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White Family Papers

Identifier: MsC0889

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Scope and Contents

This collection is comprised mostly of letters written home from various sites by several people associated with the White family, dating from 1861-1865. There are no envelopes, so we don't know to whom they were addressed, other than salutations such as "Dear Parents," or where they were sent. The letters come from Monore County, Missouri; Ironton, Missouri; Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Helena, Arkansas; near Vicksburg; Millikens Bend, Louisiana; Hard Times, Louisiana; Alworth, Georgia; Memphis, Tennessee; and Fayetteville, North Carolina along with some letters with no location noted. These letters come from several people, including James Howell White, Haut or Hout (which is perhaps a nickname for James, who also apparently signed himself as "Howell"), Ned, and G[eorge?]. L. White. Mention is made of Sid. The assumption is that these were all brothers and all serving in the Union Army. Since Mount Pleasant and Davenport are named in the official documents, we may assume the letters were written to a family in southeastern Iowa. The letters are accompanied by photocopies of handwritten transcriptions, sometimes with transcriber's note, such as "As judged by the style of the letter it was written by Ned." The transcriber is unknown.   Also included in the collection are official documents, such as promotion papers and discharge papers, from James H. White and George L. White, as well as various other documents including a contract selling land in Ohio to John H. White dated October 20, 1804; birth and death pages from a Bible (some of these are photocopies); Roster of Company K, 4th Iowa Infantry, 1904; and a handwritten note written by a distraught mother : "Charles my Deare Son if I never see you again in this world I hope to meet you in Heaven - This the 25 of July - Good Bye -- 1882."   James H. served in Company F, First Iowa Infantry Volunteers and Company B, 25th Iowa Volunteers. George L. served in Company K, 4th Iowa Cavalry. The letters offer a look into the everyday world of the soldier in the Civil War, such as this letter from Ned who, after enumerating their losses after Chickamauga, goes on to say:   "We are close of the bank of a deep creek behind crude earthworks, the Rebs about 300 yards on the other side in plain view. No picket firing allowed since day before yesterday. Our boys cross the creek, meet them halfway (without arms) trade coffee for tobacco, stop and chat and return. Our orders are not to fire unless they attempt an advance in which case we are to hold them as long as we can. The Reb pickets all have whiskey in canteens."   or this from a letter from Howell:   "On the fourth our Brigade was ordered to relieve a Brigade in the Pits. This we did. I will just say it commenced raining the evening of the second and rained most of the time up to the morning of the fifth. So you may guess it was a very disagreeable place in the Pits. We had not long to stay here. We went into the pits the afternoon of the fourth. The morning of the fifth the Rebs was all gone except one man who was left asleep. Our skirmishers took him in out of the wet."   This quote from a letter of G. L. White reveals how one man felt about the war:   " . . . if they have been in a general engagement I should not be surprised there (sic) loss was even more than has been reported for they will fight if they get a chance and they have been spilling for a fight and seem to have that desire above all others. Now I presume they have got it. I do hope if so it is not as bad as reported. As for myself I always thought it was time enough to do fighting when it came in the way or when it was necessary to fight without hoping or wishing that we could get a fight just for the name of fighting. For my part I did not come in the army for the name of fighting only. I came in to maintain the laws and constitution of the U.S. If it can be done without fighting let it be done or as little as possible. If we have to fight let it come just as well now as ever. I find a good many soldiers have not the right views on that one thing, that is judging from their talk."


  • Creation: 1804-1902


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.


0.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Consisting mostly of letters written home from three men, presumably brothers, in the Civil War - John Howell White, George L. White, and Ned [White] - this collecion also contains a deed for propertry acquired by John H. White in Ohio, official documents related to the mens' service in the Civil War, leaves from the family bible, and other documentation from the White family. The family was probably located in southeastern Iowa, near Mount Pleasant.

Method of Acquisition

Gift of Bob Chaney in 2001

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Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)