Lyman Beecher Hannaford

This Virtual Archive

This archive consisting of 50+ letters are an incredible addition to the body of knowledge pertaining to the experiences of the 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the American Civil War. The author, Lyman Beecher Hannaford (1841-1888) of Company D, was an astute observer of life and sufficiently educated to record his thoughts intelligently in the letters he mailed home to Solon, Cuyahoga county, Ohio. It is rare to find a Civil War foot soldier—not an officer—capable of spelling, for example, the word, “obstreperous,” let alone use it correctly in a sentence. That Lyman had an education a notch or two above the average Ohio soldier, there can be no doubt—somewhat unusual for the son of a yeoman farmer. Lyman’s letters abound with references to people, places, and events in our nation’s history suggesting he read extensively. It is also evident that he knew how to write and read music, and that he played the flute and the piano.

Lyman was the son of Reuben Morrill Hannaford (1800-1884) and Nancy Foster (1803-1858)—both natives of New Hampshire who married in Merrimack county in 1828 and came to Ohio in the early 1830s. Less than a year after Reuben’s first wife died, he married Nancy W. Tiffany (1820–1910). Though a rural farmer, Reuben looked for opportunities to elevate himself and his children through public service and participation in politics. Newspapers notices indicate he belonged to the Cuyahoga Agricultural Society, that he ran for county commissioner on the Whig ticket (1849), that he was an officer in the Clay Club of Cuyahoga county (1842), and that he represented Solon at the Whig County Convention held at Cleveland (1842), to name a few examples. From his father, Lyman learned that being a loyal, patriotic citizen, meant supporting elected officials and performing one’s duty to preserve the democratic principles of the government founded by his forefathers. From his war-time letters, we know that he loathed Copperheads, rejected the “Southern Rights” arguments of those in Dixie, and so staunchly supported the Lincoln Administration that he felt it bordered on treason for anyone to even challenge the President’s actions as unconstitutional.

Though single and obviously patriotic, Lyman did not enlist with the first wave of soldiers who answered the country’s call for troops to put down the rebellion. He did not enlist until August 1862, after McClellan’ failed Peninsula Campaign. He was promoted from a private to a corporal rather quickly but was reduced in rank in January 1865 and mustered out in June 1865 as a private. His older brother, William Foster Hannaford (1838-1891) also served in the same company. (The regimental roster of the 103rd OVI is available on-line.)

From the letters in this collection we know that Lyman was with the regiment until late in 1863 when he became sufficiently afflicted with diarrhea so debilitating that he could no longer perform his duties and entered the military hospital—first at Knoxville, and then at Nashville. And though he recovered at Nashville and was given light duty as a nurse for a time, he did not return to his regiment in East Tennessee. Rather, he used the influence of a high-ranking acquaintance in Ohio politics to arrange for a furlough so that he might return to Ohio after an absence of 21 months. We assume such a furlough was obtained in May 1864 because the string of letters that he mailed home stopped at this juncture.

When Lyman returned to the service is not apparent from his letters nor is it known by his descendants. Because he was reduced in rank from a corporal to a private in January 1865, one possibility is that Lyman did not return to service when his furlough expired, resulting in his demotion. In any event, the last few letters in this collection indicate that he did eventually return and that in May 1865, he was on detached duty in the Brigade headquarters rather than serving in the rank and file of the company. His duties are not revealed in these letters but they must not have been demanding or he would have spoken of them.

After his discharge from the service, Lyman returned home and married a woman from Quebec named Mary Whinfield (1843-1937). They lived for a time in Whiteside county, Illinois, where Lyman worked as a carpenter, but they later moved to Quebec.

All of Lyman’s letters appearing here were addressed to his brother-in-law, Albert Milton Smith, who married Lyman’s sister, Minerva (“Nerve”) Hannaford, in July 1853. Albert enlisted in Co. H, 150th OVI for a hundred days service on 5 May 1864. These troops were used primarily to garrison the forts around Washington D. C. when they were withdrawn to participate in Grant’s Overland Campaign of 1864. The Smiths relocated to Cleveland after the Civil War where Albert worked as an architect. Minerva died about 1880.

Copied images of Lyman’s letters were graciously made available to me by Willa Atkinson who wished to have them transcribed, preserved, and shared with others, but more especially for her young children whom she feared would never be taught to read cursive—a regrettable, yet sad truth in all probability. She credits her Great-Grandmother Elizabeth Knox Lanigan (1905-2005) with preserving this batch of letters, tucked safely away in a drawer for decades. After Elizabeth’s death, her nephew Garry Pollock came into possession of Lyman’s letters. He in turn gave them to Elizabeth’s grandson, Steve Poignant who made digital copies and donated the originals to a museum. [Still trying to locate the originals]. Willa believes there were most likely other letters written by Lyman to other relatives and/or passed down to other relatives that she hopes (as we all do) will eventually emerge. Maybe this website will help flesh them out. Please contact me if you have knowledge of the location of these original letters or any other letters written by Lyman B. Hannaford. —- Griff

[Note: The image in the header is NOT one of Lyman B. Hannaford.]

The military service cards of Lyman Beecher Hannaford (1841-1888)  and his older brother, William Foster Hannaford (1838-1901), who both served in Co. D, 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Other Sources on the 103rd OVI

William T. Chapman was the eldest son of Alonzo and Margaret Chapman of North Eaton, Lorain County, Ohio. Born on July 10, 1833, he was a schoolteacher by profession, starting his career in 1852. Married in 1854 to Fidelia Banister, they had three children, Minnie, Myron, and Myrta. In 1867 the entire family moved to Henry County, settling in Ridgeville Township, where Alonzo and his sons had adjacent farms.

During the Civil War, William enlisted in Co.H, 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, first as a private. By December of 1862 he was made orderly sergeant and the following June he received a commission as 2nd lieutenant. He was discharged on certificate of disability in March of 1864, returning home to resume his educational career. Two of William’s brothers also served in the Union army, Emory with the 103rd O.V.I. and Henry with the 124th. An uncle, Harlan, also was with the 103rd.

The 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, raised primarily in Lorain, Medina, and Cuyahoga Counties, was organized in August and September of 1862. The regiment saw action at Blue Springs, Knoxville, and Dandridge, Tennessee, and Resaca, Kenesaw Mountain, and Atlanta, Georgia; it was mustered out of service June 12, 1865.

The two journals of William T. Chapman have mixed entries, ranging from Civil War entries to account listings, school related rosters, and a brief Chapman Family genealogy. Due to very faded ink, typed transcripts have been made for portions of the Civil War entries from August 4, 1862 through March 8, 1863, but not for the general journal entries.

The large volume, identified on the flyleaf as Army Journal, begins with entries dated August 4, 1862, when William enlisted in Co.H of the 103rd O.V.I., through to his return home after discharge for disability on March 16, 1864. Although the 103rd Regiment O.V.I. was involved in the action at Blue Springs, Tennessee on October 5, 1863, the Siege of Knoxville, Tennessee from November 17 through December 4, 1863, and battle at Dandridge, Tennessee from Jan 16-18, 1864, William makes no reference, since he was away from the regiment due to illness during that period. The entries made during his active service refer primarily to picket and guard duty in the area of Frankfort, Kentucky and his impressions of the area of Kentucky and Tennessee in which the Regiment served. A brief segment of the volume is taken up by lists of books and periodicals read during 1875 to 1892. This is followed by a stray segment of journal entries for January 1-28, 1895. The final part of the journal covers the period from October 23, 1869 to April 26, 1886, when William was in Henry County, Ohio teaching school.

The Stephen Burton Papers consists of .1 linear feet of handwritten letters, primarily written by a soldier in Co.B, 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry from 1862-1863, but also some other family-related letters.

The material was purchased at auction from C. Wesley Cowan at Historic American Auctions of Terrace Park, Ohio in November 2000. No restrictions exist on the use of this collection. Duplication is permitted for the purposes of preservation and research. The register was completed by Marilyn Levinson, Curator of Manuscripts in January 2001.

The material in the Stephen Burton papers consists primarily of a grouping of Civil War letters written to his wife Polly, between 1862 and 1863, while Burton was serving with Co.B, 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. There are also a small number of letters from J.S. Hendrickson (Polly’s son from a previous marriage) who was in the same regiment as his step-father, as well as a few scattered letters to Polly from other family members.

The Civil War correspondence is probably typical of the common soldier serving in the Union Army and is filled with misspellings and grammatical errors. Burton’s letters to his wife deal with such mundane matters as getting clothing sent home, remarks about the scarcity of mail, the weather, concern for her health, expression of love and longing (they had just been married two months when he entered the army), and daily activities of the regiment.

Because of the peculiarities of Burton’s style of writing it does take awhile to get used to the correspondence, but once such features as his phonetic spelling is accounted for the writing itself is clear. For example, because of his English background, he has a habit of dropping the “h” in some words so that “happiness” appears as “appenice”, with such other vagaries of spelling as having the word “cold” used for could, called, or cold. Punctuation is also erratic.

The handwriting in the letters written by J.S. Hendrickson, Burton’s stepson, is much more difficult to read. The contents of his letters deal more with events in the war, including description in the letter of July 15, 1864 of some soldiers killed or injured by falling trees during a storm and one rather strongly worded undated fragment (possibly included in one of Stephen Burton’s letters) about having a rubber coat stolen.

Chauncey Brunson Welton (1844-1908) of Weymouth, Medina County, Ohio, was a soldier in the 103rd Ohio Infantry Regiment, United States Army. The collection includes letters, 1862-1865, from Welton while serving in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia, to his parents and other members of his family, discussing his experiences, his opinions of such political matters as union and secession and the Copperheads, and the second inauguration of Lincoln, which he witnessed; and a few postwar items, including family letters.

All three articles are based on letters written by Nathan Hawkins who served in Co. G, 103rd OVI but do not state where the letters are archived.

  • Personal reminiscences and experiences: campaign life in the Union Army from 1862 to 1865/by members of the One Hundred and Third Volunteer Infantry, published at Oberlin in 1900. [Available on-line]


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