Paxton (Thomas and Wilson N.) Papers, 1861-1863, 16 Items

Administrative Information

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Copyright: The copyright of these letters is held by Navarro College Archives, Navarro College, 3200 W. 7th Ave., Corsicana, Texas. Internet:

Cite As:Thomas & Wilson Paxton Papers, 1861-1863, Pearce Civil War Collection, Navarro College, Corsicana, Texas

Forms Part of: Pearce Civil War Collection

Location: 1-E10-f

Transcription(s): Yes

Scanned Copies on File: No

Accession Number: 2001.282

Processed by: Rosalie Meier, May 2004

Reproductions of original materials and transcriptions may be available. Please contact the archivist for further information.

Abstract: The collection consists of letters written by brothers Thomas and Wilson N. Paxton to a cousin (Ella or Ellie) between 1861 and 1863. Also included are 5 small envelopes all addressed to Miss Ellie (or Ella) Guthrie in Moundsville, West Virginia and a poem entitled “The Starving Child in Ireland” which does not appear to be in the handwriting of either of the brothers. There is also a letter written from Camp Stanton, dated March 30, 1862 to Mollie which does not appear to be in the handwriting of either Paxton brother.

Biographical/Historical Sketch

Thomas Paxton enlisted on June 19, 1861 as a Sergeant and served in Company “D” of the 39th Pennsylvania Infantry. He was killed in the Battle of the Wilderness on May 8, 1864. Wilson N. Paxton enlisted as a Second Lieutenant on August 22, 1862 and served in Company “G” of the 140th Pennsylvania Infantry. He was taken prisoner on July 2, 1863 at Gettysburg and was confined for 20 months in Libby Prison. He was discharged on May 17, 1865. The brothers were from Washington County, Pennsylvania.

Scope and Content Note

Thomas Paxton writes 11 letters between September 18, 1861 and April 5, 1864 to his Cousin, Ellie or Ella, in Moundsville, West Virginia. In his early letters, Paxton writes about a grand drill with 15000 troops and he describes McClellan as a “fine looking man...” In a letter dated July 29, 1862, Paxton relates an attack by Stonewall Jackson on June 26 at Mechanicsville, although it is not clear that Jackson actually participated in the attack on that day. He also writes about the battles of South Mountain and Fredericksburg although there are no detailed descriptions of any of the battles. By 1863 Paxton indicates that he is becoming tired of the war as he writes “this war cant always Last – And if it does thank fortune I have only another year to serve Uncle Sam. And if spared through it you may believe I will think awhile before they get another 3 years ... during the war on me.” In his letter dated October 5, 1863 he states “... our time will be out next May 15th” and “I have seen enough of war to do me all I ask is for to get out of this fix safe and sound.” His last letter was written April 5, 1864; he was killed at the Wilderness on May 8, seven days before he believed he was due to be discharged.

Wilson Paxton writes two letters to his Cousin, Ella, from Libby Prison; having been captured at Gettysburg. The first, dated October 28, 1863 indicates the prisoners were allowed to receive boxes from home as he states he has “sent for a box ...I could enjoy the clothing and provisions it will bring about now.” He relates the importance of receiving mail from home stating “if I dont get one or more every mail I feel pretty blue.” In his letter of December 12, 1863 he again writes of the great value of receiving letters. By this time more control is being exercised over the prisoners. Wils writes “No more boxes and can purchase nothing more out in the city.” Apparently, however, he and others of his unit are not being deprived as they had previously received “enough of boxes to keep us for a month or more.” Lt. Paxton describes his culinary experience, “I baked a black-berry pie yesterday put soda & cream tarte in the crust which I believe was wrong.” Like his brother, Thomas, he makes no mention in these letters of battles.

The other letter in the collection does not appear to be written by either Thomas or Wilson Paxton. The handwriting, from a cursory inspection, appears different from either; additionally, the writer uses a wavy line to fill in the remainder of a line when a new paragraph is started on the subsequent line. Neither of the Paxton brothers uses that device. The writer is a Union soldier who apparently had a difficult march between Bowling Green and Nashville; he writes “when we remember that we suffered thus in the performance of the most sacred duty known to man, except the actual service of Allmighty God, we can look back to it with some pleasure.” He relates an incident when he and a “messmate” slipped out of ranks and went to a large house where they demanded supper and lodging. After attempting to evade the demand, the man of the house, who was plainly “of secesh proclivities,” acceded to the demand and provided of meal as well as a feather bed. Upon leaving the two invited their host “to call if he should ever happen up our way.”

The copyright of these materials is managed by the Navarro College Archives on behalf of the Navarro College Foundation, 3100 W. Collin St., Corsicana, Texas 75110. Phone: 903-875-7438. Internet: