About this Collection
The Donald Benham Civil War Collection consists of 300 items (576 images) in one container, and spans the years 1806 to 1916, with the bulk dating from 1850 to 1870. The collection consists of correspondence, financial and legal records, military orders and records, speeches, and miscellaneous items comprising Civil War material amassed by collector Donald Benham.
Letters in the collection sent home by soldiers reveal details of camp life, enlistment payments and quotas, battle engagements, military strategies, issues regarding slavery, and social conditions in the Confederacy during its occupation by Union forces. Other items document diplomatic policy and military strategy, and include recruitment and mustering orders, supply and distribution records, and records of the Potomac Flotilla, a unit of the United States Navy created to protect communications in the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River and its tributaries from Confederate disruption. The collection includes letters from New York Tribune publisher Horace Greeley concerning Abraham Lincoln, the prosecution of the war, and political battles in Washington, D.C. A letter written from Tennessee by Union officer John P. Jones on August 24, 1862, addresses the evolution of his views on slavery stating, “I am getting to be more and more of an abolitionist.” A letter written by Will T. Simms on April 13, 1865, provides an eyewitness account of Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia, and his subsequent retreat westward. In addition, the collection contains a typescript of a speech by Union cavalry general William Woods Averell that offers retrospective accounts of wartime espionage and efforts to uncover spy networks in Washington, D.C., following the First Battle of Bull Run.
Notable correspondents represented in the collection include Thomas Cartwright, R. R. Dunn, Ninian Edwards, and Horace Greeley.
The collection is arranged alphabetically by topic and type of material.