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David N. Lilley letters

Identifier: MSS 0219

Scope and Content Note

This collection of Civil War letters consists of thirty-seven letters written between 1861 and 1864 by David N. Lilley to his older sister, Annie Lilley, who lived in Newark, Delaware.

In these letters David Lilley frequently asks Annie to relay information to other family members, especially his brother Alfred Lilley. There is one additional letter, dated May 11, 1863, written to Lilley's mother. The letters originated from places such as Camp Brandywine, Camp Andrews in Baltimore, and Falmouth, Virginia, chronicling Lilley's experiences during the Civil War. Lilley recounted anecdotes and social events from the camps where he was stationed, described military battles (including Fair Oaks and Chancellorsville), and related the harsh conditions that soldiers endured. He also discussed the relationship between "rebel" and Union soldiers and, in the letter written to his mother, recalled a visit from Abraham Lincoln.

Lilley's letters document the soldier's state of mind: Lilley was alternately content and optimistic or depressed and uncertain of his continued survival. Because of variations in handwriting, grammar, and style, it appears that Lilley may have had other soldiers write a few of the letters on his behalf. A number of the letters are also written on patriotic stationery.


  • Creation: 1861-1864


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

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

David N. Lilley (1842-1887), a Newark, Delaware, resident for most of his life, served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

Lilley was born in 1842 in Cecil County, Maryland. He was one of twelve children in a family that moved near Newark, Delaware, when he was quite young. Lilley attended school in Newark briefly but gave up his studies in order to help support the rest of the family. Initially, he worked for his father as a well digger and quarry man; later he was employed at the Dean Woolen Mills.

In 1861, at the age of 19, Lilley enlisted in the Union Army, joining Company "C," 2nd Regiment, Delaware Volunteers. After training, he was assigned to the Blue and Elk Rangers, a local unit that was involved in many significant military engagements in both Maryland and Virginia. Lilley's letters to his older sister Annie Lilley, recount these wartime experiences. After being discharged in 1864, David Lilley returned to Newark where his mother, sister Annie, and other members of his immediate family still lived.

On February 15, 1887, David Lilley was the victim of a railroad accident which later required that his foot be surgically amputated. He died on February 24, 1887, from the resulting complications of lockjaw and blood poisoning. "Accident at Newark," Every Evening Wilmington, Delaware, February 15, 1887. Second edition. "A Change for the Worse,"Every Evening Wilmington, Delaware, February 24, 1887. Second edition. "David Lilley Funeral," Every Evening Wilmington, Delaware, February 25, 1887. "Lilley's Funeral To Morrow," The Morning News Wilmington, Delaware, February 26, 1887.Scharf, J. Thomas. Index to the History of Delaware, 1609-1888. Wilmington: Historical Society of Delaware, 1976.Additional information in the biographical note is derived from material in the collection.


.3 linear foot (38 items)


Letters from Delaware resident David N. Lilley to his sister Annie, written during his period of service in the Union Army during the Civil War.


The letters are arranged in chronological order.


Gift of Mr. Thomas Lilley, April 1969.

Materials Available in Alternative Format

Access to digitized versions of the David Lilley Letters is available at the University of Delaware 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 This Repository

MSS 0218 Edward A. Fulton collection

MSS 0295 Thomas M. Reynolds letters to Louisa J. Seward

Shelving Summary

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


Processed by Tim Murray and Wendy Van Wyck, 1990-1991; completed January 1994 by Kelly Baum. Encoded by Asher Jackson, February 2007.

David N. Lilley letters
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2007 February 6
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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