Symmes H. Stillwell Family Papers
Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. 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
Symmes H. Stillwell (1840-1934) of Cranbury, Middlesex County, New Jersey, served in the Union Army with the 9th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry from September 1861 until October 1864 during the American Civil War. Like other members of his family, Stillwell was very political; he was an active member and staunch supporter of the Republican Party and the war. One of the first to join the 9th, Stillwell initially served with Company M, and was then transferred to Company A. He was promoted from the rank of Corporal to Sergeant.
Stillwell participated in all of the battles with which the 9th was involved until April 1864 when he became very ill and was sent to Balfour General Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia. Once recovered, he worked at the hospital as a police-sergeant until October when he was discharged.
Known as the "Jersey Muskrats," the 9th New Jersey Volunteers received its nickname during the Battle of Roanoke Island, N.C.(February 7-8, 1862), the regiment's first engagement, as the men had waded through mud and waist deep water in order to successfully flank the Confederates and capture the island. Part of Burnside's North Carolina Expedition, the 9th saw a significant amount of action and was involved in numerous battles, including New Bern (March 14, 1862), Fort Macon (March 23- April 26, 1862), Drewry's Bluff (May 15, 1862), and Deep Creek, Kinston (December 14, 1862).
In January 1863, the regiment was moved to St. Helena Island, South Carolina, where they drilled for a couple of months before moving back to North Carolina. In August of that year, the 9th was sent to Carolina City as a considerable number of men were ill (including Symmes H. Stillwell); and were then stationed in Virginia until the end of the year.
When the first three-year term of enlistment expired in January 1864, two-thirds of the men decided to reenlist, and changed the regiment's name to the 9th New Jersey Volunteer Veteran Infantry. (Stillwell did not reenlist at the advice of his mother.) During its second deployment, the regiment was involved in several more battles, including Port Walthall Junction (May 6-7, 1864), Cold Harbor (May 31-June 12, 1864), and the Siege of St. Petersburg.
After the war, Stillwell worked for a joiner in Washington, D.C. for a brief time before moving to Princeton, New Jersey to work as a carpenter's assistant. He eventually established a construction company.
Stillwell married Matilda White Mershon in 1866 with whom he had a couple of children. He was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Elks, the Freemasons, and the Roanoake Associates, an organization for veterans of the Battle of Roanoke Island.
Symmes H. Stillwell Civil War and Family Papers consists mostly of Stillwell's Civil War papers, including a sizeable number of letters from Stillwell to his mother, Hannah Stillwell, as well as diaries and various documents that provide information about Stillwell's experiences as well as the experiences of the 9th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment with which he served. The letters, in particular, provide detailed descriptions and offer insight into various aspects of the war, such as camp life, battles, the aftermath of battles, widespread sickness amongst the troops, and the significant amount of travel undertaken by the 9th on land and on sea.
The collection also consists of some Stillwell family correspondence as well as a couple of legal documents and miscellaneous items. These papers relate primarily to Symmes H. Stillwell, his mother, Hannah Stillwell, and his brothers, Daniel P. Stillwell and Dey Conover Stillwell.
The collection is arranged in two series: "Symmes H. Stillwell Civil War Papers" and "Stillwell Family Papers."
McPherson, James M. For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Drake, J. Madison. The history of the 9th New Jersey Veteran Vols. A record of its service from Sept. 13th, 1861, to July 12th, 1865, with a complete official roster, and sketches of prominent members. Elizabeth: Journal Printing House, 1889. Verter, Bradford. "Disconsolations of a Jersey Muskrat: The Civil War Letters of Symmes H. Stillwell." Princeton University Library Chronicle 58 no. 2, Winter 1997.
The bulk of the collection was a gift of the Symmes H. Stillwell estate donated in 1960 (AM 16781). One of Stillwell's diaries dated 1862 was the gift of Irving W. Mershon in 1958 (AM 18209). Stillwell's 1864 diary was purchased in 2002 (AM 2002-139).
This collection was reprocessed by Faith Charlton in March 2014. Finding aid updated by Faith Charlton in March 2014.
Folder Inventory added by Hilde Creager (Class of 2015) in 2012.
No material was separated during 2014 processing.
- United States. Army
- United States. Army. New Jersey Infantry Regiment, 9th (1861-1865)
- Roanoke Associates
- North Carolina -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Sources.
- Roanoke Island (N.C.) -- History -- Capture, 1862.
- United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Campaigns.
- United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives.
- United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Poetry.
- Virginia -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Sources.
- Manuscripts Division
- Finding Aid Author
- Faith Charlton
- Finding Aid Date
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.
Arranged by genre of material.
The majority of Symmes H. Stillwell's Civil War papers is correspondence, which consists almost exclusively of letters from Stillwell to his mother, Hannah Stillwell. There are also a couple of letters from Stillwell to his brother, Daniel P. Stillwell, and his cousin, Peter R. Bergen. Other materials in the series include Stillwell's diaries that he kept during his service; documents; poems and song ballads written by Stillwell and others; and other Civil War-related materials, such as papers regarding Stillwell's war pension and ephemera relating to the Roanoke Associates, an organization for veterans of the Battle of Roanoke Island.
The papers in this series document Stillwell's experience and also provide information about the 9th New Jersey Volunteers. The letters, in particular, provide detailed descriptions and offer insight into various aspects of the war, such as camp life, battles, the aftermath of battles, widespread sickness amongst the troops, and the significant amount of travel undertaken by the 9th on land and on sea. They also reveal Stillwell's political leanings, his enthusiasm for the war (at least initially), his confidence in battle, and his opinions about African Americans, specifically black military regiments. For example, shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, Stillwell wrote to his mother: "...for my part, I consider the arming of negroes a confession of weakness, a folly, an insult to the brave Soldier, and a crime against humanity and civilization...I hope the time will come when the President will have to recall his proclamation."(March 8, 1863)Physical Description
Includes a letter signed by Governor of New Jersey, Charles Smith Olden, and other prominent citizens recommending that Stillwell be made a ship joiner at the Navy Yard in Brooklyn. It was drafted shortly before Stillwell enlisted with the 9th New Jersey Volunteers.Physical Description
Includes two letters from his mother, Hannah Stillwell.Physical Description
Includes a copy of the New Testament that contains two small notes about the Battle of Roanoke, the Battle of Macon, and a skirmish at Jones's Crossroads (1862).
There are two diaries dated 1862; Stillwell likely recopied the original (written in pencil) at a later date.Physical Description
Consists of a journal and ledger Stillwell kept for Company A of the 9th Regiment with inventories of equipment and clothing, and lists of company members as well as official orders; reports; receipts; and Stillwell's muster-out roll. Of special interest is a "List of prisoners confined in the guard house at Balfour Hospital Macon House, Portsmouth, VA" created by Stillwell who worked as a commanding guard.Physical Description
Includes clippings, printed poems, and a sketch (presumably done by Stillwell) of a poster for the 9th regiment.Physical Description
Included are poems and song ballads. Some were copied by Stillwell; a couple may have been authored by him.Physical Description
Includes a couple of anniversary dinner programs.Physical Description
Symmes H. Stillwell (1840-1934) was one of three sons born to Joseph Morford Stillwell (1806-1844) and Hannah Dey Conover Stillwell (1809-1901) of Cranbury, Middlesex County, New Jersey; the others being Daniel P. Stillwell (1835-1875) and Dey Conover Stillwell (circa 1830-1860). The latter brother died serving as a seaman in Great Britain's Royal Navy under the alias William P. Forman. Daniel P. Stillwell married Sarah Ann P. Dey Stillwell (1836-1862) (his first wife) with whom he had two children, Henry C. Stillwell (b. 1859) and Addison A. Stillwell (1861-1880).
This series consists of family correspondence, primarily relating to Symmes H. Stillwell, Hannah Stillwell, Daniel P. Stillwell, and Dey C. Stillwell, as well as a couple of legal documents, a photograph, and miscellaneous items.
Arranged alphabetically by creator.Physical Description
Letters were most likely written to Dey C. Stillwell and Symmes H. Stillwell.Physical Description
Most are to Dey's mother, Hannah Stillwell. One is to J.I. Buckley.Physical Description
Includes documents from the British Navy relating to Hannah's claim that she was the beneficiary of her son, Dey C. Stillwell.Physical Description
Includes a few letters from Symmes to his mother, Hannah, (circa 1865) as well as letters to Symmes from his mother, his sister-in-law, Sarah Ann P. Stillwell, his nephew, Addison A. Stillwell, S.A. Trench, and a friend.Physical Description
Includes a photograph possibly depicting Symmes H. Stillwell; a couple of receipts for Symmes H. Stillwell and Hannah Stillwell; and a manuscript entitled, "A Story of Indian Bay Camp; For the Summer of Nineteen-ten."Physical Description