MS 574 mf - Isaac N. & Rebecca (Alban) Alexander Papers
|Title||MS 574 mf - Isaac N. & Rebecca (Alban) Alexander Papers|
The correspondence and papers in the Alexander Family Papers were, with few exceptions, generated during the Civil War. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence between Isaac N. Alexander and his wife Rebecca (Alban) Alexander. Although some of these are courtship letters written during the 1850s, most of them were written by Isaac to his wife while he was serving in the 46th Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The collection also contains some family correspondence to and from Rebecca and to and from members of the company that Alexander commanded. Some official correspondence and commissar's receipts from Alexander's company are also included in the collection.
The collection was transferred for microfilming by Paul Yon from the Van Wert County Historical Society (Van Wert, Ohio) with the cooperation of Mrs. Helen Prill 1 May 1990. The collection was processed and the register prepared by James Kaser, a doctoral student in American Culture, in May, 1990.
The letters in this collection were primarily written by Isaac N. Alexander and his wife Rebecca (Alban) Alexander. Isaac was born 14 December 1832 in Harrison County, Ohio and studied at Hagerstown Academy and Oberlin College. He met Rebecca, born 14 July 1834, in Oberlin where she was also studying. Each of them taught school in different parts of Ohio after leaving Oberlin, Rebecca in Allen Township (Hancock County) and Isaac in Winesburg (Holmes County) and maintained their friendship by corresponding (a number of these letters survive in the collection). After reading law with John A. Bigham in Cadiz, Ohio, Isaac was in Van Wert by May 1856 where he was teaching again and editing the American. This publication was the local voice of the Free Soil Party and its main purpose was to promote John C. Fremont's presidential campaign. In May of 1857, Alexander ended his involvement with the newspaper and devoted his energies to establishing a law practice (he was admitted to the Bar in the same year).
During 1856 and 1857, Rebecca was living in Findlay, Ohio and it was in that town that the two were married the week of 25 June 1857. They had three children: Ella (Mrs. Ella Alexander Boole of Brooklyn, New York, a prominent figure in the Women's Christian Temperance Union), Emma, and William. Both Ella and Emma graduated from Wooster College and William studied a year at that institution and a year at what is now the University of Michigan before studying law.
During the Civil War Isaac served almost continuously from 1861 to 1864. He enlisted as a private in the 15th Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the first year of the War but returned to Van Wert in August of 1861 when his period of enlistment ended. In September of the same year, however, he reenlisted in the 46th Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry, initially holding the position of Second Lieutenant. From January to June of 1863, Alexander was in Tennessee (Grand Junction, Shiloh, Fort Pickering and, LaGrange). In the summer of 1863 he fought in the battle of Vicksburg, the capture of Jackson, Mississippi, and the battle of Chattanooga. In 1864, he saw action at Kenesaw Mountain, Georgia, and the capture of Atlanta and ended his military career in Savannah, Georgia where he received news of the acceptance of his resignation and was discharged 22 December 1864. By this time he had been made a Lieutenant-Colonel and was in command of the 46th's Company K.
After his return to Van Wert, Alexander resumed his law practice and, in succeeding years, was involved in politics. In 1872, he was elected to the convention called to amend Ohio's state constitution. He was chosen as a representative to the electoral college in 1876 and cast his vote for Rutherford B. Hayes. In 1888, he was a delegate to the Republican National Convention held in Chicago, where he supported John Sherman for President. During the final months of his life, he served as United States District Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. He died 11 December 1890 in Van Wert following an illness that lasted several months (his wife, Rebecca, had died in August of 1888).
|Scope and Content|
The bulk of the materials in this collection consist of letters written by Isaac N. Alexander to his wife, Rebecca (Alban) Alexander, while he was serving in the 46th Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
Alexander, who by the end of his period of enlistment was a Lieutenant-Colonel in command of Company K, was involved in many of the major battles of Sherman's march to the sea. The letters he wrote to his wife detail camp conditions, and describe battles. However, perhaps out of a desire not to worry his wife (there are a number of passages in which he attempts to reassure her), battle descriptions are very restrained.
The strength of the letters may well lie in the fact that they often deal with the mundane and for this reason should be useful to social historians of the Civil War period. Alexander writes about not getting paid and spends a great deal of time speculating on when he will be paid; reports on the provisions available to him and his company; talks about camp illnesses; mentions his loneliness; makes references to the weather and its effects on the comforts of the troops; and asks Rebecca to send items of clothing, stamps and tobacco.
Major parts of many of his letters are focused on the life he left behind in Van Wert. As well as requesting news of the town, he also gives his wife directions about managing the land he owns and taking care of financial matters on his behalf (the business itself is often conducted by letter directly with the parties concerned, but Rebecca is told to check that action has been taken and she is often responsible for actually disbursing money). His directions to his wife are often very detailed, particularly when he describes the care she is to take of his garden and small orchard. (Interestingly, he sends cuttings of grapevines, roses, and other plants, as well as seeds from the South for her to plant in his garden, and from the way in which he writes about them demonstrates the great importance he attaches to their survival.)
The letters Rebecca writes to her husband report on town happenings, family news, and respond to his queries, thus providing some idea of how families coped when one of their members was enlisted.
In addition to this core of material that forms the center of the collection, there are several other correspondence series. Next in order of importance are Isaac and Rebecca's courtship letters. These twenty-one pieces of correspondence dating from 1854 through 1857 provide biographical details about this stage of their lives. Since they seem to have had little in person contact during the period, they explore their feelings in the letters and negotiate over wedding plans, making the correspondence of interest to social historians concerned with nineteenth century courtship. Another series is made up of correspondence Isaac conducted with people other than his wife and includes one detailed letter from Caleb Roberts, first lieutenant in Alexander's company, informing him of camp conditions while he was on leave in August of 1863; several business letters; and a letter to his daughter Emma announcing his appointment as United States District Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. Letters written by and to members of Alexander's company (eight letters dating from 1863 through 1864) constitute another series and mention such matters as the Vallandigham conflict and reactions to it in Van Wert, describe household concerns, and include news of Van Wert. One of these letters, signed "Omega," and intended for the "Editor of the Bulletin" written from LaGrange, Tennessee, includes a great deal of revealing information about camp conditions. The series of letters Rebecca received from friends and relatives (nine letters dating from 1857 through 1864) are of limited interest compared to the other correspondence in the collection. The same is true of the letters written on behalf of Alexander when he was seeking the appointment of Assistant Commissary of Subsistence (five letters dating from April through November of 1864).
CORRESPONDENCE - ISAAC N. ALEXANDER AND REBECCA (ALBAN) ALEXANDER
ISAAC N. ALEXANDER CORRESPONDENCE
REBECCA (ALBAN) ALEXANDER CORRESPONDENCE
COMPANY K, 46TH O.V.I. CORRESPONDENCE - MISCELLANEOUS
REGIMENTAL TREASURY STATEMENTS
PROPERTY TAX RECEIPT - PERSONAL
|Order of Microfilming|
Note: Dates are given for each letter filmed, even when two or more letters have the same date.