Skip to main content

L. S. Willard letters

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Willard

Scope and Content of the Collection

Nineteen Letters from Lot Sabin Willard to his mother, father, and brother in Peoria, Illinois during the Civil War, from 1862-1864, as well as two envelopes addressed to Maria Sabin Hathaway (Mrs. G. Hathaway), Brimfield, Peoria county, Illinois.

Willard’s first two letters, which explain details of camp life at St. Louis, Missouri and express anticipation for active service, are quickly followed by two from Pittsburg, Tennessee detailing the horror of the Battle of Shiloh, with specifics about his participation and reinforcements. Willard continues sending letters from LaGrange and Memphis, Tennessee; Tallahatchie River, Mississippi; Millikin’s Bend, and Providence, Louisiana; and Vicksburg, Mississippi, which discuss food, skirmishes, battles, blockades, Vicksburg and commanding figures such as McPherson, Grant, and Sherman. Willard also writes about his promotion to major and Senior Aide-de-Camp, corruption amongst the officers, his feelings on the anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh, and his own longing for home and peace. After this, he follows Sherman and writes a quick letter after the battle of Resaca to reassure his family, as well as a longer one anticipating the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, writing from Resaca, Kingston, Big Shanty, Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia and near Chattanooga, Tennessee. Willard’s letters clearly show his perspective as an officer, looking not only at the immediate battles but at wider politics and battle plans, as well as his obvious preference for peace.


  • Creation: 1862-1864



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The L. S. Willard letters are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 5 folders at a time maximum, and items in each folder will be counted before and after delivery to the patron (Priority I).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The L. S. Willard letters are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of L. S. Willard

First Lieutenant in the 11th Illinois Calvary, Company G which served as Headquarters Guard, 17th Army Corps from 1863 to the end of the Civil War.

Lot Sabine Willard enlisted at age 22 on December 20, 1861. The money that he earned being a “traveling agent” in his hometown of Peoria, Illinois allowed him to enter the war as a first Lieutenant in the 11th Illinois Calvary, Company G. At first eager to try his regiment with active service, Willard quickly changed his mind after the incredibly high mortality rate of its first fight, the Battle of Shiloh. The event was to haunt him for years afterward. Even though he often longed for peace and home, Willard continued his military career and became major and senior aide-de-camp to General McPherson on April 18th, 1863. He camped in Vicksburg, then marched with Sherman and fought at Resaca and Kennesaw Mountain. Willard survived the war, was mustered out on August 9th, 1864, and, despite his frequent assertions that he would never marry, settled down in Litchfield Ward 2, Montgomery, Illinois and began raising a family. 1870 found him as a dry goods merchant living with his wife Ellen, his children, William and May, and a domestic servant, having accumulated $6,000 worth of property. Within ten years, Willard moved to Minnesota and his family grew with the addition of a third child, Asa.


0.2 Linear Feet (1 box)


First Lieutenant in the 11th Illinois Cavalry, Company G, who later served as major and aide-de-camp to General James Birdseye McPherson. Includes letters home to family from Brimfield, Peoria County, Illinois, from Camp Benton Barracks, St. Louis, Tennessee, and Louisiana, 1862-1864.


Letters are arranged chronologically, followed by envelopes.

Collection Stack Location

1 36 4


Purchase, Charles Apfelbaum, 2006.

Processed by

Jane Venanzi, 2009.

Inventory of the L. S. Willard letters, 1862-1864
Jane Venanzi
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States