The S. Griswold Flagg Collection is a collection of materials related to the Civil War. It fills four boxes with nearly 500 manuscripts, documents, and photographs, most of which were part of the estate of the donor.
There were three main sources for the materials that now make up the complete collection, and the character of these sources suggests fairly accurately the structure of the collection's thematic unity. Actually, only two of these sources were part of the Flagg estate. The estate included two large sets of books: the ten-volume Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, by Johnson and Buel (1887); and the ten-volume Abraham Lincoln, by Nicolay and Hay (1917). These volumes were interleaved with over 300 letters and documents related to their subject matter, and it is these interleaves which comprise the original Flagg collection. In addition, however, the collection includes the materials of the Confederate States of America Collection, which, transferred completely to the Flagg boxes, constitutes a third major source of related material. There are individual items from other donors, but these are relatively few, and all conform to the thematic division represented by the first three sources.
The chronological scope of the materials ranges from 1825 to 1937, but the bulk of the letters and documents date from the years of the Civil War and its immediate aftermath. Well the majority of the items in the collection concern the military aspects of the war. Probably most of these are the papers taken from Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. They include numerous military documents — commission, orders, inventories, and administrative records — along with general correspondence of important military leaders on both sides. The papers taken from Abraham Lincoln lend a second emphasis to the collection. These are, besides some more military correspondence, mostly government documents and private correspondence that constitute elaborate autographs of figures of national prominence during the Lincoln administration. Similar papers signed by leaders of the Confederate government complete the collection's representation of important figures in all aspects of the war history.
In all, these papers represent an impressive list of important names, over 120 of which are listed in this register. Many of the letters refer to major events, and some appear to be of some considerable value for their informational content. But while the Flagg materials as a collection reflect a certain unifying theme, the correspondence lacks depth, the documents are seldom meaningfully related, and the papers in general do not lend themselves to categorical grouping relative to particular events, persons, or issues. The Flagg collection is essentially a collector's collection. Materials are included entirely according to their individual relation to one of the sources described above. Only broad generalization can express what subjective unity the collection possesses.
It is in accordance with this characteristic of the collection that all materials are filed individually in chronological order through all four boxes. All items are individually catalogued, and must be evaluated on the basis of their individual merit.
It should be noted that there are a few instances of continued series correspondence which possess certain chronological depth. But these are letters from soldiers in the field and citizens viewing the progress of the war. Since these are by no means the work of famous personages, and because their value rests consequently in their eyewitness descriptions of chronologically oriented events, these too have been filed individually in chronological order.
The collection includes, in addition to signed documents and letters, some sixteen unused Confederate war bonds, a dozen photographs, and some patriotic stationery of the war years. These are for the most part undated and are included in the last three folders in the file boxes.
As a collection, the Flagg Collection is a valuable general source on Civil War history, containing materials relating to a broad range of aspects of the conflict and its times. But the collection lacks the depth for concentrating research within its own scope, and its particular value must reside ultimately in its function as a repository of individually interesting miscellanea of Civil War history.