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Orville E. Babcock Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Babcock

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence, newspaper clippings, and miscellaneous items from the collection of Orville E. Babcock, 1835-1884.

Includes political correspondence to Babcock during his tenure in the White House as well as family correspondence and extensive courtship correspondence between Babcock and Annie Campbell prior to their marriage; clippings related to Babcock’s role in the Whiskey Ring trials and his death; and a scrapbook of clippings related to the attempted annexation of Santo Domingo. There are also a number of miscellaneous items, including testimonials relating to the Whiskey Ring trials, photos, and others.


  • Creation: 1849-1947
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1884 - 1898



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Orville E. Babcock Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Orville E. Babcock 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 Orville E. Babcock

American brevet Brigadier General, Aide-de-Camp to Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War and Private Secretary to Grant during his presidency, 1869-1877.

Born December 25, 1835 in Franklin, Vermont, Babcock attended West Point and graduated third in a class of forty-five in 1861. Following his graduation, he was assigned to the engineer corps as a second lieutenant. During the Civil War he served on the staff of General W.B. Franklin and was made acting chief engineer of the Department of Ohio. In 1864, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and made an aide-de-camp for General Ulysses S. Grant. Babcock served under Grant at the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor and was responsible for delivering Grant’s demand for surrender to Robert E. Lee as well as arranging the meeting between Grant and Lee at Appomattox, Virginia, where the terms of surrender were finalized.

Following the Civil War, Babcock continued to serve as an aide-de-camp to Grant and, following Grant’s election in 1869, worked as the private secretary to the Commander-in-Chief. In this capacity, Babcock traveled that year to Santo Domingo to further Grant’s attempt to annex the country. In 1875, Babcock was indicted on charges that he conspired with the “Whiskey Ring” to de-fraud the government of tax money. Grant voluntarily testified on Babcock’s behalf and Babcock was acquitted. He retired from politics in 1877 and was appointed Chief Engineer of the 5th and 6th Lighthouse Districts.

Babcock married Anne Eliza Campbell on Nov. 8, 1866. They had four sons: Campbell E., Orville E., Jr, Adolph B., and Benjamin, who died in infancy. Orville E. Babcock drowned on June 2, 1884, in Mosquito Inlet, Florida, where he was working on a lighthouse.


6.9 Linear Feet (11.5 boxes and 1 oversize box)


Orville E. Babcock was American brevet Brigadier General, Aide-de-Camp to Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War, and Private Secretary to Grant during his presidency, 1869-1877. Collection is primarily correspondence relating to Babcock’s military career, service as private secretary to Ulysses S. Grant during his presidency, role in the Whiskey Ring trials of 1875-1876, and private life. Collection also contains newspaper clippings, photographs, military service records and miscellaneous items.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Correspondence, 1858-1944
Boxes 1-7
Series 2: Newspaper Clippings, approximately 1850-1940
Box 8
Series 3: Photographs, approximately 1865-1890
Box 8
Series 4: Miscellaneous, 1851-1940
Boxes 8-10

Collection Stack Location

1 4 1-2


Gift, Orville E. Babcock, Jr., 1951.

Processed by

Emily Calkins, 2006.

Inventory of the Orville E. Babcock Papers, 1864-1947, bulk 1884-1898
Emily Calkins
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 8/2/2011: Revisions, additions, and updates were made.

Repository Details

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

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States