Letters home from the Civil War


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In 2013 Midway Village Museum received a donation of items that included a collection of letters written mostly during the Civil War. Penned by 3 brothers Robert, George and Charles Sealy along with some from sister Mary and Christopher T. Dunham, the collection is now the focus of a transcription and online content project being undertaken currently by the Museum’s Collections Department.

The Sealy siblings – Charles, George, Robert, and Mary Ann – were all born in Castle Cary, Somersetshire, England to Richard Sealy and Maria Louisa Champion Sealy. The family moved to Rochester, New York, around 1843, finally settling in Rockford, IL in 1855.

When the Civil War arrived, Charles enlisted in Company G 44th Regiment Illinois Infantry from Winnebago County while George & Robert enlisted in Company G 45th Illinois Volunteers. Charles was injured and  captured during the battle of Chickamauga and taken to Andersonville Prison where he died June 10, 1864.

Robert & George were present at the battle and fall of Vicksburg and survived to see the end of the war and beyond. George worked for Emerson, Talcott & Co. in Rockford, and died in 1909. Robert moved to Council Bluffs, IA in 1868, and he and wife Helen adopted a daughter, May. He died in 1888.

There are also letters from Christopher T. Dunham (connected to the Sealy family through his daughter’s marriage), who lived in the Freeport area starting in 1856 and worked as county surveyor. He enlisted in the 11th Illinois Regiment of the Union Army and served on and off throughout the war. He and Sarah Cummings were married in 1862. After the war he returned to his surveying work in Freeport, but was admitted to the Elgin Insane Asylum in 1872 where he died 6 years later.

The letters speak of their experiences serving in the army, of their camp sites, and plans, and are a record of the confusion and stress families back home felt during this time.

These letters are invaluable resources and Midway Village Museum is very pleased to be able to add these and the other objects donated to our collection of items and continue our mission of preserving the history of Rockford.

If you would like to see the letters, go to http://mvm-collections.com/projects/

If you would like more information on the project, contact Regina Gorham, Curator reginag@midwayvillage.com

If you have an interest in Civil War History, join us at our Annual Civil War Symposium on January 24, 2015. For more information go to our website www.midwayvillage.com or call the Front Desk at 815-397-9112.

Charles Sealy, died at Andersonville Prison 6/10/1864.

Charles Sealy, died at Andersonville Prison 6/10/1864.