Louville H. Merrill Letterbooks

1864-1866, 1868
Manuscript Collection #627
Merrill, Louville H.
Physical description
0.143 Cubic Feet, 6 items , consisting of letterbooks of handwritten copies of letters, one speech, one cash book, one invoice book, one monthly statement book, one order, and two poems.
Preferred Citation
Louville H. Merrill Letterbooks (#627), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Letterbooks (1864-1866, 1868) including correspondence, letterbooks of handwritten copies of letters, one speech, one cash book, one invoice book, one monthly statement book, one order book, two poems.

Biographical/historical information

Louville H. Merrill, throughout his enlistment in the U.S. Navy (ca. July 5, 1864 - May 20, 1865), served as the acting assistant paymaster on the U.S. Steamer YANKEE, first under John Rockwell, (July 1864 - October, 1864), then under G. C. Schultz (October, 1864 - November, 1864), and finally under L. G. Cook (November, 1864 - May, 1865). The YANKEE was a sidewheel steamer built in 1860 at the New York City Naval Shipyard for use on the U.S. Naval expedition to provision Fort Sumter, S.C.. On April 26, 1861, she became part of the blockade system of the Chesapeake Bay and in July was officially attached to the Potomac Flotilla. She saw action in the transport of Union troops, the capture of Confederate troops, and with the destruction of embattlements and towns. She was decommissioned on May 16, 1865, in the naval shipyard in Washington, D.C., and was sold at auction to George B. Collier in September of that year.

Scope and arrangement

The collection is composed of six volumes (July 5, 1864 - May 5, 1866, 1868) containing Merrill's official records and copies of his correspondence with the Naval Department as well as the paymasters aboard other ships. The correspondence is found in two letterbooks (1864, 1865-1866) and is concerned with the ship's stores in food and clothing, the transfer of accounts, and payment of the ship's men, and the number of men present in July 1864 and February 1865. In the 1864 letterbook there also is found a loose sheet listing expenditures for beef, pork, beans, rice, coffee, sugar, flour, and dried fruit.

As assistant paymaster, Merrill aligned transfers of the men's accounts with their orders, and his letters reflect the problems he encountered with these duties. HisSeptember 1864 correspondence reveals his discovery that the YANKEE was missing crew members because their paperwork had been misdirected. The following month's correspondence discusses the government's failure to officially muster-out several men who were being transferred from the U.S. Army to the U.S. Navy; his official concern for these men, who, feeling cheated by the government because their payments were held up, subsequently deserted; and his continued attempts to rectify their accounts.

His main responsibility was to make sure that all of the YANKEE's paperwork was correct and in order. He was also in charge of allotment tickets, sending money to sailors' wives, and prize tickets to sailors involved in the capture of a ship. Included in his accounts are a report on the damage sustained to the clothing storage room in the ship (December 16, 1864) and reports (December 1, 1864 and April 7, 1865) concerning the accounts for two men who were taken prisoner November 24, 1864, on the Rappahannock River.

Merrill's correspondence also concerns the transfer of sailors and soldiers between other ships of the flotilla as well as ships from the North and the South Atlantic Blockading Squadrons. The steamers involved in Merrill's correspondence in the 1864 letterbook were: patrol vessel USS COMMODORE READ (pp. 9, 29, and 91); the blockade vessel USS MACKINAW (p.9); dispatch vessel USS KING PHILIP (p.25); blockade vessel USS JACOB BELL (pp. 117, 121); the blockade vessel USS DRAGON (p. 121); and patrol vessel USS PHILADELPHIA (p. 133). Merrill also corresponded with the storeship USS WYANDANK (1864 letterbook, pp. 123, 125; 1865 letterbook pp. 43, 49).

The cash book (1864) contains payment records of the USS YANKEE that include the names of crew members and their wages, as well as cash for officers' mess, grog, and prize money. Incidental expenditures, such as two cords of wood (July 25, 1864) and allotments for the men to buy straw hats (August 1, 1864), are noted. Other sections of the cash book indicate the dollar amounts of clothing, small stores, and candles on board the ship. An invoice ledger (1864-1865) notes specific purchases, including bread, beef, pork, flour, rice, dried fruit, sugar, coffee, tobacco, stationery, soap, thread, razors, trousers, buttons, pea jackets, and shaving soap. The ledger also contains the amounts of these items issued to crew members as well as the price per unit of these supplies, providing insight into life on board a Civil War vessel and into market fluctuations and commodity price behavior. It also indicates that many of the supplies were issued from the USS WYANDANK.

The summary statement book (July 1864 - April 1865) contains the balance sheets for the months and quarters of Merrill's tenure on board the YANKEE. These balance sheets reveal the receipts and expenditures of items in the categories of pay, provisions,contingencies, small stores, and clothing. The last few pages of the volume (1868) include penmanship practice, songs, and poems by Emma G. Merrill.

Merrill's order book contains handwritten copies of virtually every order Merrill received from the master of the vessel involving Merrill's duties as paymaster. Included are orders involving rations and provisions for new crew members and visitors, promotions and occasional demotions of crew members, and authorizations to stop rations and pay. Orders also mention deserters from both armies; contrabands, i.e. runaway slaves picked up behind Union lines; blockade runners; prisoners of war; and refugees, one of whom had escaped from Richmond. A final order (April 26, 1865) was to "grant discharges to all enlisted men... whose time shall expire before the 10th of July 1865."

The second letterbook shows that on May 20, 1865, Merrill sent to Washington, D.C., a forwarding address of Cumberland Centre, Maine, along with his final returns for the cruise covering the period July 16, 1864, through May 15, 1865. A copy of an August 31, 1865, letter from the Naval Department granted him two months leave from June 16 and, upon being notified that his records were in order and correct, he was to consider himself honorably discharged. In 1866 Merrill received the letter assuring him that his accounts for the USS YANKEE were correct.

At the end of the second letterbook is an undated speech to a temperance organization, of which Merrill was a member, concerned with reasons why it should not break up.

Administrative information
Custodial History

October 30, 1991, 2 volumes; Letterbooks (1864-1866) of paymaster aboard U.S. Steamer YANKEE. Gift of George C. Smith, Jr., Library Enrichment Fund, Joyner Library, Greenville, NC.

January 26, 1995,, 4 volumes; Financial records (1864-1865) for U.S. Steamer YANKEE, including copies of orders, summary statements, cashbook, and invoices of receipt. Gift of Friends of the ECU Library, Joyner Library, ECU.

Source of acquisition

Gift of George C. Smith, Jr.

Gift of Library Enrichment Fund

Gift of Friends of the ECU Library

Processing information

Processed by S. Gibbons; K. Rouse, October 1992

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Key terms
Personal Names
Merrill, Louville H.
Corporate Names
United States. Navy--Military life
United States. Navy--Officers
United States. Navy--Records and correspondence
Yankee (Side-wheel steamer)
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Naval operations