The Cornfields of Sherwood Anderson

Sherwood Anderson’s “The Cornfields” first appeared in print his first collection of poems, Mid-American Chants, in 1918. It’s the first poem in the book, too. So, a lot of “firsts” here. It would be dangerous for me (a two-time English major and avid poetry consumer) and a long read for you, if I were to launch into an interpretation of “The Cornfields.” Besides, one of the great joys of poetry is finding your own message alongside an author’s, tucked away inside their words. Editions of Mid-American Chants were issued and reissued over many years (we have three in Special Collections), but one of the things that makes “The Cornfields” stand out is that in 1939, it was published on its own:

In this form, it is a four-page booklet, produced by the House of Russell publishers in New York. It consists of the pages above, plus a short author biography at the end. Our recently-acquired copy also includes another small folded sheet of paper called “Trends of the Times: Poets Now Publishing in Brochure Form.” It’s basically an argument by the publisher for authors to publish individual poems, rather than entire volumes–ultimately because it’s a cheaper and more profitable format. It suggests that Anderson’s poem could have easily been a test case or advertisement for other authors. Anderson was a prolific and well-known author at the end of the 1930s, after all, and if he did it, perhaps others would follow suit. Our copy of the 1939, single version of the poem will be one of only 4 known copies in academic libraries, so we are quite pleased to add it to our holdings.

Of course, there’s a danger, too, in publishing a poem that was originally part of a collection on its own. The cover of the 1918 edition of Mid-American Chants features a simple image: an ear of corn next to the title and author. As a whole, a number of the poems rely on images and concepts relating to corn and agriculture more broadly, and there are themes of conflict and struggle in throughout, especially the growing industrialization of America and the urban v. rural contrast of the time. “The Cornfields” is only a small piece of Anderson’s voice in the larger volume. We can certainly appreciate it on its own…but also as part of a larger narrative, too. You can read Mid-American Chants online, if you’re curious to see more of Anderson’s poetry (he would published one more collection in 1927, A New Testament).

Before we part ways with Anderson, just a note about some other resources we have here. We’ve previously had a post on Sherwood Anderson and some of the “newer” manuscript materials (acquired in 2015) we had to share. At the time, the collection was being processed–now we can say it’s done (more on that in a moment)! Because of local ties to Anderson, we were also acquiring some other accessions relating to people in Anderson’s extended personal and professional circle during 2015 and 2016–A sort of of literary and artistic group of people in Southwest Virginia, if you will. I’m glad to say that, at long last, ALL of these collections are processed! I think we’ll need to work on some sort of visualization to clarify the relationships between people, but for now, here’s a list, complete with links to the finding aids and, where it isn’t obvious, an explanation of the connections in brackets:

  • Sherwood Anderson Collection, 1912-1938 (Ms1973-002). Correspondence among author Sherwood Anderson and family members, most notably letters written by Anderson to his daughter Marian, as well as some of his professional correspondence. Also includes research material about Anderson.
  • Sherwood Anderson Photograph and Postcard, 1929, 1939 (Ms2011-004). The collection consists of one postcard of Notre-Dame from Sherwood Anderson to Bert and Clara Dickenson and a photograph of Sherwood Anderson and Bert Dickenson in Florida with a line of fish in between the two men.
  • Welford D. Taylor Collection on Sherwood Anderson, 1918-2006, n.d. (Ms2015-020). This collection contains several series of materials: correspondence to and from Sherwood Anderson, correspondence and research files about Sherwood Anderson, and a small group of photographs, audio, video, and graphic art materials. Materials generated by Anderson date from 1918-1940. Other materials date from about 1929-2006. [This was the collection mentioned in our previous post here.]
  • Sherwood Anderson Correspondence with Llewellyn Jones, 1916-1924, n.d. (Ms2015-044). This collection consists of eight letters written by American author Sherwood Anderson to Llewellyn Jones between 1916 and 1924 with three undated (but likely from the same period). Jones was the literary editor for the Chicago Evening Post. The correspondence primarily discusses the reviews of Anderson’s works by Jones and other critics. This collection is also available online.
  • Marvin H. Neel Papers, 1933-1988 (Ms2016-022). This collection includes biographical resources, ephemera, correspondence, and writings and woodcut prints by and related to Marvin H. Neel (1908-1978), created between 1933 and 1988. [Neel corresponded with Lankes and the two were artistic collaborators.]
  • Mary Sinton Leitch Correspondence with J. J. Lankes, 1932-1950 (Ms2017-001). The collection includes 27 letters (some with covers and envelopes) written by Mary Sinton Leitch to J. J. Lankes between 1932 and 1950. Introduced by a mutual friend, Leitch and Lankes maintained a more than 18-year correspondence that contained conversations of personal news & friends, the Virginia literary and art scene, and their own writing and artistic efforts (including Lankes collaborations with poet Robert Frost). [Lankes was a friend and artistic collaborator of Anderson.]
  • James T. Farrell Letters to Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson, 1952 (Ms2017-005). This collection contains four letters written by American author James T. Farrell to Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson between February and May of 1952. [Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson was Sherwood Anderson’s third wife.]

Of course, the bulk of Sherwood Anderson’s papers are housed at the Newberry Library in Chicago, where Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson donated them in the 1950s. But if you’re in or near Blacksburg, we encourage you to stop by and make a connection. In addition to the manuscript collections, we have more than 260 books and publications by Anderson in Special Collections, too (plus one, when “The Cornfields” is cataloged)!

Presidential Inaugurations and Virginia Tech

Well, tomorrow is the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, so I decided to scour our collections for items pertaining to presidents. At Special Collections you can find all sorts of material related to presidents – presidents of the U.S., presidents of organizations and businesses, and, of course, presidents of Virginia Tech. If you search our blog and our finding aids, you’ll find all sorts of posts and collections referencing all these presidential types. But I’d like to highlight items related to the presidential inaugurations of the U.S. and VT presidents that we maintain.

United States Presidential Inaugurations

The Highty-Tighties, Virginia Tech’s very own Corps of Cadets band, has performed for numerous U.S. presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt at an exposition in 1902 and in the pre-inauguration celebrations for Barack Obama’s first term in 2009. They have also gain national recognition through their performances at twelve inaugural parades, starting with Woodrow Wilson’s second inauguration in 1917 and ending with George W. Bush’s second in 2005. The band was also invited to play at William Howard Taft’s inauguration in 1909, which they were unable to attend, according to letters in Pres. Paul B. Barringer’s records, RG 2/6. During the mid-20th century, these parades doubled as band competitions, and the Highty Tighties won first prize three years consecutively in 1953, 1957, and 1961, the last year of the inaugural parade competition. Special Collections has photographs and other items related to the Highty Tighties at a few of the parades in the Historical Photograph Collection.

Special Collections also holds invitations to several U.S. presidential inaugurations in our manuscript collections. We also have materials related to the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 inauguration and a tintype from Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 re-election campaign. Below are inaugural invitations and programs for Zachary Taylor in 1849 from the Robert Taylor Preston Papers, Ms1992-003; Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 in the John Henry Johnson Scrapbook, Ms2009-053; and Richard M. Nixon in 1969 in the Earl D. Gregory Collection, Ms1972-004.

Here are items from the press packet for the inauguration of Harry S Truman in 1949 in the Evert B. Clark Papers, Ms1989-022:

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Virginia Tech Presidential Installations

Being the repository for the University Archives, Special Collections, of course, maintains items related to the inaugurations or installations of the university presidents. For example, we have a video of James D. McComas’ inauguration in 1988 as 13th president of Virginia Tech. Several of the records of the presidents have files related to their inauguration ceremonies, including Walter Newman in RG 2/10, Boxes 2-3; T. Marshall Hahn in RG 2/11, Box 97; and William E. Lavery in RG 2/12, Boxes 1-2. Additionally, items related to the installation ceremonies are located in the Record Group Vertical Files and the University Libraries library catalog.

To Boldly Go Where No. . . .

James Doohan's copy of the final script of "Man Trap," the first episode of Star Trek to be broadcast. Doohan played Mister Scott, and that is his signature on this front cover. The show was first aired on 8 September 1966.
James Doohan’s copy of the final script of “The Man Trap,” the first episode of Star Trek to be broadcast. Doohan played Mister Scott, and that is his signature on this front cover. The show was first aired on 8 September 1966.

Cue Shatner’s voice over. Done. Ready to bring up the music. (Maybe we can hear it already.) “. . . where no man has gone before.” (Yes, he really did say that. It was 1966, after all.) On the 8th of September, a Thursday night, on NBC, and after Ron Ely had his premier appearance as Tarzan, William Shatner, an actor with 15 years experience in movies and television, including a turn in the Oscar-nominated Judgment at Nuremburg, said those first words, “Space, the final frontier” to a national audience. The voyages of the starship Enterprise began that evening with a broadcast of “The Man Trap,” even though it was the sixth show Gene Roddenberry and the folks at Desilu had produced. Reportedly, NBC made the decision to begin the show’s run with episode “number 6” because it had more action than did the other five available episodes. It also had a monster.

Page listing cast members from "The Man Trap" script
Page listing cast members from “The Man Trap” script

Among the new acquisitions at Special Collections is this final draft copy of “The Man Trap” signed by James Doohan, the actor who played “Scotty,” Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott. “Officer Scott” is listed among the cast members for the episode, though Scotty doesn’t actually appear in this episode, except as a disembodied voice heard over Kirk’s communicator. Apparently, the audio clip of Mr. Doohan’s brief lines were lifted from one of the other episodes already shot and inserted into this one. IMDB lists Doohan’s contribution to “The Man Trap” as “Scott (voice) (uncredited)!

"Note to Director" from "The Man Trap" script
“Note to Director” from “The Man Trap” script

 
If you don’t remember this particular episode or just need a reminder, this is the one in which Kirk, McCoy, and Darnell, a soon-to-be-deceased crewman, visit a planet to resupply and check in on an archaeological survey team working on what was thought to be an otherwise uninhabited world. The team consists of Robert Crater and his wife, Nancy, an old love of McCoy’s. We know something is up when Nancy appears differently to each member of the landing party. This note to the director from Gene Roddenberry suggests just how the change in appearance might be indicated. Crater tells Kirk that they only want salt tablets and, otherwise, to be left alone.

It turns out that “Nancy” isn’t really Nancy at all, but the shape-shifting last inhabitant of the planet, the last of a species that needs salt to survive. The planet, itself, is running out, and the creature will get the salt it needs wherever it can, from human beings, if necessary, even though doing so will kill them. Well, you can imagine what happens. Mayhem, death, regret, and resolve ensue. McCoy ends up having to kill the being, even as it changes one last time into the shape of his old flame, Nancy.

First page of dialogue from "The Man Trap" script
First page of dialogue from “The Man Trap” script

From such humble beginnings. . . . Shatner has become a caricature of himself (though not just that), some of James Doohan’s ashes were rocketed into space (a couple of times), and Star Trek has become one of the most successful entertainment franchises ever!!

Why did Special Collection acquire this script? Science Fiction, as part of the broader classification of Speculative Fiction, is one of our collecting areas. And, really, how could we resist!! Come see any of the 4500 issues of science fiction and fantasy magazines on hand that date from the late 1920s through the mid-1990s. Some of them are currently on display, along with a remembrance of John Glenn (we collect “non-fictional” science-related materials, too!), and James Doohan’s copy of his script of “The Man Trap” at Special Collections for the next few weeks in an exhibit titled, “Space . . . The Final Frontier.”

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From the First Lady’s Table: Dining with Cora Bolton McBryde

 

Cora Bolton McBryde
Cora Bolton McBryde, image courtesy of Janet Watson Barnhill

Not much is known about the early first ladies of Virginia Tech, but we can learn more about Cora Bolton McBryde through recent gifts to Special Collections from Janet Watson Barnhill. These gifts include Cora’s silver Tiffany stirring spoon, which, Mrs. Barnhill notes, is “engraved and worn from stirring puddings;” a tin Kreamer Turk’s head or turban pan (similar to a bundt pan) that was used by Cora Bolton McBryde; and the McBrydes’ gold-embossed fiftieth anniversary (1913) cookie plate. These items complement an earlier gift of Cora Bolton McBryde’s cookbook, the subject of a previous blog. The fragile cookbook has returned from Etherington Conservation Services for restoration and now may be viewed in Special Collections.

front view of Cora Bolton McBryde's Stirring Spoonn
Cora Bolton McBryde’s Tiffany stirring spoon, front, image courtesy of Janet Watson Barnhill
image of back of Cora Bolton McBryde's stirring spoon back view
Cora Bolton McBryde’s Tiffany stirring spoon, back, image courtesy of Janet Watson Barnhill
close-up of spoon handle with monogram and decoratin
McBryde monogram on Tiffany stirring spoon, image courtesy of Janet Watson Barnhill
cookie plate with handles and decorated with gold grapes and grape leaves
McBrydes’ 50th anniversary cookie plate (1913), image courtesy of Janet Watson Barnhill
Kreamer tin turban or Turk's head pan, image courtesy of Janet Watson Barnhill
Kreamer tin turban or Turk’s head pan, image courtesy of Janet Watson Barnhill

Born August 4, 1839, Cora Bolton was the first of ten children of Dr. James Bolton and Anna Maria (Harrison). Dr. James Bolton began his practice of medicine and surgery in Richmond, Virginia, but temporarily abandoned it to attend the Episcopal Theological Seminary near Alexandria where he was ordained. He took charge of a church in Richmond, but a year later he resumed his practice of medicine. In 1855 he opened Bellevue, a private hospital in Richmond, and maintained it until 1866. During the Civil War, it was used primarily for medical purposes.

Janet Watson Barnhill wrote in an email of September 24, 2013, that Dr. James Bolton “was one of the doctors for R. E. Lee and worked tirelessly in Richmond during the Civil War. I gather the family took care of many injured patients at home, so I believe she [Cora Bolton] was well suited for the job of being the First Lady of VPI. I think women are much overlooked in history!”

Sepi toned image of McBryde and BOlton family members on front steps of the President's House. Image courtesy of Larry McBryde.
McBryde family on the steps of the President’s Home, Christmas, 1891. Back row, from left, Maria Lawson “Diah” Bolton, Anna Maria McBryde (Davidson), Channing Moore Bolton (1843-1922), Elizabeth Hazelhurst Bolton, Meade Bolton McBryde, Cora Bolton McBryde (1839-1920), President John McLaren McBryde (1841-1923), Dr. Robert James Davidson (1862-1915). Front row, left to right, Susan McLaren McBryde, James Bolton McBryde, Belle Campbell Bolton, Charles Neil “Saint” McBryde. Image courtesy of Larry McBryde.

Cora Bolton married John McLaren McBryde on November 18, 1863. They had eight children. When McBryde became president of Virginia Tech, then Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College (V.A.M.C.), in 1891, the family moved into the original President’s Home, which was built in 1876 and is now part of Henderson Hall.

Image of family at dining table in a room with two sideboards and a china cabnet
President’s Home dining room, January 1892. President McBryde at the head of the table and Cora Bolton McBryde is facing him. To her right are Meade Bolton McBryde, and Charles Neil McBryde. To President McBryde’s right are Channing Moore Bolton, Channing’s daughter Belle Campbell Bolton, Susan McLaren McBryde, ?, Channing’s other daughter, Hazel Bolton. Image courtesy of Larry McBryde.

The college lacked adequate facilities for an infirmary for the student body. An outbreak of contagious diseases during the 1898-1899 session forced the college to allow many of the sick to remain in their rooms because there was no space for them in the infirmary. McBryde urged the Board of Visitors to approve funding for a “well planned and thoroughly equipped infirmary.” He also suggested in the president’s report of June 20, 1899 that a “new house for the president could be built for a few thousand dollars and his present house, with a few changes, would make an adequate infirmary.”

Family outside with trees and campus/town in distance.
President and Clara Bolton McBryde and family on the grounds of the President’s Home in the Grove, Top row, from left, Anna Cora Davidson, Maria Lawson Bolton, Maria Bolton Davidson; middle row, Felix Webster McBryde, President McBryde, Carolyn Webster McBryde, Cora Bolton McBryde. Dr. John McLaren McBryde, Jr., John McLaren (Jack) McBryde. Bottom row, Flora Webster McBryde, James Bolton McBryde, Susan McBryde Guignard, Mary Comfort. Image courtesy of Larry McBryde.

The new president’s home was built on a hill overlooking a marshy area, which would be converted into the Duck Pond in 1934, and Solitude, the homeplace of Virginia Tech. The tree-covered hill was known as “the grove.” The McBrydes moved into the newly built Presidents House (Building 274) in April 1902.

To learn more about the history of The Grove, the food that was eaten there, and the people who lived and worked there, see The Grove: Recipes and History of Virginia Tech’s Presidential Residence by Clara Cox. The book includes recipes from seven First Ladies of Virginia Tech: Eleanor Hutcheson (1945-47), Liz Otey Newman (1947-62), Peggy Hahn (1962-74), Peggy Lavery (1975-87), Adele McComas White (1988-94), Dot Torgersen (1994-2000), and Janet Steger (2000-14).

Baby on president's lap with Mrs. McBryde touching his hand.
John W. Watson, Jr. with President and Clara Bolton McBryde. Image courtesy of Janet Watson Barnhill.

Janet Watson Barnhill’s grandfather, Dr. John Wilbur (Quiz) Watson (1888-1962), was professor of Inorganic Chemistry (1913-56) and head of the Chemistry Department at Virginia Tech (1936-1942 and 1956-59). A student at Virginia Tech from 1905-1907, he transferred to the University of Virginia where he earned his doctorate. He returned to Virginia Tech in 1913, and in 1916, he married Anna Cora Davidson (1893-1928), whose father, Robert James Davidson, was professor of Analytic Chemistry and Agricultural Chemistry and was first Dean of the Scientific Department (1904-1913) and then Dean of Applied Science (1913-16). Davidson Hall is named in his honor. Born in Armagh, Ireland, Davidson, like President McBryde, was at South Carolina College before coming to V.A.M.C. He married Anna Maria McBryde, daughter of President and Cora Bolton McBryde, on May 2, 1892. Janet Watson Barnhill’s father, John Wilbur Watson, Jr., was born in 1917 and graduated from Virginia Tech.

As Janet Watson Barnhill wrote in an email, “I wish there were more information about women in our historical accounts! We can be certain they didn’t sit idly by while drama whirled around them!”

A Book (by its) Cover

This week, I really wanted to do a post highlighting materials related to the various wintertime holy days and celebrations that happen during December. That didn’t exactly work out. I did find some materials in our rare books collection that were Christmas related but I had trouble finding things for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Yule, and Eid (I would have included it even though it’s not really the same and was in September this year). So, I shelved that post for another year when we’ve made better progress increasing the representation in our collections.

As I searched for something else to post about, I saw them: Wood and Metal book covers. They were just my style and I had to share them. The wood-bound (and metal housed) books I’ve chosen today are from our History of Food and Drink Collection and focus on Southern cuisine, Astrology/Mixology, and general cookery.

woodbooks16First, a little bit about wood book covers in general. If you take a moment and do a quick Internet search (I’ll wait…), you will likely discover that there are hundreds upon hundreds of sites providing instructions on how to make your own wood book cover. Wood has been a popular material for electronics cases and other applications for a few years now (I’ve personally watched as the number of products in this space has increased exponentially). Not surprisingly, this is a phenomenon that falls squarely into the category “everything old is new again”. The covers from our rare books collection are not freshly made. They mostly hail from the late 1930’s (one is on a book from the 1970’s – another period where wood was exceedingly popular on everything from cars to walls). Going back a few centuries further, the Copts of North Africa lent their name to the technique of binding with wooden covers sewn together around pages. So, that hip new trend is actually ancient – – and still amazingly beautiful (if you can get past the problematic racial issues raised by the illustrations).

woodbooks1Our first two examples both focus on Southern style cuisine. They also rely on the Jim Crow mammie caricature. The introduction from the 1930’s volume reads “The very name ‘Southern Cookery’ seems to conjure up the vision of the old mammy, head tied with a red bandanna, a jovial, stoutish, wholesome personage . . .”

Yikes! That alone makes me want to avoid this book. For more on the history of the mammie caricature, head on over to the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia page.

woodbooks2
TX715.2.S68 L875 1939

Clearly that Jim Crow era attitude was still around in the 1970’s when the mammy image cover was placed around this cookbook with the ’70s dinner party cover.

woodbooks4

woodbooks5
TX715.2.S68 S675 1972

Our next two offerings both focus on astrology and mixology, or the fine art of combining cocktails with mysterious planetary influences on our destinies. I ask you: What could go wrong?

woodbooks6
TX951 .M17

Well, to start, how about this cover from Zodiac Cocktails (1940). The artwork, while creatively using the tools of the bartender’s trade, manages to evoke racial and religious stereotypes about Caribbean Islanders and Voodoo priestesses. Surprisingly, once past the cover, the illustrations are more referential toward medieval British conceptions of the mystical.

woodbooks8The content of this volume is as it would be with any book of cocktail recipes: useful in making cocktails. Still, it’s hard to take the author seriously in his attempt to “. . . demonstrate that people born under one sign of the zodiac are capable of drinking one or more combinations of liquor without ill-effect, whereas other combinations bring less pleasing results.” He has formulated a cocktail for each sign that he believes is the ideal cocktail for anyone born under that sign. Since we are currently under Sagittarius, I share with you the ideal cocktail for that sign:

1 Lump Sugar
2 Dashes Cocktail Bitters
1 Glass Rye or Whiskey
Crush sugar and bitters together, add lump of ice, decorate with twist of lemon peel and slice of orange, using medium glass, and stir well.
This cocktail can be made with Brandy, Gin, Rum, etc., instead of Rye Whiskey.

woodbooks10The next item from 1939 will tell you your Bar-o-scope. This one is definitely not taking itself too seriously. It is described as:

Spiced with “Astro-illogical” guidance in rhyme + pictures for those REborn under the different signs of the Baroscope.

The cocktails are arranged in chapters by type and each chapter contains a little poem about a zodiacal sign:

woodbooks11
TX951 .B37 1939

Sagittarius
Nov. 23 to Dec. 23

The SAGGITTARIUS-born
Are idealists at heart
And to parties and functions
Good spirits impart.

It’s a fun little book, but it’s actually not bound in wood. It’s really press board (sometimes called particle board). It’s tied with leather thongs and is very similar to the traditional coptic binding style but has a spine added where one would not normally be present in coptic style.

woodbooks15Finally, there is a glorious metal “bound” cookbook from Pillsbury (1933). Right in the heart of the Art Deco period, this book incorporates elements of that iconic style into a housewife’s reference book titled Balanced Recipes.

woodbooks14
TX715 .B3 1933

The book includes sections for bread, cakes, cookies, desserts, luncheon and supper dinners, macaroni and spaghetti, meat and fish, pies, salads, soups and sauces, vegetables, and menus. The recipes included were developed in Pillsbury’s “home-type experimental kitchen” in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Of all these books, this one is by far my favorite. It avoids the caricatures and racial issues of the others while being really cool to look at. It also has a connection to Minneapolis (my favorite big city). Plus, when I was flipping through, it gave me a holiday surprise and landed on a recipe for that perennial holiday favorite: fruit cake. Enjoy!

woodbooks13

For more about the History of Food and Drink Collection at Virginia Tech, check out the dedicated blog: What’s Cookin’ @ Special Collections?!

What to my wondering eyes should appear

Just like our sister blog What’s Cookin’ @ Special Collections, this blog has been on WordPress for about 4 years and the platform has been great! Still, it was about time for a new look. This new template should be more responsive and easier to use on mobile devices. You’ll still find the great content we’ve always had – just with a more contemporary look and feel. Thanks for following us and look for some new content tomorrow!

The Words of a Massachusetts Ambulance Driver

Sometimes figuring out a subject for the blog is surprisingly challenging. I like to look at what I’ve done lately, but a lot of that amounts to committee work, organizing incoming materials, and cleaning up data for the catalog and archival management software. And the end of the semester/year is my usual “catch up” time to dig through the piles in my office, problem solve, and return to some on-going projects. Interesting for me, but not “blog” interesting, to be sure–trust me! The most recent collection I processed is the topic of a relatively recent post on “The Sherwood Anderson Odyssey” (if you’re interested in that topic, the finding aid is available online), so there’s no need to re-hash that subject just yet. After a bit of digging through the memory banks, I thought it might be fun to revisit a manuscript collection we acquired in three parts back in 2011: the William Leonard Papers, 1864-1865 (Ms2011-106).

ms2011-106_leonard_diary_tp
Inside cover of Leonard’s 1864-1865 diary

William Leonard was born about 1843 in Massachusetts, as were his two sisters, Leonora and Roselia. In his letters, he often mentions Leonora, who he calls “Nora.” He was living with his family in Great Barrington when he was drafted into service in July 1863, supposedly for a three-year term with Company F, 16th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry. The following year, however, the 16th Regiment mustered out and along with the remaining veterans, Leonard was transferred to the 11th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry.

ms2011-106_leonard_letter_march151865
Page from Leonard’s March 15, 1865 letter to his mother, in which he writes, “You must keep up good courage + not get the blues for we are going to whip them out this Summer. we have got a good man to steer the machine, that fellow they call U. S. Grant. [Ulysses S. Grant] Sheridan [Philip Henry Sheridan] & Sherman [William Tecumseh Sherman] are giveing them fits. I have seen Grant [Ulysses S. Grant] & Mede [George Meade] a number of times this summer I had a great deal rather see you + Pa. I dont want to see Nora because she wanted me to go Soldiering”
The collection includes the 1864-1865 diary of Leonard, along with 35 letters written to his both is parents or specifically to his mother during the same time. His letters indicate that by August 1864 and through Lee’s surrender in April 1865, he served as an ambulance driver, shuttling the wounded from battlefield to hospital, primarily around the Petersburg area.

ms2011-106_leonard_letter_june151864
The earliest of Leonard’s letters in the collection, dated June 15, 1864. He writes about, among other things, the lack of food, stating, “most of the boys are out of rations again but we are going to draw this morning. I have a few hard tack + Coffe + Sugar yet. they had ought to give us rations for the nights to for they keep us up so much.”

While waiting to muster out in 1865, he was stationed around Washington, DC, where he continued to serve in a driver capacity, often civilians in and around the city. He continually reassures his mother not to worry about it and passes along war news, though he had a distinct lack of interest in the soldier’s life, writing, “we have got a good man to steer the machine, that fellow they call U. S. Grant. Sheridan & Sherman are giving them fits. I have seen Grant & Mede a number of times this summer I had a great deal rather see you + Pa. I dont want to see Nora because she wanted me to go soldiering”

ms2011-106_leonard_diary_apr251865
Pages from Leonard’s 1864-1865 diary, noting “Apr 25 Moving Camp and Washing Ambulances. Fireing a cannon every half hour all day. 13 guns this morning + 32 at night for the death of abram Lincoln President of the U.S. who was shot by a man by the name of Booth”

In spite of his medical association during the war, he does not hesitate to share his opinions on what he sees around him. In a May 1865 letter, he wrote that “The Doctors here dont have any thing fit to give any one and the bigest of them dont know how to doctor a hen anyway. They take the wounded men legs and arms off half the time. when there is no need of it, do it practice there has been a number of times I have heard of that…The Doct of the Regt was a clerk in an apothecary shop…” and the following month, detailing the sight of unburied dead men and horses on the battlefield.

After the war, Leonard returned to Massachusetts. He worked in a local woolen mill and later purchased and ran a plumbing and steam-fitting business. In June 1886, he married Hattie Goodsell (b. 1862). They had at least one daughter (Nellie, b. 1897).  It is unknown when Leonard died, but he does appear on the 1910 census and not on the 1920. Both Hattie and Nellie were boarding with another family in 1920, suggesting William died in the interim. Nellie later married Courtland Sparks and they had a daughter.

Since its acquisition, Leonard’s diary and letters have all be digitized. They are available on our digital platform. The images also include transcripts, which are searchable, in case you want to dig around and see what he talks about most! You can also see the finding aid for the collection online. And, of course, you can always visit us and see Williams’ words in person.