Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Jayne Papers, 1864

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, December 2009

Summary Information
Title: Jayne papers
Creator: Jayne, Samuel Ferguson 1834-1904
Inclusive dates: 1864
Extent: 17 items
The Jayne papers contain letters from Samuel Ferguson Jayne, during his service as a relief agent with the U.S. Sanitary Commission, to his fiancée Charlotte Elizabeth Jayne in the summer of 1864. He described his work at the U.S. Colored Hospital at City Point, Virginia, treating wounded soldiers from the battles at Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and the Battle of the Crater (Petersburg).
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:

2001. M-4172.12.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Jayne Papers, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


This collection is organized chronologically.


Samuel Ferguson Jayne, the son of Eleanor Ferguson and Walter Peter Jayne, was born in 1834. He studied medicine at Harvard University, until May 1864, when he left school to volunteer with the U.S. Sanitary Commission. The Sanitary Commission was an official agency, primarily organized, run, and funded by civilian women, whose goal was to promote sanitary conditions in Union hospitals and to coordinate volunteer efforts to provide food, water, supplies, and services to wounded soldiers. The commission, established in 1861 at the outset of the war, helped reform all facets of military medical services, such as the retrieval of wounded soldiers from the field, hospital construction and operations, and food supply. Jayne worked at the U.S. Colored Hospital at City Point, Virginia, and treated the wounded from battles at Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.

Though Jayne was engaged to his first cousin, Charlotte Elizabeth Jayne (1843-1882), before the war, they did not marry until July 1866. They had three children, Alfred, Eleanor, and Ruth. Samuel Jayne died in 1904.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Jayne papers consist of 17 letters from Samuel Ferguson Jayne, during his service as a relief agent with the U.S. Sanitary Commission, to his fiancée Charlotte Elizabeth Jayne in the summer of 1864. The letters, dated May 22-August 19, 1864, track his travels on the Mary Rapley steamboat and document his efforts at the U.S. Colored Hospital at City Point, Virginia. They discuss the numerous wounded soldiers coming from battles at Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and the Battle of the Crater (Petersburg), and include vivid details on the treatment of the men and the facilities of the hospitals. Jayne often notes the difficulties of getting the Union doctors to treat black troops. He wrote, "We have had to almost fight the doctors to get them to treat the colored men decently and to find them proper attention. When we came here most of the men were without beds. Now we have them upon, not only beds, but every man has also an iron bedstead, entirely covered by mosquito netting" (July 12). On August 9th, Jayne wrote that "There are very few agents here, who are adapted to such 'low' work as that of taking care of sick negroes" (August 9).

Jayne described in depth the types of wounds and afflictions the solders suffered. On August 4, he wrote "we are overcome with sick and wounded...I have found many who fought hand to hand with rebels, as their wounds are those made by the butts of muskets or clubs...We have twelve men digging graves today for our hospital alone." In a letter dated April 9th, he described a "terrible explosion" of an ammunition boat at City Point, Virginia, and its aftermath. Though the letters contain many details on his work managing the sick in the hospitals, they also include expressions of love for Charlotte, who Samuel was "compelled to write" in order "to keep [his] wits straight" (August 9, 1864). Jayne also commented on political and ethical issues of the war. For example, in the letter from August 19, 1864, he questioned the morality of paying black soldiers to fight in place of a drafted white soldier:

"I do not think it would be exactly fair to obtain a negro for a substitute. In the first place, in all modesty, they do not make as good soldiers as the whites, and at the present crisis of affairs, from all that I can learn from observation and report, one white man, even as insignificant as myself, is equal to two negroes for war purposes. Then, the negro fights under great disadvantages. If taken prisoner he is either murdered or sold into slavery--and I think that a government that permits its soldiers to be thus dealt with, without retaliating upon the enemy ought to go to perdition, or at least to a strongly seasoned purgatory. I would not ask a man to go as my substitute who would be murdered in cold blood because he was not of my race and color. Until we can procure the African some rights of civilized warfare, let the Anglo Saxon fight his own battles."

Jayne drew several sketches and commented on them. Of note is a picture of a ground plan of the U.S. Colored hospital, City Point, Virginia camp, annotated with the functions of many individual tents. It includes the positions of hospitals for the 5th, 6th, and 9th Corps. This plan accompanies the letter from July 15, 1864, in which Jayne provided additional details of the hospital camp.

Other illustrations include:

  • "Our pet lamb Molly," City Point Virginia, a pencil sketch of a young Black woman sitting in front of shelves of supplies (July 26, 1864).
  • "Special Diet," a barefoot black man walking past army tents holding a mug and plate of fish (August 10, 1864).
  • "For this are we Doctors," a black soldier with a bloody amputated arm (August 10, 1864).
  • "Lizzie," a profile of a black woman sitting on a crate with her hands to her head (August 10, 1864).
  • "Hospital bed" on the back: "This is a drawing of our hospital beds, with mosque-to netting. Made by Roberts, S. "(August 19, 1864).

Subject Terms

    • African Americans--Medical care.
    • City Point Hospital (Hopewell, Va.)
    • Cold Harbor, Battle of, Va., 1864.
    • Courtship.
    • Medicine--History.
    • Petersburg Crater, Battle of, Va., 1864.
    • Spotsylvania Court House, Battle of, Va., 1864.
    • United States Sanitary Commission.
    • United States. Army--African American troops.
    • United States. Army--Medical care.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--African Americans--Pictorial works.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Casualties.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Civilian relief.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Hospitals.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Medical care.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Participation, African American.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • African Americans--Pictorial works.
    • City Point Hospital (Hopewell, Va.)
    Genre Terms:
    • Ground plans.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Sketches.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   73, Schoff Civil War Collection  
    Folder   6  
     1864 May 22
     1864 May 23
     1864 May 29
     1864 June 15
     1864 July 3
     1864 July 9
    Folder   7  
     1864 July 12
     1864 July 15
     1864 July 26
     1864 July 30
     1864 August 1
     1864 August 4
    Folder   8  
    [1864] August 7
     1864 August 9, with newspaper clipping
     1864 August 10, with several pencil drawings
    [1864] August 15
     1864 August 19, with newspaper clipping
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    Briggs, Mary S. The Ferguson-Jayne Papers, 1826-1938. 2nd ed. Davenport, N.Y.: Davenport Historical Society, 1981.