Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 1084

Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States Commandery of the State of Massachusetts Civil War collection


A collection of images, manuscripts, and printed material, mostly relating to the Massachusetts soldiers and regiments in the American Civil War. Some material relates to other Union regiments and the Confederate States of America.


  • Creation: 1724-1933
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1861-1912

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Conditions Governing Use

Images linked to the finding aid describing this collection are intended for public access and educational use. This material is owned and/or held by the Houghton Library, and is provided solely for the purpose of teaching or individual research. Any other use, including commercial reuse, mounting on other systems, or other forms of redistribution requires the permission of the curator.


47 linear feet (143 boxes, 2 volumes)

The images in this collection, Series I-V, VII, and VII, consist largely of copy prints, stats and other second-generation reproductions of engravings and photographs. Many are annotated by unidentified hands. Some images are stamped "War 50 years ago," which were probably used in the Boston Globe articles mentioned above. The great majority of the images date from the Civil War period and are concerned with Civil War subject matter, but some are related only to either the MOLLUS members and their families or to the MOLLUS organization, and date much later.

Image types include portraits, group portraits, and views in the following genres: cabinet photographs, cartes-de-visite (CDV), clippings with images and text, copy prints (photographs of photographs or works of art), drawings, engravings, lithographs, photomechanical prints, negative prints, photographic prints marked for printing, sketches, stats (copies), stereographs, tintypes, and watercolors.

Series I through V, Portrait images, consist primarily of photographic images, predominantly of men dressed in military uniform, taken during or after the Civil War. There are also images of their families, horses, groups of people with them, objects (such as monuments), and associated memorabilia. The name of every identified individual is noted as completely as possible. After the name of each individual, not every image is described but the most significant types of materials are included under each name. If the name is followed by no photo genre or information, the reader should conclude that the materials are probably simple photographic prints or copy prints. The following information is listed in the description if it is known: name of individual, regiment, artist, engraver, photographer, printer, publisher, significant annotations, significant genre type, and image title. Most photographs are undated.

Series VI, Patriotic Covers, consists of approximately 5000 unused envelopes printed or embossed with patriotic images relating to the Civil War. See the separate finding aid at Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Commandery of the State of Massachusetts, collector. Civil War collection: Patriotic covers: Guide (MS Am 1084 (328)).

Series VII, Group portrait images, includes images of more than one individual. Some unidentified group images may also appear in the place file in Series VIII, Subseries B.

Series VIII, Other images, includes images of naval vessels, places, and images that were maintained as sets. The naval subseries includes original drawings of Civil War vessels by artist Worden Wood. The place subseries is very extensive, and includes numerous images from most of the key scenes of the Civil War. Among the sets are drawings of battlefields made shortly after the war, apparently by a veteran of the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment; post-war photographs of battlefields showing veterans of the 13th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment; and reproductions of drawings of war-era North Carolina, apparently by a member of the 44th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.

Many of the items in Series VII and VIII consist of copy prints made from standard Civil War visual sources such as the Civil War glass negative collection at the Library of Congress; the Naval Historical Center; Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper; Harper's Weekly; Benson John Lossing's Pictorial History of the Civil War in the United States of America; and Francis Trevelyan Miller's 1911 Photographic History of the Civil War. When the existence of the image in one of these sources has been verified, the entry has been marked with an asterisk *.

Series IX, Manuscripts, includes original letters, diaries, regimental documents, and other papers relating to the Civil War. Highlights include a substantial archive of the papers of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, commander of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, the first predominantly African-American regiment in the Civil War; research files of Daniel Eldredge on the history of the 3rd New Hampshire Infantry Regiment; Augustus C. Hamlin's extensive correspondence files on Andersonville Prison and the Battle of Chancellorsville; extensive documentation of the antebellum South and of the Confederate States of America, mostly confiscated by Union troops during the war; wartime correspondence of Union generals Gustave Paul Cluseret, George Nelson Macy, James Birdseye McPherson, George Duncan Wells, and Edward Augustus Wild; a diary and extensive wartime correspondence of Private John M. Haines of the 3rd New Hampshire Infantry Regiment; original manuscript wartime diaries of Robert H. Gray of the 4th Maine Infantry Regiment, William Ware Hall of the 5th Rhode Island Infantry Regiment, Wesley T. Harris and Ezra Brown Peabody of the 3rd New Hampshire Infantry Regiment, Henry A. Tracy of the 1st Massachusetts Light Artillery Battery and John G. Wiggin of the 11th Massachusetts Light Artillery Battery; and extensive documentation relating to the 12th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, 31st Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, 35th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, 1st New York Engineer Regiment, 1st South Carolina Volunteers, and United States Sanitary Commission. The collection also features an eclectic collection of pre-war and post-war manuscripts, including two significant manuscripts signed by Filipino independence leader Emilio Aguinaldo, post-war correspondence of General Winfield Scott Hancock, and memoirs by numerous former Civil War officers. The series also contains some correspondence and other records relating to the Massachusetts MOLLUS branch.

Series X, Printed material, includes ephemera relating to the Civil War such as blank forms, broadsides, clippings, leaflets, printed orders, and sheet music; and a subseries of complete copies of newspapers, mostly from the Civil War period. Twelve of these newspaper issues were not reported at any other library through OCLC's WorldCat as of 2007.

Biographical / Historical

The Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS) was founded as a veterans' organization for Union officers of the American Civil War. It later opened its membership to descendants of Union officers, and is still active today.

MOLLUS was established on 1865 April 15 after the death of President Abraham Lincoln. Three Union Army officers met in Philadelphia to discuss the rumors from Washington of a conspiracy to destroy the Federal government by assassination of its leaders. The officers decided to form an organization that could help thwart future threats to the national government. A mass meeting of Philadelphia veterans was held on 1865 April 20, to pledge renewed allegiance to the Union and to plan for participation in the funeral arrangements for the President. The Philadelphia officers, who served as an honor guard for President Lincoln's funeral cortege, met again after the funeral was over to establish a permanent organization of officers and former officers patterned after the Society of Cincinnati established after the Revolutionary War. The name they chose, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, first appeared in a notice calling a meeting on 1865 May 31, at Philadelphia's Independence Hall.

The Massachusetts Commandery of MOLLUS was instituted on 1868 March 4, and organized two days later. There were 13 charter members who all became officers in the new organization. Brigadier General Francis A. Osborn was the first commander, followed by Generals Devens, Rockwell, and Martin. From early days they began to collect materials associated with the Civil War and for a time established a museum at the top of the Cadet Armory on Columbus Avenue in Boston.

A significant part of the museum's collection was visual images associated with the Civil War, much of which was donated by MOLLUS members. The Boston Globe contributed all the photographs they used for their series of articles Civil War Day by Day, having assembled illustrations for four years of stories. It is said that the museum at one time held 37,000 photographs.

Most of this information was taken from the MOLLUS web site at:


Organized into the following series:

  1. I. Confederate States of America (CSA) portrait images
  2. II. Union portrait images
  3. ___A. Individuals, A-Z
  4. ___B. Members of Congress and Executive Officers
  5. III. Other portrait images
  6. IV. Unidentified portrait images
  7. ___A. Cabinet photographs
  8. ______1. By photographer
  9. _________a. Civilian dress
  10. _________b. Soldiers in uniform
  11. ______2. No photographer
  12. ___B. Cartes-de-visite
  13. ______1. By photographer
  14. _________a. Civilian dress
  15. _________b. Soldiers in uniform
  16. _________c. City Guard - Charlestown (Mass.)
  17. ______2. No photographer
  18. ___C. Tintypes
  19. ______1. Civilian dress
  20. ______2. Soldiers in uniform
  21. ______3. Other subjects
  22. ___D. Other types of images
  23. ______1. Civilian dress
  24. ______2. Soldiers in uniform
  25. ______3. Other subjects
  26. V. Oversized portrait images
  27. VI. Patriotic covers
  28. VII. Group portrait images
  29. ___A. Confederate States of America group portraits
  30. ___B. United States of America military group portraits
  31. ___C. Civilian group portraits
  32. VIII. Other images
  33. ___A. Naval scenes
  34. ___B. Places
  35. ___C. Sets of images
  36. ___D. Miscellaneous
  37. IX. Manuscripts
  38. ___A. Eldredge papers
  39. ___B. Haines papers
  40. ___C. Hamlin papers
  41. ___D. Higginson papers
  42. ___E. MOLLUS records
  43. ___F. Miscellaneous pre-Civil War manuscripts
  44. ___G. Miscellaneous Civil War manuscripts, Confederate States of America
  45. ___H. Miscellaneous Civil War manuscripts, United States of America
  46. ___I. Miscellaneous post-Civil War manuscripts
  47. X. Printed material
  48. ___A. Civil War ephemera, Confederate States of America
  49. ___B. Civil War ephemera, United States of America
  50. ___C. Post-war ephemera
  51. ___D. Newspapers

Please note that item numbers 304-306 were inadvertently omitted from this finding aid.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2001M-13. Deposited by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Commandery of the State of Massachusetts, 1938; gift 1974 May 20.

The materials in this collection were assembled by the Massachusetts MOLLUS organization from 1868 through the 1930s. Most were apparently donated by either MOLLUS members, members' families, or outside organizations, and some were purchased from dealers.

Three additional letters were added to the MOLLUS collection by a gift from Sister Geraldine Mary, Damariscotta (Me.), 1959 June 8.

Related Materials

The MOLLUS organization also sent part of their collection to the Special Collections of the U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle, PA. Contact this repository for further information on their holdings.

Processing Information

Processed by: Allison Andrews, Cherill Lash, Richard Miller, Bonnie Salt, and Rick Stattler.

Most of the original arrangement of this collection was done by MOLLUS member and Commander-Recorder Arnold A. Rand.

Processing Information

This finding aid was revised in March 2024 to address outdated and harmful descriptive language. During that revision, contextualizing processing notes were added to the description of four items. For more information on reparative archival description at Harvard, see Harvard Library’s Statement on Harmful Language in Archival Description.

Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Commandery of the State of Massachusetts, collector. Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States Commandery of the State of Massachusetts Civil War collection, 1724-1933: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description
Cataloging of part of this collection was made possible by the Ruth Miller Memorial Philanthropic Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

Harvard Yard
Harvard University
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2440