brings I hope will by soon banished from the nation."

Two letters from fellow West Pointer William T.H. Brooks, a Lieutenant in the 3rd U.S. Infantry and future Maj.Gen. in the Civil War, include information on military activities in southern Texas during the Mexican War. In the first of these (1845 September 12-15), Brooks describes the aftermath of a steamboat boiler explosion caused by the negligence of captain and crew, in which several soldiers were killed, including West Point friends of Brooks and Love. Although Brooks had said that southern Texas had nothing to recommend it but the climate, and although he complained about the unlikelihood of seeing Mexican soldiers, his second letter (1846 May 15) includes a stirring first-hand account of the Battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma.

Finally, one letter from Mary Love to her mother, Mary Smith (1850 August 21) includes an interesting account of the arrival of Chippewa and Sioux Indians for a conference at Fort Snelling. Love was fascinated with the psychological gamesmanship of both tribes, for instance the boisterous arrival of the Chippewa with guns blazing in the air to frighten the Sioux and their rowdy talk upon dismounting.

The letters on courtship, love and marriage were written by several friends of Mary Love during the early stages of her relationship with John. Mary appears to have been considered quite a belle, and was courted seriously by both John and a rival, Joe, as well as by a young Lew Wallace (later Major General and author of Ben Hur). All of these letters suggest the intensity of interest surrounding courtship, but also helps to flesh out ideas of propriety and impropriety in courtship. Most interesting of all, however, are the two letters of Mary Linton, who represents a less-well known side of male-female relationships during this period, female refusal. Linton claims that she cannot feel love: "were you in my place you would go right to work to winning his affections instead of concealing those points of character which would make a gentleman apt to fall in love with a fairy. But I am a strange creature Mary, I am not at all susceptible" (1849 c. August 29). She continued, "As yet I cannot discover the faintest trace of love, & more, I am proof to the shafts of Cupid. My heart has become solid & insensible" (1849 September 24). Yet at the same time, Mary writes on and on through closely-written, cross-hatched pages about love, a failed engagement, and marriage.

Subject Terms

    • Berry, Benjamin A., c.1817-1845.
    • Bragg, Braxton, 1817-1876.
    • Comanche Indians.
    • Cooke, Philip St. George, 1809-1895.
    • Corpus Christi (Tex.)--Description and travel.
    • Council Grove (Kans.)--Description and travel.
    • Courtship--Indiana.
    • Gentry, Nick.
    • Higgins, Thaddeus, d. 1845.
    • Horses.
    • Hunting.
    • Hunting--Kansas.
    • Indians of North America--Kansas.
    • Kansa Indians.
    • Kansas--Description and travel.
    • Love.
    • Marriage.
    • Mexican War, 1846-1848.
    • Migration, Internal--Oregon.
    • Santa Fe Trail.
    • United States. Army--Cavalry Regiment, 1st Dragoons.
    • United States. Army--Cavalry--Military life.
    • United States. Army--Infantry Regiment, 3rd (1815- )
    • United States. Army--Recruiting, enlistment, etc.
    • Wallace, Lewis, 1827-1905.
    • Love, John, ca. 1820-1881.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   57, Small Collections Folders   9-18
    John Love papers,  1840 May 6-1853 January 23. [series] (28 items)
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Cooke, Philip St. George. Scenes and adventures in the army... (Philad., 1857)

    Pelzer, Louis. Marches of the dragoons in the Mississippi Valley... between the years 1833 and 1850 (Iowa City, 1917)

    Partial Subject Index
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    Arkansas--Description and travel
    • 1840 May 6
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    Berry, Benjamin A., c.1817-1845
    • 1845 September 12-15
    Bragg, Braxton, 1817-1876
    • 1850 August 21
    Bright, Jesse David, 1812-1875
    • [1844 c. December 14]
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    Burlington (Iowa)--Description
    • 1850 August 7
    California--History--Gold discoveries
    • 1849 November 19
    Cherokee Indians--Oklahoma
    • 1840 May 6
    Chippewa Indians
    • 1850 August 21
    • 1850 August 7
    Clark, Merriwether Lewis, 1809-1881
    • 1847 May 31
    Comanche Indians
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    Cooke, Philip St. George, 1809-1895
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    Corpus Christi (Tex.)--Description
    • 1845 September 12-15
    Council Grove (Kans.)--Description
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    • 1846 April 28
    • 1847 August 7
    • 1849 June 11
    • 1849 August 26
    • [c.1849 August 29]
    • n.d.
    • 1845 September 12-15
    Dead children
    • 1850 August 21
    • 1850 October 6
    Fort Brown (Tex.)
    • 1846 May 15
    • [ca.1849 August 29]
    Galena (Ill.)--Description
    • 1850 August 7
    Gentry, Nick
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    Hayes, Jake
    • 1849 September 24
    Higgins, Thaddeus, d. 1845
    • 1845 September 12-15
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    • 1850 August 21
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    Indians of North America--Kansas
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    Indians of North America--Minnesota
    • 1850 August 21
    Kansa Indians
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    Kansas--Description and travel
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    • 1849 August 26
    • [ca.1849 August 29]
    • 1849 September 24
    Love, John, c. 1820-1881
    • 1847 August 7
    • 1849 June 11
    • 1849 June 11
    • [ca.1849 August 29]
    • 1849 September 24
    Migration, Internal--Oregon
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    Mountain lions--Arkansas
    • 1840 May 6
    Nauvoo (Ill.)--Description
    • 1850 August 7
    Palo Alto (Tex.), Battle of, 1846
    • 1846 May 15
    Pennsylvania--Politics and government--1853-1857
    • 1853 January 23
    Prairies--Description and travel
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    • 1850 October 6
    Resaca de la Palma (Tex.), Battle of, 1846
    • 1846 May 15
    Santa Fe Trail
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    Sioux Indians
    • 1850 August 21
    • 1845 September 12-15
    • 1840 May 6
    Taylor, Zachary, 1784-1850
    • 1846 May 15
    United States. Army--Cavalry Regiment, 1st Dragoons (1833-1861)
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    United States. Army--Cavalry--Military life
    • 1843 May 27-June 11
    United States. Army--Infantry Regiment, 3rd (1815- )
    • 1845 September 12-15
    • 1846 May 15
    United States. Army--Recruitment, enlistment, etc.
    • 1846 March 17
    United States--History--War with Mexico, 1845-1848
    • 1845 September 12-15
    • 1846 May 15
    Wallace, Lewis, 1827-1905
    • [1844 c. December 14]
    • n.d. August 6
    • 1849 September 24
    • 1846 February 2