We are so excited to announce that the collection of Civil War letters in the Drew Archival Library of the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society has been featured by the Library of Congress.
The John Southworth letters are included in the Library’s online “Documentary Heritage of the Civil War (Part 2, 2012: “Gone to be a Soldier”) ” project. The project is a part of the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections. (NUCMUC)
The letters were written by Private John Southworth (pronounced Southerd), born in Duxbury in 1843. At age 17, he and his brother, Walter, enlisted in the 18th Massachusetts Infantry, Company E. Southworth also wrote home whenever he had a spare moment to his Duxbury cousin, Emma Paulding whose letters are part of the Emma C. Paulding Papers in the Society’s archives.
The archives has six letters from Southworth to his cousin, Emma, who also lived in Duxbury. In them, he described the horrors of war, the infantry unit’s new uniforms, his displeasure with soldiers drinking too much, his fear of being killed, and the suicide of a soldier who shot himself in his tent. He also expressed his longing to return home and at times, adopted a flirtatious tone with his cousin.
During the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864, Southworth and others from his regiment were captured by the Confederate Army. He was taken to Andersonville, a Rebel prison notorious for its abusive conditions. On June 24, 1864, John Southworth died of dysentery at age 21. His grave is one of 13,737 at the National Cemetery in Andersonville, Georgia.
Other sites featured as part of the “Documentary Heritage of the Civil War” project include Washington and Lee University, the Rutherford Hayes Presidential Center, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the Maine Historical Society. The mission of the program is to provide and promote bibliographic access to the nation’s documentary heritage.