McCracken Civil War Correspondence

The McCracken Civil War Correspondence contains 17 letters received over the course of the war by James McCracken of Ledyard, Connecticut. The majority of the letters are from William Reynolds of nearby Norwich, as well as four letters from James' brother Charles. The collection also contains three letters from Reynolds after the war, one written from Block Island, R.I. where he seems to have been teaching, and two written from Iowa where he is homesteading.

Both Reynolds and Charles McCracken served extensively in Louisiana before transferring to Virginia toward the close of the war, McCracken with the 12th Connecticut Infantry and Reynolds with the 13th. Both describe interaction with the local population, disease and discomfort, and news of the progress of the war both near and far. Both consistently express enthusiasm for the war. McCracken is dispirited by the provisions he receives and complains about war profiteers and blockade runners, even accusing Reynolds of helping the rebellion by circumventing the blockade. Reynolds expresses attitudes that are frankly racist, even for their time, and complains about abolitionist sentiment among the officers. Reynolds also offers lively descriptions of combat, enumerating the complicated movements of both armies on the battlefield. The lack of gruesome details in his accounts lead one to wonder whether his reports were gained through firsthand observations.