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Hamilton Leroy Shields Letter, 1842 (Ms2008-072)

 Digital Record
Identifier: Ms2008-072


  • 1842


Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish material from the Hamilton Leroy Shields Letter must be obtained from Special Collections, Virginia Tech.

Biographical Information

Hamilton Leroy Shields was born to William Cannon Shields and Elizabeth Finch on November 1, 1823, in Norfolk, Virginia. At age 18, Shields was among the cadets that relieved the state guard at the Lexington Arsenal. Shields entered the United States Military Academy in 1841, and learned amongst the future generals "Stonewall" Jackson, George E. Pickett, and George B. McClellan.

Following his graduation in 1846, Shields served in the Mexican-American War. After serving as second lieutenant to the Second Artillery, Shields transferred to the Third Artillery in March, 1847. On August 20, 1847, Shields was brevetted first lieutenant for "meritorious conduct" in the battles of Contreras and Cherubusco and was later brevetted captain for his conduct in the battle of Molino Del Rey.

In 1851, Shields married Caroline Hart, of Troy, New York. After serving as the judge-advocate of the Eastern Division of the Army until 1853, Shields resigned from the army on March 17, 1854, and became a lawyer in New York City. In 1857, through his wife's connections, Shields obtained land and became a farmer in Bennington, Vermont. Hamilton Leroy Shields died on November 24, 1889.

Much biographical information was gleaned from The Military History of the Virginia Military Institute from 1839 to 1865 by Jennings Cropper, published in 1915.

Language of Materials


Acquisition Information

The Hamilton Leroy Shields Letter was purchased by Special Collections in 1993.

General Physical Description note

1 container; 0.1 cu. ft.


The Hamilton Shields Letter is a missive from a homesick cadet at West Point in 1842. The letter discusses Shields's studies, professional plans, social life, and desire for a wealthy wife.


The Hamilton Leroy Shields Letter is a handwritten missive from a homesick cadet at West Point in 1842, to former cadet Philip James Winn, Esquire. The letter discusses Shields's studies, his professional plans, and his desire for a wealthy wife (with at least $50,000). Shields also discusses the day‐to‐day life of cadets—specifically mentioning: the frequency of illness, lack of women, student resignations, and the tri‐weekly cotillion parties. Mentioned geographical locations include Lexington and Richmond, Virginia.

Processing Information

The processing and description of the Hamilton Leroy Shields Letter occurred in September, 2008.

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