Civil War letters

Two collections of Civil War correspondence, the John G. Burggraf collection and the John D. Beach collection, are available both online and in the Willamette Archives.Beach1

John Burggraf arrived in the United States at the age of ten, from Baden Baden, Germany. He joined the 49th Illinois Infantry of the Union Army in 1861 and served as a carpenter, a mechanic, and secretary to Col. Phineas Pease.

Burggraf’s letters, largely written to his wife, Eliza, document the aftermath of major Civil War battles including the battles of Shiloh and Pleasant Hill. In addition to his experiences after battle, Burggraf describes the life of a Civil War soldier as they provisioned food and built shelter to keep warm during winter. Burggraf’s collection also includes poetry and Civil War era medals and ribbons.



John Beach was a Union soldier for the Illinois 55th G Company. He enlisted in 1861, and was stationed at various locations in Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri, Alabama, and Arkansas.

Beach wrote letters to his mother, Mrs. Williams, describing the daily life of a Civil War soldier. His letters describe events on the battlefield and an 1863 epidemic that killed a large number of his regiment.


The letters in both of these collections have been digitized and transcribed.

View the John G. Burggraf collection.

View the John D. Beach collection.