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Thomas M. Reynolds letters to Louisa J. Seward

Identifier: MSS 0295

Scope and Contents

The letters of Captain Thomas M. Reynolds to Louisa J. Seward, spanning the dates 1861-1864, consist of sixty-five letters, three poems, one essay, and one invoice for medical supplies and equipment. Much of the content is focused on his feelings for Seward and his activities in the Union Army. With the exception of three letters and the invoice, all of the material was written by Thomas Reynolds and sent to Seward.

The collection is organized into three series:

Series I. "Captain Thomas M. Reynolds's Letters to Louisa J. Seward" includes Reynolds's letters, poems, and essay, as well as an invoice. Captain Reynolds's letters begin in 1861, prior to his enrollment in the Delaware Infantry Volunteers. The early letters communicated Reynolds's feelings for Lou Seward, dreams for their future together, reminiscences about his visits with her in Maryland, and details of his everyday life.

By May of 1861, Reynolds's letters focused on the developing Civil War. The letters which were written during the Civil War provide a thorough chronicle of Reynolds's travels and experiences, as well as thoughtful examination of effects of war upon those who were directly involved. He conveyed his desire to serve his country by enlistment in the U.S. Army, discussed his participation in Delaware's "Home Guard," and spoke of the growing dissent among his friends as to which side they supported. In July he reported the organization of a "Secession Company" in Camden, Delaware, by A.B. Knight.

By the end of 1862 Reynolds had been mustered in as Captain of Company H, 4th Regiment, Delaware Infantry Volunteers, and had been deployed from Camp du Pont at Brandywine Springs to several camps in Virginia, including Seward, "Tom Casey," and "Vermont." His letters are filled with expressions of patriotism, descriptions of the camps, thoughts about being a soldier, rumors about his regiment's destination, and comments about Delaware state elections and political implications for the war. In his letters during 1863, Reynolds conveyed his belief that the rebel forces would soon be defeated, detailed his company's movements throughout Virginia, described the difficulties of camp life, reported the skirmishes and raids in which he was involved, depicted the landscapes and buildings he passed, and frequently apologized for the melancholy tone of his letters.

From January to June of 1864, Reynolds continued to describe the engagements of his regiments, especially the terrible battles occurring around Richmond, Virginia. Reynolds also described the living arrangements for officers whose wives had joined them near the camps, and the morale and living conditions in the camps. His final letter, dated June 15, 1864, was written from Wilcox Landing on the James River, where the regiment was awaiting orders to cross the river and engage the enemy.

Included among Reynolds's letters are an essay and three poems that he wrote during his period of service. The poems are entitled "P Camden" (1861), "The Aspiration" (1864), and "Love Unrequited" (1864). The essay, titled "Thoughts Upon a Visit to Camp Fisker," describes the departure of the 3rd Regiment, Delaware Volunteers from Dover, Delaware.

Series II. "Letters concerning Thomas Reynolds's death" consists of one letter, written by A. J. Wright of Felton, Delaware, to Joshua Seward (father of Louisa Seward) reporting the death of Thomas Reynolds on June 20, 1864. In addition there are two letters from Thomas Reynolds's sister, Mollie E. Reynolds, written to Lou Seward in July of 1864 inviting her to visit the Reynolds family.

Series III. "Transcripts of letters, essay, and poems" consists of one bound volume of typescript transcripts of the all of the material in this collection, with the exception of the invoice found in F6.


  • Creation: 1861-1864


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Information

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note

Thomas M. Reynolds, whose family hailed from Camden, Delaware, served in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was killed in 1864, during the "Battle of the Wilderness."

On June 28, 1862, Civil War soldier Captain Thomas M. Reynolds was enrolled in the 4th Regiment of the Delaware Infantry Volunteers in Wilmington, Delaware. On September 5, 1862, during the organization of Company H, Reynolds was mustered in as the company commander with the rank of captain. Reynolds was responsible for recruiting men into his company; he began pursuing volunteers as early as June of 1861.

Reynolds's letters to his sweetheart Louisa (Lou) J. Seward, who eventually became his fiance, provide few details of his life prior to the Civil War. The letters suggest that he had attended school in Greensboro, Caroline County, Maryland, in 1860, where Louisa also resided. His letters frequently refer to Caroline County and his desire to return there. From January to March of 1861, he was a school teacher in Chambersville, Delaware (near Smyrna, a town that he mentions in his early letters).

In his letters, Reynolds described himself as a "phrenologist" and someone who enjoyed writing, particularly poetry. He mentions his two sisters, Mollie and Frances (who was affectionately referred to as "Frank"), and the family home near Camden, Delaware. The muster sheet listed his occupation as "gentleman" and his place of origin as Delaware.

Captain Reynolds served in the Union Army until June 20, 1864, when he died of wounds received during the Battle of the Wilderness, near Richmond, on June 18. Reynolds was buried at Barrett's Chapel Churchyard in Delaware, where his tombstone records his age as 23 years and 3 months.

Microfilm 366: Captain Thomas M. Reynolds Papers, 1862-1864. Dover, DE: Delaware State Archives, 1955.Additional information in the biographical note is derived from material in the collection.


.3 linear foot (1 box)


Letters written by Union soldier Thomas M. Reynolds to his fiancee Louisa J. Seward, commenting on his relationship with Seward and his opinions about the Civil War.


The letters are arranged chronologically within each of the three series.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, 1956.

Materials Available in Alternative Format

Access to digitized versions of the Thomas M. Reynolds letters to Louisa J. Seward is available at University of Delaware Digital Institutional Repository. Transcriptions of the letters were produced by the staff of the University of Delaware Library Digital Collections and Preservation Department.

Related Materials in Other Repositories

Microfilm 366: Captain Thomas M. Reynolds Papers, 1862-1864. Dover, DE: Delaware State Archives, 1955.

Shelving Summary

  1. Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes (1 inch)

Processing Information

Revised by Anita A. Wellner, 1993. Encoded by Asher Jackson, 2007.

Thomas M. Reynolds letters to Louisa J. Seward
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2006 October 10
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA