University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
A NURSERY OF PATRIOTISM:
THE UNIVERSITY AT WAR, 1861-1945

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Civil War - Personal Stories

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UNC Students
Ruffin Thomson to William H. Thomson, [spring 1861]
Ruffin Thomson to William H. Thomson, [spring 1861]
Ruffin Thomson Papers
Showing the enthusiasm characteristic of students at the start of the war, Ruffin Thomson wrote to his father, "I would like above all things to be in Charleston just now for a short time." The spring of 1861 witnessed a mass exodus of students, when as many as 8 to 10 a day left for service. Many thought the war would be short lived.
Appointment, 11 February 1864
Appointment, 11 February 1864
Ruffin Thomson Papers
Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory signed Ruffin Thomson's appointment as a lieutenant in the Marine Corps of the Confederate States.
Muster Roll, 18th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, Hinds County, Miss. 4 June 1861
Muster Roll, 18th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, Hinds County, Miss. 4 June 1861
Ruffin Thomson Papers
Student Ruffin Thomson left the university to sign up for the 18th Mississippi Infantry.
Confederate States Navy Uniforms, War Department, n.d.
Confederate States Navy Uniforms, War Department, n.d.
Miscellaneous Pictures, 19th and 20th Centuries
This illustration gives a glimpse of what Ruffin Thomson wore as a lieutenant in the Confederate States Navy.
University of North Carolina Record, June 1911
University of North Carolina Record, June 1911
North Carolina Collection
In 1911, students who left during the Civil War were invited back to receive their degrees. Students who died before the 1911 commencement received their degrees posthumously. War class reunions were a highlight of the weekend.
Page from the University of North Carolina Record, June 1911
Page from the University of North Carolina Record, June 1911
North Carolina Collection
Ruffin Thomson received his degree posthumously at the 1911 commencement.
Wesley Lewis Battle and Junius Cullen Battle, n.d.
Wesley Lewis Battle and Junius Cullen Battle, n.d.
The Battle Book, Paragon Press, 1930
Both Wesley Lewis Battle and Junius Cullen Battle died in the war. Wesley Lewis Battle left the university in 1862 and received his degree posthumously in 1911. Junius Cullen Battle took his degree before leaving the university in 1860. Their father, William H. Battle, was a member of the Supreme Court of North Carolina and a professor of law at the university.
Ellen Selsum to the Honorable William H. Battle, 16 October 1862
Ellen Selsum to the Honorable William H. Battle, 16 October 1862
Battle Family Papers
With this letter Ellen Selsum informed Judge Battle that his son Junius died after an amputation. Within one year, his brother Wesley would die at Gettysburg General Hospital.
Chaplain Owen to Mrs. W.H. Battle, 30 August 1863
Chaplain Owen to Mrs. W.H. Battle, 30 August 1863
Battle Family Papers
This letter from Chaplain Owen informed Mrs. Battle of Wesley Lewis. Chaplain Owen wrote "Yours [letter] of your son is at hand, I attempt an answer, but it will necessarily be much abridged, but when I reach our lines I will write you a long letter, as I was with your son soon after he was wounded... It is my painful duty to inform you..." Wesley Lewis was the second of Mrs. Battle's sons to die in one year.
Autograph Album, ca. 1858
Autograph Album, ca. 1858
University of North Carolina Miscellaneous Personal Papers
In the context of the university, the autograph album is considered to be the precursor of the annual. This autograph album is penciled with students' regiment numbers, the battles in which they participated, and other notes on their service. Inside this autograph album we encounter Thomas Whitted. Whitted graduated in 1858, was a private in Company K of the 18th North Carolina and was badly wounded at Gaines Mills in 1862.
Infantry Uniforms, War Department, n.d.
Infantry Uniforms, War Department, n.d.
Miscellaneous Pictures, 19th and 20th Centuries
Thomas Whitted wore a private's uniform in the infantry before he was discharged, badly wounded.
J. T. Morehead to President Swain, 6 November 1863
J. T. Morehead to President Swain, 6 November 1863
University of North Carolina Miscellaneous Personal Papers
Former pupil J. T. Morehead wrote President Swain from Greensboro, N.C. Morehead was recovering from wounds sustained in battle. Of his injuries, he wrote "my chin broken, in two places seems inclined not to [be] united."
Commission, 12 May 1862
Commission, 12 May 1862
Avery Family of North Carolina Papers
Isaac Erwin Avery was one of many university alumni to lose his life in the war. He was killed in action in 1863. The General Alumni Association estimates that the University of North Carolina has 256 Civil War dead. The Carolina Alumni Memorial in Memory of Those Lost in Military Service, dedicated in April 2007, lists all the names known to the association.
University of North Carolina Marshalls, ca. 1861 Richard Henry Smith of Halifax County, N.C. on far right
University of North Carolina Marshalls, ca. 1861 Richard Henry Smith of Halifax County, N.C. on far right
University of North Carolina Miscellaneous Personal Papers
Richard Henry Smith attended the university from 1859 to 1862 and received his degree in 1911. The University of North Carolina is believed to be the only university of rank to have held commencement every year of the war. A detail of the 10th Ohio Regiment, left behind by General Atkins to stand guard at the university, attended the 1865 commencement. Only four students graduated that year, three of whom were veterans.
Envelope, University of North Carolina, ca. 1882
Envelope, University of North Carolina, ca. 1882
University of North Carolina Miscellaneous Personal Papers
The university had seven buildings during the Civil War. This envelope depicts what the university looked like to students and faculty during the Civil War and also to the 9th Michigan Cavalry when it arrived in Chapel Hill to occupy the town and university from 17 April to 3 May 1865. An observer noted that the university's buildings rivaled those in Ann Arbor, Mich.
 
UNC Faculty
Tutor Iowa M. Royster, n.d.
Tutor Iowa M. Royster, n.d.
Royster Family Papers
Iowa M. Royster was a tutor at the university after graduating with highest honors in 1860. Royster left this position and enlisted in the 1st North Carolina Cavalry as a private in 1862. On 5 June 1863, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 37th Regiment of North Carolina Volunteers. Iowa M. Royster was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg and died ten days later.
Professor Kimberly, n.d.
Professor Kimberly, n.d.
John Kimberly Papers
Kerosene was difficult to obtain during the war. Professor Kimberly invented a process to refine turpentine for use in lamps on campus. This refined turpentine was named "Kimberline" in the professor's honor. John Kimberly was professor of chemistry and agriculture at the university 1857-1864 and 1875-1876.
 
 
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This page was last updated Thursday, September 04, 2008.