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Collection Edwin McMasters Stanton Papers, 1818 to 1921

About this Collection

The papers of lawyer and Secretary of War Edwin McMasters Stanton (1814-1869) span the years 1818-1921, with the bulk of the material originating between 1862 and 1870. They consist of approximately 7,650 items, most digitally scanned from 14 microfilm reels. The papers focus chiefly on Stanton's tenure as secretary of war under presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson and stress his role in the Union victory over the Confederacy and the first phase of Reconstruction. As revealed by his extensive correspondence, both the small and large tasks of winning the war came frequently within Stanton's purview. In addition to information on the reorganization of the War Department immediately after his arrival, there are reports from various state and departmental command posts, communications about army morale and discipline, and orders concerning the exchange of prisoners, the use of former slaves as soldiers, and the policies to be employed in occupied territories. The collection consists of correspondence, letterbooks, a draft of the annual report of the secretary of war for 1863, and the March 1862 proceedings of the War Board. Interspersed among the bound correspondence, which makes up most of the collection, are battle maps, reports, charts, and printed matter.  The papers are arranged in six series:

  • Correspondence, 1831-1870
    The Correspondence series, the largest in the collection, contains letters received by Stanton and copies of letters he sent, as well as maps, reports, and printed matter enclosed with Stanton’s correspondence. Subjects addressed in the correspondence include Stanton’s administration of the War Department during and after the Civil War, his relationships with presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s assassination, and interaction with the radical wing of the Republican Party. The major portion of the collection ends with letters of condolence to Stanton's wife on his death in 1869.
  • War Department, 1862-1863
    This series consists of proceedings of the War Board for March 1862 and a draft of the annual report of the War Department for 1863.
  • Letterbooks, 1863-1865
    Bound volumes of copies of letters sent by Edwin M. Stanton are contained in the Letterbooks series.
  • Miscellany, 1818-1921
    The Miscellany series contains “Facts and Opinions about Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War” by Willis Weaver, and memorabilia of Edwin M. Stanton and his father David Stanton.
  • Addition, 1856-1869
    The Addition consists of correspondence, chiefly with Stanton's mother and sister, and a diary of Stanton's niece, Nancy Tappan.
  • Oversize, 1815-1890
    This series includes oversize material, such as commissions, certificates, and other materials of David and Edwin M. Stanton. These materials are stored in oversize containers in the physical collection but are included as part of the above series in this online edition.