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Collection Number: 04792

Collection Title: Clayton Family Papers, 1855-1922

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the section for more information.


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Size 0.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 110 items)
Abstract Thomas L. Clayton (1934-1905) of Asheville, N.C., was the son of Ephraim Clayton (1804-1892) and Nancy McElroy Clayton (d. 1892). He married Emma A. Clayton (1829-1887). During the Civil War, Clayton served in the Confederate army, stationed in Georgia during the Atlanta campaign in 1864, and later in Alabama. After the war, Clayton became a contractor with the Western North Carolina Railroad. Chiefly letters between Thomas L. Clayton and his wife Emma, many written while he was serving in the Confederate army. Other correspondents include Clayton's father, mother, brother, and friends in the Confederate army. Topics include the election of Abraham Lincoln and the southern reaction, fears of possible slave uprisings, and feelings in Asheville about secession. After Thomas Clayton joined the Confederate army, there are letters relating to Thomas's war experiences, including reports of battles around Atlanta, Ga., and Emma's trials on the homefront. Post-war letters are chiefly about routine personal and business affairs. Also included are a few items relating to railroad surveying, damage caused by federal troops, and other matters.
Creator Clayton family.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Clayton Family Papers #4792, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
Microfilm copy available.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Mrs. Faison Sessoms of Chapel Hill, N.C., in January 1996 (Acc. 96009) and August 1997 (Acc. 97108).
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

Thomas L. Clayton (1834-1905) of Asheville, N.C., was the son of Ephraim Clayton (1804-1892) and Nancy McElroy Clayton (d. 1882). He married Emma A. Clayton (1839-1887). Thomas Clayton's brother attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, but left school to serve in the Confederate army.

Thomas Clayton did not enter the military until January 1864. Before that he served as acting military storekeeper at the Confederate Armory in Asheville, N.C., and assisted friends in the Confederate army with their financial and personal business. In January 1864, Clayton was ordered to report to Columbia, S.C. After serving there for about a month, he was assigned to an engineering unit in General Hood's Corps. Clayton was stationed in Georgia during the Atlanta campaign, writing letters from Dalton, Dallas, Marietta, and near Atlanta. He later moved to Jacksonville and Florence, Ala., where he was a member of General [S. D.] Lee's Corps.

During the war, Emma A. Clayton remained in Asheville, raising their children. Among the problems she dealt with were sick children and loneliness. After the war, Thomas Clayton became a contractor for the Western North Carolina Railroad.

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Chiefly letters between Thomas L. Clayton and his wife Emma, many written while he was serving in the Confederate army. Other correspondents include Clayton's father, mother, brother, and friends in the Confederate army. Topics include the election of Abraham Lincoln and the southern reaction, fears of possible slave uprisings, and feelings in Asheville about secession. After Thomas Clayton joined the Confederate army, there are letters relating to Thomas's war experiences, including reports of battles around Atlanta, Ga., and Emma's trials on the homefront. Post-war letters are chiefly about routine personal and business affairs. Also included are a few items relating to railroad surveying, damage caused by federal troops, and other matters

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, 1855-1889.

About 150 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Chiefly letters between Thomas L. Clayton and his wife Emma, while he was serving in the Confederate Army. Other correspondents include Clayton's father, Ephraim Clayton; mother, Nancy McElroy Clayton; and friends in the Confederate army.

Letters from late 1860 and early 1861 discuss the election of Abraham Lincoln and the reaction of people in the South. In a letter to her brother, dated 24 October 1860, Emma Clayton mentioned Dr. Cummings, a pro-Union activist in Asheville, who had been "the cause of more hard feeling in and out of the church than any other one thing that has ever occurred in this place." She expressed the hope that "they will drive him back to the north and let us have a little peace once more." In a letter to her son, dated 7 December 1860, Nancy Clayton wrote of "frequently hearing of plans for insurrection among the negroes.." Writing to his brother on 16 December 1860, Thomas Clayton reported that "...Asheville is considerably divided on the question of Secession and would I think vote it down if put before the people now.." On 21 February 1861, Thomas Clayton wrote to his brother, a cadet at West Point, "As to your taking a commission in the Southern Army he [Ephraim Clayton] has no objections." A letter of 11 June 1861 describes the Battle of Big Bethel, Va.

Letters from December 1863 relate to Thomas Clayton's work as acting military storekeeper at the Confederate States Armory in Asheville and his assistance to Confederate Army officers with their personal affairs.

On 23 December 1863, Clayton received instructions to report to Greenville, S.C. By February 1864, he was working at the armory in Columbia, S.C. On 7 February, he received a letter from his brother, who wrote, "...sorry you are going to leave the Armory and go into the army for I think you could have been of more service in the capacity of a mechanic. I fear you will not be able to stand field service." On 16 February, Clayton wrote to his wife that, because the demand for officers was so great, the army could not afford to assign him to a position in the rear, so he would be assigned to a field unit. On 26 February, he received a letter from a Thad Climane, who wrote, "I did not know that you were in Spartanburg and since you say it is 'one hell of a place' I am sorry that you are there .."

Much of the correspondence after this is between Clayton and his wife Emma. Many letters concern family problems. On 23 May, Thomas advised Emma to "...consult your own feelings about weaning our dear little baby. I can't say what you had better do." Emma wrote back, describing the ordeal of raising the children on her own.

Clayton also described battles. In a letter written to his father on 8 May 1864, he discussed the situation at Dalton, Ga., and enclosed a hand-drawn map of the area. Clayton also wrote from other Georgia locations, including Dallas, Marietta, and a camp outside Atlanta. After the fall of Atlanta, Clayton wrote letters from Jacksonville and Florence, Ala.

Letters from the 1870s and 1880s are chiefly about routine personal and business matters.

Folder 1

1855-1859 #04792, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855-1889." Folder 1

Folder 2

1860 #04792, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855-1889." Folder 2

Folder 3

1861-1862 #04792, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855-1889." Folder 3

Folder 4

December 1863-January 1864 #04792, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855-1889." Folder 4

Folder 5

February-March 1864 #04792, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855-1889." Folder 5

Folder 6

April-May 1864 #04792, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855-1889." Folder 6

Folder 7

June-13 July 1864 #04792, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855-1889." Folder 7

Folder 8

18 July-August 1864 #04792, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855-1889." Folder 8

Folder 9

September-December 1864 #04792, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855-1889." Folder 9

Folder 10

1865, 1871-1889 #04792, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855-1889." Folder 10

Folder 11

Undated and fragments #04792, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1855-1889." Folder 11

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Other Material, 1864-1922.

About 25 items.

Miscellaneous material, including papers regarding railroad surveying; an order from the Confederate War department to engineering officers, dated 15 September 1864; leave requests granted to Assistant Engineer (Capt.) T.L. Clayton dated 16 January and 1 April 1865; a newspaper clipping listing R.M., John B., and E.M. Clayton as members of the Buncombe Riflemen; a fabric clipping [uniform?]; a probate certificate; a bill introduced before the House of Representatives for the payment of $12,072 to Ephraim Clayton for damage to property by Federal troops following the Confederate surrender; and other items.

Folder 12-13

Folder 12

Folder 13

Other material #04792, Series: "2. Other Material, 1864-1922." Folder 12-13

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Processing Information

Processed by: Andy Hempe, April 1996. Updated 1997

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

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