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William H. Anderson Letters

Identifier: MSN/EA 5038

Scope and Contents

A collection of 51 manuscript personal letters, mostly directed to the Lowell, Massachusetts law student William H. Anderson from friends around Natchez, Mississippi during the secession crisis of 1860-61. Twenty-three of these were written by David P. Williams, from April 1859 to October 1861; 16 by Joel J. Hough, July 1859 to February 1862; and 12 by J. Oscar Teil, November 1860 to August 1862. The letters were received by Anderson before and after his own sojourn in the South; there is a chronological gap in the correspondence, from mid-1859 to mid-1860, that encompasses the time Anderson spent at Sligo Plantation in Adams County, Mississippi. The letters were received in the North—probably at Lowell, for the most part, though no envelopes are present. In 1859 Williams recruited Anderson by letter to teach at his plantation school. Even after Anderson returned North in mid-1860 Williams continued to write regularly, urging him to return or seeking advice on a replacement. He also mentions personal and family matters, like the possible sale of the Sligo plantation and the deaths of four of his children. Letters written on 4 January and 11 March 1861 discuss the deepening divide between North and South. Hough's letters to his Yale classmate (and former teaching colleague in Mississippi) provide an overview of the unfolding crisis from a very different perspective. Despite Williams' insistence that candidates for his teaching positions be "sound" on slavery, Hough was anything but, and viewed Southern life and culture with a partisan Republican eye. In six long letters written from 19 November 1860 to 4 April 1861 he treats the evolving political situation in New Orleans, Natchez, and the hinterlands in considerable detail. Teil's letters to Anderson from the South likewise describe the secession crisis, if in a less irreverent manner. His final two letters date from his period of service in the 7th Rhode Island Cavalry.


  • Creation: 1859-1862


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

The recipient of the letters, William Henry Anderson, was born in Londonderry, New Hampshire on 12 January 1836. He graduated from Yale in 1859, and in 1859-60 taught school at Sligo Plantation in Adams County, Mississippi. On his return North he studied law at the office of Morse & Stevens in Lowell, Massachusetts, passing the bar in December 1862. Until 1875 he was a partner in the law firm Stevens & Anderson, thereafter practicing alone. In 1868 he married Elizabeth Hine of Springfield, Massachusettts. Anderson died at Lowell on 14 April 1902.

The three primary authors of the letters are:

David Percy Williams, b. ca. 1822 in Natchez, Mississippi. Prior to the Civil War Williams owned Sligo Plantation near Kingston in Adams County, Mississippi, around 15 miles from Natchez. The 1860 Federal census indicates that he held 74 slaves.

Joel Jackson Hough (1835-1897), a native of Groton, Connecticut, and an 1859 classmate of William Anderson's at Yale. From July 1860 to March 1861 Hough taught school at "Retirement", a plantation south of Natchez owned by Mary Bennett and her husband Edwin. He also preached to the plantation slaves. Hough subsequently graduated from Union Theological Seminary and served as pastor at several Congregational churches in New England and New York.

John Oscar Teil (1839-1909), a native of Wilmot, New Hampshire, who followed William Anderson as teacher at Sligo Plantation (December 1860 to March 1861). He was admitted to the New Hampshire bar in 1862 and subsequently served in the three-month 7th Rhode Island Cavalry Squadron (June to September 1862). From 1868 he practiced law in Boston.


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Language of Materials



A collection of about 50 manuscript personal letters directed to the Lowell, Massachusetts law student William H. Anderson. Many are written from friends around Natchez, Mississippi, during the secession crisis of 1860-61.


Letters are arranged chronologically, one item per folder.

William H. Anderson Letters
Marek Mazurek and George Rugg
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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