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Collection Number: 03868

Collection Title: R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967

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 FAQ section for more information.


This collection was rehoused and a summary created with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities; this finding aid was created with support from NC ECHO.

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Size 1.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 250 items)
Abstract R. C. (Richard Caswell) Gatlin, native of North Carolina, was an officer of the United States Army, 1828-1861, and then Confederate brigadier general. The collection, in part microfilm, includes antebellum correspondence involving Gatlin, his wife, Mary Ann Gibson Gatlin, his sister, Mary Knox Gatlin, and his daughter, Susan Caswell Gatlin, concerning family and personal matters, life at Fort Laramie and Fort Bridgers, Wyo., 1858-1860, traveling in the West with a family and African American servants by wagon, and other matters; scattered Civil War and postwar letters and papers concerning the defense of the North Carolina coast, 1861, Gatlin's farm in Sebastian County, Ark., and other matters; letters, 1905-1913, from Collier Cobb and his wife, Mary Knox Gatlin Cobb, discussing family and personal matters and community news from Chapel Hill, N.C., and the University of North Carolina; a farm account book Gatlin kept, 1866-1871; a volume containing an account by Gatlin of his United States Army career, 1828-1861, and of operations in the Confederate military department of North Carolina, 1861-1862, family records, and other data entered by Gatlin; and other items.
Creator Gatlin, R. C. (Richard Caswell), 1809-1896.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Restrictions to Use
No usage restrictions.
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 R. C. Gatlin Papers, #3868, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
Some materials available on microfilm
Acquisitions Information
Received from Mary Gatlin Cobb of Chapel Hill, N.C., October-November 1968.
Additional materials received from Nancy Cobb Lilly of Raleigh, N.C., May-June 1976.
Additional Descriptive Resources
A copy of the original finding aid for this collection is filed in folder 1a.
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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R. C. (Richard Caswell) Gatlin (1809-1896), native of North Carolina, was an officer of the United States Army, 1828-1861, and then Confederate brigadier general. Gatlin was born in Lenoir County, N.C. He was the third of five children of John Gatlin (1768-1836) and Susan Caswell (1775-1843), who was the daughter of Governor Richard Caswell of North Carolina. He attended the University of North Carolina, 1824-1825, and the United States Military Academy, 1828-1832. Upon his graduation from the Academy, he was appointed brevet lieutenant and assigned to the 7th Infantry at Fort Gibson, Arkansas Territory (now Oklahoma). Subsequently he served in the Second Seminole War, in the Mexican War, and in a number of the western territories. He was made brevet major for his gallant service at the Battle of Monterey during the Mexican War; and in February 1861 he was promoted to major and placed with the 5th Infantry.

In May 1861, he resigned from the United States Army in order to accept an appointment as brigadier general of the state forces of North Carolina. On 20 June 1861 he took charge of the defense of the North Carolina coast. On 20 August 1861, when North Carolina turned its forces over to the Confederacy, he was appointed brigadier general of the Confederate Army and commander of the Department of North Carolina. He remained in that position until March 1862, when, suffering from ill health, he was relieved of duty. He was blamed for the fall of Fort Hatteras and New Bern, N.C., but he maintained that he had made the best defense he could with the resources provided him. In September 1862 he resigned his Confederate commission, but he served as adjutant general of North Carolina until the end of the Civil War. After the war he returned to Arkansas and took up farming at Oakland Farm in Sebastian County.

Gatlin married Sciota Sandford in 1849. They had two sons, both of whom died young. Sciota herself died in 1852 at Fort Smith, Ark. In January 1857 Gatlin married Mary Ann Gibson (1836-1916), a native of Crawford County, Ark. She was the daughter of Robert Stuart Gibson (1800-1845) and Sarah Perkins Nicks (died 1862). Gatlin and Mary Ann had seven children, only two of whom lived to adulthood. These two were Susan Caswell, the eldest (born 1857), and Mary Knox, the youngest (born 1875). Susan Caswell Gatlin married John E. Corley of Fort Smith, Ark., in 1888. The Corleys subsequently moved to Seattle, Wash.; but, by 1910, Mr. Corley apparently had died and Susan was living with her mother in Little Rock, Ark., where Mrs. Gatlin had moved some time after her husband's death in 1896.

Mary Knox Gatlin attended St. Mary's School in Raleigh, N.C., (around 1894). She then lived with her mother at Fort Smith and Little Rock, Ark., until her marriage in November 1910 to Collier Cobb. Cobb was a distant cousin of the Gatlins, a widower with three children, and professor of geology at the University of North Carolina. After their marriage, Mary and he lived in Chapel Hill, N.C.

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The collection, in part microfilm, is chiefly the papers of R. C. Gatlin, his wife, Mary Ann Gibson Gatlin, and younger daughter, Mary Knox Gatlin. The papers are composed primarily of letters, orders, and other items pertaining to R. C. Gatlin's military career, 1832-1863, particularly to his resignation from the United States Army and his subsequent service with the state of North Carolina and the Confederacy; numerous family and personal letters, 1856-1913; and scattered business letters and other legal and financial papers.

The business-related papers include a few deeds to property in Arkansas and some correspondence, 1857 and 1882, concerning R. C. Gatlin's investments in property in Minnesota. There are also numerous letters, notices, forms, and other items, 1896-1908, relating to Mary Gibson Gatlin's collection of her widow's pension from the United States Army.

The majority of the personal and family correspondence consists of roughly a dozen letters from R. C. Gatlin to his wife, Mary Gatlin, and his sister, Mary Knox, 1856-1866, written from Fort Laramie, Wyo. (then Nebraska Territory), Albuquerque, N.M. (then New Mexico Territory), Wilmington and Raleigh, N.C., and Fort Smith, Ark.; 63 letters from Collier Cobb of Chapel Hill, N.C., to Mary Knox Gatlin in Little Rock, Ark., prior to their marriage, 1905-1906 and 1910; and approximately 50 letters from Mary Knox Gatlin Cobb in Chapel Hill, N.C., (after her marriage), to her mother, Mary Ann Gibson Gatlin, in Little Rock, Ark., 1910 and 1912-1913. In addition, there are several letters to Susan Caswell Gatlin (later Corley); one letter, dated 28 November 1858, to Mary Gibson Gatlin from Bettie Nicks Griffith in Fort Smith, Ark.; and one letter, dated 1 May 1859, to Mrs. Mary Knox from Mary Gibson Gatlin at Fort Bridger, Utah Territory.

R. C. Gatlin's letters discuss family and friends; life at Fort Laramie and Fort Bridger, Wyo., 1858-1860; his children; problems associated with traveling by wagon with a family and African American servants; news of the Army's expedition to Salt Lake City, Utah, and the threat of Mormon resistance, 1857-1858; the defense of the North Carolina coast, 1861; and his farm in Sebastian County, Ark., 1866.

Collier Cobb's letters to Mary Knox Gatlin deal with people and events at the University of North Carolina and in Chapel Hill, N.C., generally; also articles which he is writing for various geological magazines and for the Biographical History of North Carolina; lectures and papers he has presented; his classes; his field work, especially his research on coastal North Carolina; his summer work with the Biltmore Forest School; his health and financial affairs; and family history, also various aspects of the history of North Carolina and the University. Cobb's letters for June 1910 describe Barney Green, a 102-year-old ex-slave, who had once belonged to Cobb's father and who, in 1910, was working as a cook for the Biltmore Forest School.

Mary Knox Gatlin Cobb's letters to her mother discuss her husband Collier and her three step-children (William, Collier, and Mary); details of housekeeping; problems with getting and keeping a cook (she mentions several women by name); friends and neighbors; church and community activities (she mentions both the Baptist and Episcopal churches, also the Community Club, the King's Daughters, the Guild, and the Auxiliary); and events at the University of North Carolina. In the letters of 13 and 17 September 1912, she describes how a freshman was killed during hazing at the University.

There are also two items which have no apparent connection to the Gatlin family: a letter, dated 2 May 1744, from Joseph Hall of Maryland to James Green near New Bern, N.C., asking Green to collect some debts; and a bond, dated 2 August 1826, from Edmund Bulkley and John March to Richard Grist of Wilmington, N.C., who had acted as their surety in a case involving some maritime violations.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated.

Folder 1a

Original finding aid #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 1a

Folder 1

1744, 1826-1848 #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 1

Folder 2

1856-1860 #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 2

Folder 3

1861 #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 3

Folder 4

1862-1879 #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 4

Folder 5

1881-1894 #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 5

Folder 6

1896-1898 #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 6

Folder 7-9

Folder 7

Folder 8

Folder 9

1903-1906 #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 7-9

Folder 10-11

Folder 10

Folder 11

1907-1910 #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 10-11

Folder 12-13

Folder 12

Folder 13

1911-1912 #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 12-13

Folder 14

1913-1916 #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 14

Folder 15-16

Folder 15

Folder 16

Undated and miscellaneous #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 15-16

Image Folder PF-3868/1

Photographs #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." PF-3868/1

Folder 17

Volume 1: Record book, R. C. Gatlin, 1856-1869 #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 17

Includes a detailed chronology of his military career from his admission to the United States Military Academy in July 1828 to August 1861, when the North Carolina state forces were turned over to the Confederacy; a sketch of operations in the Department of North Carolina from August 1861 to March 1862, by Brigadier General R. C. Gatlin, in which he explains the fall of Fort Hatteras and New Bern; a record of births, deaths, and marriages for the Caswell and Gatlin families; memoranda, accounts, and copies of letters concerning property, estate settlements, and other business and financial matters; and memoranda of the life of Susan Caswell Gatlin from her birth in 1857 to the year 1867.

Folder 18

Volume 2: Farm accounts, R. C. Gatlin, 1866-1871 #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 18

Folder 19

Volume 3: Autograph book, Susie C. Gatlin, 1879-1883 #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 19

Folder 20

Oversize Volume SV-3868/4

Volume 4: Scrapbook, 1880-1906 #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 20, Ovolume SV-3868/4

Scrapbook contains newspaper clippings from the Arkansas Democrat and other newspapers. The clippings are of features, political commentaries, poems, obituaries, home remedies, etc. Most of the political commentaries are by S. Lewis Griffith for the Arkansas Democrat. Also one folder of loose enclosures.

Folder 21

Volume 5: Autograph book, Mary Knox Gatlin, 1887-1889 #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 21

Folder 22

Volume 6: Scrapbook, Mark Knox Gatlin, 1891-1894 #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 22

Includes invitations, programs, and other memorabilia including a number of items from St. Mary's School, Raleigh, N.C.

Folder 23

Volume 7: Memo book #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 23

Small memo book containing only three entries--two pertaining to the sale of several lots in Fort Smith, Ark., and one regarding a sum of money deposited in the Seattle [Wash.] Bank.

Folder 24

Volume 8: Memoranda and expenses, Mary Knox Gatlin (?), 1904-1906 #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 24

Folder 25

Volume 9: Notebook, Mary Knox Gatlin, undated #03868, Series: "R. C. Gatlin Papers, 1744-1967 and undated." Folder 25

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Processing Information

Processed by: SHC Staff

Encoded by: Noah Huffman, December 2007

Updated by: Kate Stratton and Jodi Berkowitz, September 2009

This collection was rehoused and a summary created with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This finding aid was created with support from NC ECHO.

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