Treasure Chest Thursday – Notre Dame Hesburgh Special Collections’ Civil War Letters Written by Samuel Garland Shackford to His Daughter’s Caretaker (Blog 368)

About three years ago, on October 7, 2013 we wrote an article sharing the Army Widow Pension card for Samuel G. Shackford’s 2nd wife Esta (Higgins Shackford).  In that article we stated that we had discovered that Samuel had written letters to his daughter during the civil war and “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get to read” these letters.

university-of-notre-dame-hesburg-libraryWell this week, we  visited the beautiful Notre Dame campus where we felt honored to be able to review the letters that Samuel Garland Shackford sent home to his daughter Ida during the civil war.  We not only found the letters but were extremely pleased to discover that they had been used by a Notre Dame student who wrote a a senior thesis paper describing the historical value and her wonderful perspectives of these letters!  Her paper provided an excellent context to the letters and describes some history regarding Samuel that is new to us.

We quickly scanned some of the letters as we copied them and discovered that Samuel put a date on each letter and described his location so we will able to show this on a map at a later date.  He also described his work at a hospital and shared the health status of the other member of the Huse family and himself.  He asked about his daughter Ida and as the war progressed had to sort out payment for her care and sent her some silk.  He also described his sadness and loss of hope regarding remarrying because the women in the community who he had hoped to possibly marry were becoming unavailable. The files also included a letter from the women he did marry – Esta Higgens which was sent to another member of the Huse family where she asks how Mr Shackford is doing.

We wish to thank the Huse family for saving these precious letters, those who kept them preserved, the Hesburgh library for purchasing this wonderful collection, those who created the wonderful findings aid and for ensuring that their finding aids are discoverable on a Google Search.

We had called ahead of our visit to ensure the documents were available and were impressed at the professionalism of James Cachey and Deborah Dochuck who had the documents pulled before our arrival.  The library had nearby sinks for handwashing and lockers for storing briefcases right at the front entrance of the library and had established a document viewing area that was private but yet was set up to allow oversight of the patrons viewing documents.  Their focus of preservation of historical documents will ensure that others can see these precious documents!

We were allowed to photograph the files and historic letters and will be transcribing them as time permits.  Note:  We ve created over 15,000 images of Shackford family history documents during the past few months and when we return home our first goal is to develop a plan of prioritizing the review and transcription of these wonderful treasures. And before sharing anything beyond our transcriptions, we’ll need to garner permission from the library!

So more about these letters someday in the future!

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