Eugene Beauharnais Payne Civil War Letters 1862-1864 1862

Identity elements

Reference code

US ILfC SC/027

Level of description



Eugene Beauharnais Payne Civil War Letters 1862-1864 1862




Name of creator

Biographical history

Brevet Brigadier General Eugene Beuharnais Payne was born in Seneca Falls, New York on April 15, 1835. His family quickly moved to Lake County Illinois and Payne studied locally in Waukegan. He graduated law school from Northwestern University in 1860 and was admitted to the bar to practice within the same year.

With the start of the Civil War, Payne formed the first Infantry company of Union troops (37th Regiment) in the state of Illinois and served throughout the conflict until September of 1864.. Most notably, Payne fought and later wrote/described in both his letters and a later 1903 pamphlet about the battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas. Furthermore, just as this collections shows a soldier's perspective on battle, it also clearly testifies about the marriage of Eugene B. Payne and his wife Adelia A. "Delia" Wright. They married on January 26th, 1862 and as clearly expressed throughout the letters, the couple shared a deep connection of love.

After the war, the decorated general Payne, returned to Illinois and was elected a member of the State Legislature in 1864 and served until 1868. He also returned to practicing law for 17 years and became an officer/examiner of the United States Pension Bureau in Washington and later in Cleveland, OH. He wrote a number of volumes on this type of federal work and led a steady life overall. He died on April 7, 1910 in Washington at the age of 75.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

This collection predominantly consists of correspondence in the form of (handwritten in ink) 20 personal letters sent from Eugene Beuharnais Payne, a Union Civil War Soldier, to his wife Delia W. Payne in the year of 1862.

The collection does also contain a folder of photocopied reference/information materials on the life of Eugene B. Payne and the Civil War environment he faced in 1862. These documents include items like a compiled list of summaries about the text and subject matter of each letter in the collection, several photocopied encyclopedic entries, a pamphlet by Payne on the 37th Illinois Veteran Volunteer Infantry and the Battle of Pea Ridge and visual context maps of the Pea Ridge, Arkansas battlefield. There are also transaction papers that document the purchase of these letters by the Lake Forest College Archives and Special Collections.

The collection also holds several individual objects belonging to Payne that include a carte de visite photograph (taken By Chicago photographer A. Hesler) and clothing accessories such as cufflinks, badges, buttons, ribbons, medals, and a fabric star. Overall, the collection shows Payne's early years as a eager soldier ready to fight, but at the same time the letters show a devoted newlywed husband in a time of conflict and separation.

System of arrangement

The main arrangement of this collection follows a chronological order of dates (mm/dd/yyyy) listed by the writer within the letters themselves or from the date stamp found on the envelope. Each available state and town location (MO, AR, and IA) given by the writer is indicated in the folder titles alongside the calendar dates as well.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

    Language and script notes

    Finding aids

    Acquisition and appraisal elements

    Custodial history

    This purchase from the Argosy Book Store, Inc., New York, September 30, 1986, was accessioned (no. 88-2) and organized then by Assistant Librarian Martha Briggs, now of The Newberry Library, Chicago. The purchase had been preceded by a failed attempt to purchase Payne’s Civil War diary, which went to the U. of Michigan’s William Clements Library ( ). (Acquisitions information for the Payne letters is found in the Special Collections reference files, under Payne.)

    Immediate source of acquisition

    Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


    Related materials elements

    Existence and location of originals

    Existence and location of copies

    Related archival materials

    Manuscripts Division-Finding Aid of Eugene B. Payne Collection, 1861-1888 at William L. Clements Library University of Michigan.

    Information about related materials is available at

    Related descriptions

    Notes element

    Specialized notes

    Alternative identifier(s)

    Description control element

    Rules or conventions

    Sources used

    Access points

    Subject access points

    Place access points

    Name access points

    Genre access points

    Accession area