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Francis Trowbridge Sherman Papers

Identifier: VAULT-Case-MS-5282

Scope and Content of the Collection

Original correspondence, 1849-1850, documenting Gold Rush experiences, together with photocopies of family, business, and Civil War correspondence, documents, and newspaper clippings.

Gold Rush letters written by Sherman and Henry A. Ballentine from Fort Childs, Fort Bridger, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, and San Francisco contain full descriptions of the harsh overland journey, including the route, disease and death, livestock and means of transport. There is also mention of other Chicagoans met along the way. Once in California, the correspondents write of their poor chances of striking it rich in the mines, the mining region and mining process, the building boom, prices, the prevalence of gambling, illnesses among the miners, and floods in Sacramento. There is also a letter to Sherman from his sister and father, offering advice and describing the California excitement in Chicago.

Four Civil War letters, Jan.-Aug., 1863, written by F.T. Sherman from Tennessee and Alabama discuss the beginning of the Battle of Stones River, infighting and administrative turmoil, the regiment's position at Bridgeport, Ala., and Union troop contact with Confederate soldiers across the river. Also included are accounts from Sherman's pre-fire business, Sherman, Haley & Co.

Materials relating to Sherman's family include a few letters relating to his father's pre-war financial transactions; a letter from his father and mother to his sister describing the July 4th celebrations, and relating news about crops, family, and friends; F.C. Sherman's will and other family documents; and a few newspaper clippings, one concerning the opening of the Sherman House.


  • Creation: 1849-1894



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Francis Trowbridge Sherman Papers 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 Francis Trowbridge Sherman Papers 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.

Biography of Francis Trowbridge Sherman

Chicagoan who participated in the California gold rush and was colonel of the 88th Illinois Infantry Regiment during the Civil War.

The first child of Francis Cornwall and Electa Sherman, Francis Trowbridge Sherman was born in Newtown, Conn., in 1825, and moved with his family to Chicago in 1834. Prior to the Civil War, while his father was active in Chicago politics (mayor, alderman, state representative), operated a brickyard, and built the City Hotel (later Sherman House), F.T. Sherman began work in 1844 as a post office clerk. In 1849, he journeyed overland to California (via the Platte River, Fort Bridger, and Salt Lake City) with his friend Henry A. Ballentine. Spending his first winter in Sacramento, Sherman remained for about a year before returning to Chicago via the Isthmus of Panama.

In 1851, Sherman married Eleanor "Ellen" N. Vedder and began work in manufacturing, contracting, and railroad building. During the Civil War, as colonel of the 88th Illinois Infantry, Sherman participated in the arrest of the Confederate spy Belle Boyd. He then served in the Battle of Stones River and Missionary Ridge, where he led a successful charge. Sherman was captured in 1864, exchanged, and mustered out in 1866 with the rank of brigadier general. After the war, Sherman ran a sugar plantation in Louisiana for one year and returned to Chicago, where he was postmaster, 1867-1868, and a manufacturer (Sherman, Haley & Co.) of stone and sand products, a business ruined by the fire of 1871. An attempt to start anew in New Mexico in 1876 did not succeed, and Sherman returned to Chicago. He eventually moved to Waukegan, where he died in 1905.

Henry A. Ballentine, Sherman's friend and California traveling companion, returned to Chicago in 1852, where he entered the wholesale grocery business. In 1864 he moved to Michigan and worked in his family's lumber, salt, and shipping business. He later moved to Arkansas and Colorado, where he died in 1890.


0.2 Linear Feet (1 box)


Correspondence of Francis Trowbridge Sherman of Chicago, and his traveling companion, Henry A. Ballentine, documenting their travel overland to the California gold fields and experiences there, 1849-1850. Also photocopies of a few of Sherman's (colonel 88th Illinois Infantry) letters regarding the Civil War and his Chicago business, business and family correspondence of father F.C. Sherman, family records, and newspaper clippings.


Organized by type of material: correspondence, business accounts, family records, newspaper clippings. Correspondence arranged chronologically.

Collection Stack Location

Vault 35 3


Gift of Robert T. Sherman, Jr., 1981.

Location of Originals

Part of this collection is composed of photocopies from originals located at the Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, Illinois.

Publication Note

Selected overland and California letters published in: Letters from the Gold Rush (Chicago: 1980).

Processed by

Karyn Goldstein, 2003.

Inventory of the Francis Trowbridge Sherman Papers, 1849-1894
Martha Briggs
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