The Francis W. Knowles Papers consist of a diary scrapbook (1862-1865) written by Private Knowles while serving in Company B of the 36th Massachusetts Volunteers. The diary records the activities of Knowles, who was mainly a clerk, as he participated with the IX Corps at Fredericksburg (December, 1862), in the District of Indiana and Michigan (June-September, 1863), the Knoxville Campaign (November-December, 1863), the Wilderness campaign (May, 1864), the Spotsylvania Courthouse campaign (May, 1864), at Cold Harbor (June 3-4, 1864), and in the Petersburg campaign (June, 1864-April, 1865).
Entries of interest include a description of camp life at Camp Wool in Massachusetts (August, 1862); the activities of the Confederate raider John Morgan in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana (June-July, 1863); and the activities of the Knights of the Golden Circle in Kentucky (September-November, 1863). Also included are a report by General Edwin V. Sumner of the Battle of Fredericksburg in which he commanded the Right Grand Division; newspaper clipping entitled "The Last Night of Fredericksburg" by Joshua L. Chamberlain; autographs of Ambrose B. Burnside, Lewis Richmond, and John G. Parke; maps of the various campaigns in which Knowles participated; battlefield sketches; and field orders. Knowles was mustered out of the army in June of 1865.