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Robert R. Newell Correspondence

 Collection — Container: MS 7112
Call Number: MS 7112

Scope and Contents

This collection of ninety-three letters, date between 1863 and 1865, documents the experiences of Robert R. Newell in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. The majority of the letters consist of correspondence from Newell to his mother, his father William Newell, his sisters Fan and Jenny, and his brothers Will and Kirk. There are two letters addressed to Robert Newell, one from his father, William Newell, and one from F.I. Child, one of his Harvard professors. Newell writes from Jacksonville, Florida and various places in South Carolina, including Charleston, Morris Island, Hilton Head, and Fort Green on Folly Island. Newell provides detailed descriptions of daily life in the camps, campaigns and expeditions, encounters with Southern soldiers, and mentions of senior officers, particularly a Colonel Hallowell and Captain Walton. Of particular interest are Newell’s discussions of the African-American troops in his regiment and the issues they faced related to lack of payment and the problems and discontent related to that. The collection also contains a copybook of nine letters written to friends between 10 January  and 6 June 1864 and a photograph of a daguerreotype of Robert Newell.


  • 1863-1865


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Items in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. The Boston Public Library does not hold copyright on the material in this collection. Researchers are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright.

When reproducing material from this collection please include the credit line "Courtesy of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library/Rare Boks."

Biographical or Historical Information

Captain Robert R. Newell was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on December 22, 1843. He was a student at Harvard when he was commission into the Union Army on December 12, 1863. He joined the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, a regiment of African-American soldiers, in January 1864 where he served until the end of the war in 1865. After the war he returned to Harvard to complete his degree. He also graduated from Harvard Law School and went on to practice law in Boston. Newell died in Cambridge in 1883.


95.00 Items

Language of Materials



This collection contains the correspondence of Captain Robert R. Newell of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment to his family in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It documents daily camp life, campaigns and expeditions, encounters with Southern soldiers, and the issues surrounding the fact that African-American soldiers were not being paid.

Arrangement Note

Arranged chronologically.

Method of Acquisition

Purchased from Skinner in 2001.

Processing Information

Processed by Rachel Stanton, June 2013.
Robert R. Newell Correspondence
Rachel Stanton,  June 2013.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

About this library

Part of the Boston Public Library Archives & Special Collections Repository

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