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James D. and Joseph W. Harris papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-HarrisJ

Scope and Content of the Collection

The collection consists mainly of a series of letters James and Joseph wrote to their relatives while in military service during the Civil War.

James's army letters, which are mostly written from occupied New Orleans and then from Baton Rouge and its environs, April-August, 1862, provide details about daily military life, the horrors of the battlefield, and northern attitudes toward the South and its citizens. Also, there are several letters James wrote while living and working Chicago before he joined the army which give descriptions of life in the big city.

Joseph's letters from the Lancaster contain descriptions of life aboard ship in Panama (which he disliked) and of a pleasant visit to Hawaii in 1861. There is a group of letters concerning Joseph's death in August of 1861 regarding his popularity on the Lancaster and the problem of the return of his body to his family for burial.

Also, two letters from Theodore Harris to his wife Mary, 1824 and 1832, and two other family letters, from Margaret and her nephew.


  • Creation: 1824-1862



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The James D. Harris and Joseph W. Harris 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 James D. Harris and Joseph W. Harris 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 at

Biography of James D. Harris and Joseph W. Harris

Two New England brothers who died while serving in the military during the Civil War.

James Duncan Harris, born in New Hampshire in 1836, was working in Chicago as an accountant in 1861. As of April, 1861, Harris was in New York City on the way to Washington as part of some military organization, possibly the National Guard and later, the Eastern Bay State Regiment which was organized in Lowell, Massachusetts. Subsequently, on January 4, 1862, he was mustered into in the 30th Massachusetts Volunteers as an orderly sergeant. Ultimately stationed in and around New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he drowned in the Mississippi River in New Orleans, November 4, 1862.

Joseph Whipple Harris, born in New Hampshire in 1837, served in the United States Navy as a lieutenant on the ship Lancaster, 1860-1861, primarily stationed in Panama, Central America. Harris died of fever, which was prevalent in that climate, and died on August 24, 1861.

The Harris brothers were the children of Mary Macpheadris Warner Conner and Captain Theodore Jackson Harris of Portsmouth, New Hampshire who were married in 1820. They had three daughters: Elizabeth (Lizzie), who married Dr. E.G. Tucker of Boston, Mary, who married John A. Shackford, and Margaret, who married Philip John Aubin of Philadelphia. There were four Harris sons: Theodore Sheafe, Robert Lewis, James Duncan and Joseph Whipple.


0.2 Linear Feet (1 box)


Correspondence from James Duncan Harris and brother Joseph Whipple Harris of Massachusetts and New Hampshire to members of their family, mostly written while they were in military service in the 1860's. Also, a few letters James wrote from Chicago in the 1850's; letters concerning Joseph Harris's death in 1861 while serving in the United States Navy; a few historic family letters and a genealogical pamphlet.


Materials arranged alphabetically.

Collection Stack Location

1 21 7


Gift of Barbara Aubin, 2003

Processed by

Virginia H. Smith, 2004.

Inventory of the James D. and Joseph W. Harris papers, 1824-1862
Virginia H. Smith
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