MSU Libraries digitize Civil War diaries and letters

Contact: Brad Moreland

STARKVILLE, Miss.—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.

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.

The diaries were donated to the Grant collection by Merlin E. Sumner prior to the Grant collection’s arrival at MSU in 2008.

The letters of Pvt. Arthur McKinstry represent the experience of a young private in the Union Army during the Civil War. McKinstry was faithful to write his mother, aunts and cousins. He also wrote other letters to his uncles, giving reports and first-hand accounts about Company D, all of which are included.  The McKinstry letters were donated to the Grant collection by Frances Oakley.

Both the Babcock Diaries and the McKinstry letters are available for viewing at and provide additional insight into the life and times of these individuals who served during the Civil War era. 

The purpose of the MSU Libraries’ digital collections is to produce, maintain, preserve, and provide access to digital materials that support the mission of the university and the libraries. In particular, the library strives to support teaching, service and research by developing digital projects that provide greater access to library collections and other university holdings.

Mississippi State University Libraries is a premier research library providing its communities of users an ongoing, creative, technologically advanced library program. For more information about MSU Libraries, visit For more about the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, visit

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016 - 1:55 pm