This collection contains 74 letters and letter fragments that Sarah Augusta Keen and her family wrote to her brother William between 1859 and 1867. The letters are about their lives in Acushnet, Massachusetts, after William moved to San Francisco, California, in early 1862, and their views on the Civil War.
Sarah Augusta Keen wrote letters to her brother William every few weeks between June 1862 and February 1866, routinely providing updates about friends and family members in and around Acushnet, Massachusetts. In her first letters, she reflected upon the death of their sister Lydia, and in later letters she continued to report on the health, marriages, and deaths of family members and local residents. Sarah occasionally commented on her experiences as a schoolteacher in Lakeville, Massachusetts, and shared her intention to quit teaching after her marriage in 1865. Some of her letters directly concern the progress of the Civil War and its effects on the local community, and regard such topics as the privateer Alabama ; a deserter who had returned home to marry; a wounded soldier who intended to return to the army and to reenlist if necessary; an acquaintance who refused to enlist even after being promised a captaincy; drafted men; and subsequent draft riots in the larger cities. After the war, she urged William to return to Massachusetts.
William also received letters from his brothers Charles and Leonard, his sister Amelia, and his parents, Leonard and Sarah. They wrote about similar topics, including their educations, and inquired about William's health in California.