A Guide to the Umbarger Family Correspondence, 1863-1867, 1870-1883 Umbarger Family Correspondence Ms2010-066

A Guide to the Umbarger Family Correspondence, 1863-1867, 1870-1883

A Collection in
Special Collections
Collection Number Ms2010-066


Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Special Collections, University Libraries (0434)
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Blacksburg, Virginia 24061
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© 2010 By Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. All rights reserved.

Processed by: Julia Viets, Special Collections Staff

Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.
Collection Number
Umbarger Family Correspondence, 1863-1867, 1870-1883
Physical Characteristics
0.3 cu. ft. 1 box
Umbarger family
This collection contains correspondence relating to the Umbarger family from 1863-1867 and 1870-1883. Letters detail the family's experiences in the Civil War and their migration from Jonesville, Lee County, Virginia, to Coss County, Indiana, shortly after the war's close.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish material from Umbarger Family Correspondence must be obtained from Special Collections, Virginia Tech.

Preferred Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: Umbarger Family Correspondence, Ms2010-066, Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.

Acquisition Information

The Umbarger Family Correspondence was purchased by Special Collections in 2010.

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Umbarger Family Correspondence was completed in October 2010.

Biographical Information

In the decade following the Civil War, the Umbarger family moved from Jonesville in Lee County, Virginia to Cass County, Indiana. Lee County, VA, was founded in 1793 and named after former Virginia Governor "Light Horse Harry," who was the father of Confederate General Robert E. Lee; the Umbargers left this county because of the lack of work opportunities.

The letters of Martha or "Mattie" Umbarger to her brother represent a large portion of this collection. She was born in 1857 in Tennessee. At the time of the 1880 US Census, she was 22 years old and resided in Deer Creek in Cass County, Indiana. One of her hobbies was writing poetry.

Martha's father, Jonas Umbarger, was born in 1822 in Virginia. He was a farmer and married to a native of Tennessee. Despite his southern origins, he was a Union supporter during the Civil War, but disliked both Negroes and abolitionists.

John D. Umbarger was a 2nd Sergeant in Company G of Virginia's 64th Mounted Infantry; later, he was a prisoner of war. John enlisted in the Confederate army on August 3rd, 1862. He became briefly ill in June of 1863 and was given his sergeant status on May 16th, 1863. On September 9th, 1863, he was taken as a prisoner of war at Cumberland Gap. On the 24th, he was transferred to Camp Douglas, where he stayed until he took the oath on June 15th, 1865.

Camp Douglas, where John was incarcerated by the Union army, was located in Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1861, it originally was a training camp for Union soldiers, but was hastily adapted into a Confederate prison in 1862. Conditions were poor in terms of sanitation, camp construction, and weather. By the end of the war, about 26,060 total rebels were imprisoned, 4,000 of which perished.

1880 United States Census, Deer Creek, Cass County, Indiana; p.469A, Umbarger; familysearch.org; 1254268.

Weaver, Jeffrey C. 64th Virginia Infantry. The Virginia Regimental Histories Series. Lynchburg, VA: H.E. Howard, 1992. Print.

Scope and Content

This collection contains forty-five letters pertaining to the Umbarger family that migrated from Lee County, Virginia to Coss County, Indiana shortly after the Civil War. The dates of these letters range from 1863-1867 and 1870-1883, and are grouped into the following six sections of Civil War correspondence, correspondence between siblings John and Mattie Umbarger, general family correspondence, business correspondence, poems, and empty envelopes.

The Civil War correspondence includes nine letters written between Umbarger family members and two letters written by Virginian confederate soldiers during the years of 1863-1867. Of the family letters, three are written between John Umbarger, a confederate soldier and his sister back home; four others are penned by Jonas Umbarger, a union supporter. In general, these letters discuss family and war news, food prices, the lack of work opportunities in Wythe County, and the hardships of soldier camp life. In a letter dating April 25, 1863, John Umbarger tells his sister that he has been barefoot for three weeks because of the difficulties involved in obtaining shoes. The letters also express a range of sentiments, from homesickness to the more unpleasant-- such as those found racist remarks. In a letter dated May 6th, 1866, Jonas Umbarger remarks to his sons and sister: "I am a union man [...] Lord save us from the abolitionist and from negro equality but I hope meanwhile have peace and constitution."

The general Umbarger family correspondence includes 38 letters written between siblings, John and Mattie, as well as letters between other family members and friends. These letters discuss family events, visits and other current events. In a letter to brother dated October 24th, 1880, Mattie complains about current politics: "ever man and woman and child that is bige enough to talk goes to Buraleyes & hollow for garfield and hancock I get tired enoough having them hollow-going along." Another interesting letter in this section contains a prose poem about a love gone sour in which various ingredients are given relationship attributes, such as "domestich industry forget me not true love" denotes "flax."

There are three letters in business correspondence. Written in 1870, the first is written by a Margaret Reder and addressed to John Umbarger at Bunker Hill, Virginia; it discusses the terms of renting a farm. The second one is written in Howard, Indiana in 1880 by Daniel Mcbolle and talks about terms of rent and job prospects. The third is a notice of a debt repaid and was written in Illinois a year later.

Of the seven short and simple poems in this collection, four are written in 1881 by Mattie Umbarger and focus on religious and romantic themes. One poem dated May 27th reads: Press forward, press forward

The Prize is in view, A crown of bright glory is waiting for you.

The other three poems are all undated and composed by non-family members.


This collection is arranged by material type into six sections: Civil War correspondence, correspondence between siblings John and Mattie Umbarger, general family correspondence, business correspondence, poems, and empty envelopes.

Index Terms:


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

Contents List

Box-folder 1-1
Civil War correspondence, 1863-1867.
Box-folder 1-2
John & Mattie Umbarger correspondence, 1877-1883.
Box-folder 1-3
General family correspondence, 1876-1883.
Box-folder 1-4
Business correspondence, 1870, 1880-1881.
Box-folder 1-4
Poems, 1881.
Box-folder 1-4
Empty envelopes.