A long time ago, I embarked on a little side project that concerned a Confederate soldier named Henry A. Allen. I came across his papers at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia back in grad school – his wartime letters had no direct bearing on my research but I thought they were interesting so I made copies and tucked them away for a later date.
Allen was a captain in the 9th Virginia Infantry Regiment and was captured at the Battle of Gettysburg. He spent the remainder of the war in northern prisons – where he wrote his wife, Sarah, on a regular basis…explaining the goings on of prison life and sending her instructions as to how best conduct their household while he was away. Long after the war Allen joined a veterans’ organization called the Immortal 600. Now, the 600 were some angry ex-Rebs, which is what drew me to Allen in the first place. What happened to him during the war and behind enemy lines that brought out the animosities later in life?
My plan was to present the letters in unedited form online – to make them available to the public. I made a good start until the letters dated after June, 1864 went missing from my files. Well, after relocating Harristorian archives a while back, the 1864-65 letters resurfaced. Thus the project is complete! Have a look to find out what happens to Allen as the months turn in to years by clicking HERE. You might just find a few surprises!
The next step is to edit this collection for publication, which means a few more trips to the archives. Allen was from Portsmouth, Virginia – and strangely…after years of living in the Old Dominion, I never made it there. I suppose a visit is in order.