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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.
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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.
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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 http://quod.lib.umich.edu/c/clementsmss/umich-wcl-M-2280pay?view=text
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Name access points
- Payne, Eugene B. (Creator)