Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 800.26

Abbott family Civil War letters


Letters from three brothers of the Abbott family, sent to members of their family primarily during the American Civil War.


  • Creation: 1856-1864

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.


1 linear feet (2 boxes)

Letters from the Abbott brothers include details of their school days at St. Paul's School (Concord, New Hampshire) and at Harvard College, included in their early letters home. The Civil War letters concern camp life, battle engagments of each military unit, news of family and friends and those killed in battle, and also include comment on the historical times. There are battlefield sketches in a few letters. Also included are a few letters from their parents, letters from others, and letters to their parents from other concerning the Abbott boys' military service.

Biographical / Historical

Josiah Gardner Abbott (1814-1891) was born in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, was graduated at Harvard in 1832, was admitted to the bar in 1835, and received an LL.D. from Williams College in 1862. Abbott served in the Massachusetts legislature as state senator, was a delegate-at-large to every national Democratic convention, and was a judge of the superior court of Suffolk County, Massachusetts. He also served as a representative to the U.S. Congress and was an overseer of Harvard University from 1859-1865. Abbott married Caroline Livermore (ca.1816-1887) of Boston and together they had eleven children. The Abbotts were a wealthy and politically minded family, first of Lowell Massachusetts, and in 1861 of Boston.

This set of papers comprise letters from three sons of Josiah and Caroline Abbott:

  1. Edward Gardner Abbott (1840-1862) received an AB from Harvard College in 1860 and was an officer with the 2nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He was killed at the Battle of Cedar Mountain on Aug 9, 1862.
  2. Fletcher Morton Abbott (b.1843) was an officer with the 2nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He was later appointed aide-de-camp to Brig. Gen. William Dwight of the Nineteenth Army Corps., then stationed in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was discharged from duty due to ill health on Dec. 23, 1863.
  3. Henry Livermore Abbott (1842-1864) received an AB from Harvard College in 1860 and was an officer with the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (also known as the Harvard Regiment). He was killed in the Battle of the Wilderness on May 6, 1864.

Other children of Caroline and Josiah Abbott were:

  1. Caroline Mary Livermore Abbott (b. ca. 1839).
  2. William Stackpole Abbott (1844-1846).
  3. Samuel Appleton Browne Abbott (Harvard College AB 1866).
  4. Sarah Livermore Abbott (b. ca.1850).
  5. Franklin Pierce Abbott (Harvard Law LLB 1876).
  6. Arthur St. Loe Abbott (b.1856) (Harvard College AB 1877).
  7. Grafton St. Loe Abbott (b. ca. 1857).
  8. Holker Welch Abbott (b. ca. 1858).


Organized into the following five series:

  1. I. Letters from Edward Gardner Abbott to his family
  2. II. Letters from Fletcher Morton Abbott to his family
  3. III. Letters from Henry Livermore Abbott to his family
  4. IV. Miscellaneous papers concerning Edward Gardner Abbott
  5. V. Miscellaneous papers concerning Henry Livermore Abbott

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Deposited as permanent loan from Dr. John Adams Abbott of Concord, Massachusetts, and Mrs. Helen F. Abbott Washburn of East Greenwich, Rhode Island; received: 1939 October 11.


  • Some of these letters are published in: Henry Livermore Abbott. Fallen leaves: the Civil War letters of Major Henry Livermore Abbott, edited by Robert Garth Scott. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1991.
  • See also: Anthony J. Milano. Copperhead defiance from a Yankee officer: private letters of Major Henry Livermore Abbott, Harvard College, class of 1860, Twentieth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1864. Harvard University Thesis (Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies), 1987.

Processing Information

Processed by: Charlotte Gray, with assistance from Bonnie B. Salt

Abbott family. Abbott family Civil War letters: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

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