The collection, consisting of excerpts from the journal and the diary (1864-1869) of Civil War officer Cornelius Hart Carlton, deals primarily with the latter part of the Civil War and the Reconstruction Period.
A number of small incidents connected with the closing months of the Civil War are mentioned in the papers, including life in the Confederate Army at this time, the surrender at Appomattox, and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Several Confederate units are mentioned, and a brief "battle history" is given of Cornelius Hart Carlton's own unit, the 24th Virginia Cavalry Regiment ("Hampton's Legion").
The most significant information contained in the papers concerns Carlton's views on the Reconstruction Period. The rivalry between the "Radical Republican" Congress and President Andrew Johnson, the enfranchisement of Negroes and disenfranchisement of many Southern whites, the Freedmen's Bureau, the actions of Federal officers and "Carpet Bagers" [sic.], the election of General Ulysses Simpson Grant to the Presidency in 1868, and the years of Grant's Administration are commented on at great length. Mention is also made of the election and later assassination of President James A. Garfield.
Carlton's journal contains a lengthy description of litigation connected with the execution of a will in 1863-1866. This is noteworthy in that, after a member of the family had lost three consecutive court cases in which he had attempted to overturn the will in question,the case was taken to the church [Baptist Association] for its consideration. The church ruled in favor of the plaintiff, in effect overruling the civil courts' decisions, and the church's ruling was accepted by all parties, albeit with bad feelings on all sides.
An early tract of a convention of the Baptist Association (1801) contains the early views of that religion on social customs and mores, including temperance, music, and styles of dress.