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Paula B. & Thomas W. Harvey Collection of Civil War Letters

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The Paula B. and Thomas W. Harvey Collection of Civil War Letters  consists of 250 handwritten letters, the bulk of which were authored by  former Ohio Wesleyan University student Thomas Sumption Armstrong  (1835-1909) and George Washington Porter (1838-1888).  The collection  also includes three diaries kept by Thomas Armstrong in 1865, soldiers'  letters printed in local newspapers, and several other primary documents  concerning the principal authors contained herein.  The letters in the  collection, largely correspondence between family members and close  friends, detail the personal narratives of several men who enlisted and  fought for the Union during the Civil War (1861-1865) as well as the  lives of the relatives who carried on in their absence.  While enlisted,  Thomas, George, and other soldiers represented in the collection wrote  home frequently, describing the realities of military life, combat  engagements in which they were involved, local communities they  encountered on their travels, and news and rumors that reached them at  camp.  Their letters provide insight into the elements of daily life  that preoccupied Union soldiers and the conditions in which they were  required to live for months and years on end.  Early letters in the  collection also offer a unique account of student life on Ohio  Wesleyan's campus, where Thomas was a student in the Preparatory  Department from 1859-1860.


The Armstrong and Porter families originally settled on farmlands in  Muskingum County, Ohio outside Zanesville.  Their members maintained  regular communication with each other.  The primary connection was  between Thomas and George's sister, Francis 'Frank' Pamela Porter  (1840-1882).  The two wrote affectionately to one another as early as  1859.  At the outset of the war, Thomas, George, and Thomas's younger  brother Wilbur Fisk (1841-1862) enlisted with the same regiment, the  78th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, organized in Fultonham.  Letters home from  each during their time together in the 78th often mention each other in  close detail.  In late 1862, the Porter family relocated to Clinton in  DeWitt County, Illinois, and continued to support themselves through  farming. Thomas and Francis married in 1866, sustaining the bond between  the families. Francis collected much of the correspondence she received  from Thomas, George, and other authors represented here during the  Civil War period.  While her own letters do not appear in the  collection, it is primarily through her dutiful safekeeping that the  narrative these writings constitute has survived.


The Harvey Collection was donated to the OWU Libraries Special  Collections Department in 2016 by Paula B. and Thomas W. Harvey. Dr.  Thomas Harvey, is the great grandson of Thomas S. Armstrong and Francis  Porter and great grandnephew of George W. Porter.


This digital collection was published in 2017.

Featured Books


Seeing the Elephant

Awarded Distinctive Favorite Honors by the 2022 NYC Bick Book Award Competition

Distinguished Favorite in the 2022 Independent Press Competition 


Answering Lincoln's Call

Awarded the Distinguished Favorite Honor by the 2023 Independent Press Award Competition

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