Civil War Letters from the Home Front: The Mann Family Papers

Nancy Clendenin Mann (1829-1912) and John Preston Mann (1822-1908) lived in Liberty (now Rockwood), Illinois, on the Mississippi River seventy miles south of St. Louis. John Mann served in the Fifth Illinois Cavalry from 1861 to 1864, rising to 2nd Lieutenant, Company K, and regimental commissary. Because he saw little action and was stationed only a few days’ journey downriver, John Mann was able to preserve all of Nancy’s letters. These letters offer an opportunity to study all aspects of life on the home front from the perspective of a woman who watched the war's traffic steam past her front porch. Nancy kept John connected to their four daughters and consulted him about the family finances. She also depicted political tensions in a town where many families had southern ties, while their neighbors provided shelter to escaping enslaved people on the Underground Railroad.

The Special Collections Research Center at Morris Library provides access to the Mann Family Papers and other Civil War correspondence online in the Southern Illinois Civil War digital collection.


In this excerpt from a letter to her husband dated April 10, 1863, Nancy Mann begins:

My dear husband it is now two weeks since I have written to you, I have had sore eyes, and could not write at night, and had no opportunity of writing through the day, I have received two letters from you since I have written the latest dated March 24


Of her daughters and war related matters, she writes:

The little girls are quite well and spend most of the time playing on the grass I will write more about them next time I write those resolutions of the 5th cavalry that I sent I sent to Jimmy but forgot to tell you so his letter came to hand last week tell him I was glad to receive it I am very sorry that Henry Mansker got so severely wounded please to let me know how he is did his brother come to see him – how is Calvin Mr. Barn and all of the Liberty friends


Showing concern for political tensions and home matters, she concludes:

Mr Charles had a sacramental meeting here last Sabbath you say that report says that he is a Secesh [Secessionist] sympathizer – if you could hear him pray for the success of the Federal army, as I have heard him, you would not doubt his loyalty to the Federal government, I worked in the garden half of the day yesterday, if I could hope that you would be home to eat vegetables with us this summer then I could work the garden with some spirit, The old cow is giving milk now, so we are supplied with milk and butter, Emily and I had a fine walk hunting her and the calf, if you had been here you could have helped us, but perhaps you have forgotten how to drive cows since you have become a Military man Tally paid me 25 dollars rent, which enabled me to pay your your [sic] Subscription for the Presbyterian, they have not sent me a receipt for the money yet though it is but ten days since I sent it My dear husband I hope that you wont [sic] be so tardy about writing as I have been Good bye Nancy