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Guide to the Alexander Robert Chisolm Papers
1861-1908
 MS 670.5

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Rachel Schimke

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on May 14, 2014 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

 
Creator: Chisolm, Alexander Robert, 1834-1910
Title: Alexander Robert Chisolm Papers, 1861-1908
Dates [inclusive]: 1861-1908
Abstract: Colonel Alexander Robert Chisolm (1834-1910) served as the senior aide-de-camp to General G. T. Beauregard from 1861-1865. The collection primarily consists of Chisolm's remembrances of the war, especially the battles at Fort Sumter, the First Battle of Bull Run, and Shiloh. The collection also includes a fan-like cipher used by General Beauregard for sending messages during the war, with a sample of how the substitution of letters works using the phrase "Jones goes South to night." The Civil War portion of this collection has been digitized and is available online to on-site researchers and to users affiliated with subscribing institutions via EBSCOhost.
Quantity: 0.75 Linear feet (3 boxes), 1 reel of microfilm
Call Phrase: MS 670.5

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Biographical/Historical note

Colonel Alexander Robert Chisolm (1834-1910) served as the senior aide-de-camp and, in Chisolm's words, the "confidential friend" to General G. T. Beauregard from Beauregard's arrival in Charleston, South Carolina on March 2, 1861 until May 6, 1865. Chisolm was born on November 19, 1834 in Beaufort, South Carolina to Edward Chisolm and Mary Elizabeth Hazzard. Two years after Edward's death in 1836, Chislom's mother took Chisolm and his sister, Sarah, on a visit to New York. On this trip, Mary Elizabeth died after being thrown from a horse. Chisolm and his sister were therefore cared for from a young age by their aunt and uncle in New York.

At age eighteen, Chisolm returned to South Carolina to visit his relatives and survey the land that he and his sister had jointly inherited. Their inheritance comprised the western half of the Coosaw Plantation in Beaufort, also called Chisolm's Island, and some two hundred and fifty slaves. Chisolm purchased his sister's interests in the land and slaves and also bought another 3,321 acres of land suitable for growing rice and cotton. Chisolm found plantation life "most delightful" and contentedly managed his properties during the 1850s. When he was not overseeing his land, he also spent time traveling in Europe.

In 1861, the governor of South Carolina requested that Chisolm bring some of his male slaves to Charleston to assist with constructing batteries on Morris Island. The construction of these batteries was a defensive measure to prevent the United States from reenforcing Major Anderson at Fort Sumter. Chisolm supervised the construction and asked the governor for an official military appointment in return for offering to use his own boat and oarsmen in defense of the harbor. Chisolm's proposition was approved by General Beauregard, and he was made a Lieutenant Colonel on March 2, 1861. Chisolm spent his early days in the military "bearing orders to the commanding officers of the forts and of the guard vessels between Sumter and the outer bar on the ocean."

Beauregard found Chisolm so useful that he began using Chisolm as his confidential aide-de-camp. As part of Chisolm's duties, Beauregard dictated to Chisolm his notes for meetings with his generals. Many of Beauregard's important orders and communications were derived from these notes, including his orders regarding the Battle of Shiloh and the final agreement between General Johnston and General Sherman at Greensboro, North Carolina after General Lee's surrender. For four years and two months, Chisolm accompanied Beauregard wherever he was ordered. Chisolm was present at many battles, including Fort Sumter, Shiloh, and the First Battle of Bull Run.

After the war, Chisolm traveled to Washington, D.C. to receive a pardon from the attorney general. As the first Confederate officer to appear in Washington, Chisolm also met with President Johnson. He was officially pardoned in December 1865. Chisolm sold his plantation in Beaufort and began working as a shipping merchant in Charleston. He moved to New York in 1870, and for a time served as the commander of the Confederate Veterans Camp of New York. Chisolm married Helen Margaret Schieffelin, the daughter of General Richard Lawrence and Margaret Schieffelin, in 1875. The Chisolms lived on East 48th Street and established a country residence in Morristown, New Jersey called Airy Hall.

A.R. Chisolm died in 1910.

Source: A.R. Chisolm's autobiography (Box 1, Folders 1-3), the Alexander Robert Chisolm Papers, MS 5002, The New-York Historical Society.

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Scope and Contents note

The Alexander Robert Chisolm Papers document Chisolm's experiences and recollections of the Civil War, especially the battles at Fort Sumter, the First Battle of Bull Run, and Shiloh. The collection primarily consists of Chisolm's remembrances of the war as recorded in his personal notes, speeches he delivered at various commemorative events, his postwar correspondence, and in his unpublished autobiography. Chisolm describes the tactical aspects of the battles he took part in as well as the human struggles of war. Other materials in the collection include documents related to the Confederate military and many newspaper and magazine clippings pertaining to the war. The collection also contains a fan-like cipher used by General Beauregard for sending messages during the war, with a sample of how the substitution of letters works using the phrase "Jones goes South to night." The Civil War materials in this collection have been digitized and are available online to on-site researchers and to users affiliated with subscribing institutions via EBSCOhost.

Arrangement note

  1. Series 1: Autobiography
  2. Series 2: Correspondence
  3. Series 3: Military Documents
  4. Series 4: Notes and Speeches
  5. Series 5: Scrapbooks, Newspaper Clippings, and Cipher

The Alexander Robert Chisolm Papers are arranged alphabetically by topic or form.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Beauregard, G. T. (Gustave Toutant), 1818-1893
  • Bragg, Braxton, 1817-1876
  • Chisolm, Alexander Robert, 1834-1910
  • Davis, Jefferson, 1808-1889.
  • Grant, Ulysses S. (Ulysses Simpson), 1822-1885
  • Johnston, Joseph E. (Joseph Eggleston), 1807-1891
  • Lee, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1807-1870

Document Type

  • Autobiography
  • Ciphers (codes)
  • Correspondence
  • Maps
  • Scrapbooks
  • Speeches

Subject Topics

  • Bull Run, 1st Battle of, Va., 1861
  • Shiloh, Battle of, Tenn., 1862.
  • Slavery -- United States

Subject Places

  • Beaufort (S.C.)
  • Confederate States of America
  • Fort Sumter (Charleston, S.C.) -- Siege, 1861
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Battlefields
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Campaigns
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Military life
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Veterans

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access note

Open to qualified researchers. Material that is on microfilm must be viewed in that format.

Conditions Governing Use note

Permission to quote from this collection in a publication must be requested and granted in writing. Send permission requests, citing the name of the collection from which you wish to quote, to: Manuscript Curator, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024

Preferred Citation note

This collection should be cited as the Alexander Robert Chisolm Papers, MS 5002, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Archival Materials note

The family papers of A.R. Chisolm's in-laws, the Schieffelins, are housed at the New York Public Library Manuscripts and Archives Division and at Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Separated Materials note

A partial item-level inventory of the collection conducted by the New-York Historical Society in 1912 was separated but is available upon request.

Existence and Location of Copies note

Some materials in this collection are on microfilm. Materials that are on microfilm must be viewed in that format. See reference staff for details.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

The collection was donated to the New-York Historical Society by A.R. Chisolm's son in 1912.

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Container List

Series 1: Autobiography, circa 1890s, 1890-1899

Scope and Contents note

Series 1 consists of two versions of Chisolm's autobiography, written at least twenty-five years after the Civil War. There are two personal notebooks, written around the early to mid 1890s. The first notebook contains genealogical information about the Chisolm and Hazzard families and describes Chisolm's life before the war and his early involvement in the conflict, notably at Fort Sumter and the First Battle of Bull Run. The second notebook documents Chisolm's war experiences from June of 1862 until the end of the war. There is also a version of the autobiography with illustrations that seems to have been intended for publication, written sometime after the death of Chisolm's wife in 1895. His autobiography recounts his childhood in New York, his management of his properties in South Carolina, his wartime services as Beauregard's senior aide-de-camp, and his postwar civilian life. Chisolm describes the battles at Fort Sumter, Blackburn's Ford, the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas), Battery Wagner, Drewry's Bluff, Shiloh, Petersburg, Franklin, Atlanta, Nashville, the evacuation of Savannah, and the defense of Charleston.

Arrangement note

Series 1: Autobiography is arranged in the order of the chapter designations created by Chisolm. The notebooks were also designated as Volumes 1 and 2 by Chisolm.

Processing Information note

Chapter 6 of the version of the autobiography with illustrations was originally housed separately from the rest of the chapters. The chapter was reincorporated into the autobiography by the archivist.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Chapters 1-6
[post 1895]
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Chapters 7-9
[post 1895]
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Chapters 10-19
[post 1895]
Box: 3 Notebook, Volume 1
[early to mid 1890s]
Box: 3 Notebook, Volume 2
[early to mid 1890s]

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Series 2: Correspondence, 1861-1908, 1861-1908

Arrangement note

Series 2: Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent or by the topic of the correspondence.

Scope and Contents note

Series 2 consists of correspondence written during and after the Civil War, mostly by Chisolm and General Beauregard. Much of Chisolm and Beauregard's wartime correspondence is Beauregard's orders to his staff and Chisolm's reports on various battles, though their letters also address an accusation made against Chisolm that he used his official position to obtain transportation on railroads. The postwar correspondence from Beauregard to Chisolm discusses Chisolm's Civil War memorial activities and writings. Other letters written to or authored by Chisolm in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries contain Chisolm's remembrances and reflections on the war. There is also some family wartime correspondence, including a letter from Chisolm to his aunt and a letter to A.R. Chisolm from John Chisolm.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Beauregard to Dr. R.L. Brodie
August 23, 1875
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Beauregard to Chisolm
1862-1891
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Chisolm to Beauregard
1861, 1863-1864
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Chisolm to Mrs. R. Chisolm
April 20, 1862
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Chisolm to the Press
April 1887, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Chisolm's Remembrances, Postwar
1893, 1907
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Chisolm to George Putnam Smith
1901
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Correspondence to Chisolm re: Wartime Issues
July 24, 1861 and April 9, 1864
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Correspondence to Chisolm re: War Remembrances
1902-1903, 1908
Box: 1 Folder : 13 John M. Chisolm to A.R. Chisolm
December 4, 1864
Box: 1 Folder : 14 F.W. Sims to Major S.L. James
January 14, 1864
Box: 1 Folder : 15 Reverend Robert Wilson to Alfred Chisolm
May 29, 1902
Box: 1 Folder : 16 Alienated Envelope and Unidentified Correspondence
1862-1864

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Series 3: Military Documents, 1861-1864, 1861-1864

Scope and Contents note

Series 3 consists of documents related to the military created during the course of the Civil War. The series contains a report on the First Battle of Bull Run prepared by Colonel R.G.W. Radford of the 13th Virginia Cavalry (with notes by Chisolm) and general orders issued by the Confederate War Department and by General Beauregard, in which Beauregard officially assumes command of the Military Division of the West. There is also a pass granting Chisolm permission to travel from New Orleans to Richmond, an invitation to a soiree in Charleston extended to various officers, Chislom's notes on aide-de-camps, and a message from Jefferson Davis issued on May 28, 1864 regarding a bill to organize an army staff for the war.

Arrangement note

Series 3: Military Documents is arranged alphabetically by topic or form.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 17 Colonel Radford's Report on the Battle of Bull Run
August 1, 1861
Box: 1 Folder : 18 General Orders
November 7, 1861 and October 17, 1864
Box: 1 Folder : 19 Invitation to Charleston Soirée
circa 1863
Box: 1 Folder : 20 Notes re: Aide-de-Camps
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 21 Pass from New Orleans to Richmond
October 15, 1861
Box: 1 Folder : 22 President's Message re: Army Staff Bill
May 1864

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Series 4: Notes and Speeches, 1893-1906, 1893-1906, undated

Scope and Contents note

Series 4 consists of Chisolm's notes on the war and speeches (both typescript and handwritten drafts) he delivered at various memorial events or before Civil War commemorative groups like the Confederate Veteran Camp of New York and the Survivors' Association of Charleston. His notes and speeches especially focus on the battles at Fort Sumter, the First Battle of Bull Run, and Shiloh. Though Chisolm regretted that his recollections were "obliged to be so personal," he attempted to maintain a neutral tone, citing, for example, the mistakes made by both sides during the Battle of Shiloh. As Beauregard's aide and friend, Chisolm also gave speeches on Beauregard's life and accomplishments following Beauregard's death in 1893. (Researchers should note that Chisolm's "Personal Notes from Before the Surrender of Fort Sumter until the Close of the War" and his speech on the Battle of Shiloh at the Memorial Meeting in Charleston are almost identical, the major variation being that Chisolm's "Personal Notes" contain a preface written months after he delivered the speech.) This series also contains two maps, one of the Shiloh battlefield and one of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.

Arrangement note

Series 4: Notes and Speeches in arranged alphabetically by topic.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 23 Beauregard Memorial Speech
circa 1905
Box: 1 Folder : 24 Camp Fire Speeches
circa 1903
Box: 1 Folder : 25 Maps
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 26 Notes re: Bull Run
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 27 Notes re: Fort Sumter
1906, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 28 Notes re: Johnston's Surrender
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 29 Notes re: Shiloh
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 1 "Personal Notes from Before the Surrender of Fort Sumter until the Close of the War"
August 1893
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Speech on the Battle of Shiloh (Memorial Meeting in Honor of General Beauregard)
1893
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Speech on the Life of General Beauregard delivered before the Memorial Meeting in Charleston
1893
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Speech to the Survivor's Association of Charleston
April 13, 1893

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Series 5: Scrapbooks, Newspaper Clippings, and Cipher, circa 1863-1905

Scope and Contents note

Series 5 is comprised of two scrapbooks which consist mostly of magazine and newspaper clippings or articles pertaining to the Civil War (especially from Charleston's The News and Courier). The loose clippings in this series include articles from  The News and Courier regarding Chisolm's lecture on the Battle of Shiloh to benefit the Beauregard Monument Fund, a newspaper clipping about the Confederate Veteran Camp's participation in a memorial service for U.S. Grant, a piece on the reminiscences of a Confederate naval officer, an article by Chisolm in the  Confederate Veteran about Beauregard at Shiloh, and various clippings regarding the First Battle of Bull Run. This series also contains a "Roster of the Surviving General Officers of the Confederate States Army" compiled by Telamon Smith Cuyler and a fan-like cipher used by Beauregard for sending messages during the war, with a sample of how the substitution of letters works using the phrase "Jones goes South to night."

Arrangement note

Series 5 is arranged alphabetically by form.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Magazine and Newspaper Clippings
circa 1890s
Box: 2 Folder : 6 "Roster of the Surviving General Officers of the Confederate States Army"
1905
Box: 2 Scrapbook, Volume 1
1903, undated
Box: 2 Scrapbook, Volume 2
1876-early 1900s
Box: 3 Cipher with Directions on Use
circa 1863

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