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Henry G. Mervine Letters

Identifier: Ms-1989-046

Scope and Content

This collection contains two letters from Henry G. Mervine, a private serving in the 17th New York Light Artillery Battery during the Civil War, written to "Dear Lizzie," presumably his wife, from Petersbug and Richmond, Virginia. In the earlier letter, written from the trenches before Petersburg on July 24, 1864, Mervine describes conditions in the trenches during the siege and taking furniture from a nearby house to protect himself in the earthworks. He notes that "the trees--trunks & limbs in this vicinity are filled with lead & iron, or shot away intirely [sic]. Every house completely demolished." He writes at length about rations, stating that the battery is well supplied: "As far as concerns eatables we are better supplied than ever before by Uncle Sam ... Have had Cabbage Sour Kraut, Onions Potatoes & Beets ..." He also mentions Confederate soldiers wanting to trade newspapers across the lines.

In the second letter, dated April 8, 1865, from Richmond, Virginia, Mervine writes of being quartered "in the basement of one of the big folks houses in the fashnonable [sic] part of the city" and being well treated by the owners but notes that the "young ladies of the city turn up their pretty noses at us ... though as a general thing they seem to be glad to be well rid of their own soldiers." He briefly describes the suffering of local residents through lack of luxuries and necessities and the Union Army's efforts to relieve them. Mervine continues by mentioning that citizens of Richmond had sent a committee to General Lee, asking him to surrender. "[T]he thing is nearly played out," he writes.


  • 1864 - 1865


Language of Materials

The material in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials.

Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: Please contact Special Collections and University Archives ( or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Biographical Note

Henry Gird Mervine, son of William and Amanda Maria Crane Mervine, was born in Cedar Lake (Herkimer County), New York on January 12, 1822. He married Eliza H. Fairman; the couple would have five children. The 1860 census shows the Mervines living in Ridgeway (Orleans County), New York, where Henry Mervine was employed as a day laborer. On August 18, 1862, Mervine enlisted as a private in the 17th New York Light Artillery Battery at Medina, New York. He continued to serve with the 17th through the war and by the time he mustered out on June 12, 1865, he was serving as a clerk in the battery. The 1870 census lists Henry G. and Eliza Mervine among the residents of Canandaigua (Ontario County), New York, with Henry Mervine working as a pension agency clerk. By 1880, the Mervines were living in Syracuse (Onondaga County), New York. Henry Gird Mervine died in Canastota (Madison County), New York on November 7, 1895, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Syracuse.


0.1 Cubic Feet (1 folder)


Two letters from Henry G. Mervine, of the 17th Battery, New York Light Infantry during the American Civil War, addressed to his wife Lizzie and written from Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia.

Source of Acquisition

The Henry G. Mervine Letters were purchased by Special Collections and University Archives in 1989.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Henry G. Mervine Letters by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (


The letters identify the writer only as "Henry." The attribution to Henry G. Mervine originates with the dealer from whom the letters were purchased. The two letters appear to have been written in two different hands.

Processing Information

The processing and description of the Henry G. Mervine Letter commenced and was completed in January 2022.

Henry G. Mervine Letters, 1864-1865
John M. Jackson
2022 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2020-08-31: Finding aid notes updated to new department standards. juliags
  • 2021-05-10: LM Rozema added missing notes for an unprocessed collection (abstract, source, processing, bio note), added FA title, added FA date from EAD, and added component with instances previously attached to collection level.

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