You are here

Digital Collections

Featured Collection: Deserters Roster searchable database

The Descriptive List of Deserters from Pennsylvania Military Units During the Civil War, known simply as the Deserters Roster, contains over 24,000 records of Pennsylvania soldiers listed as deserters during the Civil War. This database allows users to search these records by soldier names, ranks, units, enlistment or desertion dates, and even occupations. The database also contains demographic and descriptive data, such as soldiers’ ages, nationalities (for those born outside the US), and birthplaces. Users can view the transcribed roster pages by clicking on View Original Source on deserters’ individual pages. To view digital images of the original roster and to learn how and why the Deserters Roster was created, go to The Descriptive List of Deserters From Pennsylvania Military Units During the Civil War.

Browse Collections by Title

This collection contains twenty-six letters and their typed transcripts from Anna Woods Baker (1850-1894) to her parents from 1850-52 and 1886, and to her friend Enoch Banks between 1853 and 1855. There is one letter from Enoch to Anna. Anna was a friend of Annie Porter (see related collection) and her portrait can be found in the Baker Family Album. The collection also contains her diary of 1894 in which she writes mostly aout her mother's illness. Courtesy of the Blair County Historical Society.

This photo album contains 120 cartes-de-visite of members of the Elias Baker Family of Altoona, Pennsylvania, friends, and prominent politicians, including Abraham Lincoln and Simon Cameron. Elias Baker was a prominent iron maker and landlord. Family members and friends pictured in this album include Elias Baker, his wife Hetty Woods Baker, and Annie Porter, who was a friend of the Baker's daughter, Anna. Courtesy of the Blair County Historical Society.

James A. Beaver was a lawyer and judge who served in the Civil War. Beaver also served as Governor of Pennsylvania. The collection contains business and personal correspondence, pamphlets, circulars, clippings, and photos chiefly covering Beaver's campaigns and term as governor. Includes material relating to his Civil War service with the 45th Pennsylvania Regiment; his business enterprises in the Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, area; his term as Justice of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania; his service as trustee and board president of the Pennsylvania State College; the Curtin Memorial Monument, Camp Curtin, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and the State Hospital for the Insane in Warren, Pennsylvania. To view the entire collection of James A. Beaver Papers visit Penn State Special Collections and view this finding aid online. Courtesy of Penn State Special Collections.

Elisha Bracken, a native of Butler County, Pennsylvania, mustered into Company C of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 100th Regiment on August 31, 1861. The 100th was known popularly as the "Round Head" regiment. Most of its volunteers came from the state's southwestern counties. He was promoted to sergeant and placed in charge of Company C on November 13, 1862. He died in battle near Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia, on May 12, 1864. Bracken's diary provides a day-to-day account of his life in the service prior to his promotion to sergeant. He records the regiment's travels, the changing weather, and regimental activities from July through October, 1862. His diary is part of the Penn State Libraries Special Collections Civil War Era Diaries collection.

The collection contains two volumes, a diary and a journal. Chamberlin was a native of Union County, Pennsylvana. In her 1864 diary she records her leaving Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, traveling to Nashville, Tennessee, and her experience as a nurse at Hospital No. 8 during the American Civil War. She kept a journal sporadically from 1 January 1865 until 7 February 1875. Following the war she established kindergartens in Pennsylvania and Minnesota at a time when such early childhood education was rare in the United States. She later traveled to Argentina to train kindergarten teachers. Interested in reading more about Sarah in Argentina? Visit this page. Courtesy of the family and Albright College.​ Also, you can view the Sarah Chamberlin Story Map, which maps Sarah's travels and and illustrates her experiences, based on her diary and journal.

This collection consists of two of the four diaries kept by Theo Christ while he lived in Lewsiburg, Pa. and during his service during the American Civil War.  The entries may have been copied into these volumes at a later date. The first diary begins in 1856 and records Christ's education, travels, and his affiliation with the new Republican Party. The second volume begins in January 1861 and records Christ's thoughts on secession, his decision to join the military, and his service with the Army of the Potomac's medical corps. Courtesy of the Union County Historical Society.

Diary 1 (January 1856 - December 1860)    Diary 2 (January 1861-October 1862)

This collection contains fourteen items from Columbia, Pa. Several relate to the burning of the Columbia Bridge on 28 June 1863. Of special interest are depositions that identify the man responsible for carrying out the order to burn the bridge as a freed slave. The collection also includes several letters and photographs. To see more go to Courtesy of the Columbia Historic Preservation Society.

John Covode was a prominent Pennsylvanian, U.S. Representative and cofounder of Westmoreland Coal. This collection includes correspondence and printed material documenting his career. The collection is owned by the Heinz History Center of Pittsburgh, Pa. It came to us deteriorating and suffering from severe mold damage. We are pleased to have been able to treat the collection, preserve it for the future, and digitize it for public use on this website. Click here to view the online finding aid.The correspondence covers a variety of topics from local politics, patronage, personal items to the Civil War.  More information on the Covode Collection.

Samuel W. Davis was a Methodist Episcopal Minister who was active as a missionary and temperance reformer in West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania in the late 19th and early twentieth centuries. Davis was assigned to Methodist Episcopal Church congregations across the region and also worked with the Coke Mission, set up to preach to the Hungarian and Slovak coal and coke workers in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The Davis Papers consist of several journals that span from 1868 to 1907, a volume of Davis' sermons from 1864 to 1890, a collection of family correspondence from 1861 to 1901, and a collection of papers from Davis' student days at Allegheny College. The journals record his activities as a traveling preacher in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, including Davis' posting at a church in Dale City, Pennsylvania. Courtesy of the Senator John Heinz History Center.

Three volumes of pocket diaries by Emilie Davis, an African American woman, are currently held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The diaries provide us a social "snapshot" into the lives of a historically elusive group of people. Emilie lived and worked in Philadelphia during the mid-1800s and is believed to have been in her late teens or early twenties when she began her diaries in 1863. Her diaries record such momentous events as National Fast Day, the flight of residents from Gettysburg to Philadelphia during the Battle of Gettysburg, the fall of Vicksburg, and the funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Read a transcription of the Diaries!

Published in 1866 by the Provost Marshal General's Bureau, this document reproduces certified lists containing the names, organized by regiment, of those who were cited for failing to report for duty during the Civil War and were classified as deserters. The list was compiled by the Provost Marshal General Bureau at the request of the Pennsylvania legislature. Courtesy of Penn State Special Collections and Centre County Library Historical Museum.

The People's Contest has created an interactive database that allows users to search the roster in a variety of ways.

Morris W. Hackman, a native of Womelsdorf, Berks County, Pennsylvania, enlisted in Company G of the 29th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. Hackman was born on 10 November 1844 and was only sixteen years old when he enlisted in Hesterville in the spring of 1861. The diary details his experiences as an infantryman, including seeing combat at New Market and Front Royal. Hackman records his capture by Confederate forces on 23 May 1862, during the Battle of Front Royal, and his subsequent imprisonment in various field hospitals. Confederate officials ultimately sent him to the notorious Belle Isle military prison in Richmond where he arrived August 9. Hackman remained at Belle Isle until September 13 when he was paroled. His diary is part of the Penn State Libraries Special Collections Civil War Era Diaries collection.

The nine manuscript pocket diaries in this collection date from 1861-1865. The first four describe Milton Lytle’s studies at the Farmers' High School of Pennsylvania (1860-1862), now the Pennsylvania State University; the following five recount his experiences as a soldier in the Civil War. Lytle left the Farmer's High School in 1862 to enlist in the 125th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment, which was recruited largely from Blair and Huntingdon Counties. He served until the conclusion of the war in various regiments in the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the Cumberland. Among the topics his diaries cover are his academic and social activities while a student, camp life, maneuvers and campaigns, his first experience of battle as an infantryman at Antietam, and his subsequent duties as quartermaster's clerk throughout the remainder of his service. Courtesy of Penn State Special Collections.

Diary 1 (Feb. 1860 - March 1861)  Diary 2 (March - June 1861)  Diary 3 (June - August 1861)  Diary 4 (September 1861 - January 1862)  Diary 5 (July - December 1862) Diary 6 (May - August 1863)  Diary 7 (September - December 1863)  Diary 8 (January - December 1864)  Diary 9 (January 1864 - August 1866)

This collection consists of one diary (77 pages) kept by Adam H. Pickel from 13 August 1862-- 8 July 1863, when he served in the Union army during the Civil War. The diary describes camp life, the challenges of campaigning, and combat. Pickel participated in the Battle of Fredericksburg and the Battle of Gettysburg, as well as other small skirmishes. Of particular interest is his record of his unit's arduous march to Gettysburg to engage the Confederate forces there and the wound he received in the battle which eventually led to his death. Related collections are housed at the University of Michigan and Duke University. Courtesy of the Pickel family. See the Adam Pickel digital exhibit related to this diary.

This collection conatins thirty-six letters and their typed transcripts from Annie "Anna" Porter to her childhood friend, Anna "Nannie" Baker. Porter writes about a wide variety of subjects, from the lighthearted to the serious. These include such disparate topics as gossip, courtship rituals, death, and religion. Some of the more arresting letters offer an unsparing look at Porter’s grief over the death of her cousin William Lawrence, who was a suitor of Anna Baker’s. Courtesy of the Blair County Historical Society.

Historical reports of state acting assistant provost marshals general and district provost marshals, 1865. Provost Marshal General Fry required state and district provost marshals to prepare reports on the operations of their offices covering recording and reporting of the enrollment; selecting, notifying, receiving, examining, forwarding, and crediting of draftees; recruiting, examining, mustering, forwarding, and crediting enlistees; and arresting, detaining, and forwarding of deserters; along with information on difficulties encountered in administering the law and suggestions that might improve the procedures. Citizens and aliens physically resisted the draft and riots ensued in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Courtesy of the National Archives.

This single volume diary dates from 1862, with additional entries from 1869. Philip Shaffner kept the diary from 6-29 June 1862 while he served in the Army of the Potomac. He wrote of his regiment’s activities beginning in Washington, D.C., and continuing to Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he was killed on 30 June. Shaffner’s diary subsequently was confiscated by Confederate Brevet Second Lieutenant Robert H. Ward, who kept daily entries in the diary from 19 September through 31 December. His entries recorded Ward's maneuvers with his unit through Martinsburg, Harpers Ferry, Winchester, Staunton, and Fredericksburg Virginia. Of note are entries describing sociability between Confederate and Union pickets, destruction of railroad tracks, and building of military defenses. The 1869 entries detail Ward's financial transactions. Courtesy of Penn State Special Collections.

This is a handwritten diary kept by Sallie Simonton in the last year of the Civil War. It is accompanied by a 25-page transcription of the diary that was completed in 1983. The journal provides a look at life in an affluent home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1865, detailing social visits, domestic labors, illness in the family and community, and the titles of books she is reading. Of note is her description of the flood of 16-18 March 1865 and the celebration of the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, bringing about the end of the Civil War. Courtesy of the Dauphin County Historical Society.

This collection consists of three volumes of minutes and correspondence from the Soldiers’ Aid Society of Hartsville and a single volume “Minute Book” from the Wrightstown Soldiers’ Aid Society. Soldiers’ aid societies in communities throughout the North helped to provision Union soldiers from their communities. The Hartsville and Wrightstown societies were founded and led by women. Their common objective, eloquently expressed by the Hartsville Society, was “to afford aid and comfort to the sick and wounded of our Army and Navy, and to provide for those in active service such necessary clothing as is not furnished by the Government.” These societies collected dues and raised money through “social entertainments” for the purchase of clothing, blankets, washcloths, bandages, and other similar items. Courtesy of the Bucks County Historical Society.

Soldiers' Aid Society of Hartsville and Vicinity: Correspondence (1861-1865),   Minutes (November 17, 1861 - June 5, 1863),   Minutes (July 3, 1863 - September 1, 1865)

Wrightstown Soldiers' Aid Society

This collection documents the history of five generations of a Pennsylvania family based in Boalsburg and Pittsburgh. It includes the military and personal Civil War-era materials of James T. Stuart (1837-1902) and his wife Emma Eliza Hunter (1848-1935). Stuart was a captain in Company G, 49th Regiment, PA Volunteers (1864-1865). The personal materials include war-time correspondence and some photographs. In addition to family photographs, there are diaries, memoirs, family histories, and miscellaneous items that illustrate the life of this family and American material culture. Emma Hunter is traditionally believed to be one of the founders of Memorial Day in Boalsburg--a town which claims to be the originator of the holiday. The collection includes significant items connected with the local origins and history of the holiday. Courtesy of Penn State Special Collections.

The Union League of Philadelphia was founded in 1862 by a small group of prominent citizens to encourage support for the Union war effort and the administration of President Abraham Lincoln. Following Philadelphia’s example, Union League clubs formed in New York City, Chicago, and other communities. During the war, the Union League published over 4.5 million copies of 145 different pamphlets on various political topics designed to promote loyalty and patriotism. The league also raised money to pay soldiers bonuses and sponsored five black volunteer regiments. After the war, it advocated for Radical Reconstruction, civil rights for African American, and election reform. This collection consists of selected pamphlets on state and national politics and international diplomacy. Courtesy of the Union League of Philadelphia.

The records of the Washington and Cresson Literary Societies consist of several handwritten issues of the societies' newspapers, and a single hardcover history of the Washington Literary Society. The newspapers (the Cresson Society's Anonymous and the Washington Society's Students' Miscellany) feature college news, poems, humor, student gossip, and risque stories. The societies were founded in March 1859, naming themselves in honor of George Washington and the Philadelphia philanthropist Elliot Cresson. Both societies received a $250 appropriation from the state legislature to create libraries for the benefit of their members. They engaged each other in competitive debates and essay writing and oratorical contests. The rise of fraternities, organized athletics, and other kinds of clubs gradually diverted interest from the literary societies, leading them to disband in 1895. Courtesy of Penn State Libraries Special Collections.

Cresson Literary Society records    Washington Literary Society records

This collection contains three diaries kept by Redsecker Young, a native of Pennsylvania, when he was a student at a private school in Ellington, Connecticut from 1860-1863. The diaries offer a candid look at socializing, friendships, courting activities, entertainment, and education among adolescents. While the diaries contain occasional mentions of the war, they are notable largely for how little the war intrudes in Young's entries, which tend to focus tightly on his daily activities and relationships. Courtesy of the Dauphin County Historical Society. Click this link to visit a digital exhibit of the Redsecker Young Collection.

Diary 1 (November 1860 - January 1862)   Diary 2 (January - December 1862)   Diary 3  (January - July 1863)