Press Release - Traumas and Triumphs of Civil War Era Documented in New Huntington Library Acquisitions

January 25, 2013


Library Collectors’ Council’s purchase of family archive and early railroad photographs bolsters holdings in 19th-century American history


Council also purchases rare Medieval church document, set of letters by Charles Dickens, among other treasures


Papers of Jonathan Davis Hale (1817–1898). Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Papers of Jonathan Davis Hale (1817–1898), a Unionist from Tennessee who served as a scout in Kentucky during the Civil War. This extensive archive of 300 items (more than 1,500 total pages) documents the turmoil of irregular warfare in Tennessee and Kentucky. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.


SAN MARINO, Calif.—Two remarkable collections representing the twin pillars of 19th-century American history—the Civil War and westward expansion—were among the items purchased recently at the 16th annual meeting of its Library Collectors’ Council, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens has announced.


The papers of Jonathan Davis Hale (1817–1898), some 300 items in all, document the turbulent life of an extraordinary family whose support for the Union during the Civil War forced them to flee their home in East Tennessee for the duration of the conflict. In addition the council acquired a group of 34 stereographs by Alfred A. Hart (1816–1908) documenting the construction of Collis P. Huntington’s Central Pacific Railroad in the mid- to late 1860s. That group brings the number of Hart photographs at The Huntington to 357, the most complete archive of stereographs in any library.


Also purchased: A set of letters from Charles Dickens; a collection of papers from the family of Henry Z. Osborne (1848–1923), whose successive careers carried him from mining to newspapering and finally to the halls of Congress; a rare 13th-century manuscript of a text dating back to Pope Gregory the Great (ca. 540–604); and a collection of early 19th-century correspondence between a Massachusetts congressman and his friend, a general who had served in the Mexican-American war.


“The purchases this year underscore our long-standing commitment to add material in those fields where our collections are strongest,” said Steve Hindle, W. M. Keck Foundation Director of Research at The Huntington. “Academics and authors come from far and wide to examine our collections. From a research perspective, the materials we’ve just acquired are a scholar’s dream come true—they add depth and texture to The Huntington’s world-renowned collection of archives and images.”


One of The Huntington’s strongest collecting areas, the Civil War, for instance, is typically imagined as a conflict between two uniformed armies battling it out on an open field, says Olga Tsapina, Norris Foundation Curator of American Historical Manuscripts. But the newly acquired Hale papers document another side of the war that raged in the border territories of Union and Confederate states—West Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. “This was the unorganized, brutal, and much less honorable war between Unionist and secessionist guerrillas,” says Tsapina. “The papers of Jonathan D. Hale, who ended up serving as the chief of scouts for the Union command in Tennessee, also sheds new light on the fate of civilian spies in the Union service.”


Tsapina curated the recent Civil War exhibition “A Just Cause: Voices of the American Civil War.” “Olga has an astonishing capacity to discover extensive collections of family papers which belonged to very obscure individuals who have been hidden from history,” says Hindle. “But the stories that can be told on the basis of the Hale papers will allow historians to write the history of the Civil War from a completely different perspective.” The Hale papers, says Hindle, will be consulted and cited very intensively by scholars for many years to come.


The Library Collectors’ Council is a group of 33 member families who help support acquisitions. It was formed to augment the collections by helping to purchase materials that the institution otherwise couldn’t afford.


Highlights of the newly purchased materials:

Family Archive Sheds Light on Guerillas and Bushwhackers of Civil War
The voluminous correspondence, notebooks, affidavits, eyewitness testimonies, and published pamphlets of the family of Jonathan Davis Hale (1817–1898) contain a wealth of previously unknown information about the Civil War in Tennessee and Kentucky, including the organization of Unionist communities; women’s contributions to the war effort; guerilla warfare; the fate of Unionists’ slaves; Reconstruction in East Tennessee and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan; and complicated and bitter politics of veterans’ affairs in the wake of the Civil War. The letters, orders, reports, and communications written during Hale’s services with Gen. George H. Thomas (1816–1870) is a unique resource for historians of Civil War civilian scouts and guides, a topic that remains largely unexplored.


There are few surviving documents of the so-called irregular aspects of the Civil War. Both Hale and his wife, Pheroba, kept meticulous diaries, wrote letters to newspapers, and tracked and reported the movements of Confederate sympathizers. Hale’s written records from his scouting missions represent exceedingly rare intelligence reports of the chaotic and brutal warfare that took place in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Group of 34 stereographs documenting the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad
The acquisition of 34 stereographs by Alfred A. Hart (1816–1908) adds to The Huntington’s pristine—and very rare—set of more than 300 by the photographer chosen by railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington to document the building of the Central Pacific Railroad. Just last year, The Huntington displayed all of its Hart photos as part of the exhibition “Visions of Empire: The Quest for a Railroad Across America, 1840–1880.” With this purchase, the Huntington collection of Hart stereographs is just seven shy of a complete set of 364.


“In setting out to build the western half of the transcontinental railroad,” says Jennifer A. Watts, curator of photographs, “Huntington and his cohorts used visual evidence to dazzle legislators, investors, and the public with dramatic scenes of the progress of the rails.” From 1864 to 1869, Hart documented the incremental advance of the CPRR through hundreds of miles of inhospitable terrain. The photographer halted locomotives and workers, scaled trestles, stood on vertiginous ledges, and endured High Sierra winters and blistering Great Basin summers to capture heroic feats of engineering against seemingly insurmountable odds. The views, when seen through an optical device held up to the eyes, produce a captivating three-dimensional effect.

Family archive shows California’s economic development at turn of 20th century
Yet another family archive purchased by the Library Collectors’ Council reveals the rise of California at the turn of the 20th century. More than 1,500 pieces from the family papers of Henry Z. Osborne (1848–1923), whose successive careers carried him from mining to newspapering and finally to the halls of Congress add to The Huntington’s rich holdings on California history. Like the acquisition of the Hart stereographs, the new Osborne material will be reunited with more than 3,000 items from the family archive that were already housed at The Huntington, purchased from different sources in two batches in 1997 and 2002.


Osborne was a New Yorker by birth whose travels as a young man carried him across the Southwest. Once established in Los Angeles, he became involved in many of the great issues of his day, from the clashes over the city’s railroad access and the location of its harbor to the Spanish-American War and America’s entrance into World War I.

Foundational text for the history of early Christianity in Britain
The Huntington also acquired a rare 13th-century manuscript of a text dating back to Pope Gregory the Great (ca. 540–604). When Gregory sent St. Augustine to convert England to Christianity in 597, he sent with him his recent treatise on the responsibilities of a bishop to his flock, the Liber Regulae Pastoralis  [or Cura Pastoralis; On Pastoral Care]. Among the most important texts of the Middle Ages, it became the practical and spiritual handbook for bishops and priests for nearly a thousand years. In it, Gregory considers what kind of man should become a priest, how he should order his life, how he should balance spiritual contemplation with the cares of the secular world, and how he should execute his primary responsibility as a “physician of souls” through careful directed preaching (both in word and deed) and through compassionate discipline.
Second significant acquisition of Charles Dickens letters in the past four years
For the second time in four years, The Huntington has added to its Charles Dickens (1812–1870) holdings, acquiring a set of 15 letters by the prolific 19th-century British novelist. Academic interest on Dickens remains strong, driven perhaps by the commemorations last year of the bicentennial of his birth. At least 35 books have been published about him in the past two years alone, but none of those authors had access to this set of letters, which until now has been in private hands.


The letters, written between 1837 and 1868, are addressed to a variety of people. An Oct. 10, 1850, letter to Dickens’ brother Frederick shows the novelist dealing once again with the chronic indebtedness of his sibling: “If I were security for you, and you were false . . ., you never could pay me back the value of that broken trust and never could satisfy confidence again.” Other letters address editorial and business matters.


The Huntington has more than 1,000 letters by Dickens, including the 35 acquired by the Collectors’ Council in 2010, making the library one of the top repositories in the world for Dickens research. Other major collections of letters are in the Morgan Library, the New York Public Library, and the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Colorful political correspondence from contentious antebellum era (1848–52)
Francis Baylies (1783–1852) was a member of Congress from Massachusetts before the Civil War and maintained an epistolary friendship with Gen. John Wool (1784–1869), a veteran of the Mexican-American War. The set of 47 letters by Baylies to Wool, acquired by the council, show that Baylies’ sharp tongue and savage wit spared no one—Whig or Democrat, Free-Soiler or slaveholder—with the exception of Wool himself, about whom Baylies had written a glowing account of his war service.


Routinely lamenting the venality, ineptitude, and petty-mindedness of officeholders at all levels, Baylies filled his letters to Wool with his acerbic portrayals of the political controversies of the day, from making peace with Mexico and limiting the expansion of slavery to the rambunctious conduct of party politics during the presidential elections of 1848 and 1852. At the same time, he frequently counseled Wool about the latter’s efforts to protect his reputation from envious brother officers, to ensure that he would gain the credit for the American army’s triumph at the battle of Buena Vista in 1847 and to enhance his potential as a candidate for electoral office.





“Building Water Tank,” “Depot at Elko,” and “Railroad Camp near Victory,” stereographs by Alfred A. Hart (1816–1908) documenting the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad, ca. 1864–69.  Hart produced 364 stereographs for Collis P. Huntington. With its acquisition of a group of 34 stereographs, The Huntington now owns 357. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.



Papers of Henry Z. Osborne (1848–1923), businessman, newspaperman, and congressman from California. The archive of more than 1,500 pieces covers the economic development of California from the late 19th century to the middle of the 20th century. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.



Pope Gregory the Great (ca. 540–604), Cura Pastoralis, in Latin, 32 pages. This hand-decorated manuscript on vellum was owned and probably written at the Reading Abbey in Berkeshire, England, around 1225–1250. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.



Set of letters from Francis Baylies (1783–1852), U.S. Congressman from Massachusetts, to Gen. John Wool (1784–1869), veteran of the Mexican-American War. In addition to the 47 letters from 1848–52, the new acquisition includes two manuscripts. The entire collection is 225 pages. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.



Set of 15 letters by Charles Dickens (1812–1870). The letters, written between 1837 and 1868, cover topics such as the author’s financial dealings and editorial concerns. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.


CONTACTS:  Thea M. Page, 626-405-2260,
                         Lisa Blackburn, 626-405-2140,

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About The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution established in 1919 by Henry E. and Arabella Huntington. Henry Huntington, a key figure in the...

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