Skip to main content

Erastus Phelps Civil War collection

Identifier: C-98

Scope and Contents

Collection contains 334 holograph letters, and 4 diaries (3 war date). Also included is a bound volume containing handwritten notes from Phelps' time at Albany Law School. Collection also contains a photographic class album from the Middlebury College class of 1861. Album includes salted paper prints of members of the class and faculty, with each image signed by the subject. Some later images are pasted on facing the original images. Collection also includes (stored separately) Phelps' paymaster sidearm (a Colt 1851 Navy 36 caliber pistol), what is believed to by his sheepskin winter jacket worn on duty, and a leather documents trunk carried during his service. Collection is divided into two series: diaries and school books, and letters. Diaries and school books contains two tintype photographs of a young Erastus Phelps, a Middlebury College class album for the class of 1861, a school book from Phelps' time at Albany Law School in 1872, and four diaries kept by Phelps from 1863-1868.


  • Creation: 1856-1910


Language of Materials


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

Civil War paymaster Erastus Phelps (1839-1916) was born in Ticonderoga, NY, and later lived in Fair Haven, VT. Phelps was a member of the Middlebury College class of 1861, and began teaching following his graduation. Phelps taught in Vermont and then in Chatham, Mass (1893), and wrote reguarly about his students, and writing and poetry. Phelps resigned his teaching job in 1864 with the intention of obtaining a clerk's position in the army. Phelps was soon awarded a position with a clerkship working in the Paymaster's Department in Hilton Head, SC. Phelps' diaries and letters begin with letters written to him while he was a student at Middlebury College, during his time as a teacher on Cape Cod, his military career during and after the Civil War, and his life after the war had ended. Phelps studied law in Albany, NY following his time in the service, and ultimately settled in Fair Haven, VT. His post-war letters contain news of friends and family, as well as details about his life in Fair Haven and his courtship of Mary Miller, who lived in Northfield, Minn.


4 Boxes


Series I (diaries and school books) is arranged chronologically. Series II (letters) is arranged alphabetically by sender's (occasionally recipient's) last name. Letters by sender are arranged chronologically. Letters in Box 4 are arranged chronologically by sender. Series II (realia) includes a trunk, sheepskin jacket, and pistol.

Physical Location

Trunk, jacket, and pistol are shelved in B3 16 4.7

Other Finding Aids

Partial inventory/transcriptions available: Ex: C-98 Erastus Phelps Civil War Collection inventory

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased by Middlebury College's Special Collections and Archives from Cowan's Auctions in Cincinnati, OH, on December 2, 2011.

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives Repository

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