Geary Family Papers
1846-1913(Bulk: 1846-1873)
(6 linear feet)

Collection 2062

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
1300 Locust Street * Philadelphia, PA 19107-5699
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania 1300 Locust Street Philadelphia, PA 19107-5699
Table of contents Abstract
Born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, John White Geary (1819-1873) earned distinction through military service in two major American wars and also achieved prominence as a statesman in several localities. Geary served as a colonel in the Mexican War, was the first mayor of San Francisco, territorial governor of Kansas, a major general in the Union Army by the end of the Civil War, and governor of Pennsylvania from 1867 to 1873. He was first married in 1843 to Margaret Ann Logan (d. 1853) and then to Mary Church Henderson in 1858. His eldest son, Edward Ratchford Geary, a Union soldier in the Civil War, died at the age of eighteen in the battle of Wauhatchie in Tennessee in October 1863. John's older brother, Rev. Edward R. Geary, attended Allegheny Theological College in Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania, joined the ministry, and later went on to become superintendent of Indian affairs in Oregon and Washington.

The Geary family papers focus on John White Geary, whose diary, 1846-1848, and letters, 1859-1865, written to his second wife Mary Church Henderson, provide first-hand accounts of two major nineteenth century events. Geary's diary recounts his engagement in the Mexican War and includes a lengthy description of the battle of La Hoya. His letters primarily relate to his service in the Civil War and document the battles of Gettysburg; Wauhatchie, Tennessee; and Atlanta, as well as his military governorship of Savannah. Both the diary and his letters contain rich descriptions of places, experiences, and anecdotes. Edward Ratchford Geary's letters to his stepmother Mary Church Henderson Geary document his service in the Union army from the time of enlistment until his death at the age of eighteen. John's older brother, Rev. Edward Geary, also wrote to Mary Geary about the war and his travels and offered her consolation upon his nephew's death. Typed transcripts of the letters allow for easy reading. Twenty-three scrapbooks, 1850-1873, contain a large number of newspaper clippings that primarily document Geary's career as governor of Pennsylvania. The earliest clippings contain news from Mexico, San Francisco and other western towns, and Kansas.

Background note
John White Geary was born near Mount Pleasant in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, on December 30, 1819, the youngest of four sons born to Richard Geary (b. 1779) and Margaret White Geary (b. 1770). John and his brother Edward were the only two of the couple's children who survived into adulthood. Edward Geary attended Allegheny Theological College in Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania, joined the ministry, and later went on to become Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Oregon and Washington. Richard Geary, a schoolmaster who had fought in the War of 1812, died in a wagon accident while John was attending Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania. John left the college and returned home where he worked odd jobs, including his father's former post as schoolmaster, in order to clear his father's debts and support his mother. John later worked in Kentucky as a surveyor of public works and then returned to college to complete his studies in civil engineering and law. Subsequently he was appointed assistant superintendent and engineer of the Allegheny Portage Railroad of Pennsylvania, which played a critical role in opening the interior of the United States to trade and settlement.

On February 12, 1843, John married Margaret Ann Logan, daughter of James R. Logan of Unionville, Pennsylvania. Together, they had a home in Cresson Heights in which their first two children were born. The first child, John White, died in infancy of smallpox; the second child, Edward Ratchford, was born September 14, 1845. Geary left home in 1846 to serve in the Mexican War (1846-1848) as lieutenant colonel of a brigade he was instrumental in organizing, the American Highlanders of the Cambria Legion, which joined the 2nd Pennsylvania Infantry. The American Highlanders were from Summit, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding area of Cambria County. They marched to Pittsburgh where First Lieutenant Horace B. Field, 3rd U.S. Artillery, mustered them into Federal service on January 3, 1847; Geary and the other field officers of the 2nd Regiment were mustered in four days later.

During their tour of duty, the 2nd Regiment participated in the battles of La Hoya, Chapultepec (during which Geary was wounded), and Garita de Belen. During the battle of Mexico City, the regiment was responsible for garrisoning the citadel, with its stores of military equipment. Geary was elected colonel in November after the death of Colonel William B. Roberts. Under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed on February 2, 1848, the United States acquired 525,000 square miles of land in what is now Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah, in exchange for fifteen million dollars. The 2nd Regiment returned to Pittsburgh where, on July 14, 1848, they were mustered out of service by Major George Wright, 4th U.S. Infantry. The field and staff of the regiment were mustered out on July 21, 1848.

Shortly after Geary's return home in 1848, the family moved to a farm in Springdale, closer to the growing city of Pittsburgh, and in 1849 they moved again, this time to the frontier town of San Francisco where Geary had been appointed postmaster by President Polk. This position endowed him with the powers to create post offices, establish mail routes, and make contracts for carrying mail throughout California. Geary was also a member of the State Constitutional Convention at Monterey and in 1849 was the last American to be elected Alcalde (an office of Mexican origin which combined the authority of sheriff and probate judge with that of mayor) of San Francisco. The Geary's third son, William Logan, was born April 17, 1849, and was the first male American child born in San Francisco. Margaret was not in good health after William's birth, and so returned to their farm in Pennsylvania with their children. Geary remained, and with the establishment of the city's first charter in 1850, his post as Alcalde was abolished and he was appointed the first mayor of San Francisco. He served one year in that position and during that time took a leading part in the formation of California's new constitution. He was also chairman of the Territorial Democratic Committee. Geary donated a great deal of land he had acquired to the city of San Francisco before leaving in 1852, when he returned to Pennsylvania to be with his children and still ailing wife.

A little more than a year after his return home, Margaret died, leaving Geary to care for their two sons. In 1855 he turned down President Pierce's offer to replace Brigham Young as territorial governor of Utah, but in 1856 he accepted Pierce's appointment to the territorial governorship of Kansas, leaving his boys behind in Pennsylvania under the care of a trusted servant. Geary stayed less than a year in "bleeding Kansas," which was embroiled in a struggle between pro- and anti-slavery factions who both sought control of the territory.

Geary once again returned to Pennsylvania and on November 2, 1858, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, he wed Mary Church Henderson, a wealthy young widow from Cumberland County. The couple's first child, Mary, given the nickname "Pet," was born August 31, 1859. Mary and the newborn stayed with family in Carlisle during this period while Geary was away on frequent business and family-related trips. He often visited his Springdale farm to observe the progress of his crops and to visit his boys at school. He made regular trips to Point of Rocks, Maryland, to inspect an iron furnace he managed. Geary also began practicing law in Philadelphia around this time and became involved in the Stephen Girard estate case, which required frequent trips to New York. In an attempt to unite his entire family, which consisted of his two sons Edward and William, Mary's son Willie from her previous marriage, and their new daughter Mary (Pet), he decided to purchase a new home in New Alexandria, close to Pittsburgh, where they all could live together.

In June of 1861, two months after the start of the Civil War, Geary obtained permission from President Lincoln to organize an infantry regiment, which was uniformed and equipped at Geary's own expense. The regiment was organized in Philadelphia with their camp at Oxford Park in that city and upon muster they numbered 1,550. John's eleven year-old son, William, served as drummer boy. Surplus recruits from the 28th were formed into a new battery, known as Knap's Battery, which was attached to the regiment.

After the staggering defeat at Bull Run in July, Geary and the ten companies under his command rushed to Harper's Ferry, Virginia, by way of Baltimore where they were instructed to guard the frontier from Nolan's Ferry to the Antietam aqueduct. After a series of engagements in and around that area, they occupied the city of Leesburg, Virginia, after its evacuation in March 1862. The next month Geary was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers and in July an order was issued by General Williams that the 28th, along with Knap's Battery and any other troops that might later be added to General Geary's command, were designated the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division, 2nd Corps. The 2nd Corps fought at Cedar Mountain in August 1862, during which Geary was severely wounded in the arm. He returned to his home in Pennsylvania for a brief recovery period and his young son William accompanied him.

During Geary's absence, the 2nd Corps fought in the battle of Antietam in September and Fredericksburg in December. After his return, Geary fought with the 2nd in May 1863 in the Battle of Chancellorsville and then at Gettysburg in July. The 2nd shared in the victory against Confederate forces at Wauhatchie, Tennessee, in October 1863, upon which the subsistence of the Union Army at Chattanooga depended. Geary and his eldest son, Edward, served alongside each other at Wauhatchie. Edward, who had left the sophomore class at Jefferson College in 1861 at the age of sixteen to enlist as a private in the 28th Pennsylvania Volunteers, was killed in that battle. He was lieutenant of his battery.

In late November the 2nd participated in the Chattanooga-Ringgold campaign, which included the battles of Lookout Mountain (Ga.), Mission Ridge (Tenn.), Ringgold Gap and Taylor's Ridge (Ga.). Re-enlistment came in December 1863, which was followed by two months of furlough. Upon their return the Atlanta Campaign commenced, which lasted from May 1864 until the surrender of that city in September. In November they participated in Sherman's famous "March to the Sea," which resulted in the massive destruction of southern property, depots of provisions, bridges, and railroads by the Union Army. The march brought the Union forces to Savannah, which was surrendered on December 21 to Geary. He was appointed military governor of that city and in January of 1865 he was brevetted major general. Geary and the 2nd Corps participated in the Carolinas campaign, which consisted of an even longer march through southern territory than Sherman's "March to the Sea" and which culminated in the surrender of the majority of Confederate forces at Raleigh. The original members of the 28th Regiment were mustered out of service on July 18, 1865.

Geary's family lived in the Hotel St. Lawrence in Philadelphia for much of the beginning of the war until Mary decided to purchase a new home in Carlisle closer to her family. During the Confederate occupation of Carlisle in June 1863, Geary's young son, William, defended their home in his father's absence and prevented the home from falling into Confederate hands. Geary was also absent during the birth of his second daughter, Margaret, who was born in December 1863. After returning home in 1865, he served as an assisting judge in the Andersonville Trial, the first war crimes tribunal in history, which resulted in the execution of Captain Henry Wirz, Swiss superintendent of the Confederacy's largest and most infamous stockade.

Despite Geary's pre-war ties to the Democratic Party, he was the Republican nominee in the 1867 Pennsylvania gubernatorial race. He was elected that year and was again in 1870 by a narrow margin of 4,596 votes. During his terms, his support of black suffrage and the adoption of the 15th amendment compromised his popularity, as did his attempts to curb the powers of the Pennsylvania Railroad. In the wake of the September 1869 Avondale mine disaster, which killed more than one hundred people, including nineteen children under the age of fourteen, he sponsored the first mine safety legislation in Pennsylvania. In 1871 he enacted laws governing political campaigns and in 1873 he made education compulsory for children in Pennsylvania. In 1872 Geary was a presidential hopeful, but lost the Republican nomination to Ulysses S. Grant. He was also associated at one point with the National Labor Party, but never officially secured their nomination for the presidency.

On February 24, 1867, his third daughter, Eva Louise, was the first child born in the Pennsylvania governor's mansion. On February 22, 1869, another son, John Washington, was born. Less than three weeks after finishing his second term as governor, Geary died suddenly on February 27, 1873, while at the breakfast table with his family. He was buried with state honors in Mount Kalma Cemetery, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A battlefield statue of Geary, as a general in the Union Army, was erected in Gettysburg in 1915.

Scope and content
John White Geary's diary, 1846 to 1848, and letters, 1859 to 1865, written to his second wife Mary Church Henderson, provide first-hand accounts of two major nineteenth century American military battles, respectively, the Mexican War and the Civil War. They both are written from the perspective of a high ranking officer and contain reflections on the war, as well as anecdotes and rich descriptions of places encountered. Geary's diary includes recounts of his voyage to Mexico, his time on the island of Lobos, and the battle of La Hoya in Mexico. His letters include details from the battles of Gettysburg, Wauhatchie in Tennessee (a rare night time battle), and Atlanta, as well as his military governorship of Savannah. Geary's eldest son, Edward Ratchford Geary, who enlisted in the Union Army at the age of sixteen, was killed in the battle of Wauhatchie in 1863. His letters, 1861 to 1863, to his stepmother Mary Church Henderson provide an alternate account of service in the Union Army. Geary and his son often mentioned one another in their letters and Geary's letter to Mary after the battle at Wauhatchie contains a painful retelling of the engagement in which his son was killed. A few consolatory letters written to Mary after Edward's death are also contained in the collection, from M.L. Goodman and Geary's brother, Rev. Edward R. Geary.

The twenty-three scrapbooks in this collection, covering the years 1850 to 1873, contain a large number of newspaper clippings that primarily document John White Geary's career as governor of Pennsylvania. Earlier articles contain news from Mexico, from San Francisco and other west coast towns, and from Kansas. Several articles in 1873, published after Geary's death that year, contain biographical details. A separate volume in the collection entitled "In Memoriam," prepared posthumously by the surviving members of Geary's staff during his service as major-general during the Civil War, honors his service and character.

Series I John White Geary, 1846-1873, 1913 37 folders, 3 volumes
a. Diary, 1846-1848 1 vol.
b. Letters, 1859-1865 1 vol., 13 folders
c. Scrapbooks, 1850-1873 23 vols.
d. Miscellaneous, 1873, 1913 1 vol., 1 folder
Series II Other family members, 1861-1864 6 folders
a. Edward R. Geary, 1861-1863 5 folders
b. Rev. Edward R. Geary, 1862-1864 1 folder

Administrative information
The collection is open for research.

Scrapbooks and diary: unknown

Papers: Gift of Col. Richard M. Ludlow, 1978-1979. Accession 78:65.

Preferred citation
Cite as: [Indicate cited item or series here], Geary Family Papers (Collection 2062), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Processing information
Processed by Kim Massare, April 2004. Processing made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this finding aid do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

John W. Geary's Mexican War diary previously had the call number Am .03441.

Alternate formats
John W. Geary's Civil War letters have been published under the following title: Blair, William Alan, ed. A politician goes to war: the Civil War letters of John White Geary. University Park, Penn.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995.

Additional information
Separated material

Related material
At the Historical Society of Pennsylvania:

At other institutions:

Cubbison, Doug. "John White Geary." Two Accounts Of John Geary's Life by Members of the GDG. (Accessed 4/15/2004).

Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion: compiled and Arranged from Official Records of the Federal and Confederate Armies, Reports of the Adjutant Generals of the Several States, the Army Registers, and Other Reliable Documents and Sources. Des Moines, Iowa: The Dyer Publishing Company, 1908.

Geary, Mary deForest. A Giant in those days: a story about the life of John White Geary. Brunswick, Georgia: Coastal Printing Company, 1980.

Hackenburg, Randy W. Pennsylvania in the war with Mexico: the Volunteer Regiments. Shippensburg, PA: White Mane Pub. Co., 1992.

Klos, Stanley, ed. "John White Geary."Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography. 1999. (Accessed 4/15/2004).

Tagg, Larry. "John White Geary."Two Accounts Of John Geary's Life by Members of the GDG. (Accessed 4/15/2004).

Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco. "John White Geary (1819-1873) Last Alcalde and First Mayor of San Francisco." (Accessed 4/15/2004).

Added entries
  • Atlanta Campaign, 1864
  • Cedar Mountain, Battle of, Va., 1862
  • Chancellorsville, Battle of, Va., 1863
  • Condolence notes--19th century
  • Geary, Edward Ratchford, 1845-1863
  • Geary, Edward Ratchford, Rev.
  • Geary, John White, 1819-1873
  • Generals--United States--Correspondence
  • Gettysburg Campaign, 1863
  • Governors--Kansas--19th century
  • Governors--Pennsylvania--19th century
  • Kansas--Politics and government--1854-1861
  • Lookout Mountain, Battle of, Tenn., 1863
  • Mayors--California--San Francisco--19th century
  • Mexican War, 1846-1848--Campaigns
  • Mexican War, 1846-1848--Diaries
  • Mexico City (Mexico)--History--American occupation, 1847-1848
  • Military governors
  • Mine accidents--Pennsylvania--19th century
  • Missionary Ridge, Battle of, Tenn., 1863
  • Pennsylvania-- Politics and government, 1865-1950
  • Pennsylvania--History, 1865-1950
  • Politicians--Social life and customs--19th century
  • Savannah (Ga.)--History--Siege, 1864
  • Sherman's March to the Sea
  • Statesmen's families--19th century
  • United States. Army. Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, 28th (1861-1865)
  • United States. Army. Pennsylvania Infantry, 2nd
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Campaigns--Georgia
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Campaigns--Tennessee
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Campaigns--Virginia
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Destruction and pillage
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Social aspects
  • Contributors
  • Geary, Mary Church Henderson
  • Girard, Stephen, 1750-1831--Estate
  • Contact information
    The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
    1300 Locust Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19107-5699



    Sponsor:Processing made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this finding aid do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
    Collection overview

    Series 1. John White Geary 1846-1873. 1 box and 26 volumes Box 1 and vols. 1-26

    a. Diary 1846-1848

    John Geary's pocket diary begins with a few pages of miscellany, including a list of grocery purchases and notes on physics. Diary entries begin on December 31, 1846, with details of Geary's day in Pennsylvania with the American Highlanders, who had set out to fight in the Mexican War. Entries were made nearly every day, although less frequently towards the end of the diary, and vary in length from a few lines to a few pages, some of it written in very tiny script.

    Geary embarked from New Orleans January 23, 1847, and arrived in Vera Cruz, Mexico, in April via the "delectable" island of Lobos. He included lengthy descriptions of the exotic plant and animal species he encountered, comparing them to those he knew in Pennsylvania, as well as descriptions of Mexican towns and battlefields, like the one at Sierra Gorda where the stench of rotting carcasses "was very annoying and in many instances almost suffocating." His entries are peppered with Spanish phrases and interesting anecdotes, such as the incident on May 19, 1847, when four U.S. soldiers were punished for stealing in the town of Jalapa. The soldiers were whipped in public with the "cat," their heads shaven, and then driven through the town with "ROBBER" painted on their backs. Geary noted that while they might have deserved it, the manner in which they were punished was a "relic of barbarism, and ought not to be continued in an enlightened age."

    In another interesting entry from June 9, Geary went to a cemetery for the funeral of a fellow soldier. Next to the grave were thirty skulls piled on top of each other that were unearthed during the digging process, the former contents of a mass grave. As he "carelessly tossed about these late abodes of the human mind," he wrote that "strange reflections" on life and death passed through his mind, some of which are included in the entry. In this same entry he reflected on the war relief situation: "In this war we have lost very many brave men, many now languish in sickness, and are almost destitute of proper medical attendance, of nourishing diet, of kind nurses. No one to speak kind words to alleviate their sufferings." He went on to criticize philanthropists who concerned themselves with foreign people and foreign causes, among them Christian missionaries in China and relief societies for Irish peasantry. "Charity," he asserted, "begins at home." On September 10 Geary witnessed the execution of sixteen American soldiers, "all Irishmen," who deserted and joined Mexican forces. Thirteen others were whipped and branded with the letter "D" (for deserter) on their right cheek. Summarizing his sentiments upon witnessing this event, Geary wrote: "Their execution made no impression upon my mind whatsoever, nor the least pity excited my breast."

    With a few exceptions, such as the battle of La Hoya, Geary was brief when detailing battles in which he was engaged. For instance, less than a month after the surrender of Mexico City on September 14, which is recounted in a half-page entry, he experienced an earthquake on October 2, which he used nearly two pages to describe. Most entries, however, relate news from other camps and provide a clear picture of the progress of the war. The diary ends with a blank entry on February 11, 1848, while Geary was still in Mexico.

    b. Letters 1859-1865.

    John Geary's letters to his second wife, Mary Church Henderson, begin April 12, 1859. His pre-Civil War letters include messages from Harrisburg that mention bills he defended, from Springdale that detail farm news and his boys' schooling, and from New York that speak of legal issues including the Girard estate case, in which he represented the tycoon's heirs who sought to overturn Girard's will. Girard's heirs lost their case to the city of Philadelphia and the will was sustained. Beginning in December 1860 Geary's letters to Mary express his fears for the future of the country. In January 1861 he wrote: "I fear the day of reconciliation has passed and that our beloved country is forever severed into fractions that will never again be united."

    Geary joined the Union forces in 1861 as colonel of a regiment of volunteers he helped to raise, the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry. His Civil War letters to Mary were written several times a week and vary in length. They include Geary's impressions of the places the army passed through, updates on his physical and mental health, pledges of love to his wife and children, and his reflections on the war. Geary's letters also contain first-hand news reports from the front and his accounts of several major battles, including Gettysburg, Wauhatchie, Atlanta, and Savannah. In a letter from July 5, 1863, after leaving Gettysburg, he wrote: "I have seen so much death and suffering this month that I am perfectly sick of the times. My very clothes smell of death. The stench of the battle fields was horrible and beyond description." On November 2, 1863, his and Mary's wedding anniversary, Geary's mind was elsewhere after the battle at Wauhatchie, which was won by the Union but not without the painful personal loss of his son, Edward: "Were it not for the almost impenetrable gloom which hangs around me since the death of my beloved son, I would enjoy it. Poor dear boy, he is gone, cut down in the bud of his usefulness."

    Geary was made commandant of the city of Savannah after securing its capture in December 1864. In a letter from December 23, he proudly announced the news to his wife: "My eventful career is still upon its everlasting whirl. I am now the Commandante of the city in honor its capture by me and of the surrender to me." His letters include the details of his command in Savannah, the Carolinas campaign, and his march homeward once the war was over.

    This series also includes a volume of typed transcripts of Geary's letters.

    c. Scrapbooks 1850-1873.

    The twenty-three scrapbooks of newspaper clippings from around the country contain articles that span the course of Geary's political and military careers. There are articles with news from Mexico, from San Francisco and other west coast towns, from Kansas, and from Pennsylvania. Several poems and song lyrics also appear sporadically throughout the scrapbooks. In the first pages of the 1852-1857 scrapbook, pages have been pasted from an irreverent book with many drawings entitled "The Adventures of the Firm of Brown & Jingo in California." Printed on the front cover is the following announcement: "Compiled entirely and with the strictest adherence to truth from Mr. Brown's own private Journal -- without that gentleman's permission either (and here Mr. Brown is recommended in the future not to leave his Journal in charge of the bar keeper wherever he goes!!!!)." Several of the scrapbooks contain many articles with Civil War-related news. The majority of the scrapbooks, however, are post-Civil War and document Geary's terms as governor of Pennsylvania. His advocacy of constitutional, electoral, and educational reforms are well represented in the scrapbooks' articles, as are several railroad and coal mining-related issues, including the Scranton mine riot in 1871 during which Geary called in the state militia to quell striking workers. There are several pages of clippings that announced his death in 1873 and provide biographical information.

    d. Miscellaneous 1873, 1913.

    The volume entitled "In Memoriam" was prepared posthumously by the surviving members of Geary's staff during his service as major-general during the Civil War. His staff members professed in that they sought to avoid eulogy and sentimentality and wanted to simply state the facts of his service:

    He was ambitious -- but he was patriotic.
    He sought distinction -- but he loved his country.
    He was prudent and careful -- but he was brave.
    Naturally high tempered, -- his temper was generally under good control; under great excitement, he was sometimes unjust, -- but he was generous, -- quick to acknowledge a wrong and prompt to make reparation.

    This subseries also contains a three-page dictation of an incident related to an unknown person by Mrs. John McMillan in London in 1913. Mrs. McMillan dressed Geary's wounded arm in her friend's home after the Battle of Cedar Mountain in 1862 and in the account she told how she mistook a nerve in Geary's wounded arm for a thread and attempted to pull it out, which prompted a great exclamation.

    Series 2. Other family members 1861-1864. 6 folders Box 1

    a. Edward Ratchford Geary 1861-1863

    Edward Geary's letters to his stepmother, Mary Church Henderson, begin on his sixteenth birthday, September 1, 1861, while he was still in Philadelphia preparing for his enlistment in the Union army. Edward's approximately 150 letters include accounts of battles in which he was engaged, including Sandy Hook in July 1863, his impressions of new places, personal reflections, and inquiries as to the well-being of his siblings.

    He wrote home approximately once a week and claimed he would have done so more often if he could, but was prohibited from doing so by his soldierly duties. Even so, his thoughts were still of home and in one letter to Mary he asked: "Have your ears burned any to-day mother? If thinking about a loved one would make their ears burn yours must have pained you very much." His letters to Mary reveal a deep tenderness for her. Even before he left Philadelphia to enlist, he wrote to her of his inability to get over his "home sickness or rather mother sickness" and professed to her that "if you were my own mother I could not love you better than I do." He often inquired after his little sister, "Pet," whom he looked forward to playing with once home, and his other family members. Edward also often mentioned his father and his younger brother Willie, who served as a drummer boy until 1862, in his letters to Mary and wrote to her of his knowledge of their whereabouts and occasionally of his meetings and consultations with his father, as in a letter from September 4, 1863, in which Edward wrote that Geary advised him to turn down an appointment to the captaincy of Hampton's Pennsylvania Battery, since the affairs of the unit were "very unsettled."

    In several letters Edward expressed his desire to complete his college education once he returned home, although as the war dragged on his letters point to a sense of hopelessness and alienation. On August 29, 1863, one week before his eighteenth birthday, he remarked: "How differently situated I am from what I expected to be at this time! I expected to be able to attach A.B. to my name, and to be commencing the study of some profession instead of which I am forgetting all I did know, and am so situated as to be unable to improve idle hours. I was just going to wish that I could spend my birthday at home, but I have had so much experience in the fallacy of wishes, lately, that I think it would be time saved to discontinue the practice." In a letter from September of 1863, Edward wrote to his stepmother from Alexandria, Virginia: "Civilization has a very strange affect on me, after having become barbarized in the wilds of Virginia. Everyone I see appears so foppish and conceited, merely because they are well dressed and mannerly, I suppose, that I become disgusted immediately. I am becoming more and more careless every day, and am much afraid if we do much more campaigning, I shall forget what little knowledge I did possess in regard to etiquette, etc."

    The last letter in this subseries was written on October 13th, 1863, from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with his comments on that town and its unsavory citizenry and ends with a wry announcement of the evening's menu: "What have we! Mush and milk. Hurrah! My favorite dish." Edward Geary died later that month in the battle of Wauhatchie in Tennessee, as lieutenant of his battery.

    Miscellaneous items include a reproduction of a photograph of Edward Geary. Noted on the photograph is "[ca. June 1862?]." Also included is a letter from M.L. Goodman, who is of unknown relation to Mary Church Henderson, dated November 15, 1863, which offered consolation upon the death of her stepson Edward.

    This series also includes one folder of typed transcripts of Edward's letters.

    b. Rev. Edward R. Geary 1862-1864.

    Seven letters addressed to Mary Church Henderson, dated from February 28, 1862, to March 18, 1864, from her brother-in-law, Rev. Edward R. Geary, discussed news of the war and offered her consolation upon the loss of her step-son Edward. His letters also provide a brief record of his travels during this time to Mexico, Oregon, and New York. Typed transcripts of Rev. Geary's letters are present in this subseries.

    Detailed inventory

    Series 1. John W. Geary 1846-1873, 1913 14 folders and 26 volumes

    a. Diary 1846-1848
    Vol. 1

    b. Letters 1859-1865

    Letters Apr.-Dec. 1859
    Box 1: 1

    Letters Feb. 1860-Aug. 1861
    Box 1: 2

    Letters Sept.-Dec. 1861
    Box 1: 3

    Letters Jan.-Mar. 1862
    Box 1: 4

    Letters Apr.-July 1862
    Box 1: 5

    Letters Sept.-Nov. 1862
    Box 1: 6

    Letters Dec. 1862-May 1863
    Box 1: 7

    Letters June-Aug. 1863
    Box 1: 8

    Letters Sept.-Dec. 1863
    Box 1: 9

    Letters Jan.-May 1864
    Box 1: 10

    Letters June-Oct. 1864
    Box 1: 11

    Letters Nov. 1864-Mar. 1865
    Box 1: 12

    Letters Apr.-July 1865, n.d.
    Box 1: 13

    Letter transcripts 1859-1865, n.d.
    Vol. 2

    c. Scrapbooks 1850-1873

    Scrapbook 1850-1851
    Vol. 3

    Scrapbook 1852-1857
    Vol. 4

    Scrapbook 1862-1864
    Vol. 5

    Scrapbook 1865-1866
    Vol. 6

    Scrapbook 1866
    Vol. 7

    Scrapbook 1866
    Vol. 8

    Scrapbook 1867
    Vol. 9

    Scrapbook 167
    Vol. 10

    Scrapbook 1868
    Vol. 11-13

    Scrapbook 1868-1869
    Vol. 14

    Scrapbook 1869
    Vol. 15

    Scrapbook 1869
    Vol. 16

    Scrapbook 1869-1870
    Vol. 17

    Scrapbook 1870
    Vol. 18-20

    Scrapbook 1870-1871
    Vol. 21

    Scrapbook 1871
    Vol. 22

    Scrapbook 1871-1872
    Vol. 23

    Scrapbook 1872-1873
    Vol. 24

    Scrapbook 1873
    Vol. 25

    d. Miscellaneous 1873, 1913

    "In Memoriam" 1873
    Vol. 26

    Dictation from Mrs. John McMillan 1913
    Box 1: 14

    Series 2. Other family members 1861-1864 6 folders

    a. Edward R. Geary 1861-1863

    Letters Sept. 1861-June 1862
    Box 1: 15

    Letters Aug. 1862-June 1863
    Box 1: 16

    Letters July-Oct. 1863
    Box 1: 17

    Letter transcripts 1861-1863
    Box 1: 18

    Miscellaneous [ca. 1862], 1863
    Box 1: 19

    b. Rev. Edward R. Geary 1862-1864

    Letters and letter transcripts 1862-1864
    Box 1: 20