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Ephraim L. Hackett letters

Identifier: C-99

Scope and Contents

The collection contains 54 letters written by and to Ephraim L. Hackett, 36 composed during the war, and 15 pre and post-war. Most of the pre-war letters are written to Hackett from friends who alternately beg him to return to Baraboo to see them, or chide him for failing to respond to their letters. These correspondences reveal fragments of social gossip and illuminate the concerns of life in antebellum Wisconsin. One gets the sense that the ladies fussed over Ephraim. For instance, the lone letter from 1859 gives news of a birth and the goings-on in the community of Baraboo, and evokes concern for Ephraim: “I am afraid you will get the ague again, but I hope you will be careful and not be out nights nor drink whiskey. You see Ephraim, you need someone to look after you.”

Ephraim’s wartime letters are almost all addressed to his cousin, Nathaniel Davis Hackett. The correspondence begins in September 1861, in Racine, Wisconsin, where he describes the mustering of his company, the La Crosse Battery, and discusses the election of officers (Hackett becomes a sergeant). He describes how the recruits “captured a secesh” and “made him take the oath of allegiance, compelled him to bear the flag… and propose three cheers for the union.” 1861 ends with Hackett recovering in the hospital from hay fever, pessimistic that he will be able to mobilize with his unit, the 1st Independent Battery, Wisconsin Light Artillery.

After a winter and spring in Kentucky, Hackett and the 1st battery were sent into Tennessee, falling into a scrape with the enemy at Cumberland Gap. Hackett proved his mettle and he seems by all evidence to have been an avid soldier, though he did his best to dissuade his brother from enlisting, for fear he would not like military life. In recognition of his abilities, Hackett was promoted to lieutenant in October, 1862.

Drawn into the Vicksburg Campaign, Hackett was given a new sense of the war as part of the massive union forces squaring off against the Confederate stronghold. The collection contains eight letters written during that campaign, and the 1st Battery played a pivotal role at Vicksburg, allegedly firing so many shells that they wore out their 20-pound parrots, which were replaced with 30-pounders. After Vicksburg, Hackett’s regiment served in Louisiana, first in New Orleans, then in Brashear City. This different kind of war kept him as busy as the siege had, and he quickly took on the airs of a seasoned, nonchalant veteran. His wartime letters end in September 1865, with Hackett heading back home. A single note written by Hackett to Davis in 1874 finishes the collection.


  • Creation: 1858 - 1874


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish materials, contact: Special Collections & Archives Middlebury College Phone: (802) 443-2387 Email:

Biographical / Historical

Ephraim L. Hackett was born on February 12, 1837, in Freeman, Franklin County, Maine. His parents were Ephraim Hackett (1802-1892) and Mary Anderson (1811-?). His brothers were Joseph L. (born 1840) and Henry C. The family lived in New Vineyard, Franklin County, Maine, in 1850, but by the time the Civil War began in 1861, Ephraim and his brother Henry had moved to Baraboo, Sauk County, Wisconsin. It seems that much of the family remained in Maine, and Ephraim’s pre-war correspondence reveals a lasting connection with his place of birth. His cousin, Nathaniel Davis Hackett, also lived in Baraboo, and the bulk of the Hackett letters are addressed to the Davis’s Baraboo address. When war broke out, Ephraim enlisted in the Wisconsin First Light Battery (Artillery), organized at La Cross in September 1861. He was elected sergeant. On October 17, 1862, Hackett was promoted to Junior 2nd Lieutenant and in August 1863, he became Senior 2nd Lieutenant. While serving in New Orleans, an inspecting committee judged of the First Light Battery: “A more self-sustaining, self-reliant body of men cannot be found in the US Army.” The battery mustered out on July 7, 1865, in Milwaukee. Ephraim’s brother, Henry C. Hackett, also enlisted on September 9, 1861 as a private. He served with Ephraim for part of the war. He was promoted to Full Corporal and mustered out on October 11, 1864. Ephraim’s cousin, N. Davis Hackett, enlisted in the Wisconsin First Heavy Artillery on September 1, 1864. He fought and served garrison duty at Fort Corcoran, near Washington, D.C. After the war, Hackett married Amanda M. Plummer on August 2, 1865, in Columbia County, Wisconsin. They had one child, Ephraim E. Hackett, born in 1868, and lived in La Crosse, Wisconsin. By 1910, Hackett had moved to East Ashland, Oregon, and by 1920 was living in Victor, Ravalli County, Montana, where he died in 1929.


1 Box

Language of Materials



Born in Maine in 1837, Ephraim L. Hackett was living in Baraboo, Wisconsin, in August 1861, when he enlisted as a Sergeant in the 1st Independent Battery, Wisconsin Light Artillery. Small in number and mobile, the Battery recruited barely over 100 men before being sent into the field in Kentucky that fall, and they fought up and down the Mississippi Valley until the end of the war. The letters provide accounts of major engagements at the Cumberland Gap, the Siege of Vicksburg and the ensuing Battle of Jackson, and of the garrisoning of New Orleans and Baton Rouge.


The letters are arranged chronologically in 11 folders.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased on December 2, 2011, from Cowan’s Auction in Cincinnati, Ohio, by Andrew M. Wentink , Curator of Davis Family Library Special Collections.

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Repository Details

Part of the Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives Repository

Middlebury College
Davis Family Library
110 Storrs Avenue
Middlebury Vermont 05753 United States