Robert C. Caldwell Collection
This exhibit includes 57 letters and other documents from the Robert C. Caldwell Papers (Collection #845)
held in the East Carolina Manuscript Collection of the Special Collections Department of J. Y. Joyner Library at East Carolina University. The letters are mainly from Robert to Mag, his wife, at Harris Depot, in Cabarrus County, North Carolina written from various military posts near New Bern, Wilmington, and Kinston, NC and Savannah, GA. The letters primarily concern Caldwell’s personal and family interests but they also include discussions of his military service including living conditions and daily life, the movements of his unit, its leadership, and its military engagements.
The collection also contains letters, to Caldwell and his wife, from family members and friends serving in Mississippi and North Carolina units that are of particular interest. The Caldwells received two letters from Private Amzi Harris serving in Company C, 9th Mississippi Volunteer Regiment, at Camp Esau, FL near Pensacola. Harris’ letters describe Confederate attempts to seize the naval base and capture the remaining Union positions in an around Pensacola, Florida in September and October 1861. He addressed one of the letters to “dear brother and sister” and the other to ‘dear friend R. C. C.”
The Caldwells also received several letters from Dinson [or Denson] A. Caldwell, probably a close relative. Dinson sent his first letter on 10 April 1862 when he was a 3d Lieutenant serving with the 35th Regiment North Carolina Troops. He wrote two subsequent letters to Robert, dated 16 November 1862 and 29 January 1863, respectively, when he was a private in Company F, 63rd Regiment North Carolina Troops (5th Regiment North Carolina Cavalry) serving under Captain John Randolph Erwin. The letters describe the troop movements and fighting in and around Kinston, New Bern, and Goldsboro, NC as Union troops attempted to effectively blockade the South and the Confederate forces attempted to keep the ports, especially Wilmington, open. The letters were addressed to “dear brother and sister.”
In addition, one letter from Mary W. Driskill of Paulding County, GA was addressed to Mag I. Caldwell and Martha W. Caldwell and was addressed to them as "dear sisters." Mrs. Driskill's letter is one of the most informative and revealing about life in the South during the Civil War. She describes the many hardships she faced while her husband was serving in the garrison of Vicksburg, MS, including taking care of the farm work alone, the absence of the men at the front, having to do heavy work, taking care of her baby alone and while recuperating from an injury. She also records taking a job at a “factory”.
The collection also includes 38 original envelopes and 5 other documents, including an account written (28 April 1865) in Caldwell’s own hand of the last months of the war from September 1864 to April 1865. It also includes his signed Oath of Allegiance to the Union (16 September 1865) and a bill of sale for a slave named Jack dated 14 January 1854. The letters (but not the envelopes) have been encapsulated for preservation purposes.