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Harrison E. Randall Letters

Identifier: MSN/CW 5013

Scope and Contents

The Randall collection includes 77 wartime letters written by Randall over the full course of his service, from 7 September 1862 to 30 April 1865. With one exception, the letters are addressed either to Randall's father or to his father and stepmother. Taken as a whole, they provide only an imperfect record of Randall's wartime movements, as they tend to have survived in chronologically approximate groups, broken by gaps of months or more. The earliest of the letters was written from Camp Toledo in Ohio, where the 100th was organized. There follows a sequence of 33 letters (September and December, 1862; March and May to August, 1863) written mostly from central Kentucky; during this time the 100th was occupied with garrison duty and the occasional pursuit of Confederate "raiders." In August and September of 1863 the regiment, now attached to XXIII Army Corps, participated in its first major campaign: Ambrose Burnside's advance south through the Cumberland Mountains into eastern Tennessee. Randall's last letter from Kentucky was written on 20 August 1863 near Crab Orchard: "We have started on our great march over the mountains and have marched 2 days since one day was the hardest day I ever marched."


  • Creation: 1862-1865


Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

Harrison E. Randall was born on 17 July 1840 in Worthington, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, the son of Zebedee H. and Phebe Tilson Randall. Phebe Randall died in 1850, when Harrison was nine or ten. After remarrying in 1856, Z. H. Randall moved the family west to Ohio, to Clinton township in Fulton County, in the northwest corner of the state. Both the 1850 and 1860 Federal censuses identify the elder Randall as a carpenter; in the latter year he is credited with $900 in real estate and a personal estate of $490. The 1860 census identifies Harrison Randall as a farm laborer, living with his father, his stepmother Grace Tilson Randall, and two young half-siblings, Henry and Mary. On 29 July 1862 Randall, yet unmarried, enlisted in the Union army for three years' service. On 1 September he was mustered in a private, to Company H of the 100th Ohio Volunteer Infantry—one of more than thirty three-year infantry regiments organized in the state during the great Federal conscription effort of the summer of 1862. Randall would serve in Co. H for the duration of the war. He was promoted to corporal in June 1863 but reduced, for unknown reasons, in February 1865; he was mustered out a private. Knoxville would be occupied by Burnside on 3 September. Five days later, on 8 September 1863, around 300 men from the 100th Ohio were engaged in a skirmish at Limestone Station, Tennessee. Most of these troops, including Randall, were taken prisoner by the Confederates when the small, isolated command was compelled to surrender. Nowhere in his letters does Randall discuss the engagement at Limestone—nor does he mention, except in passing, his subsequent imprisonment in the Confederate camp at Belle Isle near Richmond. His next letters date from March 1864, following his release from Belle Isle (where he presumably spent the fall and winter of 1863-64, in conditions which proved fatal to many in his regiment). The precise circumstances of Randall's release are uncertain; he may have been among the fortunate minority who were formally paroled, at a time when the parole and exchange agreements between North and South had all but broken down. In any case, he spent the next two months in the Federal "instruction camps" at Annapolis, Maryland, and Columbus, Ohio. The point of these camps was to keep track of paroled prisoners, to ensure that those who were fit returned in good time to their regiments. Randall rejoined the 100th Ohio—now attached to 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, XXIII Corps—in June of 1864. From this point until the end of the war the regiment was engaged in campaigns of strategic importance, and experienced some hard fighting. Randall wrote seven letters (16 June to 23 August 1864) dating from the 100th's participation in the Federal drive on Atlanta. Ten subsequent letters (22 October 1864 to 13 January 1865) were written from Alabama and Tennessee, where the regiment was involved in campaigns against the Confederate General John Bell Hood, culminating in the latter's crippling defeat at Nashville. In February 1865 XXIII Corps was transferred to the newly created Department of North Carolina, a 30,000 man force assembled at Wilmington to reinforce Sherman on his march northward through the state's interior. Randall wrote 18 letters from North Carolina in March and April—none more celebratory than that of 27 April announcing the long-awaited surrender of Joseph Johnston: "Hurrah Hurrah now what do you think of it and I am here just when it is ended little did I think I should be so near the closing scene as I was but so it is." Randall was mustered out with his company on 28 June 1865. Randall appears to have done a good deal of writing in the army, quite apart from his many letters to his parents. He mentions doing clerical work at the army's "Jail No 4" in Lexington, Kentucky (30 March 1863), where he was briefly detailed guarding prisoners. He also mentions writing letters for other soldiers (4 December 1864). His own grammar and spelling show a degree of normalization over the course of the war. The letters themselves tend to be summary accounts of the day's or week's events, seldom dwelling for long on the particulars of a given episode. They communicate the news with an economy of means, and are not overlong—especially those written in 1864 and 1865, which seldom fill more than three small octavo-sized pages. When they do tend towards introspection—which is not with any great frequency—they seem frank enough. "I do not like the idea of standing up to be shot at," Randall writes on 16 June 1864, "but if worst comes to worst I can do it but I hope some thing will keep the bullets off from me But they have no respect for men." Randall's reflections on promotion betray something of this same pragmatism. He was interested in advancement but was, at the same time, wary of the attendant responsibility. A few months after being promoted to corporal, he grouses: "I have a strong notion to reduce myself [to private] some times now for the sake of getting on detail somewhere so that I would not have to be in the front all of the time but I do not know as it would do any good." (28 October 1864). Randall was in fact reduced to the ranks less than four months later, and remained a private for the duration of his service. Randall was discharged from the army on 20 June 1865, having served two years, ten months, and 21 days. Following the war he settled in the village of Wauseon in Fulton County, and was twice married. Post-war records variously describe him as a laborer and sawyer. He died at the age of 91, on 12 September 1931.


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Language of Materials



77 Civil War letters of Harrison E. Randall of Fulton County, Ohio, written from the field as a member of Co. H, 100th Ohio Infantry. Most were written from Kentucky (September 1862 to August 1863), Georgia, during the Atlanta campaign (June to August 1864), Alabama and Tennessee, including letters from the Nashville campaign (October 1864 to January 1865) and North Carolina (March and April 1865).


Materials are arranged chronologically, one item per folder.

Harrison E. Randall Letters
George Rugg
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections Repository

102 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame IN 46556