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Harrison Family Letters, 1854-1869 | Special Collections & University Archives

By Meghann Herd and Dakota Greenwich

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Collection Overview

Title: Harrison Family Letters, 1854-1869Add to your cart.

Primary Creator: Harrison, J.S.

Extent: 0.2

Arrangement: Chronological

Subjects: United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Sources

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The Harrison Family Papers are comprised of 17 personal letters written primarily between Mr. J. S. Harrison and his wife, Julia E. Harrison during his enlistment. Letters from Julila and Mr. Harrison’s family are also included; a letter from Sallie (unknown relation) to a Mr. West; and one from Sallie writing to her husband.

Two letters predate the Civil War, one in which a sister to either Mr. or Mrs. Harrison writes of the family coming to see “the negro” which the Harrisons intend on selling and speaks a bit about Mary, her family’s slave, whom they will hire out for Christmas. A later letter from J.S. Harrison to wife Julia mentions two slaves, Sam and Henry, who had successfully run away.

Mr. Harrison’s correspondance with his wife dates back to September 13th, 1861 in which he explains he is stationed at a boarding house attending the sick. Subsequent letters speak of certain battles and run-ins with “Lincolnists.”  In some letters he sends his wife money in the amounts of $10 or $20, and in others he divulges his discontentment and boredom with the war and the Southern Confederacy, describing his surroundings as a bunch of “swamps and frog ponds” and often complains that there is nothing to do. He writes that his regiment travels 5 to 10 miles a day.

In his letters from 1863 to 1864 he declares the “war will end with Abe’s Presidential Career” and that their “cause is just and God will give us the victory” but then his attitude takes a shift mid-1864, writing how he is “tired of the cruel war….Yanks are determined to...destroy this country”. In the same letter he mentions how he is staying in a private house because of an injury he received. He tells his wife “You must not let your temper run too high with the Lincolnites as they have the advantage now”. His last letter concerning the War is dated July 22nd, 1864.

The locations of his letters are sent first from East Tennessee, and later from Kentucky (Mills Springs, Camp Waldy, Camp Milloparego), Alabama (Decater), and Mississippi (Corinth, Okolona).

The Collection also includes letters that post-date the Civil War (1869) from a Mrs. Sallie writing to her husband and to a Mr. R. B. West, in which she speaks of church, her family, and going on buggy rides.

Collection Historical Note

Dr. J. S. Harrison was born May 8, 1831 in Wilson County, Tennessee to father Edmon R. harrison and mother R. S. Harrison. He attended the Union Academy in Wilson County moving on to Alpine College in Rome, Tennessee. After graduating, Harrison attended the Medical College in Nashville from 1854 to 1855, graduating with a degree in medicine in 1855. Harrison began practicing medicine out of Liberty, Tennessee in October, 1855.

Julia Harrison was born February 1st, 1834, and married J. S. Harrison on December 23, 1856. She remained in Liberty, Tennessee until the breakout of the Civil War.

Harrison enlisted as a private in Company E of the First Battalion of Tennessee Calvary of the Confederate Army under T. M. Allison from June 28th 1861 to May 1862. Harrison re-enlisted in May 1862 for three years and was promoted to third Lieutenant of Company C of the Second Battalion of Tennessee Calvary. He served in this rank and position for the entirety of his 3 years with Company C. Often participating in nearly every military action, Harrison was frequently in commany of Company C, particularly after their leading officers, Captain McKnight and Lieutenant Turney were permanently disabled in battle. Harrison also participarted in the campaigns of General Zollicoffer, and was in command of Company C during the Hood Campaign in December, 1864.

During his time as a military soldier, Harrison was located at Camp Beauregard, Kentucky, Mill Springs, Kentucky, Camp Waldy, Kentucky, Decater, Alabama, Burnsville, Mississippi, Okolona, Mississippi, and Corinth, Mississippi. According to a memoir written by a fellow soldier, Harrison participated in nearly every action in which the 2nd Tennessee Calvary was involved as either surgeon or soldier. Notable battles Harrison participated in include the Battle of Mill Springs, which took place on January 19th, 1982, and the Battle of Harrisburg, which took place in July, 1864. During the Battle of Harrisburg, Harrison's arm was broken and his shoulder injured, which he recovered from.

Harrison's companies often captured prisoners of war and killed Union soldiers in battles and skirmishes, which he recounts in his letters. In some skirmished, his company killed up to 15 soliders and captured 15 to 25 prisoners. However, Harrison surrenders with Forrest's Calvary Corps, under Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest, in May of 1865 and was subsequently paroled in Gainesville, Alabama.

After the war, Harrison returned to Tennessee and moved to Smithville in DeKalb County, where he continued to practice medicine. In 1883, Harrison moved to McMinnville to practice medicine.

Biographical Note

Mr. J. S. Harrison, from Liberty, Tennessee, fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War where he served as a surgeon and later a commissary.

Subject/Index Terms

United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Sources

Administrative Information

Repository: Special Collections & University Archives

Accruals: 9999-201

Access Restrictions: This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions: These materials are in the public domain. However, the nature of historical archival and manuscript collections means that copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. Copyright resides with the creators of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. Requests for permission to publish must be submitted to the Head of Special Collections, San Diego State University, Library and Information Access. Permissions is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical item and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder(s), which must also be obtained in order to publish. Materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials.

Acquisition Source: Purchased.

Related Materials:

United States Civil War Collection, 1811-1987

Asa Sackman Diaries, 1861-1862

Preferred Citation: Identification of item, folder title, box number, Harrison Family Letters, Special Collections and University Archives, Library and Information Access, San Diego State University.


Box and Folder Listing


Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Harrison Family Letters, 1854-1877],
[All]

Series 1: Harrison Family Letters, 1854-1877Add to your cart.
Box 1Add to your cart.
Item 1: Letter to Julia Harrison from Olif Johnson, May 4, 1854Add to your cart.
Scope and Contents note: This letter, written by Olif Johnson, includes commentary on an expected marriage, family matters, and a change in weather.
Item 2: Letter to J. S. Harrison and Julia Harrison, 1857Add to your cart.
Scope and Contents note: This letter is a family letter written to G.S. Harrison and wife, Julia, from their sister/sister in law Ellen, detailing the on goings of their parents and siblings. There is a note on the Harrison's contemplation of selling a slave included in the letter.
Item 3: Letter to Julia Harrison from J. S. Harrison, September 13, 1861Add to your cart.
Scope and Contents note: Letter contents include updates on Harrison's position in the Confederate Army, future plans to visit home, and thoughts on the war and companions.
Item 4: Letter to Julia Harrison from J. S. Harrison, December 7, 1861Add to your cart.
Scope and Contents note: The letter contents include a recount of a small shoot out between North and South troops near Mills Springs, Kentucky and updates regarding daily life as a confederate soldier.
Item 5: Letter to Julia Harrison from J. S. Harrison, December 12, 1861Add to your cart.
Scope and Contents note: Letter contents include recounts of shootings and battle updates between Harrison's company and Northern soldiers, in which they killed 15 men and took 15 prisoners. Harrison received word, mid letter, that his company killed 12 to 15 more men and took 11 more prisoners in a skirmish in the middle of the night.
Item 6: Letters to Julia from J. S. Harrison and W. W. Harrison, December 23, 1861Add to your cart.
Scope and Contents note: Letter contents include an anniversary note from G. S. Harrison to Julia, recounting and reminding her of his love and an accompanying gift of $10. The letter contents also include commentary from W. W. Harrison to Julia and recounts of company moral and bad weather.
Item 7: Letter to Julia Harrison from J. S. Harrison, January 1862Add to your cart.
Scope and Content note: Letter contents includes recounts of battle engagement near Mill Springs, Kentucky, updates on Harrison's hurt shoulder, and a gift of $20 to his wife.
Item 8: Letter to Julia from J. S. Harrison, January 7, 1862Add to your cart.
Scope and Contents note: Letter contents include an update on Harrison's hurt shoulder, and commentary of the delivery of mail to his wife.
Item 9: Letter to Julia Harrison from J. S. Harrison, n.d.Add to your cart.
Scope and Contents note: Letter contents correspondence with wife.
Item 10: Letter to Julia Harrison from J. S. Harrison, n.d.Add to your cart.
Scope and Contents note: Letter contents include recounts of the passing of a young soldier named A. N. Ramsey, whom Harrison befriended in Knoxville, and his subsequent burial. Ramsey may have been a part of the Sixteenth Alabama Regiment. The letter also includes a short epitaph or piece of writing on Ramsey for his burial. The letter also includes updates on Harrison's company and leaders.
Item 11: Letter to Julia Harrison from J. S. Harrison, March 15, 1862Add to your cart.
Scope and Contents note: Letter contents include commentary on disapproval of Confederate Army and leadership, as well as disapproval of leaving home state for Alabama. The letter recounts travel on foot and current immediate leadership.
Item 12: Letter to Julia Harrison from J. S. Harrison, April 23, 1862Add to your cart.
Scope and Contents note: Letter written n Burnsville, Mississippi. Letter contents include health updates, moral updates, commentary on Harrison's horse, and well wishes to wife.
Item 13: Letter to Julia Harrison from J. S. Harrison, February 3, 1863Add to your cart.
Scope and Contents note: Letter written in Okolona, Mississippi. Letter contents include health updates, location updates, and commentary on military resignation and daily life.
Item 14: Letters to Julia Harrison from J. S. Harrison, March 1-7, 1863Add to your cart.
Letter date March 1, March 4, and March 7, 1863.
Item 15: Letter to Julia from J. S. Harrison, May 22, 1864Add to your cart.
Item 16: Letter to Julia Harrison from J. S. Harrison, July 22, 1864Add to your cart.
Item 17: Letter to R. B. West, September 26, 1869Add to your cart.
Letter signed by "Sallie"
Item 18: Letter to R. B. West, July 1, 1877Add to your cart.
Letter signed by "Sallie"


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