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Civil War Resources in the Norwich Archives

George W. Balloch, Class of 1847

About Balloch:

George Balloch (1825-1907) was born in Claremont, NH. During the Civil War he served with the 5th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment, which was assigned to General Oliver Otis Howard’s brigade, thus beginning a connection with General Howard that would last throughout and beyond the Civil War. Balloch served as commissary of subsistence under General Howard for most of the Civil War. Following the war, George Balloch served as chief disbursing officer of the newly created Freedmen’s Bureau until 1871.

What You'll Find in the Collection:

This collection explores the Civil War career of George Balloch through his memoirs. Unfortunately, although the memoirs begin at his birth, they end at the Battle of Seven Pines (31 May - 1 June 1862), relatively early in the War.  However, there are also three variant autobiographical sketches in the collection containing information about his Civil War career in its entirety.  These sketches, written by Balloch in 1902, may help to shed light on his military career following the Peninsula Campaign of 1862.

George Balloch was a commissary of subsistence for much of his military service career.  In addition to commissary-related information in his memoirs, Balloch prepared a lecture in 1898 entitled, “How an Army is Fed.” 

* Possible Research Topic: The logistics of fielding an army during the Civil War

Balloch was also acquainted with President Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901). The collection contains a copy of his tribute to President Harrison, prepared upon Harrison’s death in 1901.

* Possible Research Topic: George Balloch's relationship with President Harrison and their respective military careers

Balloch had a very long-standing relationship with General Oliver Otis Howard, serving as Howard’s commissary of subsistence during much of the war.

* Possible Research Topic: Oliver Howard’s connection with NU and his relationship with George Balloch

William S. Dewey, Class of 1863

About Dewey:

William Dewey (b.1841) of Quechee, VT entered Norwich in 1860 and graduated in 1863. Following his graduation he pursued a career in the manufacture of woolen goods. In 1862, Dewey took part in enrolling the College Cavaliers, a unit composed mostly of Dartmouth and Norwich students that became Company B, 7th Squadron, Rhode Island Cavalry.  William Dewey was presented with an honorary degree by NU in 1909.

What You'll Find in the Collection:

The collection of Dewey’s personal papers in the Archives includes some material related to his Civil War service but is predominantly composed of papers from his time as a NU student. Although Dewey’s discharge papers from 1862 and an undated history of the 7th Rhode Island Cavalry within the collection will provide researchers interested in the College Cavaliers a place to start, there is little information about Dewey’s three months of service with them in Virginia (1862). To learn more about the College Cavaliers, try consulting the College Cavaliers Collection in the archives.

* Possible Research Topic: The College Cavaliers

Samuel B. Pettengill’s The College Cavaliers: a Sketch of the Service of a Company of College Students in the Union Army in 1862 (1883), contains information about the service of this interesting Civil War unit made up of students from Dartmouth and NU.  Although this rare book is not available electronically, there is a copy available in Special Collections. 

For further information on the 7th Squadron, Rhode Island Cavalry, also see the article, “Dark Passage Through the Lines,” by Jeffry D. Wert, published in the June 1985 issue of Military History. This article discusses the daring escape of the cavalry from Harper’s Ferry in 1862 and is housed in the Civil War Collection. The formation of the unit that became known as the “College Cavaliers” was also reported in the Reveille, the NU student newspaper of the time. 

Dewey’s collection also includes college compositions, grade reports and schedules from his time as a cadet at NU from 1860-1863.  These materials might reveal aspects of student life or University curriculum during the Civil War. For example, Dewey’s college compositions may provide insight into the types of classes that were being taught at NU during the Civil War. Look for allusions to national, political or military affairs.

Robert E. Hitchcock, Class of 1859

About Hitchcock:

Robert E. Hitchcock was born in 1839 in Shoreham, VT.  He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U. S. Marine Corps, and was stationed at the Marine Barracks, Washington, DC, until July 1861, when his company was ordered to join the Army of the Potomac in Virginia. He was killed at the first Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861.  Hitchcock’s death was reported in the Reveille, the NU student newspaper of the time.

What You'll Find in the Collection:

Claims have been made that Robert Hitchcock was the first Vermonter, first Marine and first NU graduate killed in the Civil War.  These claims have also been challenged.

* Possible Research Topic: Explore the veracity of these claims. 

Hitchcock’s alumni file in the Archives is strong in biographical information. Alumni files are kept for many NU alumni, up to the present day and may contain newspaper accounts, letters, articles, service records, etc. Hitchcock’s file was compiled by Archives staff and contains many types of information, both primary and secondary sources, produced by many different people.  Of particular interest are photocopies of correspondence between Hitchcock and his parents in 1861.  There are also articles and correspondence pertaining to later research into Hitchcock’s life and death in the file.  Examination of these materials may produce leads to useful information elsewhere.  For example, Hitchcock’s file contains substantial correspondence of Richard Long, Curator of Special Projects at the Marine Corps Historical Center in 1990, pertaining to his research into Hitchcock.  By reading these documents and noting the places and people he consulted, the researcher may get a better idea of where else to look to find information about Hitchcock. 

Unlike most of the collections in the University Archives, there is no finding aid or inventory to the materials in Hitchcock’s alumni file. The researcher must browse the contents. Helpful clues for further research on Hitchcock in can also be found in the text and bibliographies of other researchers.

Alonzo Jackman, Class of 1836

About Jackman:

Alonzo Jackman (1809-1879) was a native of Thetford, VT. He attended NU, graduating in 1836, and continued a life-long association with the University as a member of the faculty. Jackman, with Josiah Swett (Class of 1837 and President of NU, 1875-1877) published The Citizen Soldier, a publication featuring topics relevant to state militias from 1840-1841. Together the two alumni opened the New England Seminary in Windsor, VT, which functioned from 1841-1844.  Jackman returned to NU until a leave of absence from 1849 to 1852 took him west to California and Oregon. He was very active in state military affairs in Vermont from 1838 until his death in 1879.  Jackman was a prolific writer on mathematics, science and military subjects.

What You'll Find in the Collection:

* Possible Research Topic: Jackman's role in the organization of Civil War units in Vermont

Jackman's record book in this collection documents the organization of the Vermont militia, 1860-1862.  This manuscript also contains interesting accounts of the time Jackman spent organizing volunteer regiments for service in the Civil War, 1862. Orders, rosters, journal entries, etc. are all included in this record book.

The book was later used as a general notebook and contains notes on other subjects.

Willie Johnston, Class of 1869

About Johnston:

According to Johnston biographer Marius Peladeau, Willie Johnston was born in New York State in 1850. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Willie’s father enlisted in the 3rd Vermont Regiment and Willie followed soon after as a drummer boy in the same unit. At that time, Willie was only five feet tall and eleven years old. During the Army of the Potomac’s retreat after the Seven Days Battle in 1862, Willie tenaciously held on to his drum, while thousands of other soldiers discarded arms, overcoats, and other equipment. During the divisional review on the 4th of July, Willie was the only drummer who remained equipped to play. He was awarded the Medal of Honor in recognition of his tenacity. Willie remains the youngest enlisted man to this day to receive the nation’s highest military award. After the War, Willie served as drummer at Norwich University; however, the records shed little light on his time here. The years following his discharge from the Army in 1865 remain shadowy.

What You'll Find in the Collection:

The University Archives has a file for Willie Johnston that contains copies of his military service and pension records from the National Archives. Willie remains a subject of ongoing interest among historians. There are a couple of books containing information on Willie that might be useful: Willie Johnston: Youngest Medal of Honor Recipient, Drummer, 3rd Vermont Regiment  by Marius B. Peladeau (Newport, VT: Vermont Civil War Enterprises, 2005) and Callow, Brave and True: a Gospel of Civil War Youth by Jay S. Hoar (Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1999). The latter has a single chapter on Willie Johnston pp. 24-28. Both books are available in Special Collections. Also see Robert G. Poirier’s By the Blood of our Alumni: Norwich University Citizen Soldiers in the Army of the Potomac (Mason City, Iowa: Savas Publishing Co., 1999).

Charles N. Kent, Class of 1864

About Kent:

Charles N. Kent (1843-1906) graduated from NU in 1864 and later served the University as a very popular tutor in mathematics and military science.  He served as captain of the Corps of Cadets during their service at Newport, VT, following the St. Albans Raid (19 October 1864) and also in Company C, 17th New Hampshire Infantry, from 1862-1863. 

What You'll Find in the Collection:

This collection consists of a single item: Kent’s after-action report on the St. Albans Raid.  An interesting research possibility would be to try to further develop Norwich University’s response to this in-state crisis.

* Possible Research Topic: St. Albans Raid

The after-action report is handwritten. This type of manuscript is known as a holograph. There is a transcription available; however, it is always wise to read the original record yourself. You will find that some researchers are better than others at reading nineteenth century handwriting.

Our rare book collection also has resources that may help interested researchers explore Kent’s service with the 17th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. Most particularly, Charles Kent wrote a book, History of the Seventeenth regiment, New Hampshire volunteer infantry (Concord, NH: 17th New Hampshire Veteran Association, 1898). This book is available in Special Collections and online, courtesy of Google Books:

Searching for further biographical information on Kent could be challenging. There may be clues in documents housed with the after-action report (described below) that may help you. 

Other Resources for Researching the St. Albans Raid:

In his after-action report, Kent mentions that another alumnus, Rev. Howard Freemont Hill (NU 1867) has written about the St. Albans Raid.  Rev. Hill’s article on the St. Albans Raid appeared in Volume 5, page 36, of the periodical, the Vermonter.

There are two Library databases that might be helpful in researching the St. Albans Raid: “Early American Newspapers” and “Historical New York Times.” Here is a link to the Library’s databases (the link will work only if you are on campus)

Ask to see the St. Albans Raid subject file housed with the Archive’s Civil War Collection. In this file you will find a 26 pp. publication entitled St. Albans Raid, October 19, 1864 in which appears various reprints of accounts of this famous Raid.

There is also a copy of an annual address before the Vermont Historical Society, History of the St. Albans raid, which was delivered at Montpelier, Vt., on October 17, 1876 by Edward A. Sowles in Special Collections.

Oscar E. Learnard, Class of 1854

About Learnard:

Oscar Learnard (1832-1911) was born in Fairfax, VT, in 1832. He entered NU in 1852 and left the school in 1854 to attend Albany Law School. He was admitted to the Bar in 1855.  Learnard spent the summer of 1855 in Ohio and, in the fall, went to Lawrence, KS, where he took an active part in the Free State Cavalry. Later he was instrumental in the founding of the town of Burlington, KS (named after Burlington, VT).  Learnard also served as a member of the Free State Territorial Legislature in 1857.  During the Civil War, Learnard served as Lt. Col. of the 1st Kansas Volunteer Cavalry.  He resigned from the Army in 1863.

What You'll Find in the Collection:

The collection itself is a scrapbook presumably assembled to document Learnard’s experiences from his preparatory school days at Bakersfield Academy through his experiences leading up to, and during, the Civil War.  This scrapbook is composed of many types of materials including letters, ephemera, photographs, newspaper articles and clippings and is organized chronologically around events or periods in Learnard’s life.

* Possible Research Topic: Explore the part played by the Kansas Territory in the years leading up to the Civil War. What part did the conflicts between the anti-slavery and pro-slavery factions in Kansas play in a nation already strained by troubled relations between the North and South? Does the Learnard collection shed light upon the struggles in what came to be known as “Bleeding Kansas”? 

This collection explores some of the significant struggles that served as prelude to the Civil War, particularly the Lawrence Raid, also called the “Sacking of Lawrence,” in which pro-slavery forces attacked the town of Lawrence in 1856.  There is a substantial body of material in the scrapbook devoted to this raid, including newspaper clippings, “Veterans of ’56” ephemera, and letters written soon after Raid.  The scrapbook also includes material related to Learnard’s Civil War service with the Kansas Volunteer Cavalry as well as wartime events after his resignation from the Army in 1863.  For example, there are a number of letters between Learnard and his wife, Mary, shortly after Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence in 1863. At the time of the raid, Learnard was in Chicago, on his way to join Mary in Vermont.  After receiving news of the raid, he appears to have returned to Lawrence where he writes to Mary of conditions there.  An examination of the post-Civil War materials in the collection, particularly Learnard’s later remarks as the only survivor of the Council of the First Territorial Legislature 1857 as well as his writings about John Brown, might also provide insight into how Learnard viewed the Civil War and its causes.     

Robert G. Poirier, Class of 1966

About Poirier:

Robert Poirier (Class of 1966) is a veteran of the Vietnam War and a recipient of the Bronze Star.  He served forty-two months of active duty and more than twenty years of reserve duty. Poirier is the author of numerous articles and several books including Red Army Order of Battle (Presidio Press, 1985) and By the Blood of Our Alumni: Norwich University Citizen Soldiers in the Army of the Potomac (Savas Publishing Co., 1999).

What You'll Find in the Collection:

Anyone particularly interested in the Battle of Gettysburg or NU’s contribution to the Civil War will want to take a look at this collection. Included is a copy of Gettysburg magazine containing Poirier’s article “Norwich at Gettysburg: the Citizen-Soldier Academy’s Contributions to Victory” (January 1996). It would be interesting to compare this article with the much more detailed manuscript (112 pages) on the topic of NU alumni at Gettysburg which is also in this collection and with published accounts of the battle in his book By the Blood of Our Alumni: Norwich University Citizen Soldiers in the Army of the Potomac (Savas Publishing Co., 1999).

Mr. Poirier remains actively engaged in historical research and with his alma mater. Anyone interested in pursuing the part of NU in the Civil War and, in particular, in the Battle of Gettysburg, might wish to speak personally with Mr. Poirier about his research. An interview could be an interesting supplement to research on these topics.

Other resources for researching the part of NU in the Battle of Gettysburg include the Subject File “Gettysburg” in the Civil War Collection. This subject file contains pamphlets, maps, summaries, a listing of Medal of Honor winners and some information on Vermont’s role in this famous battle.

Thomas E. G. Ransom, Class of 1851

About Ransom:

Thomas Ransom (1834-1864) was born in Norwich, VT, in 1834. His father, Truman B. Ransom, served as president of NU from 1845 to 1847. Thomas Ransom worked as an engineer from 1851 until the outbreak of the Civil War, when he enlisted in the 11th Illinois Volunteers. Ransom saw action at Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Shiloh and Vicksburg. His actions earned him a promotion to brigadier general but nearly cost him his life on at least three occasions when he sustained serious wounds. His ability as a leader gained him the confidence of Generals U.S. Grant, W. T. Sherman and his former classmate, Grenville Dodge (Class of 1851), whom he eventually replaced as commander of the XVI Corps. In September of 1864, then in command of the XVII Corps during Sherman’s March to the Sea, Ransom began to weaken from his series of critical wounds. He died near Rome, GA, on 29 October 1864.

What You'll Find in the Collection:

The collection of Ransom’s father, Truman B. Ransom, contains significant biographical information on the military service of Thomas Ransom. His military career can be traced through the pension claim records of his mother. Pension records (kept in the National Archives) often include documentation about an individual’s military service as well as proof of family relationships used to support claims. Ransom’s pension file includes casualty sheets from the different occasions on which he was wounded.  The collection contains a file of biographical and armed service information compiled by Sandee Gylanders.  This file contains a wealth of information on Ransom, including the text of General W. T. Sherman’s obituary of Ransom and what appear to be transcriptions of letters written by and about Ransom. Some of these letters appear to be addressed to Grenville Dodge while others are to other colleagues, friends and family.  Unfortunately, Ms. Gylanders does not provide information about her sources and additional investigative work will likely be necessary to determine the veracity of this information.  There is an additional file of information about the dedication of a Georgia Historical Marker dedicated to Ransom in 2001, as well as correspondence with James Huffstodt, a Ransom biographer, who created an exhibit for the occasion.

* Possible Research Topic: Compare the military service of father (Truman B. Ransom), who was killed at the head of the 9th U.S. Infantry during the storming of Chapultepec in 1847 (Mexican War) and son (Thomas E. G. Ransom) who was killed during the Civil War.

Edmund Rice, Class of 1860

About Rice:

Edmund Rice (1842-1906) of Cambridge, MA, was awarded a Medal of Honor for leading an advance against General Pickett’s troops on 3 July 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg.  After the Civil War, he had a long career in the US Army, retiring in 1906. What follows is a link to Rice’s obituary from the New York Times: 

What You'll Find in the Collection:

Rice is quite a well-known figure (almost a cult hero) to those with an interest in the Civil War and, arguably, its most famous battle, the Battle of Gettysburg.  Rice has been extensively researched and written about, so it could be challenging (and rewarding!) to break new ground. The researcher will need to form his or her own conclusions and resist the temptation to rely too strongly on secondary sources.

This is a small (1 box) “artificial” collection. “Artificial,” as the term is used in an Archive, means that the materials have been assembled by someone other than the subject and are likely to be composed of many different types of work by many different sources. Like many artificial collections, the collection is rich in biographical detail. Both primary and secondary sources can be found in the collection. Some examples of primary sources found in the collection include copies of Rice’s official Medal of Honor, military and pension records files and newspaper clippings. Some examples of secondary sources found in the collection are journal articles and book excerpts.  Secondary sources can be helpful in providing clues about other potential research resources. The researcher should read notes and bibliographies carefully.

Copies of Rice’s official Medal of Honor, military and pension records files may be of particular interest.  His Medal of Honor file documents the process through which he was awarded his Medal of Honor and includes supporting documentation related to that particular action.  Pension record files also often include information-rich documentation about service used to support claims. Other miscellaneous military and biographical information may also be found in the collection.  For example, there is a copy of a 24 page, “Battle Narrative,” with “extensive corrections by Col. Edmund Rice,” which reports on operations of the 19th Massachusetts Volunteers for the year of 1864.  There are also excerpts from books and papers supplied by independent collectors in the collection. Again, the latter may be helpful in providing clues about other potential research resources.

Thomas O. Seaver, Class of 1859

About Seaver:

Thomas Seaver was born in Pomfret, VT, in 1835.  He entered NU in 1856 and remained for two years, until 1858, leaving without completing his course.  However, NU later conferred the degree of A.M. on him in 1910.  On the breaking out of the Civil War, he was commissioned as a captain in Company F, Third Vermont Infantry. He mustered out of the service, on July 27, 1864, as a Colonel.  Seaver was awarded the Medal of Honor for distinguished gallantry in action near Spottsylvania Court House, VA, on 10 May 1864.  Following the Civil War, he became a probate judge in Woodstock, Vt. 

What You'll Find in the Collection:

Seaver’s alumni file is a good place to begin researching his life and career. Alumni files are kept for many NU alumni, up to the present day and are typically strong in biographical information, often containing a wealth of both primary and secondary source information on a particular alumnus.  Unlike most of the collections in the University Archives, there is no finding aid or inventory to the materials in any of these files.  The researcher will need to browse the file contents.  Seaver’s alumni file contains a great deal of biographical information, including excerpts from books and articles and obituaries from the Vermont Standard newspaper.  Also included are copies of his Medal of Honor file, which documents the process through which Seaver was awarded his medal and records battle reports about the particular action for which he was nominated. The file includes documentation related to both that action and others. The original Medal of Honor application was made by Theodore Peck and cited Seaver’s brave conduct at the storming of Marye’s Heights on May 3, 1863.

Edward B. Williston, Class of 1856

About Williston:

Edward Williston (b.1836) was born in Norwich, VT, in 1836.  He attended NU from 1851 to 1855, leaving without completing his course. In 1856, he left for San Diego, CA, to work on the ranch of his half-brother until the breaking out of the Civil War. He served in the 2nd U.S. Artillery, which was assigned to the Army of the Potomac.  Williston was awarded the Medal of Honor for distinguished gallantry at Trevilian Station, VA, on 12 June 1864.  Following the Civil War, he continued his military service in California, Virginia, Alaska, North Carolina, the District of Columbia, Texas, Kansas, Illinois, Florida and Maryland.  He continued his distinguished career during the Spanish American War in stations at Georgia, New York, Cuba and the Philippines. Edward Williston retired from service in 1900.

What You'll Find in the Collection:

Williston garners a certain share of attention from researchers as a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Norwich University can boast of 6 alumni who are Medal of Honor recipients, 4 of which were awarded for Civil War actions. Williston’s actions at Trevilian Station were dramatically captured in the Dale Gallon print “For Distinguished Gallantry” in 2006 (

The centerpiece of our collection on Edward Williston is a handwritten book that is a cross between memoir, scrapbook, and photo album. It contains Williston's personal recollection of his Civil War service; published and unpublished writings; and transcriptions of documentation related to his Medal of Honor.

Williston’s biographical file file is also a good place to begin general research on the life and career of Edward Williston. Biographical files are kept for many NU alumni, up to the present day. These files are typically strong in biographical information and often contain newspaper accounts, letters, articles, service records, etc., all pertaining to a particular alumnus. The researcher will need to browse the contents. Williston’s file contains both primary and secondary sources, produced by many different people, but consists primarily of the correspondence and notes of University Historian, William Arba Ellis, in preparation for his 1819-1911 published history of NU and its graduates. The researcher may also find helpful clues to further research on Williston in the text and in bibliographies of other researchers.

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