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Marcellus Ovando Messer Correspondence

Identifier: MSN/CW 5108

Scope and Contents

Central to this collection of family letters are personal letters written by Marcellus Ovando Messer during his Civil War era military service in Company C, 19th Ohio Infantry (1861-1865). These letters date from 11 January 1862 to 23 October 1865. Stamped, postmarked envelopes are present for most. Messer writes to his parents Loren S. Messer and Chestina W. Cook Messer and younger brother, Charles Messer, at home in Warren, Ohio, and to his brother George W. Messer (who by 1863 was himself serving in the army). Each letter describes events which have transpired since the preceding letter, and share Messer’s observations and reflections on army life and the war. Topics of discussion include troop movements, battles fought, camp conditions and rumors, Messer's health and diet, and descriptions of towns and terrain. Messer also writes of his support for the Union cause, and his reports home remain unflaggingly positive throughout his enlistment. He also discusses his consistent avoidance of the "vices" he observes in camp. Messer frequently relays news of the “Warren boys,” soldiers from his hometown serving in his and other companies. One Civil War era letter from a cousin "Myron" to George W. Messer is filed with Marcellus Ovando Messer’s letters.

The collection also includes correspondence sent and received by Messer relatives with the surnames Dickey, Humphrey, and Sleeper between 1853 and 1924. These include condolences received by Fannie Messer following the death of her father, Samuel Fisher Dickey, in 1900 and 5 letters from Sara Humphrey, a teacher at Tougaloo University, to Fannie Messer's aunt, Hannah Jane Sleeper, during Reconstruction.


  • Creation: 1853 - 1924
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1862 - 1865


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on accessing 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

Marcellus Ovando Messer (who variously signed his letters Ovando Messer, Ovando M. Messer, or M. Ovando Messer) was born on 2 November 1842 in Guilford, Belknap County, New Hampshire. In 1856 he moved with his family to Warren, Trumbull County, Ohio, and in September 1861 was mustered in to Company C, 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He would remain with Co. C of the 19th Ohio to the end of the war (and beyond), serving in the Army of the Ohio (to November 1862), the Army of the Cumberland (to October 1863), IV Corps (to August 1865), and the Department of Texas (to October 1865), reenlisting on January 1, 1864.

Messer served in many of the major campaigns of the war's western theater, mainly in Tennessee and Georgia. He was present at a number of significant engagements, including the battles of Shiloh, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, and Nashville. He served in Sherman's Atlanta campaign. In the summer of 1865 he and the 19th Ohio were among the troops sent to Texas to keep an eye on Emperor Maximilian I in Mexico. He was mustered out in San Antonio on 21 October 1865. Though Messer’s letters report a number of close calls, he concluded his four years of service without serious injury or illness. He married Frances M. “Fannie” Dickey in 1873 and remained in Warren, Ohio until his death on 27 November 1938.


1 Linear Feet (2 document boxes)

Language of Materials


Processing Information

The abbreviation M.O. Messer is used for Marcellus Ovando Messer on the physical folder titles within the collection.

Jennifer Brcka
March 25, 2019
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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