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Preston Family Correspondence

Identifier: Ms-2010-070

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of two letters.

The first letter is dated on July 28, 1861 and is written by James Francis Preston to his wife, Sarah Caperton Preston following the First Battle of Bull Run. He writes about the battle’s events and his own movements, including executing a direct order from General Jackson to charge the advancing enemy. In the beginning of his letter, James calls the battle a “fearful sight.”

The second letter dates to May 15, 1872 and is written by Sarah Caperton Preston to Colonel Grabowski, an instructor at Preston and Olin Institute in Blacksburg. The letter is a response to a previous notice from the Colonel about her son’s (Hugh Caperton Preston) recent failure to follow a senior student’s order at Preston and Olin. Sarah passively defends her son, explaining why he might have disobeyed the order. She also expresses confusion at some of the Colonel’s reasoning for her son’s behavior. Additionally, Sarah expresses hope that her son will gain maturity with age and learn that, “an officers commision will not always shield him.”


  • 1861, 1872


Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Col. James Francis Preston was born in Virginia and was educated at West Point Military Academy. He volunteered in the Mexican War and both equipped and organized his company completely at his own expense. While serving the Union army during the Civil War, he died of exposure in 1862. His wife, Sarah Caperton Preston, was from Elmwood, Monroe County, West Virginia.

Hugh Caperton Preston was the son of James Francis and Sarah Caperton Preston. He was born on September 5, 1856 in Elmwood, West Virginia. In 1877, he graduated as a senior Captain from Virginia Military Institute. Afterwards, he managed his mother’s estate (White Thorn) in Montgomery County, Virginia until he sold it in 1892. Hugh then moved to East Radford and pursued real-estate and insurance business as well as serving two terms as Mayor. In the Spanish American War, Hugh served in Company M of Virginia’s 4th Volunteer Infantry, stationed in Cuba. He then served in the 31st US Volunteer Company in the Philippines, where he was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. On April 30, 1878, Hugh married Miss Cary Marx Baldwin; they had seven children together. In 1901, Hugh and his wife returned to East Radford, where he then worked in the real-estate business for the rest of his life.

"Hugh Caperton Preston." USGenWeb Archives - Census Wills Deeds Genealogy. Web. 15 Oct. 2010.


0.1 Cubic Feet (1 oversized folder)


This collection consists of two letters. The first is written by James Francis Preston to his wife, Sarah Caperton Preston; he details the events of and his involvement in the First Battle of Bull Run. The second letter is written by Sarah to Colonel Grabowski and discusses her son’s (Hugh Caperton Preston) failure to follow an order at Preston and Olin Institute.


This collection was arranged by material type.

Source of Acquisition

The Preston Family Correspondence was donated to Special Collections in 2010.

Alternate Form Available

Scans of both letters and the envelope are available online.

Related Archival Materials

Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, Montgomery County Branch Papers, 1754-1996. Ms1962-001. Finding aid available.

John Preston Deed, 1826. Ms2005-014.

John Preston Papers, 1806-1830, 1844, n.d. Ms1994-034. Finding aid available.

Preston Family (Alice Preston Moore Collection) Papers, 1745-1882. Ms1962-004.

Preston Family (Charles Peale Didier Collection) Papers, 1747-1897. Ms1985-020. Finding aid available.

Robert Taylor Preston Papers, 1849-1871 (Bulk 1861-1862). Ms1992-003. Finding aid available.

Smithfield Preston Foundation Papers, 1784-1881. Ms1997-002. Finding aid available.

William Preston Land Grant, 1773. Ms1994-027.

Willard Prestion Genealogy, c.1998. Ms2009-121. Finding aid available.

George Green Shackelford Papers, ca.1955-1986. Ms1983-003.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Preston Family Correspondence by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Preston Family Correspondence was completed in October 2010.

A Guide to the Preston Family Correspondence, 1861, 1872
Julia Viets
2010 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021-01-20: Finding aid notes updated to new department standards. juliags

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