Correspondence and Printed Material about Gettysburg National Cemetery
Scope and Contents
The collection contains printed material, clippings and correspondence on the development of the Gettysburg (Pa.) Soldiers’ National Cemetery during the American Civil War. Correspondence is mainly between John R. Bartlett, the Secretary of the Cemetery Commission and David Wills, President of the Cemetery Commission but other state representatives are also included. Dates range from 1863 to 1874.
There are 82 letters, 19 assorted leaflets, 10 newspaper articles, 7 booklets, 6 railroad passes, 3 postcards, 4 ink drawings, one certificate in the collection.
- 1863 - 1874
- Bartlett, John Russell, 1805-1886 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.
Conditions Governing Use
Collection is open for research.
Biographical / Historical
In the War Between the States or otherwise known as the American Civil War, the Battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was the high water mark of the war. Gettysburg region was as far north as the Confederacy or the Rebels advanced. Shortly after the horrific Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863, the weather began to expose the shallow graves of the hastily buried soldiers. Residents of Adams and Franklin Counties noticed in their fields, orchards and gardens the exposed bodies. A Gettysburg resident and attorney, David McConaughy, urged proper burial of the dead in a cemetery to honor the Northern soldiers. Another Gettysburg resident and attorney, David Wills, agreed and used his political connections to contact Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin who pledged to provide commonwealth funds to purchase land and make arrangements to create a cemetery to honor the Union dead. Wills and McConaughy had a falling out regarding design and location of the cemetery. Eventually David Wills became the primary agent for the cemetery. Funds were provided by Pennsylvania to purchase Cemetery Hill chosen for its important key position in the Union battle lines and adjacent to Evergreen Cemetery. The Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg was designed by William Saunders, a landscape architect. The design provided only for the Northern dead – 3,512 Union soldiers. Samuel Weaver and his laborers performed the removal of the Union dead from the shallow graves. The dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery took place November 19, 1863. Originally David Wills had proposed October for the dedication but the leading dedication speaker, Edward Everett, a prominent orator and statesman, asked for a one month delay to prepare his speech. As almost an afterthought, President Abraham Lincoln was invited to attend and offer a few appropriate remarks – now known as the Gettysburg Address. The night before the dedication Abraham Lincoln stayed in the David Wills house and reportedly worked on the remarks he would make the following day at the dedication following Everett’s two hour oratory. Numerous monuments and memorials were included in the design of the cemetery. The most well-known is the Soldiers’ National Monument erected in a central position. The Monument was designed by Batterson-Canfield Co. as a national memorial of sorrow. The cornerstone was laid July 4, 1865 and fully finished July 1, 1869. As part of the design four marble figures were carved by a well-known sculptor, Randolph Rogers, and there is a bronze figure of Liberty at the top of the central column. The first statue erected was the New York Monument honoring Major General John F. Reynolds who died in the battle. The cemetery for the Union dead was finished in 1869. In 1872 the administration of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg was turned over to the Federal Government. In the following years other internments were made. From 1870 to 1873 the Confederate dead were removed from the battlefield by Samuel Weaver who had the remains boxed and shipped to the South. Many of the Rebels who fought in the battle at Gettysburg eventually were reinterred in Richmond, Virginia’s Hollywood Cemetery. As David Wills was agent for the governor of Pennsylvania, Andrew Curtin, John Bartlett was agent for the governor of Rhode Island, James Y. Smith. Both men were faithful and active participants on the Board of Commissioners of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Eventually, David Wills became President of the Cemetery Board of Managers and John R. Bartlett was the Board of Managers Secretary. In 1874 Bartlett created a book about the cemetery “The Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg.” Lehigh University Library has an additional Bartlett collection in its Special Collections – a Scrapbook from 1865-1885 of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia, portraits, reactions to the assassination.
1 box, .5 linear feet
Language of Materials
The collection contains printed material, clippings and correspondence on the development of the Gettysburg (Pa.) Soldiers’ National Cemetery during the American Civil War. Correspondence is mainly between John R. Bartlett, the Secretary of the Cemetery Commission and David Wills, President of the Cemetery Commission but other state representatives are also included.
The collection consists of sixteen folders containing an assortment of printed paper memorabilia many very unique relating to the establishment and dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pa.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Accessioned in 1884. Came possibly with the Bartlett Civil War collection that Lehigh University purchased directly from John Russell Bartlett in 1884.
Please inquire about copyright information.
Wills, David, 1831-1894. The Soldier's National Cemetery, Gettysburg, Pa. Call no.: 973.7349 W741s 1864
Bartlett, John Russell, 2006. Autobiography of John Russell Bartlett (1805-1886), ed.. by Jerry E. Mueller, Providence, Rhode Island: The John Carter Brown Library, 226pp.
Bartlett, John Russell, 1874. The Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg: with the proceedings at its consecration, at the laying of the corner-stone of the Monument and its dedication. Providence, R.I.: Providence Press Company for the Board of Commissioners. 146 pages
- Finding aid of Gettysburg Cemetery Collection
- Eleanor Nothelfer
- May 7, 1990 first draft; Revised and finalized May 2011
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
- Language of description note
Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA