A Guide to the Hamilton S. Sclater Letters, 1862-1864 Sclater, Hamilton S., Letters Ms2008-087

A Guide to the Hamilton S. Sclater Letters, 1862-1864

A Collection in
Special Collections
Collection Number Ms2008-087


Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Special Collections, University Libraries (0434)
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© 2008 By Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. All rights reserved.

Processed by: Marc Brodsky, Special Collections Staff

Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.
Collection Number
Hamilton S. Sclater Letters, 1862-1864
Physical Characteristics
1 container; 0.1 cu. ft.
Hamilton S. Sclater
Three Civil War letters, all written by Hamilton S. Sclater, Company D, 25th Virginia Battalion, to his mother. Letter of 13 August 1862, written from a camp near Gordonsville (Orange County Virginia), describes the aftermath of the Battle of Cedar Mountain. Other letters, dated 6 April 1864 and 4 July 1864 respectively, were written from Camp Chaffin's Farm, an area of fortifications south of Richmond.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish material from the Hamilton S. Sclater Letters must be obtained from Special Collections, Virginia Tech.

Preferred Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: Hamilton S. Sclater Letters, Ms2008-087 - Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Acquisition Information

The Hamilton S. Sclater Letters were purchased by Special Collections in 2004.

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement and description of the Hamilton S. Sclater Letters commenced and was completed in November 2008.

Biographical Information

Hamilton S. Sclater was born in Fluvanna County Virginia in 1844, the son of Robert, a farmer, and Janetta (possibly Jennetta) Sclater. Census indexes for 1850 and 1860 record the family name as Selater. The 1850 census shows a family of eight brothers and sisters: William H., age 18; James R., age 16; Mary A.[?], age 14; Richard J., age 12; Morton T.[?], age 8; Hamilton S., age 6; George T., age 4; and Louisa E., age one month. The ages of the parents, Robert and Janetta are shown as 42 and 39, respectively. By 1860, the only children listed are Morton, Hamilton, George, and Louisa. The 1870 census shows Morton and Hamilton living with their parents in the Cunningham Township of Fluvanna County The occupation of each is noted as "works on James," while Robert continues to be listed as a farmer, and Janetta's occupation is "keeping house." Cunningham Township lies in the southwestern corner of Fluvanna County and is bordered by the James River on the south.

Hamilton S. (H.S.) Sclater was a private in D Company of the 25th Virginia Battalion in April and July 1864 when he wrote two of the letters in this collection. Part of the Local Defense Troops, the 25th was known as the Richmond City Battalion, or simply the City Battallion, as Sclater refers to it. Company D, commanded by Captain John F. C. Potts, was known as the Richmond Minute Men. Muster rolls for the 25th Battalion show that Sclater was enlisted on either 21 January or 18 February 1863, in Richmond, by either Captain S. T. Bailey or Captain Potts. According to Wallace's A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations, 1861-1865, the 25th was originally organized on 15 August 1862 for a period of six months, for service in and around Richmond. It was then re-mustered in January and February 1863.

Sclater's first letter, dated 13 August 1862, requests that mail be directed to him via "Ewell's Division Earley's Brigade." In Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain, Robert K. Krick identifies the infantry units comprising Jubal Early's brigade as the Virginia 13th, 25th, 31st, 52nd, 58th, and the 12th Georgia. Existing muster rolls for the 25th Virginia Infantry do not include records for H. S. Sclater.

The battle at Cedar Mountain began in earnest on Saturday 9 August 1862. Sclater reports that he arrived at the battlefield the following morning. His letter to his mother was written the following Wednesday from camp near Gordonsville, approximately 15 miles south of the battle site.

The letter from Chaffin's Farm on 4 July 1864 mentions George, Hamilton's younger brother, of whom Sclater says, "it would be best for him to join this Company before he is 18."


Wallace, Jr., Lee A. A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations, 1861-1865, rev. 2nd ed. Lynchburg, VA: H.E. Howard, Inc., 1986.

Krick, Robert K. Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990.

Scope and Content

This collection contains three letters written by Hamilton S. Sclater, a private in Company D, 25th Battalion Virginia Infantry during the Civil War. These letters describe several aspects of the life of a Confederate soldier in Virginia. The earlier letter, written following the battle at Cedar Mountain, describes the "considerable loss" on both sides and mentions the capture of a Union brigadier general. (The general in question is Henry Prince.) In this letter, Sclater also describes, in some detail, one of the several presumed, but false Union charges that led to a Confederate panic. (In Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain, Krick suggests that the Cedar Mountain campaign involved "more unwarranted panics than any two other campaigns of the war combined.")

The letters from Chaffin's Farm in April and July 1864 report a quieter scene, despite mention of the shelling of Petersburg in the latter, but also a situation where rations are meager and Sclater's hunger is evident. General Grant's order to General Lee to surrender Petersburg or face its destruction is mentioned, as is Sclater's hope that "Lee will not give it up without a fight. . . ." (Chaffin's Farm, an area of fortifications south of Richmond, would, in late September 1864, be the site of a major engagement.)


The collection is arranged chronologically.

Index Terms


  • Civil War
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865

Contents List

Folder 1
Letters: 1862-1864