Mapping Civil War Narratives

We are happy to announce that our new mapping project, Mapping Civil War Narratives, is now available online!

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This series of maps uses ArcGIS to highlight some of the WRC’s numerous Civil War collections (1861-1865). Researchers can now explore the multiple geographies of over 300 Civil War-era letters. From military operations to disease to courtship, these maps convey the potential of our archives’ diverse stories. You can, for example, follow the particular route of a soldier in the Army of the Potomac through his letters or explore the communication in and out of a single city. Use filters to see where men and women were discussing slavery, politics, battles, or military medicine.

Visit the website to take a tour of these maps. Or, if you are familiar with ArcGIS, scroll to the website’s last page to go directly to our two feature maps.

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View the connections between where letters from each collection were sent and received.

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Or look at individual locations to see where letters were written, where they were received, and what locations the authors mentioned within their letters during four years of war.

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You can explore the collections by mutual themes, as well. See where authors discussed battles, politics, or particular officers.

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Part of an ongoing effort under the new Fondren Fellows program, we expect to continue to grow and evolve this project as more and more of the WRC’s collections are added.

We want to thank Christina Regelski, our Fondren Fellow, for all of her hard work over the fall semester. She did more with our letters than we could have imagined.

Happy researching!

Col. Cyrus Smith and the Organ

Colonel Cyrus Burnet Smith

Colonel Cyrus Burnet Smith

A few months ago, our Assistant Head of Special Collections, Amanda Focke, started corresponding with an individual interested in our collection, Colonel Cyrus Burnet Smith U.S. Civil War papers.

Scot Huntington did not start doing research on Dr. Smith’s war career or his groundbreaking medical writings because he studied Civil War history or was a descendant. Instead Huntington found his name (“Cyrus Burnett Smith pumped this organ” 1850-1854) inscribed on the biggest pipe of an organ that Huntington and others had taken apart to restore.

Because of that bit of graffiti from young Smith, Huntington tracked down the man’s origins. Smith originally from North Hadley, Massachusetts attended Berkshire Medical School and graduated in 1859. His graduation thesis became an important text in the 19th century. He outlined the proper way to administer chloroform without asphyxiating the patient.*

Dr. Smith joined the 34th Massachusetts Volunteers in 1862 as Assistant Surgeon. On March 15, 1865, he accepted a commission as Surgeon in the 11th Massachusetts Volunteers, spending most of the Civil War in hospitals in Virginia and the Maryland/D. C. area. He was discharged in Washington D. C. July 31, 1865. After accomplishing so much, poor Dr. Smith died in a fire after his house was struck by lightning at the age of 40.

Scot Huntington used the sources that he acquired from us and others to write, “Wm. A. Johnson Opus 16, 1850: Its History and Restoration” a chapter within the book Johnson Organs 1844-1898 Wm. A Johnson Johnson Organ Co. Johnson & Son: A Documentary Issued in Honor of the Two Hundredth Anniversary of His Birth 1816-2016.

We’re so happy that our small collection helped tell the story of Dr. Smith and an organ.

*Source used: “Wm. A. Johnson Opus 16, 1850: Its History and Restoration” by Scot Huntington

Online exhibit features Autry collection

Autry family on Mirror Lake, Yosemite Valley, CaliforniaThe Woodson’s latest online exhibit highlights the lives and times of the James Lockhart Autry family.  “Autry Family from the Alamo to Rice University” describes the journey of 4 generations of the Autry family. Included are digitized letters written by Micajah Autry who travelled west from Tennessee to seek out new opportunities in Texas and joined the Texas Revolution. The letters written by Autry to his wife describe the fighting with Mexico. Micajah Autry would fight and die at the Alamo. For his service, Anson Jones, President of the Republic of Texas presented his widow 1,920 acres in Navarro County, Texas. His grandson, James Lockhart Autry II would come to Texas as a young man to study the law and maintain the land.

James Lockhart Autry II would become an influential lawyer and align himself with the burgeoning oil industry in Texas. He was secretary, director, and general attorney for The Texas Company (now Texaco). His family would become prominent Houstonians and lifelong supporters of Rice University. The exhibit includes photographs of Autry House, the first “student center” at Rice, a community house gifted by the family as a place for all students and faculty to gather.

Autry House, Rice Institute

This digitized material forms part of a larger physical collection accessible at Fondren Library, which includes business papers, correspondence, photographs and memorabilia related to the James Lockhart Autry family of Texas (1875-present) and of North Carolina (1832), Tennessee (1824-1840) and Mississippi (1840-1875). These materials show the life style of a family who moved into Texas and played an important role in developing both the social and economic framework of Houston. Finding aid to the collection is available at: http://library.rice.edu/collections/WRC/finding-aids/manuscripts/0003

Civil War Journals and Diaries

Albert Sherrad Campbell's Signature

Albert Sherrad Campbell’s Signature

Part of our physical collection includes a wide array of journals, diaries, and log books. We have digitized some of these, most notably from the Civil War era. There are four notebooks from Albert Sherrad Campbell who describes battles and other military events in Missouri, Virginia, and Maryland. Although we only know where Campbell was from, based on his opening epigraph by George Washington, he was a Union supporter.

We also have Alexander Hobbs’ diary and his sketch of Galveston harbor. In addition to reporting the Battle of Galveston, he tells what he did on Thanksgiving in 1862.

Finally, we have John C. Crosby’s diary that details his time in the Union army as part of the Seventh Maine Regiment. Instead of writing about battles, he focuses on life inside a hospital, where he might have been an orderly. His diary also records his life post-war as a farm worker.

New exhibit online: “Dick Dowling and Sabine Pass in History and Memory”

Dick Dowling statue, Houston, Texas

Dick Dowling statue, Houston, Texas

Dick Dowling and Sabine Pass in History and Memory – a new online exhibit which was developed by Dr. Caleb McDaniel, Asst. Prof. of History, Rice University, and his students, in collaboration with Rice’s Fondren Library and the Houston Public Library’s Houston Metropolitan Research Center.

Dowling is most famous for his role in the Battle of Sabine Pass, fought
on September 8, 1863. A statue of Dick Dowling was the first public
civic art in Houston, and this exhibit looks at who Dowling was and how
his memory has been presented over time, partly through the lens of the
Dowling statue.

The exhibit consists of two major sections, the first on the public
memory of Dick Dowling in Houston since 1863 and the second on slavery
and the battle of Sabine Pass.

This exhibit and others available at exhibits.library.rice.edu are powered by the open source software, Omeka, housed in a cloud-based server which is administered by Fondren Library.

Union soldier’s letters from camps in Texas and Louisiana

Dunban to parents, from Camp Stanley, Victoria, Tex., November 29, 1865

Dunban to parents, from Camp Stanley, Victoria, Tex., November 29, 1865

Newly online!

We are working towards posting all 12 of John R. Dunban’s letters to his family. As of today there are four online, with more to follow.

This collection consists of twelve letters written by Union soldier John R. Dunban to his family in the last years of the Civil War (1864-1865).

The content of the letters is mostly personal but also contains descriptions of the states Dunban was stationed in and news of his regiment. Locations include Headquarters at Blue Springs, Tennessee; Strawberry Plains, Tennessee; Camp Harper, Tennessee; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Camp Harker, Alabama; Camp Jackson, New Orleans; and Camp Stanley, Victoria, Texas.

Dunban writes about war-related issues such as the “dumb ague” sickness, treatment of army deserters, and elections held within the regiment.

The finding aid for the Dunban collection also contains links to the individual letters.

A diary of the US Civil War on the Texas coast

Did you know there were U.S. Civil War  prisoners of war in Houston?

The diary of Alexander Hobbs, a private in the 42nd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, reflects on his role as a northern soldier, his first and only journey to the Deep South, the distinct wartime culture of the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coasts, the immorality of slavery, death, the battle of Galveston in January 1863, and life as a prisoner of war.

Read more about it or view the original diary at the Woodson Research Center.