A Guide to the Henry Helms Letters, 1861-1863 Helms, Henry Letters Ms2009-008

A Guide to the Henry Helms Letters, 1861-1863

A Collection in
Special Collections
Collection Number Ms2009-008


Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Special Collections, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061
Phone: (540) 231-6308
Fax: (540) 231-3694
Email: specref@vt.edu
URL: http://spec.lib.vt.edu/

© 2009 By Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. All rights reserved.

Processed by: John M. Jackson, Special Collections Staff

Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.
Collection Number
Henry Helms Letters 1861-1863
Physical Characteristics
1 container; 0.1 cu. ft.
Helms, Henry; Harper, John
Photocopies of typed transcripts of Civil War letters of Private Henry Helms of Company I, 95th Pennsylvania Infantry, mortally wounded at the Battle of Gaines' Mill.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish material from the Henry Helms Letters must be obtained from Special Collections, Virginia Tech.

Preferred Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: Henry Helms Letters, Ms2009-008 - Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Acquisition Information

The Henry Helms Letters were donated to Special Collections.

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement and description of the Henry Helms Letters commenced and was completed in January 2009.

Biographical/Historical Information

Henry Helms, son of Ann, was born in 1838. A resident of Philadelphia, Helms worked as a bookbinder for approximately two years prior to the Civil War. Helms enlisted in Company I, 95th Pennsylvania Infantry on August 10, 1861. He received a head wound at the Battle of Gaines' Mill on June 27, 1862 and was presumed to have died soon thereafter.

The 95th Pennsylvania Infantry was organized at Philadelphia beginning in August 1861. The regiment was mustered into Federal service in October 1861 and ordered to the defense of Washington, D.C. later that month. The 95th remained in northern Virginia until April 1862, when it joined McClellan's Virginia Peninsular Campaign. The regiment participated in the Seven Days Battles, before being moved back to northern Virginia. During the next three years, the regiment would participate in all of the major battles of the eastern theatre (including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse, and Cold Harbor. It also participated in Sheridan's Shenandoah Campaign, the siege of Petersburg, and the Appomattox Campaign. The 95th Pennsylvania Infantry mustered out of service on July 17, 1865.

Scope and Content

This collection contains photocopies of typed transcripts of the Civil War letters of Private Henry Helms of Company I, 95th Pennsylvania Infantry. Writing from various camps, Helms addresses most of his letters to brother James Helms, at home in Philadelphia. Other letters are addressed to his mother, Ann. Helms' early letters focus mostly on personal matters, including his need for various items of clothing and food. He complains of the camp sutlers, compliments his officers, writes of weather and health conditions (including vaccination for smallpox), mentions mutual acquaintances, describes the execution of a deserter, and notes the ruinous conditions of some northern Virginia mansions. On November 26, 1861, he mentions seeing President Lincoln and describes Lincoln's horsemanship. From November 1861 to March 1862, Helms writes from Camp Franklin, near Alexandria, Virginia. Beginning in April, Helms' letters are written from the State of Maine and from various camps on the Virginia Peninsula. He describes skirmishes, the aftermath of battle, and Confederate prisoners-of-war; and notes camp activities and rumors. His letter of May 8 describes a combat engagement at West Point.

The correspondence also contains two letters from John Harper, commanding officer of Company I, describing Helms' battlefield wound and certifying his death. Also included are letters from C. P. Goodwin and David F. Foley, also of Company I, providing their knowledge of Helms' fate.


The collection is arranged chronologically.

Index Terms


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

Contents List

Folder 1
Letters 1861-1863