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Baldwin Family Letters, 1861-1897 (Ms2008-033)

 Digital Record
Identifier: Ms2008-033


  • 1861 - 1897


Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish material from the Baldwin Family Letters must be obtained from Special Collections, Virginia Tech.

Biographical Information

Denison Butler Baldwin, the son of Denison and Jane Kyle Gibboney Baldwin, was born in Wytheville, Virginia in on August 26, 1832. At age 25, he moved to Jeffersonville (Tazewell County), Virginia, where he joined his uncle William Gibonney in a mercantile business. He married Sallie W. Barnes (1836-1919) on February 16, 1858. The couple would have ten children: William G., Denison O., Robert M., John M., Albert R., Sallie C., Amanda K., Levicia V., Albert H., Betsy L., and an unnamed son who died in infancy. Their oldest son, William Gibbony Baldwin (1860-1936) was co-founder of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency.

Baldwin entered Confederate service on August 22, 1861 as a first lieutenant, serving in Company L, 51st Virginia Infantry. Upon creation of the 23rd Battalion of Virginia Infantry in the spring of 1862, Baldwin was elected captain, commanding Company D of the new battalion. In December 1862, Baldwin was detached from the battalion for duty as chief enrolling officer for Virginia's Ninth Congressional District, headquartered at Abingdon. He returned to his regiment in the summer of 1864 and served with it through the remainder of the war. (Five of Baldwin's brothers had also served in the Confederate Army.)

Returning to Tazewell County after the war, Baldwin tried farming for a year, then returned to operating a mercantile business. In 1885, he moved to Charleston, West Virginia, then in 1888, to Bluefield (Mercer County), West Virginia, where he engaged in real estate and insurance. Denison B. Baldwin died in Bluefield on August 8, 1916.

Language of Materials


Acquisition Information

The Baldwin Family Letters were donated to Special Collections in 2002.

General Physical Description note

1 container; 0.1 cu. ft.


Letters of the Baldwin Family of Tazewell County, Virginia, consisting largely of letters from Denison B. Baldwin of the 51st Virginia Infantry and the 23rd Virginia Infantry Battalion to his wife, Sallie Barnes Baldwin..


This collection contains the letters of the Baldwin family of Tazewell County, Virginia. The collection consists largely of Civil War-era letters of Captain Denison B. Baldwin, an officer in the 51st Virginia Infantry Regiment and the 23rd Virginia Infantry Battalion, to his wife Sallie Barnes Baldwin.

The letters commence with September 6, 1861, when Baldwin writes from Richmond, Virginia. Baldwin mentions a recent battle, several mutual acquaintances, and unconfirmed war rumors. As he joins his regiment later that month, he describes the battle of Carnifex Ferry. Later, Baldwin writes from various camps in southwestern Virginia and the area that would later become southern West Virginia. Baldwin's letters are mostly devoted to personal matters, but he also describes his regiment's movements throughout the region and frequent skirmishes with Union troops. He recounts the partial destruction of Fayetteville, (West) Virginia and the Confederate march toward Charleston. He writes of mutual acquaintances and makes frequent mention of his brother-in-law, Oscar F. Barnes, also serving in the 23rd Battalion. Also discussed are a special mission to Meigs County, Ohio and the defenses of the saltworks at Saltville, Virginia. After his appointment as enrolling officer at Abingdon, Virginia, Baldwin's letters turn more toward personal and family matters, though he relays word from Early's raid on Washington and other war news. In the final letter, written August 18, 1864, Baldwin offers his opinion on the prospect for peace in the near future.

The collection also contains letters from several other family members and residents of Southwest Virginia. Among others, these include an exchange of letters between Sallie Barnes Baldwin and her brother Oscar Barnes, a prisoner at Fort Delaware; a letter from J S H Hoge (Joseph Haven Hoge?) to his daughter Helen, instructing her to flee Richmond; a (photocopied) letter from an unidentified member of the Giles Artillery (probably William Wirt McComas); and a letter from A. L. Tucker to Lieutenant D. W. Mason at Newport (Giles County), Virginia. The collection also contains six envelopes addressed to Sallie W. Baldwin.

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement and description of the Baldwin Family Letters commenced and was completed in January 2009.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US