The Calvin Shedd Papers > The Digital Archives Project

The Digital Archives Project

The letters of Calvin Shedd, edited and reproduced here for the first time, tell a story of personal integrity and sacrifice in the words of a simple man who lived in a turbulent, complicated time. The Shedd letters add another fascinating source to our national reservoir of primary source materials relating to the Civil War. This virtual publication of the Calvin Shedd letters located the University of Miami Library, the University of South Carolina Library, and the Dartmouth College Library, is supplemented with a variety of visual images and annotated footnotes designed to enhance the eloquent words of a New Hampshire carpenter. Scholarly research on Calvin Shedd was made possible with a General Research Support Award, sponsored by the University of Miami, and the authors are grateful for this support. This award allowed for the examination and transcription of the Shedd Family Papers at Dartmouth College. A detailed analysis of the Dartmouth College Library collection was published in the Dartmouth College Library Bulletin, "The Calvin Shedd Papers: A Glimpse of the Civil War and Beyond," Volume XXXVIII, Number 1, November, 1997, pp. 28-45.

The Archives and Special Collections Department at the University of Miami Library houses a series of remarkable letters written by Calvin Shedd, a carpenter from New Hampshire, who enlisted in the Seventh Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteers and served the Union Army during the Civil War from 1862 - 1863. In these letters to his wife and three young daughters, Shedd recorded the debilitating physical hardships, the incredible tedium and the ever-present dangers of military life in Key West, Fort Jefferson and St. Augustine, Florida. Shedd wrote these fifty-three letters with great love, painstaking attention to detail, and a calm, reassuring hand. These documents convey the extraordinary circumstances that life in the Union Army offered one New Hampshire solider during the early years of the Civil War. Calvin Shedd has left us a lengthy commentary on a soldier's life in a sub-tropical military camp, with observations on the political and social implications of military decisions, and thoughtful discourses on the people, terrain, animals, fruits, climate, culture and the vagaries of life in the southernmost regions of Florida.

This digital project demonstrates the educational and documentary uses of the World Wide Web. Letters and documents from the life of this New Hampshire soldier in the Civil War are found at three academic college and university libraries. This project joins these three collections for the first time to provide historians and other researchers with a complete look at the man and his times. The transcribed letters are available for reading, either in summary or in full text. The letters are also embedded with links to background information and images. Readers can take advantage of these links to further their understanding of Calvin Shedd and his world. Where possible, images are provided to illustrate the people and places noted in Shedd’s letters. Unfortunately, no known images of Calvin Shedd appear to exist.

Several of the original letters are reproduced to illustrate Shedd’s handwriting and writing style. The transcripts of the letters follow Shedd’s punctuation, spelling, and wording exactly as written. Occasionally, a word or phrase is illegible in the original letter. In such cases, a notation of [ ] replaces the missing text. To make the letters more readable, however, the exact line spacing of the original pages is not followed. Shedd often wrote his letters in a very small and cramped hand, most likely to save paper and include as many details of life as possible. Paragraph breaks have been followed for the most part, though they are sometimes assumed and interjected to make the transcript easier to read.

Background information is intended to provide a brief understanding of the people and places mentioned in the letters. Much more can be learned about the Seventh New Hampshire Volunteers and the various stations and soldiers described in the letters.

In the Spring Semester of 1998, Ruthanne D. Vogel, a graduate student in the Florida State University School of Information Studies, began an internship program at the University of Miami Library with Associate Professors William E. Brown, Jr. (Head, Archives and Special Collections) and Lyn MacCorkle, (Head, Computer Assisted Search Services). In the course of her internship Ms. Vogel undertook a series of activities, including: marking up the transcripts of the Shedd letters, scanning pages of letters and images to illustrate the site, researching and compiling background information about Shedd and his regiment, and finally combining all of the above into this web site.

William E. Brown, Jr.
Archives & Special Collections Department, University of Miami Library.

This site was placed online July 6 1998, and was last updated May 10, 2012.