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Thomas Cole Wright diaries


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

Thomas Cole Wright was a shopkeeper of a glove and hosiery firm (R. K. Stewart Hosiery Gloves and Trimmings), of which he acquired from his Uncle Rude in 1854. Not much is known of Wright’s life, but what we do know is that he was a man of faith. He spent a great deal of time attending religious events; more specifically, evening sermons offered by a number local parishioners in Philadelphia. At times, he would spend at least three or more evenings a week attending such events. While the volumes in the collection provide glimpses of his daily encounters with various persons concerning his business and personal affairs, none however offer commentary or critique of the day. Consistent with his lack of interest in detailing his thoughts, he offered no commentary regarding the sermons he attended. Several unfortunate circumstances would leave him to suffer “afflictions” of loss: Emma J. Butler, his wife, died from a lost battle with consumption on January 23, 1853; his daughter, Annie Butler, died in the same year on July 23 from a “disease of the brain;” and his father, William Wright, on August 28, 1863.

In 1862/’63 the country was in desperate need of support from its citizenry, given the relative shortage of soldiers. Calling on willing members of society, the Pennsylvania Militia was able to recruit a considerable number of men from Philadelphia and other parts of the Pennsylvania. Thomas Wright, of course, was among them. Wright does not reveal his motivations for joining the militia or other thoughts and opinions on matters regarding social and political affairs. However, he would join just as the growing opinions of the Northern public became more and more radical by 1862, which favored the ending of enslavement in the South. He joined the war effort on June 16, 1863, and was subsequently mustered in ten days later on June 26th in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was 38 years of age. His failure to reflect upon the political climate of the day may suggest that he was not as politically active as his participation in the Civil War might suggest. Perhaps it is suffice to assume that he was merely obliging his patriotic duty toward the Union.

According to the Civil War Veterans’ Card File, Wright was assigned to Company E of the Philadelphia Brigade and served for a total of 41 days; although, the journals show that he was involved in some military training (and related activities) at the local Armory prior to this enrollment on June 16th. During those 41 days, he would describe the weather conditions as he awoke each day, movement patterns of his regiment from camp to camp, fiery encounters with rebel troops and subsequent injuries of company members, and picket duties. Wright’s recordings are somewhat consistent with many historical texts about the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign—days one, two, and three of the fighting beginning on July 1, 1863. When he returned to Philadelphia one late afternoon around six o’clock on Sunday, July 26, 1863, he exhaustedly rejoiced: “[I am] Tired and Hungry but well.”

This collection contains 7 volumes of diary entries created by Thomas Cole Wrigt in which he recorded from 1850 to 1864; however, there are no recordings between the years 1855-1862. Also included is one folder of a variety of material: epherma, newspaper clippings, correspondence, and receipts.

Storrick, W. C. Gettysburg: The Place, the Battles, The Outcome. Harrisburg: J. Horace McFarland Company, 1932. Tucker, Glenn. High Tide at Gettysburg: The Campaign in Pennsylvania. Dayton: Morningside Bookshop, 1973. Persico, Joseph E. My Enemy, My Brother: Men and Days of Gettysburg. New York: The Viking Press, 1977. Longacre, Edward G. The Cavalry at Gettysburg: A Tactical Study of Mounted Operations during the Civil War's Pivotal Campaign 9 June-14 July 1863. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1993.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Weckea D. Lilly
Finding Aid Date

Collection Inventory

Volume I, 1850.
Volume 1
Scope and Contents note

Included here are daily entries noting the weather and other personal affairs.

Volume II, 1851.
Volume 2
Scope and Contents note

Included here are daily entries noting the weather and other personal affairs.

Volume III, 1852.
Volume 3
Scope and Contents note

Included here are daily entries noting the weather and other personal affairs.

Volume IV, 1853.
Volume 4
Scope and Contents note

Among the many daily entries recorded here, Wright notes the deaths of his wife and daughter. In addition to pasting the death notice, he also includes a note/obituary briefly reflecting upon the meaning of their lives.

Volume V, 1854.
Volume 5
Scope and Contents note

Many events are listed in this volume, but most notable is the purchase of the store from his uncle on April 1st. A year later he was still mourning the death of his wife and daughter as indicated by the entry on March 10th.

Volume VI, 1863.
Volume 6
Scope and Contents note

This volume records his participation in the Civil War and the death of his father, William Wright.

Volume VII, 1864.
Volume 7
Scope and Contents note

It appears that in the final year of Thomas Wright's life he attended more noted prayer meetings.

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