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Walter A. Chapman papers

Call Number: MS 892

Scope and Contents

The Civil War letters and diary or Walter A. Chapman (1840-1865) make up the bulk of this collection and detail the experiences or the common soldiers in the Union Army, chronically short of food and clothing, suffering from a battery of illnesses and lack of medical aid, bitter against politicians and their prolongation of the war, but fervent partisans of their officers and fellow soldiers.

In September of 1862 Walter Chapman, of Charlestown, Massachusetts, joined the 36th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteers, which served under General Burnside through Grant 's western campaign of 1862-1864. In these years Chapman fought and described the fighting at Fredericksburg, Champion's Hill, Black River, Vicksburg, Campbell's Station, Knoxville, the Battle of the Wilderness, and others. He recorded at the same time in a lively fashion his lire in camp and on campaign, and his daily foraging and other means of supplementing his inadequate diet and wardrobe, and his opinions, of the conduct of the war. His diary includes a list of prices for clothing and equipment in camp in 1862, and he makes frequent note of the price of food and other necessities.

Chapman was sent home in March of 1864 on recruiting service and afterwards rejoined the army, serving as sergeant and later lieutenant in a brigade of black troops fighting in the deep south. At first sceptical about the troops, after battles such as that at Blakely, Alabama, in April of 1865, he was convinced that the black soldier "has shown himself, on the battlefield, to be the equal of the best soldiers that ever stepped" (1865 Apr 16).

Chapman was killed on May 25, 1865, in an explosion of a warehouse in Mobile, Alabama.

Aside from his letters and diary, Chapman's Civil War papers include a newspaper clipping of his letter to his parents about the siege of Knoxville and a list of battles fought by the 36th Regiment and a list of the men in his company. Also in the collection are a few 1859 letters from a Charlestown friend discussing local news, a poem and essay about religion written by Chapman, and several receipts and other miscellaneous items.

These papers were donated to Yale University by S. W. Chapman in 1944.


  • 1856-1865


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of S. W. Chapman, 1944.


0.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Letters and diary of Walter A. Chapman (1840-1865) describing his experience as a member of the 36th regiment, his participation in numerous battles (1862-1864), and the hardships of camp life due to shortages of food, clothing, and medicines. In 1864 he became lieutenant of a brigade of black troops and describes their conduct in a battle at Blakely, Alabama in April, 1865. The diary covers the period January, 1863 to March, 1864.

Guide to the Walter A. Chapman papers
Under Revision
July 2008
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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