John B. Stickney papers  1862-1865
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The John B. Stickney papers (33 items) consist of letters written by a Union soldier in the 35th Massachusetts Regiment to his family in Massachusetts. Stickney wrote about the battles of Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, South Mountain, and Vicksburg. Though the bulk of the letters are addressed to his parents, Stickney also wrote to sister Mattie and to his future wife, Carrie Rust.

In his letters home, Stickney described life as a lieutenant in the Union army, which, in the early days, he enjoyed. He detailed his division’s experiences with travel, food, shelter, and sickness, and reported on their official activities, such as constructing fortifications near Big Black River (July 1, 1863). He also discussed leisure activities; for example, in a letter to his sister, Stickney mentioned playing euchre with his friends (September 28, 1862). In three letters, he mentioned an African American servant named David Silver, who accompanied him during the first months of the war (August 30, 1862; September 28, 1862; December 30, 1862). Though Stickney enjoyed good health throughout his service, his regiment saw action in many battles and he lost many friends. He commented that, "Only Berry and myself remain of all our circle of friends that came out together" (May 31, 1863).

Stickney often discussed news from the front, though he was skeptical of rumors, particularly when they were of Union successes. However, after the battles of Antietam and Vicksburg, he was optimistic that the war was coming to a close.

The following are items of particular interest:

  • August 30, 1862: He traveled from Boston to Arlington, Massachusetts, and wrote details about the itinerary, food, and sleeping conditions; he passed on rumors from the Battle of Bull Run.
  • September 28, 1862: Stickney gave an account the Battle of South Mountain and Antietam, and described President Lincoln and Secretary Chase reviewing the troops to help build the army’s morale. He also described ladies of Massachusetts nursing the wounded after the battle. Of the aftermath he wrote, "The Rebel dead and wounded were piled up in heaps…the destruction of the Rebels was awful."
  • December 16, 1862: Stickney reported on the aftermath of the Battle of Fredericksburg.
  • June 7-July 6, 1863: Stickney described the conflict at Vicksburg, including the capture of 27,000 Rebel prisoners on the 4th of July and shared his opinion about the danger of a raid on Washington by Robert E. Lee.
  • August 3, 1863: Stickney relayed news about the state of the army in Mississippi and mentioned a laudatory letter that General Grant had sent to his corps.
  • June 9, 1864: Friend Joseph Gottlieb described the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania, and mentioned troop movements in the region surrounding Richmond.
  • August 3, 1864: Stickney wrote about a policy for the payment of soldiers that would benefit recruiting efforts for the Union.
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