This Virtual Archive
This archive consisting of 80+ 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.
The late war letters in this collection indicate that Lyman did eventually return to the service and that by 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. — Griff
The following summary of these letters was provided to me by Gary Pollock on 13 May 2019:
The travels of Lyman Beecher Hannaford and his letters
As we now know, all of Lyman’s letters that we have were addressed to Albert Smith, husband of Lyman’s sister Minerva, or to Minerva herself. Obviously Albert or Minerva saved these letters.
Lyman returned home in 1865 and a year later married Mary Whinfield of Calumet, Quebec. How he met Mary is somewhat of a mystery. There is a church record in Calumet of Mary’s sister Alice marrying a John Evans of Cherry Valley, Illinois, in 1862. Cherry Valley is where Lyman`s sister Catherine (Kate) Chase lived and to where Lyman and Mary moved in 1869/70. There must have been an earlier connection between Cherry Valley and Calumet. Lyman, Mary and their children moved to Calumet in the late 1870’s
Lyman and Mary’s children were: Corina Daisy, my grandmother, born 1869 in Solon, Ohio; Eva, born 1872 in Cherry Valley, Illinois; Della born 1875 in Cherry Valley, Illinois; Rollen, born 1876 in Cherry Valley, Illinois; and Lucy Beatrice, born 1879 in Calumet, Quebec.
Lyman died in 1888 and is buried in Edendale Cemetery, Calumet, Quebec. Shortly after Lyman’s death Mary and the children moved to Watertown, New York, but not before Corina met a young man by the name of Charles Lanigan. In 1894 Corina and Charles were married in Malone, New York, and settled in Calumet. There they had five children: Ruth, Elinor, Alice (my mother), Richard, and Elizabeth (Willa’s great-grandmother). Later they moved to Melbourne, Quebec
At some point Lyman’s letters came into my grandmother’s possession. For a number of years my grandparents lived with my parents and me. Actually, we took over my grandparent’s farm when my grandfather couldn’t look after it anymore. I remember as a young boy 10-12 my grandmother talking about things that we have read in the letters although to my recollection she never actually mentioned the letters. She may have passed them on to Aunt Betty (Elizabeth) sometime earlier as my aunt was the one most interested in family history.
From Elizabeth the letters went to her daughter Lorna Poignant, who passed them to her son Steve who undertook to have them properly encased in acid-free sleeves and proper archival boxes. Steve also had a full set of photocopies made. It was about this time (2005) that I became aware of the letter’s existence. I thought at that time the letters we being held by the University of British Columbia, but now my understanding is that the university only participated in their preservation
About that time I visited Vancouver and photocopied the photocopies. From that set I made a third generation set to give to the 103rd OVI Museum. From my set of photocopies I attempted to do some transcriptions. I soon found I had neither the aptitude nor the knowledge of the vernacular of the day so set them aside. Several years later, on another visit to Vancouver, Steve gave me the full set of originals, the intention being that they would end up in the 103rd OVI Museum.
I’m very grateful to Willa for starting the ball rolling again. Not knowing that I had the originals, she obtained copies of the photocopies which I had given the museum and forwarded them to Griff for transcription and publishing. Working from multi-generation photocopies must have been difficult at best. I undertook to scan all pages in JPG format and sent a full set to Griff and Willa. I will also make multiple DVD copies.
I have spoken with Deb Wagner, curator of the 103rd OVI Museum and we will arrange the transfer to the museum for permanent safekeeping.
— Gary Pollock, 6 May 2019
Other Sources on the 103rd OVI
- Bowling Green State University; MS mf-William T. Chapman Journals (transcripts on-line)
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.
- Bowling Green State University; MS-118–Stephen Burton Papers (transcripts on-line)
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.
- University North Carolina; Chauncey Brunson Welton Letters, 1862-1901 (bulk 1862-1865). Donated by David G. Welton of Charlotte, N.C., June 1958. (Not available on-line)
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.
- “Letters Home to Rockport” published by the Lakewood Historical Society, June 2011; also “Lakewood In the Civil War, Letters Home to Rockport“, Part 1 by Mazie Adams; also “Silent Witnesses to the Civil War,” by Dale Thomas.
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]