Civil War Teaching Collection


DIGITAL: Eleanora Williams Diary, 1862 October 1-1869 November 9 (MS.2940)

Biographical Note- Eleanora Williams lived in Cumberland Furnace, Tennessee, during the Civil War. She wrote this diary primarily between the ages of 18 and 23.

Scope and Contents- This collection consists of the Confederate diary of Eleanora Williams, of Dickson County, Tennessee, written between October 1, 1862 and November 9, 1869. The diary offers an account of civilian life in the area and of events concerning the Civil War as well as reflections on Williams’ personal feelings and emotions during the period. Williams refers to numerous military leaders, for example meeting General Nathan Bedford Forrest on January 20, 1863. She describes him as “tall and large (not very) and I think very fine looking.”

Topics and Themes – Civilian Life during the Civil War


DIGITAL: E. H. Rennolds Diaries, 1863-1864 (MS.0170)

Biographical Note- Edwin Hansford Rennolds was born in Locust Grove, Virginia to Robert (1805-1871) and Jane Hansford (1810-1881) Rennolds on October 30, 1839. He taught school from 1859 to 1861, at which time he left to take over his father’s farm. He joined the Confederate Army in 1861 and was assigned to the 5th Tennessee Infantry. After the war, he returned to his father’s farm and married Margaret C. Cox on January 11, 1866. They had seven children. Rennolds earned a Baptist preacher’s license in 1869 and continued to preach throughout his life. The family relocated to Florida in 1882, where Edwin Rennolds died on November 17, 1912.

Scope and Contents- E. H. Reynolds maintained these two diaries while he was serving with the 5th Tennessee Infantry (CSA) in 1863 and 1864. In them, he describes his service in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, including his participation in the battles of Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville.

Topics and Themes – life as a soldier during the Civil War, religious sentiments of Confederate soldiers


DIGITAL: Letter, John Watkins in Knoxville, Tenn., to Sarah Probert in Pittsfield, Ohio, 1863 December 15 (part of MS.1161)

Biographical Note- John Watkins was born to English emigrants George and Mary (Cook) Watkins in Cleveland, Ohio on January 24, 1840. He enlisted in the 19th Ohio Light Artillery on August 9, 1862 as a Private and was eventually promoted to Corporal. The unit participated in the Siege of Knoxville and the Atlanta Campaign before mustering out at Camp Cleveland, Ohio on June 27, 1865. After the war ended, Watkins married Sarah Victoria Probert (1841-1916) and the couple had five children.  John Watkins died of heart disease on November 23, 1924 in Pittsfield, Ohio and is buried in South Pittsfield Cemetery.

Scope and Content- In this letter, dated December 15, 1863, from John Watkins in Knoxville, Tenn., to Sarah Probert in Pittsfield, Ohio, Watkins writes about general news from Knoxville and thanks Ms. Probert for her letters. He closes the letter with a description of the Battle of Fort Sanders, explaining that Burnside had named the fort after General Sanders, who had been killed in the fighting during the siege of Knoxville.

Topics and Themes – the Battle of Fort Sanders


Letter, Robert A. Ragan to Emeline Ragan, 1863 December 4 (part of MS.0743)

Biographical Note- Ragan was born and raised in Greene County, TN near the North Carolina border.  Despite coming from a pro-Union part of the state, Ragan was kidnapped and forced into the Confederate army.  He eventually escaped his captors and made his way back behind Union lines where he raised 120 men to form Company K of the 8th Tennessee Infantry.

Scope and Content- In this letter, Robert A. Ragan (a Union officer from east Tennessee) describes the fighting during the Siege of Knoxville in the winter of 1863.  He writes of the unsuccessful Confederate charges on Knoxville (“we killed 400 hundred and taken 500 prisoners”), the battering taken by the left wing of the Union army stationed in Knoxville (“the last fight they had they said the blood run in the entrenchments”), and his hopes and fears of when he might return home to his “beloved little family.”

Topics and Themes – the deeply divided political sentiments of Tennesseans during the Civil War