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Archival Collections - U.S. Civil War Era

Identifier: MS62 MS86

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The McCormick Library has several collections that contain correspondence, diaries, and other materials related to the Civil War era. Some materials describe the experiences of soldiers during the war, or who served in the territories; others document the “home front” trials and anxieties, and some provide reflections or analysis after the war.


  • 1837-1907


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on use of the materials in the department for research; all patrons must comply with federal copyright regulations.

Biographical / Historical

Sherwin Warren King was born on December 21, 1839, in Warrensville, Illinois, and died at the Battle of Chickamauga Creek on September 21, 1863. He was a sergeant in Company K, 42nd Regiment of the Illinois Volunteers. The S.W. King Collection (LXXXII) consists mainly of family letters from 1861-1863, his journals for this period, and some history about the King family. It also includes a National Park Service handbook for the Chickamauga and Chattanooga battlefields. A register to the collection describes holdings in detail.

Joseph B. Dorr recruited soldiers for the 12th Regiment of the Iowa Volunteers. The Dorr Collection (LXII) broadly consists of manuscripts, documents, journal entries, and family correspondence written between 1837 and 1902. The major portion concerning Col. Dorr covers the war years 1861-1865. Col. Dorr wrote letters to his wife and kept a journal, even during his imprisonment in 1862. He also drafted a history of the 8th Iowa Cavalry for 1863-1864.

Rev. Willis Weaver was chaplain of the Illinois Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion. He had a scholarly interest in Edwin M. Stanton, President Lincoln’s Secretary of War, and delivered several addresses about Stanton and Gen. William T. Sherman. The Weaver Collection (LXXXVI) contains typescripts and published versions of these addresses and revisions. Jared W. Young, amateur Civil War scholar and collector, donated this collection along with other materials on Gen. Sherman between 1928 and 1932.

Abraham D. Graves (XL) was a schoolteacher and farmer whose family settled in the DeKalb County area in Illinois. Graves kept diaries, most with daily entries, during the years 1847-1907. Although he reported for service when Illinois volunteers were drafted, he was not selected. His diaries are an account of rural life generally far removed from the front. However, they are a rich source of material about agriculture, climate, education, goods, services, and attitudes about life during this period. Julia P. Cutler's journal (West. Ms. 71) details life in Ohio during 1861-1862 and is also full of details about the "home front" during the Civil War. Most of these materials were donated to the McCormick Library by descendants connected with Northwestern University.

Henry G. Bilbie, a member of Company B of the 7th Regiment of the Minnesota Volunteers, kept a journal (West. Ms. 83) from May 30 - September 12, 1863, during General Henry Hastings Sibley's second expedition against the Sioux in Minnesota and the Dakota Territory. On May 30, 1863, were ordered to rendezvous with Gen. Henry Hastings Sibley at Camp Pope, near Fort Ridgely, about 150 miles from St. Paul, to participate in his second expedition against the Sioux. The expedition left on June 16, 1863, marching nearly 600 miles in six weeks, despite drought and intense temperatures between 94 and 108 degrees. Between July 24 and July 28 they engaged Sioux forces at Big Mound, Dead Buffalo Lake, and Stony Lake, coming within a few miles of Devil’s Lake, Dakota Territory. They forced the Sioux encampment across the Missouri River, but not having been joined by Major General Alfred Sully’s forces, and being short of rations, they returned to Minnesota. Bilbie’s journal covers the entire expedition until his return to Minneapolis. He documents trail hardships, weather, terrain and scenery, and encounters with various native groups, including scouts, friendly encampments, and hostile forces.


1 Boxes

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Henry G. Bilbie's journal (West. Ms. 83) was donated to Northwestern University Library by his grandaughter, Eleanor F. Lewis.

Guide to the Archival Collections - U.S. Civil War Era
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US