Gerrish-Kimball Papers, 1751-1903 – MS121

Gerrish-Kimball Papers, 1751-1903  – MS121

Provenance: Gift of Leonora C. Welsher.

Citation: Gerrish-Kimball Papers (MS121), Manuscript Collections, Portsmouth Athenaeum

Size: 2 Hollinger Boxes (1 linear ft.)

Access: No restrictions

Scope and Content
The collection primarily contains letters from George Gerrish to Caroline Gerrish during George Gerrish’s service in the Civil War. The letters provide an interesting look into the life of a Civil War officer. The first number of letters written while Gerrish was stationed at training camps are typically positive and mention taking naps and swimming at the beach. During the second half of 1862, the letters describe dead and injured soldiers and his time spent as a prisoner of the Confederates after being taken captive at Bull Run. Later letters are written during a trip to Chicago apparently looking for business opportunities. The final bulk of the letters are from Caroline Gerrish to Harriet Kimball, detailing extensive travel in Europe. The final portion of the collection contains miscellaneous materials including: letters related to the Noyes family of Byfield and Newburyport, Massachusetts (who appear to be related to the Kimballs) (Box 2 Folders 7 and 8), one folder of letters to and from Sir William Pepperell (Box 2 Folder 15), an 1857 diary belonging to Robert Harris (Box 2 Folder 14), and statements collected from physicians regarding the cause of death of George Gerrish related to his military service during the Civil War (Box 2 Folder 13). There are genealogical materials (Box 2 Folders 15-18) for the Estey/Esty, Gerrish, Pepperell and Noyes families.

Biographical Note

George and Caroline (Kimball) Gerrish:

George Albert Gerrish was born in South Berwick, Maine in 1834, the son of George Washington and Sarah (Howard) Gerrish. His parents relocated to Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1836 where he lived until his marriage to Caroline Parker Kimball May 5, 1859. In 1861, he was a captain of the First NH Battery, known as “Gerrish’s Battery” and was taken captive at the battle of Bull Run. Wounded at the battle of Fredericksburg, he resigned on March 7, 1863. He died on September 1, 1866.

His wife, Caroline Parker Kimball was born September 22, 1836, the daughter of David and Caroline Rebekah (Swett) Kimball. They had two children, Arthur and Jeanie.

Folder Listing:

BOX 1
Folder 1 1859 George Gerrish to Caroline [Carrie] Gerrish

Letters discuss personal and family matters between George Gerrish and his future wife, Caroline Gerrish. One letter mentions “Old Strawberry Bank,” opium lozenge, weather, poor condition of the city streets, ice skating in Boston.

Folder 2 1860 George Gerrish to Caroline Kimball and Caroline Gerrish to Harriet Kimball

Letters discuss personal and family matters.

Folder 3 January to June 1861, George Gerrish to Caroline Parker Gerrish and Caroline Kimball and Caroline Kimball to Harriet Kimball

Letters are during George Gerrish’s service during the Civil War, including details conditions at Camp, other companies, drills, women watching the soldiers drills, and personal matters. Gerrish’s Battery (1st NH Light Artillery) was stationed at Camp Dupont, Delaware and later was writing from Washington, DC and Alexandria, Virginia. On March 9th he describes attending a reception for President Lincoln and meeting the President. The final letter describes George’s commitment to serving his country despite the toll it is taking on his family.

Folder 4 July to August 1861, George Gerrish to Caroline Gerrish and Caroline Kimball to Harriet Kimball

Letters are during George Gerrish’s service during the Civil War while at Camp Adams in Quincy, Massachusetts, mentions seeing a daguerreotype of another soldier’s wife and asking for one of his daughter. He also talks about the beautiful location of their camp with views of the water, he takes a swim at the beach, he discusses everyday life in camp, the hot temperatures, and purchasing a gift of silver to be engraved for Sarah Knowlton.

Folder 5 September to October 1861, George Gerrish to Caroline Gerrish

Letters are during George Gerrish’s service during the Civil War while near Boston and Manchester, New Hampshire. In one letter he states that he has “been in Concord all day – begging for things needed for the battery.” He describes a sad departure after a brief visit with Caroline (his wife) and Jennie (his daughter).

Folder 6 November 1861, George Gerrish to Caroline Gerrish and Frank E. Demeritt to George Gerrish

Letters are during George Gerrish’s service during the Civil War after a travel from New Hampshire to Washington, DC. He mentions the warm welcome his troops received passing through Maryland where residents “rush to the doors and windows as we passed and wave Union flags.” In Baltimore he notes it was very quiet “no signs of secession.” He describes the less appealing conditions of Camp Duncan, located a mile east of the Capital in Washington, DC. He later moved on to Alexandria, Virginia, Camp Benson in Fairfax, Virginia, and Camp Dupont, Delaware. He describes living conditions, food, tents, etc. The letter from Frank E. Demeritt is from Manchester, NH and details what appears to be recovery from an injury to his leg, perhaps during battle.

Folder 7 December 1861, George Gerrish to Caroline Gerrish and Caroline Kimball

Letters are during George Gerrish’s service during the Civil War while at Camp Dupont, Delaware. He describes living conditions, food, tents, cold weather, etc. He mentions how thankful the men are to receive parcels from home. One letter describes advising three prisoners so as to secure more favorable punishment. He talks about missing home. One letter states, “The assistant surgeon of the Battalion is a drunken fellow and don’t know much” (Dec 12, 1861).

Folder 8 January 1862, George Gerrish to Caroline Gerrish

Letters are during George Gerrish’s service during the Civil War while at Camp Dupont, Delaware. He describes living conditions, food, tents, cold weather, religion, etc. He mentions Lieut. Edgell, recently appointed Lieut., described as not educated, a tinsmith by trade, slow but faithful (January 8, 1862). One letter infers that Caroline does not approve of Lincoln’s military strategy but George defends the President’s approach (January 12, 1862). He mentions missing home and a photo that he sent home of himself (January 12, 1862).

Folder 9 February 1862, George Gerrish to Caroline Gerrish

Letters are during George Gerrish’s service during the Civil War while at Camp Dupont, Delaware. He describes living conditions, food, tents, cold weather, religion, etc. He mentions receiving a shipment of mince pies from his mother (February 2, 1862). He tells a story of black man who was being accused of “trying to run down the river with his schooner loaded with salt, whiskey, etc…” (February 9, 1862). One letter talks about a procession with a soldier, sitting on his coffin on his way to be executed (February 21, 1862). He mentions seeing other regiments and individuals from Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Folder 10 March 1862, George Gerrish to Caroline Gerrish and George Gerrish to Hiram Gerrish

Letters are during George Gerrish’s service during the Civil War while at Camp Dupont, Delaware and then Alexandria, Virginia to be relocated again due to the “enemy” evacuating Manassas. He describes living conditions, food, tents, cold weather, religion, etc. He discusses hearing from Gillis Todd who had been to Portsmouth. He talks about the death of a friend’s young daughter (March 2, 1862). He speaks a great deal about the hardships of the soldiers, illness, cold, long marches, etc.

Folder 11 April 1862, George Gerrish to Caroline Gerrish and George Gerrish to Hiram Gerrish

Letters are during George Gerrish’s service during the Civil War while at Alexandria, Virginia and later Bristow, Prince William County, Virginia and Falmouth, Virgina via Fredericksburg (which he describes as reminding him of Portsmouth). He describes living conditions, food, tents, missing home and family etc. He includes details about the march including interacting with slaves along the road side whose masters had “run away.” In the same letter he mentions the large number of dead and decaying horses (April 6, 1862).

Folder 12 May to June 1862, George Gerrish to Caroline Gerrish

Letters are during George Gerrish’s service during the Civil War while at Falmouth. He describes living conditions, food, tents, missing home and family etc. He is frustrated with his “life of inactivity” under McDowell who had frequent “grand reviews…for the benefit of some distinguished foreigners” wishing instead he was serving under McClellan. He observes a lot of slaves in need of food and clothes.

Folder 13 July to September 1862, George Gerrish to Caroline Gerrish

Letters are during George Gerrish’s service during the Civil War while at Falmouth among other locations. He describes living conditions, food, missing home and family etc. He talks about the “fever” that is causing mass illness and some deaths. In the same letter he states that he suspects the government will need to institute the draft. He also reflects on a message delivered by Curtis in Boston who said that “the negro should not be used against his master.” To which Gerrish responded, “It is easy to talk thus at home but not very easy for the soldier to understand in the field. Until we use every means which God and nature has placed in our hands, this rebellion will never be crushed.” He mentions how “rebels” are treated with too much leniency in Fredericksburg (July 13, 1862). His next letter from “near Culpeper, Virginia” describes hard marches, illness and battles (August 13, 1862). The following letter describes great difficulty and a battle with many dead, including burying the dead. He states “The scene of the battlefield is beyond description. The groans of the wounded…” (August 31, 1862). The next letter he states “here I am at last in paradise” as he is once again in Alexandria. In the same letter he goes on to give a vivid account of his capture and time in a Confederate prison (September 18, 1862). Next he writes from the “Camp of Paroled Prisoners” at Annapolis, Maryland where he is in charge of all of the prisoners from New Hampshire. He mentions that some may be sent to Minnesota to fight the Indians (September 23, 1862).

Folder 14 November to December 1862, George Gerrish to Caroline Gerrish

Letters are during George Gerrish’s service during the Civil War. He describes living conditions, food, tents, weather missing home and family etc. One letter accounts the death of a severely wounded soldier (November 23, 1862).

Folder 15 1863, George Gerrish to Mrs. Hannah P. Townes, George Gerrish to Caroline Gerrish, George Gerrish to ____ Harris and Robert Harris to unknown

The first letter is George Gerrish writing to a Hannah P. Townes who appears to be looking for details about her soldier brother’s death during the Civil War. Gerrish provides details about his injury and re-enlisted and rumored death at the Battle of Fredericksburg (January 14, 1863). He goes on to describe living conditions, food, tents, weather missing home and family etc, writing from Chicago. His July 14, 1863 letter announces he will be heading home. In the letter he discusses possible business opportunities in Portsmouth as well as San Francisco.

Folder 16 1864, Lucy (Kimball) Harris to Caroline (Kimball) Gerrish, Caroline Kimball to Caroline Gerrish, George Gerrish to Caroline Gerrish, and Lucy Harris to George Gerrish

Letters discuss family matters, illness, family news, financial matters, etc. The first letter Lucy writes to her sister, Caroline, from San Francisco while there with her husband Robert Harris. He mentions meeting Samuel Coues (of Portsmouth) on the street who was on the Saranac in San Francisco Bay (April 13, 1864). The July 18, 1864 letter speaks of their cousin Eddie who has gifts of a shell box and a piece of coral from a recent voyage. One letter describes a trip to New York City and describes Central Park in detail (September 18, 1864). The September 28, 1864 letter discusses buying and selling New York real estate. George Gerrish describes New York City in great detail as well as further discussion of possible sale of family real estate on Broadway (October 2, 1864). The final letter included a sketch of a house plan.

Folder 17 1865 and 1866, George Gerrish to Caroline Gerrish

George discusses how at home he feels in Chicago and the many amenities and pleasantries he is experiencing there. In his March 9, 1865 letter he describes traveling “several hours over the prairies to see the land father had purchased.” In the 1866 letter George is in Boston writing to his wife Caroline who is also in Boston, but expresses missing his wife. Letter discusses his severe headaches and other personal matters.

Folder 18 1872, Statements regarding the cause of death of George A. Gerrish, testimonies of doctors and witnesses concerning his death being directly related to his service in the army during the Civil War.

Folder 19 1867-1873, Letters from Caroline Kimball to Caroline Gerrish (daughter) and Jeanie Gerrish (granddaughter) regarding personal and family matters

BOX 2

Folder 1 1890, Caroline Gerrish to Harriet Kimball

Letters include details of travel in Europe including Germany, Switzerland and Greece while in Munich, Dresden, Interlaken, Geneva, and Athens. Letters are Caroline Gerrish writing to her sister Harriet Mccuen Kimball.

Folder 2 January to May 1891, Caroline Gerrish to Harriet Kimball, Lucy Woodward and Sarah Kittredge

Letters include details of travel in Europe including Greece and Italy while in Athens, Naples and Sorrento. Letters are Caroline Gerrish writing to her sister Harriet Mccuen Kimball as well as her sister, Lucy Woodward and to Sarah Kittredge.

Folder 3 June to December 1891, Caroline Gerrish to Harriet Kimball

Letters include details of travel in Europe including Italy, Germany, and Switzerland while in Florence, Munich, and Luceme. Letters are Caroline Gerrish writing to her sister Harriet Mccuen Kimball.

Folder 4 1892, Caroline Gerrish to Harriet Kimball

Letters include details of travel in Europe including Germany and France while in Munich and Paris. Letters are Caroline Gerrish writing to her sister Harriet Mccuen Kimball.

Folder 5 undated, Caroline Gerrish to Harriet Kimball

Folder 6 1870-1873, Jeanie Gerrish Letters

Folder 7 1850-1851, Parker Noyes to Caroline Parker Kimball

Folder 8 1840s, Noyes Letters, Byfield and Newburyport, Massachusetts

Folder 9 1886 and 1887, Letter regarding the death of Arthur Gerrish while in Kansas City

Folder 10 1889, Letter from Robert L. Harris to John Pickard regarding his engagement to Miss Gerrish

Folder 11 1903, William _____ to Caroline Gerrish

Folder 12 1785, Thomas Moody to William Noyes, Newbury, Massachusetts Deed

Folder 13 1857, Robert Harris Diary and Misc Robert Harris items

Folder 14 William Pepperell Letters

Folder 15 Esty or Estey Genealogy

Folder 16 Pepperell Genealogy

Folder 17 Gerrish Genealogy

Folder 18 Noyes Genealogy

Folder 19 Misc Notes

Folder 20 Misc Letter Fragments