Mississippi State University Libraries Digitize Civil War Diaries and Letters

Mississippi State University Libraries has made available in its digital collections the Civil War era, first-hand accounts of the Orville Babcock Diaries and Letters of Pvt. Arthur McKinstry.

Orville Babcock

Orville Babcock

The Babcock and McKinstry materials are a part of the overall Ulysses S. Grant Collection, which is housed at the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library on the first floor of Mitchell Memorial Library at MSU’s Starkville campus. MSU is one of only five universities in the nation that have the distinction of hosting a presidential library.

Orville Babcock was a Union Army officer and engineer, who eventually became General Grant’s aide-de-camp late in the Civil War. His diaries begin in 1863, notably including his perspective on the siege of Vicksburg, and continue into 1869. Also included are Babcock’s wartime experiences in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee before finally being summoned to Virginia. Additionally, they contain information regarding his post-war experiences in Washington, D.C., where Babcock served as personal secretary to Grant during his presidency, including his famous mission to Santo Domingo in 1869. This collection also includes supplementary materials of speeches, correspondence, and newspaper clippings.

You can read more about this online collection at https://goo.gl/n1VfyZ. Both the Babcock Diaries and the McKinstry letters are available for viewing at http://digital.library.msstate.edu/cdm/usgrantcollection.


It is wonderful that Mississippi State University is the presidential library for U.S. Grant, but it must be a very interesting story as to how that library was located in one of the Confederate states. Kudos for the work they have done making available the digitized collection. George Bentley


I too, was curious about the location of this collection. The MSU Libraries FAQ provides a partial answer:
“Why were the papers transferred to Mississippi State University from Southern Illinois University – Carbondale?”
“The story of why the Grant Association Board of Directors made this decision is not available to the public since litigation was involved. We can say the papers coming to MSU resulted largely from the fact that MSU’s Giles Distinguished Professor of History, Dr. John F. Marszalek, was named to replace Dr. John Y. Simon, who passed away in 2008, as Executive Director and Managing Editor of the Grant Papers project. The determination of the Dean of Libraries and the MSU Administration created conditions that made it possible for the papers to come to MSU. The Association’s Board of Directors, led by Rhode Island Chief Justice (ret) Frank J. Williams, unanimously approved the transfer of the papers to MSU, which occurred in December 2008. The formal written agreement between the Association and MSU was signed on January 30, 2009.” http://www.usgrantlibrary.org/about/faq.asp


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