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Neighbors of Kane County

Access to Civil War letters made possible by grant at the Batavia Public Library

Jul 06, 2016 12:33PM ● By Neighbors Magazines

In its continuing effort to preserve local history, Batavia Public Library recently completed a Civil War Letters and Diaries Digitization Project. The project included the transcription and digitization of letters and diaries written by Batavia soldiers, chronicling their experiences from 1861 to 1865, as well as letters from family and friends to the soldiers, which provide perspectives from the home front.

The collection contains numerous letters between Captain Don Carlos Newton (52nd Illinois) and his wife, Mary M. Newton, providing an intimate look at their lives. There are also letters between the Newtons and others during the War. Newton's regiment was involved in the Battle of Shiloh, Sherman's March to the Sea, and many other engagements. The collection also contains the letters and diary of G. W. Young (124th Illinois), and three diaries by Fred Morris (124th Illinois). Young's diary reports his experiences during the historically significant Vicksburg Campaign. Morris's diary covers 1864-1865, during which time his regiment saw action in Mississippi and Alabama.

Digitization provides 24/7 access to the letters and diaries-which are in fragile condition-to Batavians, Civil War researchers, and people interested in the actions of Illinois regiments. Over 150 years after the Civil War's end, interest in the topic remains high among the general public. The letters and diaries are full-text searchable.

The project is a collaboration of the Library, the Batavia Depot Museum, and the Batavia Historical Society; the latter organization owns the letters and diaries. It was supported in part by an award from the Illinois State Historical Records Advisory Board, through funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), National Archives and Records Administration.

The labor-intensive proofreading of 1,195 pages of material was completed by a number of volunteers from the Board of Library Trustees, Friends of the Batavia Public Library, the Batavia Public Library Foundation, and the Batavia Historical Society.

The letters and diaries also were microfilmed, for the purposes of preservation.

To take a look at these personal and historical documents, visit > Local History > Batavia's Civil War History.