Main content

Andrew Atkinson Humphreys papers


Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Andrew Atkinson Humphreys was born in Philadelphia in 1810, and went on to attend the military academy at West Point. Andrew was the son of Samuel Humphreys, who was the chief constructor for the United States Navy, and the grandson of Joshua Humphreys, who is often called the "Father of the American Navy." Humphreys graduated from West Point in 1831 and enlisted with the Second Artillery Regiment in South Carolina. Humphreys' service took him to Florida, where he fought in the beginning of the Second Seminole War, until the fall of 1836, when he became too sick to complete his service. He traveled for a short period of time, and then reenlisted in the Corps of Topographical Engineers in 1838.

Humphreys worked on the U.S. coastal survey, in addition to many smaller projects in Washington, D.C. and Chicago during the 1840s. From 1850 until 1861, he took charge of the Mississippi River survey project, which spanned the length of the river to the Mississippi Delta. Humphreys and his assistant Henry L. Abbot produced a significant report from the survey, entitled Report upon the Physics and Hydraulics of the Mississippi River, in which they detail the factors involved in the river's flooding and document the state of the levee system. This work was one of the major works of Humphreys's career, and may mark his most significant contribution to the field of engineering. During this period, Humphreys also directed the survey of the Pacific Railroad, under the supervision of the secretary of war, Jefferson Davis.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Humphreys's focus shifted toward topographical engineering for the Army of the Potomac. His skills as a surveyor were employed to map the courses of battle and plan strategy for the Union Army. Humphreys's friendship with Jefferson Davis was an obstacle in the beginning of his service in the Union Army, but he proved himself to be a superior soldier and over time rose in rank. He served as chief of staff for General George G. Meade in 1863 and 1864, and later commanded the 2nd and 3rd Army Corps. After the Civil War, Humphreys commanded the Army Corps of Engineers (which merged with the Corps of Topographical Engineers in 1863) until his retirement in 1879. After his retirement, Humphreys wrote several memoirs of his service in the Civil War, which detailed the campaigns of Gettysburg and Virginia. Andrew Atkinson Humphreys spent the last years of his life in Washington, D.C., where he died in 1883.

This collection documents all aspects of Andrew Atkinson Humphreys's career in the United States Army and Topographical Corps of Engineers, as well as some aspects of his personal life and family history. A.A. Humphreys's papers are arranged into eleven series, most of which focus on his military service.

The correspondence and orders in series 1 (1848-1879) represent a mixture of personal and official military documents, which provide a view into Humphreys's work on the Mississippi River survey and his service in the Army of the Potomac under General George Meade. Series 2 contains pamphlets, periodicals, scientific journals, military documents, and newspapers, which cover a wide range of topics, indluding surveying, astronomy, Philadelphia public buildings, military regulations, and the court martial case of Fitz-John Porter. Series 3 (Family papers) offers a minimal perspective on the life of Joshua Humphreys, who designed the U.S.S. Constitution, with a small selection of accounts and papers related to shipping. More significantly represented in series 3 is A. A. Humphreys's son, Henry, who served under his father during the Civil War, and continued on to a military career of his own. Henry H. Humphreys's scrapbooks in boxes 11-14 contain correspondence, clippings, memorabilia concerning the anniversary of the Constitution, and other documents, personal and professional. Series 4 contains maps drafted for maneuvers of the Army of the Potomac. See the General George G. Meade papers for related material. Series 5 (Miscellaneous) contains a small group of papers from Humphreys's personal and professional activities, as well as a scrapbook compiled after his death.

Series 6 contains receipts for expenses, payroll, and transportation of goods related to the Sanitary Commission and Fair in Philadelphia. Series 7 (Supplies) offers a perspective on the food and goods consumed by soldiers and officers during the height of the Civil War. This series is mostly comprised of receipts, but there are also reports on food quality and records of rations received. Series 8 documents Humphreys's work with the United States Corps of Topographical Engineers, and includes accounts, correspondence, legislation and reports related to various projects. Series 9 (Volumes) is one of the most comprehensive series in the collection because a significant portion of the manuscript material that would normally have been separated into other series is bound in a group of fifty-seven volumes, which make up the bulk of the series. The majority of these volumes cover the Civil War period, and include several volumes of letters from Humphreys to his wife about the war and daily activities (Volumes 33-34). Volumes 1-32 contain correspondence, both military and personal, arranged chronologically. Volumes 35-55 contain official military correspondence from the Civil War era. Series 10 (Vouchers) is the largest series in the collection, consisting primarily of payment vouchers. Boxes 35-39 contain bounty fund payments; boxes 41-45 contain muster rolls for various regiments; and boxes 46-111 contain muster payrolls, bounty payments, correspondence related to payments and miscellaneous vouchers. The items in the last group of boxes were not sorted because they appeared more interconnected and were difficult to separate into discrete groups. The last series, Writings, contains material for Humphreys's book The Virginia Campaign (boxes 115-117), as well as several hand-written drafts. Also included are drafts and material for Gettysburg to the Rapidan (boxes 117-119) and personal journals (box 119).

All materials are arranged chronologically within series.

This collection is arranged into eleven series:

Series 1. Correspondence and orders, 1848-1879, undated; 1 Linear foot;

Series 2. Ephemera and printed matter, 1842-1898, undated; 4 Linear feet;

Series 3. Family papers, 1708-1930, undated; 2.5 Linear feet;

Series 4. Maps and drawings, 1857-1865, undated; 0.2 Linear feet;

Series 5. Miscellaneous, 1853-1931, undated; 0.4 Linear feet;

Series 6. Sanitary Commission and Fair; 1862-1865; 1.2 Linear feet;

Series 7. Supplies, 1859-1864; 4 Linear feet;

Series 8. Topographical surveys, 1828-1880, undated; 2 Linear feet;

Series 9. Volumes, 1827-1901, undated; 19 Linear feet;

Series 10. Vouchers, 1861-1871, undated; 30 Linear feet;

Series 11. Writings, 1835-1883, undated; 4 Linear feet.

Carson, Hampton L. Andrew Atkinson Humphreys. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1885. De Peyster, John Watts. Andrew Atkinson Humphreys. Lancaster, Pa.: Lancaster Intelligencer Print, 1886. Humphreys, Henry H. Andrew Atkinson Humphreys: A Biography. Philadelphia: John C. Winston Company, 1924. Pearcy, Matthew T. "Documents: Andrew Atkinson Humphreys' Seminole War Field Journal," The Florida Historical Quarterly 85, no. 2 (2006): 197-230.

Gift of the Humphreys family. Some items were purchased by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

This collection was processed using guidelines set out in the "More Product, Less Process" approach to archival processing. Given the scope of this collection, it could benefit from further processing at a later date.

A fairly large group of material was separated from the collection because it was deemed to have been erroneously included in the A.A. Humphreys papers during an earlier rehousing project. These papers consist of petitions and correspondence to the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives, receipts and correspondence addressed to Levi Hollingsworth and Sons, correspondence addressed to Edward Armstrong, and invitations addressed to James T. Mitchell. These materials have been flagged for processing at a later date.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Cathleen Miller
Finding Aid Date
The Digital Center for Americana pilot project was funded by the Barra Foundation and several individual donors.
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Collection Inventory

Scope and Contents note

This series contains a wide range of correspondence, spanning Humphreys's career in the Army and the Corps of Topographical Engineers. There are six correspondence and order books that hold records produced during Humphreys's service in the Army of the Potomac. These letters and orders document soldiers' requests for leave, troop movements, and issues regarding the upkeep of the base and conduct of the men.

The unbound correspondence (in boxes 1 and 2) offers a view into the role of the topographical engineers in surveying and recommending repairs to the levees along the Mississippi River, and in mapping terrain for battles during the Civil War. These papers also contain Humphreys's requests for leave because of illness, discussions of his conflicts with other soldiers due to their conduct during battle, some material related to the survey of the Mississippi delta in the 1850s, orders to survey the Mississippi river levees (1865), and detailed correspondence between Humphreys and Henry L. Abbot about plans to repair the levee system along the Mississippi River. There are several folders of material that seem to have belonged to Major Frank M. Etting. These letters sometimes contain direct requests from soldiers or veterans who were struggling financially.

Later correspondence includes reflections on Civil War battles in letters to Major General de Peyster, as well as orders and correspondence from Humphreys's time as Meade's chief of staff. There is also correspondence related to Yerba Buena (or Goat) Island, about which there was a great deal of publicity when it was transferred from military control to the Central Pacific Railroad Company in 1872, by a Senate bill. The majority of correspondence is not isolated in this series, but scattered throughout the collection; most of it is pasted into volumes 1 through 57, which contain both personal and military documents and are arranged chronologically. See the series Volumes for both military and personal correspondence. There is also correspondence related to payments included in the Vouchers series, as well as material related to the survey of the Mississippi River in the Topographical Surveys series.

Physical Description

1.0 Linear feet

Letters Written, (September 22, 1862-May 16, 1863).
Volume 63
Special Orders, (September 22, 1862-May 17, 1863).
Volume 64
General Orders & Circulars, (October 6, 1862-May 16, 1863).
Volume 65
Circulars, (December 10, 1862-May 16, 1863).
Volume 66
Endorsement Book, (October 2, 1862-May 16, 1863).
Volume 67
2.. Ephemera and printed matter, 1842-1898, undated (Bulk, 1860-1880). 4 Linear feet.
Volume 68 Box 2 Box 11 Box 8 Box 7 Box 10 Box 9 Box 4 Box 3 Box 6 Box 5
Scope and Contents note

This series contains a mixture of broadsides, pamphlets, journals, newspapers and clippings, and a few photographs published under Matthew Brady's name in a folio titled Incidents of War. Some of the periodicals represented include The Historical Magazine, La Royale, Army Navy Journal, and Railroad Record.

Other materials in this series are military memos and orders; pamphlets pertaining to Gettysburg, the surveying of the Mississippi River, and the court martial case of Fitz-John Porter; printers proofs of Memoirs of HSP; and a set of clippings related to Philadelphia public buildings.

Physical Description

4.0 Linear feet

3.. Family papers, 1708-1930, undated. 2.5 Linear feet.
Box 14 Box 15 Box 13 Box 12 Oversize flat files 1-4
Scope and Contents note

The majority of the material in this series documents the lives of Joshua Humphreys and Henry Humphreys, who were A.A. Humphreys's grandfather and son, respectively. Documenting the life of Joshua Humphreys are a small group of accounts, legal papers, shipping insurance policies, and a membership certificate for the American Philosophical Society. There is also a reprint of "Who Built the First United States Navy?"

Henry Humphreys's scrapbooks make up the largest segment of this series. He collected clippings, correspondence, and ephemera in three scrapbooks dating from 1884 to approximately 1910. In addition to the scrapbooks, there are two folders of commissions covering Henry Humphreys's service under his father's command during the Civil War. Also included in this series are a list of British officers circa 1750-1780, Humphreys family seals, one of Charles Humphreys's school books, and some miscellaneous items.

Physical Description

2.5 Linear feet

4.. Maps and drawings, 1857-1865, undated. 0.2 Linear feet.
Oversize flat files 11-15 Box 16
Scope and Contents note

This small series contains maps of the Virginia Campaign during the Civil War, when Humphreys was working for General George Meade as a topographical engineer, and then as his chief of staff. Many maps, though printed, contain notations in pencil or ink. Also included are several designs for torpedos and batteries, as well as a sketch of the Southwest Pass near the Gulf of Mexico.

See the George Gordon Meade papers for related maps.

Physical Description

0.2 Linear feet

5.. Miscellaneous, 1853-1931, undated. 0.4 Linear feet.
Box 17
Scope and Contents note

This series contains a mixture of Humphreys's personal and professional items, as well as material about Humphreys collected after his death. Personal items include a Union League medal, Humphreys's passport, account records from Humphreys's travel to Europe, and some circulars for organizations to which Humphreys may have belonged. Professional items include order books used during Humphreys's service as Meade's chief of staff for the Army of the Potomac and notes he made about weapons manufactured abroad. Also included are a scrapbook with clippings about Humphreys's life and death and some photographs of artifacts.

Physical Description

0.4 Linear feet

6.. Sanitary Commission and Fair, 1862-1865. 1.2 Linear feet.
Volume 69 Box 18 Box 20 Box 19
Scope and Contents note

President Abraham Lincoln authorized the creation of the United States Sanitary Commission, which was charged with providing material comfort to Union soldiers during the Civil War. Many groups were formed throughout the North to collect bedding, clothing, and hospital supplies. These groups shipped materials to areas where they were needed. This series contains receipts for payments related to the Sanitary Commission and Fair in Philadelphia and payroll records for employees responsible for constructing the fair buildings. Many of the receipts document shipping and porterage costs. Other receipts show purchases of newspapers, blank books, furniture, transportation, and cost of construction. The majority of these materials represent the efforts of the Women's Pennsylvania Branch of the Sanitary Commission.

Physical Description

1.2 Linear feet

7.. Supplies, 1859-1864. 4 Linear feet.
Box 30 Box 28 Box 29 Box 26 Box 27 Box 24 Box 20 Box 25 Box 22 Box 23 Box 21
Scope and Contents note

Comprised of receipts and reports, this series documents officers' orders for food, candles, whiskey, and supplies for both personal use and for camp commissaries. The orders contain specific and detailed accounts of the food stores and whiskey rations received. These papers also contain a sample of food inspection records from various camps during the Civil War. These reports rate food quality and preparation, and offer a view of what soldiers ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also included are a small group of inventories of quartermaster and ordnance stores. These materials are arranged chronologically.

Physical Description

4.0 Linear feet

8.. Topographical surveys, 1828-1880, undated. 2 Linear feet.
Volume 71 Box 34 Box 33 Box 32 Oversize flat file 6-10 Box 31 Volume 70 Volume 72
Scope and Contents note

This series consists almost entirely of accounts and correspondence related to surveying and removing obstructions to navigation in the Mississippi River. Later material focuses on the survey and repair of levees in the Mississippi Delta.

The accounts document expenditures on goods like food, tools and instruments, drawing boards, paper and stationery supplies; and expenses for wages, transportation, medical care, and undertakers' services. The correspondence in this series refers primarily to reports, which detail the survey methodology, problems encountered during surveying, and document some of Humphreys's and Abbot's recommendations.

Also included in this series are memos, notes, reports, and other documents related to the Mississippi River and Pacific Railroad surveys. In addition, there is one folder of material related to the Inter-Oceanic Canal Commission, which was charged by President Grant with investigating the feasibility of a canal through Nicaragua.

Physical Description

2.0 Linear feet

Scope and Contents note

Perhaps the most wide ranging series in the collection, the volumes contain material from all aspects of Humphreys's life, and papers from other members of the Humphreys family. This series offers a unique overview of Humphreys's personal life and career. The volumes are arranged in chronological order.

There is correspondence with A.A. Humphreys's father Samuel regarding Andrew's entry into the military academy as a young man. Later volumes contain records related to Henry Humphreys's service and personal affairs. The majority of the papers contained in these volumes pertain to Humphreys's service in the Corps of Topographical Engineers and the Army of the Potomac. Early materials document Humphreys's service in Florida during the Second Seminole War, his repeated illness during this period, and recuperative trips to Europe. These papers record his nomination to the Corps of Topographical Engineers and his subsequent work on surveys of the Chicago Harbor and the New England coast. Humphreys's more prominent topographical survey work along the Mississippi River is well documented in these volumes.

Papers related to the Civil War make up the vast majority of this series. Volumes 5-20 and 35-57 contain correspondence, official orders, regimental lists, reports, court martial records, debriefing about battles, and records of casualties. In some volumes, there are personal letters that describe the impact of the war and reveal conflicts between soldiers. Volumes 33 and 34 are primarily made up of letters from Humphreys to his wife during his military service. In some of these letters from the field, he writes in great detail about his direct experience of the countryside and his perspective on the war. These are intimate letters in which he confides in his wife and writes with requests for food and clothing. They provide a personal perspective on a man who might otherwise appear solely focused on his work and reputation.

Also included in this series are four volumes of accounts and lists related to bounty payments.

Physical Description

19.0 Linear feet

Papers, (1827-1843).
Volume 1
Papers, (1844-1849).
Volume 2
Papers, (1850-1854).
Volume 3
Papers, (1855-1860).
Volume 4
Congressional Board at West Point, (1860/1861-February 1862).
Volume 5
Papers, (March 1862-May 22, 1862).
Volume 6
Papers, (May 23, 1862-July 28, 1862).
Volume 7
Papers, (July 29, 1862-October 10, 1862).
Volume 8
Papers, (October 11, 1862-November 1862).
Volume 9
Papers, (December 1862).
Volume 10
Papers, (January 1863).
Volume 11
Papers, (February 1863-March 7, 1863).
Volume 12
Papers, (March 7, 1863-March 28, 1863).
Volume 13
Papers, (March 28, 1863-April 14, 1863).
Volume 14
Papers, (April 15, 1863-April 26, 1863).
Volume 15
Papers, (April 27, 1863-July 15, 1863).
Volume 16
Papers, (July 16, 1863-December 27, 1863).
Volume 17
Papers, (December 27, 1863-November 26, 1864).
Volume 18
Papers, (November 28, 1864-April 1865).
Volume 19
Papers, (May 1865-May 15, 1866).
Volume 20
Papers, (May 16, 1866-June 4, 1868).
Volume 21
Papers, (July 12, 1868-June 15, 1871).
Volume 22
Papers, (June 16, 1871-September 20, 1871).
Volume 23
Papers, (September 25, 1871-1872).
Volume 24
Papers, (1873-February 1876).
Volume 25
Papers, (March 1876-December 8, 1877).
Volume 26
Papers, (December 21, 1877-March 11, 1878).
Volume 27
Papers, (March 18, 1878-December 1880).
Volume 28
Papers, (March 22, 1881-January 1883).
Volume 29
Papers, (February 1883-June 1883).
Volume 30
Papers, (July 1883-December 1883).
Volume 31
Papers, (1884-1901, Undated).
Volume 32
Correspondence with Mrs. Humphreys, (April 26, 1862-March 18, 1865).
Volume 33
Correspondence with Mrs. Humphreys, (March 19, 1865-July 4, 1869).
Volume 34
Original War Papers, (March 1862-January 1863).
Volume 35
Original War Papers, (February 1863-February 1864).
Volume 36
Original War Papers, (March 31, 1864-March 25, 1865).
Volume 37
Original War Papers, (March 26, 1865-November 4, 1867).
Volume 38
Field Dispatches, Chief of Staff, (July 9, 1863-April 1864).
Volume 39
Field Dispatches, Chief of Staff, (May 1, 1864-May 31,1864).
Volume 40
Field Dispatches, Chief of Staff, (May 31, 1864-June 30, 1864).
Volume 41
Field Dispatches, Chief of Staff, (July 1, 1864-August 16, 1864).
Volume 42
Field Dispatches, Chief of Staff, (August 16, 1864-September 16, 1864).
Volume 43
Field Dispatches, Chief of Staff, (September 16, 1864-November 26, 1864).
Volume 44
Military Telegrams, (March 1862-February 1865).
Volume 45
Military Telegrams, (March 25, 1865-April 5, 1865.
Volume 46
Military Telegrams, (April 6, 1865-September 24, 1865.
Volume 47
Special & General Orders & Circulars, (January 16, 1862-October 24, 1862).
Volume 48
Special & General Orders & Circulars, (October 25, 1862-December 8, 1862).
Volume 49
Special & General Orders & Circulars, (December 9, 1862-January 25, 1863).
Volume 50
Special & General Orders & Circulars, (January 26, 1863-February 24, 1863).
Volume 51
Special & General Orders & Circulars, (February 25, 1863-April 3, 1863).
Volume 52
Special & General Orders & Circulars, (April 4, 1863-December 24, 1863).
Volume 53
Special & General Orders & Circulars, (January 9, 1864-July 30, 1878).
Volume 54
Reports, Returns and Casualties, (September 17, 1862-1865).
Volume 55
Lake and Coast Survey, (1867-1897).
Volume 56
Reports, Returns and Casualties, (1862-1863).
Volume 57
Cash book, (June 23, 1863-January 31, 1872).
Volume 58
Check book, (June 24, 1863-February 16, 1864).
Volume 59
Unpaid bounties, (Circa 1860s).
Volume 60
Index to titles of each company, (Undated).
Volume 61
Abstracts of Letters Received, (October 5, 1862-May 11, 1863).
Volume 62
10.. Vouchers, 1861-1871, undated. 30 Linear feet.
Box 66 Box 65 Box 68 Box 67 Box 70 Box 69 Box 72 Box 71 Box 74 Box 73 Box 76 Box 75 Box 35 Box 78 Box 77 Box 80 Box 79 Box 37 Box 38 Box 39 Box 40 Box 41 Box 42 Box 43 Box 44 Box 45 Box 46 Box 47 Box 60 Box 61 Box 62 Box 63 Box 64 Box 59 Box 111 Box 110 Box 109 Box 55 Box 56 Box 57 Box 58 Box 51 Box 52 Box 53 Box 54 Box 36 Box 48 Box 49 Box 50 Box 95 Box 96 Box 93 Box 94 Box 99 Box 100 Box 97 Box 98 Box 103 Box 104 Box 101 Box 102 Box 107 Box 108 Box 105 Box 106 Box 82 Box 83 Box 84 Box 81 Box 90 Box 89 Box 92 Box 91 Box 86 Box 85 Box 88 Box 87
Scope and Contents note

This series is the largest in the collection, containing primarily military payment vouchers associated with soldiers' service in the Civil War. Included in this group are bounty payments, muster rolls, checks, disbursements made to Humphreys, receipts for transportation costs, some correspondence, and discharge certificates. There are muster payrolls for the following regiments, among many others: 1st California; 5th Wisconsin; 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry; 34th Illinois; 29th, 30th, and 44th Indiana; 17th Kentucky; 71st and 77th Pennsylvania; 47th New York Militia; 5th New York Artillery; 4th Maryland; and Fort McHenry Hospital.

Some of the payment vouchers describe the soldiers' servants by name and physical characteristics, in addition to providing information about the soldier being paid. Discharge vouchers offer a rich source of information about the physical attributes of each soldier, describe his belongings in the event of his death, and detail his rank, regiment, and location of service. Many of these papers originated in the office of Major Frank Etting, who served as a paymaster for the Army during the Civil War. It is unclear why Humphreys had all of these materials, but he may have collected them during his service in the Army of the Potomac.

The muster rolls in this series are, in some cases, mixed with the payment vouchers, though when it was clear that they were a discrete group of material, the muster rolls were grouped together. Some of the regiments represented in this group of papers include the 34th Illinois; 29th and 30th Indiana; 47th Illinois; 8th Wisconsin; 26th Illinois; 77th Pennsylvania; 3rd, 6th, and 8th U.S. Colored Troops; 19th Cavalry; Pennsylvania Militia; Union League, Merchants, Corn Exchange, and Coal regiments; and other Pennsylvania units.

There is a small segment of papers in the beginning of the series that seem to have belonged to the Bounty Fund. In these materials are bounty payment vouchers, muster rolls, and expenses of the Bounty Fund.

Physical Description

30.0 Linear feet

11.. Writings, 1835-1883, undated. 4 Linear feet.
Box 120 Volume 73 Box 119 Oversize flat file 5 Volume 74 Volume 75 Box 111 Volume 76 Box 112 Box 113 Box 114 Box 115 Box 116 Box 117 Box 118
Scope and Contents note

This series is made up primarily of drafts for A.A. Humphreys's published works, as well as notes and documents used as reference material. Other papers include galley proofs of Humphreys's book The Virginia Campaign, as well as the source documents he used to construct the book's narrative. Gettysburg to the Rapidan, Humphreys's other published book, is also represented in drafts and source material. There are also numerous letters to the editor and articles published in newspapers and journals. Unpublished material in this series includes personal journals, pocket diaries, and journals kept by Humphreys during early surveying projects (the Tyber Bridge in Washington, D.C. and the Mississippi River survey, among others). Several of the personal journals are from the Civil War era, and detail daily conditions on the ground, troop movements, and other aspects of a soldier's life. Another manuscript entitled "A Rough Sketch of Some of the Characteristic Physical Features of Asia--The Road to India--The Objects of the War in Europe" (1855) rounds out this series.

Physical Description

4.0 Linear feet

Print, Suggest