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The Ellen Wild Letters Collection contains 21 letters, primarily featuring letters written in 1862 to 1865. The majority of the letters come from 1862, but several also come from her time following the Civil War. The letters recount Mrs. Wild’s time during the Civil War, waiting for news from her husband as well as surviving on the home front. She recounts Edward Wild’s adventures during the war, his life in camp, and his numerous woundings and ailments. Mrs. Wild discusses her husband’s involvement in North Carolina as well as with the free African Americans. She briefly mentions the Battle of Gettysburg and defends Joseph Hooker’s actions at the Battle of Chancellorsville. She gives her opinion about how the Civil War could be ended; saying that all that was required was the defeat of Robert E. Lee. In 1864, she follows Edward, taking residence in Norfolk, Virginia while her husband reports to Benjamin Butler. Mrs. Wild comments on Butler’s actions during this period of the war, and makes short mention of the battles occurring around Petersburg and Richmond. She continues to write about Edward Wild’s service in the American Army, noting his actions in Virginia as well as his state of mind during the late stages of the war.

Following the American Civil War, letters from 1891 and 1892 recount Mr. Wild’s life during Reconstruction in Massachusetts. The letters pick up just a few months after Edward’s death, with many recounting the decisions Mrs. Wild had to make for herself as well as the struggles of living without her husband. She must decide what to do with the body of her husband as well as locating and processing his will to receive his estate. The will had been lost in Canada, and her letters recount her finding it once more with the help of her friends and Edward’s wartime contemporaries. Throughout these years, she is very ill, weak and fragile in the aftermath of her husband’s death. She also is taking care of her cousin Katy Wild, who is slowly dying of Pancreas cancer. Mrs. Wild goes into detail in almost every letter about Katy’s condition, with the series of letters ending before Katy passes. This group of letters talks about life after the Civil War and the affects Mrs. Wild can still see from it, even from the state of Massachusetts.

Many years are missing in the series, including everything from 1866 to 1890. Several letters from each year are missing as well, and there is no continual narrative throughout. There are no replies back to Ellen Wild, just the letters written by her but she manages to answer many of the questions raised in a previous letter.

Special Collections and College Archives Finding Aids are discovery tools used to describe and provide access to our holdings. Finding aids include historical and biographical information about each collection in addition to inventories of their content. More information about our collections can be found on our website

Collection Size

0.5 cubic feet

Publication Date

April 2016


Civil War, Battle of Seven Pines, Roanoke Island, Benjamin Butler, Norfolk, Army of the James, Boston, letters


Cultural History | History | Military History | Women's History

Document Type

Finding Aid

MS-161: Ellen Wild Letters