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Carlos W. Colby Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Colby

Scope and Content of the Collection

The bulk of the collection consists of Civil War letters; some material relating to the 97th Illinois Volunteer Regiment; reminiscences of Colby’s boyhood and military career and copies of his obituaries; a small group of family letters; genealogical writings; and photographs of Colby and his family.


  • Creation: 1821-1937
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1861 - 1865



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Carlos W. Colby Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 5 folders at a time maximum (Priority II).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Carlos W. Colby 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 Carlos W. Colby

Illinois farmer and Civil War soldier.

Carlos W. Colby was born on May 15, 1837 on a farm in Merrimack County, New Hampshire, ten miles north of Concord. Colby moved with his family from New Hampshire to a farm near Alton, Illinois, in 1850. Colby was a farmer until, at the age of 25, he enlisted in Company G of the 97th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment on August 11, 1862 and was mustered in as a second corporal at Camp Butler in Springfield, Illinois. The Illinois 97th was assigned to participate in the Vicksburg Campaign, and as the Union Army moved south, Colby recorded his military experiences in regular letters to his family.

Reaching Memphis, the regiment became part of Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s organization of forces for a two-pronged assault on the strategically-placed city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Arriving in December 1862, the 97th stayed in the Vicksburg area, took part in the continual assaults upon and the final surrender of Vicksburg in early July of 1863, and thence was moved south to New Orleans. The regiment stayed in Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida, joining in several expeditions and campaigns until April 1865. Colby was wounded in the leg at the charge of Fort Blakely in Alabama on April 9, 1865. After several months in the hospital, he was mustered out on August 18, 1865 as a first sergeant.

After the war, Carlos Colby returned to the farm in Alton and married Anne E. Rowe, the sister of a company friend, in December 1866. He then settled down to farming and raising a family. Carlos Colby and Anne Colby had eight children, four of whom survived to adulthood. Colby lived in Alton until 1883 when he moved to a farm near Buckley, Illinois. His wife Anne died in 1899 and in 1900 he retired from farming and moved to Peoria, Illinois. Colby died in Peoria, Illinois in 1922 at age 85.

It was during the siege of Vicksburg that Colby was a member of a volunteer storming party that made an assault on the enemy’s works. He received a Congressional Medal of Honor in 1896 “…for most distinguished gallantry in action at the battle of Vicksburg, Miss.” Excerpts of many of Colby’s letters pertaining to the Vicksburg Campaign were edited and annotated by his great-grandson, John S. Painter, and published under the title “Bullets, Hardtack and Mud: A Soldier’s View of the Vicksburg Campaign,” in the Journal of the West, Vol. IV, No. 2, April 1865.


0.8 Linear Feet (2 boxes)


Primarily correspondence (129 letters) of Illinois farmer and Civil War soldier Carlos W. Colby, written between 1862 and 1865, to his sisters, brother, brother-in-law, and niece, plus a dozen Civil War letters written by Colby’s future brother-in-law James Rowe. Also includes Colby’s reminiscences of his boyhood and his service in the 97th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment, some family correspondence, genealogical material and a few photos.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Carlos Colby, 1862-1922
Boxes 1-2
Series 2: James Rowe, 1862-1865
Box 2
Series 3: Colby Family, 1821-1937
Box 2

Collection Stack Location

1 41 2


Gift of John S. Painter, 1989.

Processed by

Virginia H. Smith, 2001, Marisa Bell-Metereau, 2009.

Genre / Form




Inventory of the Carlos W. Colby Papers, 1821-1937, bulk 1861-1865
Virginia H. Smith and Marisa Bell-Metereau
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