This collection consists of 31 letters that Woodbury and Ellen M. Hardy received from friends and family members between 1856 and 1868. From 1856 to1860, Woodbury Hardy received 13 letters from acquaintances, cousins, and his brother in Hopkinton, New Hampshire; South Danvers, Massachusetts; Palatine, Illinois; and Meridian, Michigan. He and his wife collectively received 6 letters written during the Civil War and 4 written between 1866 and 1868. The collection also holds 8 undated letters. Writers commented on family and social news, agriculture, aspects of life in the Midwest, the Civil War, and the impact of the military draft.
Woodbury Hardy's friends and cousins in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, shared social news with Hardy when he lived in South Danvers, Massachusetts, in the mid-1850s, and in the Midwest during the early 1860s. They commented on weddings, education, agriculture, and family health. Woodbury's brother, Samuel Hardy, and an acquaintance, Levina Williams, wrote of their lives in Illinois, often mentioning agriculture, local news, and separation from family members on the East Coast. Woodbury's cousin, also named Woodbury Hardy, wrote a similar letter from Meridian, Michigan, discussing local history, crops, and schools (March 9, 1860). Woodbury and Ellen Hardy continued to receive similar personal letters from male and female correspondents throughout and after the Civil War.
Of the 6 letters written during the Civil War, 5 comment directly on the effects of the war in South Danvers, Massachusetts. Ellen Hardy's "Uncle Moses" wrote an 8-page letter on July 6 and 9, 1862, sharing his thoughts on the war's causes and progress and on a woman named Sarah Jane, who feared the loss of a loved one in a recent battle. Other letters mention the effects of the draft and names of local volunteers. J. Clough, of Nashua, New Hampshire, wrote a final war-era business letter to Woodbury Hardy regarding a shipment of freight from New Hampshire to Chicago (May 26, 1862).
Family letters of interest include Sanford Hardy's account of his railroad journey from Nashua, New Hampshire, to Chicago, Illinois, in early 1857 (May 28, 1857). He compared first and second class accommodations, and shared his strong negative reaction to other passengers in second class. In one letter, Carlos Hardy, Woodbury's cousin, discussed a recent scandal involving Samuel Hardy and his wife Abby, who reportedly married under duress (December 17, 1858). Two letters by Lydia Ann include mention of a family member and a friend who had been prisoners of war at England's Dartmoor Prison during the War of 1812 (July 23, 1860, and January 10, 1868). Among the undated letters is a letter John Price wrote to his great-grandson, Arthur Hardy, and a letter from Arthur's sick 5 year-old cousin "Frannie" (written by an adult). One later undated letter addressed to Ellen anticipates Woodbury Hardy's imminent return, along with other Civil War veterans.