The surviving Civil War letters of Henry H. Willard provide a brief glimpse of his duties and experiences in the 4th Indiana Cavalry during the Civil War. All eleven letters are addressed to his mother, and it is possible that Willard may not have been as candid with her as he might have been with another correspondent, for they are generally lacking in the "local color" of many military correspondences.
A highly literate man, Willard's letters are interesting and enjoyable. Occasionally including gossipy comments about affairs at home, they reveal comparatively little about Willard's responsibilities in the military, either as a soldier or as a functionary in the headquarters of the 14th Corps. The letters written from Kentucky during the last two months of 1862 do provide a sense of a Union cavalryman's initiation into war, including foraging for supplies, dealing with civilians, and seeing the south for the first time. A letter written in the aftermath of Stone's River (1863 January 11) includes some powerful description of the devastation of Tennessee and the grisly sights of the battlefield.
The collection includes two particularly fine letters. In the first, Willard argued that while he was prepared to employ African-Americans as laborers on fortifications, he was concerned about fitting them out for combat. The exercise, he argued, was dangerous because the south could arm ten Black men to every one at the north, and Willard was personally repelled by the thought that he might be taken prisoner and guarded by a Black man (1863 March 9). A second interesting letter, includes a good description of the progress of the Tullahoma Campaign (1863 July 6).