Thomas Hannah, Jr. ...Civil War letters from Memphis



Thomas Hannah, Jr., Illinois 95th Infantry, Company G, was stationed at Adams General Hospital, Number 3, in Memphis, during the Civil War.  From 26 January 1863 to 30 July 1864, he served as Ward Master at the hospital.  During this period he wrote over 100 letters to his wife Elizabeth Marshall Hannah in Belvidere, Illinois.  In these letters he discusses life in Memphis, speaks about nurses with whom he worked, and of his love for his wife.  These letters have been transcribed by his great, great grandson, Michael Bryan Fiske, the family historian/genealogist who has shared some of these unique letters with this website. 




All family photos and letters below  are courtesy of the Family of Robert Huntoon Hannah, grandson of Thomas Hannah, Jr.  We thank them for allowing us to publish the letters and photos on this page.

Thomas Hannah, Jr. was born 11 February 1835 in or near Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  He was the first child of Thomas and Jane Hannah.  There were 3 brothers and 1 sister.  Thomas emigrated from Canada to Massillion, Ohio when he was quite young.  He married Elizabeth Marshall in 1855 and shortly after their marriage moved to Belvidere, Illinois to join the Hannah family, who now resided there.  The Hannah's were farmers.  In 1862, Thomas became a naturalized U. S. citizen.  Thomas and Elizabeth's first child died in infancy.  Their second son Jesse was born in 1860, followed in 1862 by Thomas.  This same year, Thomas joined the army for three years and was mustered out in 1865.  He was wounded at Spanish Fort in 1865 and died October 22, 1865.  Elizabeth received a widow's  pension and a pension for her minor children.

Thomas Hannah Thomas Hannah Elizabeth Marshall Elizabeth Hannah Thos - Eliz - Jesse Thomas Hannah Grave



Belvidere, Illinois is located in Boone Country, Illinois, approximately 75 miles from Chicago.  It was first settled in 1835 by Simon P. Doty who named the location "Elysian Fields".  The site was originally built on the north side of the Kiswaukee River,   In 1851 a railroad was build south of the river and the business section followed to the south side, where Belvidere's downtown is still located.   The community is surrounded by prosperous farms.  This was the environment Thomas left when he joined the army in 1862 and he would remember in his letters from Memphis. 


Belvidere Farmland

Kiswaukee River Belvidere Belvidere Station Belvidere Main Street


Memphis in 1863 was a rough and growing "river town".  It had more than its share of saloons and bordellos.  There was a Main Street and a Beale Street.  Along Main Street one would find all types of shops and businesses, as well as numerous hotels, restaurants, and theatres.  But due to a lack of any sanitation system, it was one of the dirtiest cities on earth - with a fowl smell because of the rotting creosote-soaked wood, used in it's paving. 

Riverboats loaded with cotton lined the river banks below the bluff and nearly 400,000 bales of cotton a year were being sold in Memphis.  This made it a key city for the Confederacy as well as for the Union.  And Memphis had been taken by the Union Navy in June of 1962, in a 90 minute battle on the Mississippi.  It remained an occupied city for the remainder of the war. 

Memphis on the Bluff 1864 Main Street 1864 Beale Steet 1860s Hunt Phelan Home 1863

Old Gayoso 1860s

At the beginning of the occupation U. S. Grant was in charge and he planned his upcoming Battle of Vicksburg in the library of the Hunt Phelan home.  When Grant moved on to conquer Vicksburg, he left William Sherman in charge, and he planned his "March to the Sea" while staying at the Gayoso Hotel.  Memphis became a major "hospital  and supply City" for the Union Army.  There were over 8 hospitals in the downtown area - mostly set up in the larger hotels.

For most  Memphians, Union occupation was a devastating experience.  Those who stayed in the city faced the agonizing decision of whether or how to resist the enemy and the great majority did resist to some degree.   But there were also advantages to occupation.  Army authorities provided police and fire protection, health services, and courts of law.  Most citizens  could live a relatively normal life during this period,  but the city became a focus for illicit trade in raw cotton, which was in great demand by the northern cotton mills.  The illicit trade in raw cotton also corrupted the Union Army officers.

This was the environment that Thomas Hannah found when he arrived in Memphis January 1863.  The Adams Hospital where he was assigned,  had been converted from the old Worsham House Hotel on the corner of Adams and Main.  It was here that he wrote over 100 letters to his wife Elizabeth.  And she saved all the letters ...

       Adams Hospital

Typical Hospital Ward



Thomas Hannah's letter selections are  presented below in their original hand-written form and in their transcribed form.  The visitor may click on the small icon for their choice of either version.  The files are in the PDF format and some are quite large and may take some time to load - especially the original hand-written letters.  Please be patient while they load.

Please use your BACK BUTTON when opening and closing these letters...

January 31, 1863 February 16, 1863 March 12, 1863

    April 10, 1863


Original          Original Original Original

Transcipt        Transcript Transcript Transcript

June 28, 1863 July 29, 1863 August 21, 1863

    September 2, 1863


 Original           Original Original Original

Transcipt           Transcript Transcript Transcript

The Thomas Hannah Jr. letters were transcribed by Michael Bryan Fiske, recently retired professor of Mathematics at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio.  Michael, the great, great grandson of Thomas Hannah, Jr., is the family historian/genealogist and inherited the family files from his grandfather Robert Huntoon Hannah.  He plans to publish all of the letters at a later date.  

Michael Fiske frequented the internet and posted information during his quest for information about the nurses Thomas mentioned in his letters.  Below is one of his postings:

"I inquired about the names of nurses who are mentioned in letters written from Adams Hospital, by my second great grandfather, Thomas Hannah, Illinois 95th Infantry, Company G, to his wife, Elizabeth Marshall Hannah, in Belvidere, Illinois.  Thomas was a ward master at Adams Hospital.  I have found a photo album: In Honor of the National Association of Civil War Army Nurses.  1910*.  The album contains photographs and brief summaries of the lives of women who belonged to The National Association of Army Nurses of the Civil War.  This book was published shortly after the 43rd Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic in Salt Lake City, Utah, 12–13 August 1909."

"I have been able to identify in the album three women with whom Thomas Hannah served and mentioned in his letters:  Miss Lettie E. Covell (Mrs. Lettie E. Buckley), Mrs. Margaret Meseroll (Mrs. Maggie Hayes), and Mrs. Mary L Mannon."

"I have included in this post all of the women nurses mentioned in the album who were stationed either at Adams Hospital or in Memphis.  As I continue my transcriptions, I hope to add additional information on these women, who played such a vital role in Thomas Hannah’s life and in the lives of so many other men."

*In Honor of the National Association of Civil War Army Nurses.  1910.

Lettie E. Buckley (Lettie Lovell)

Mrs. Buckley served as a nurse being enlisted by Sanitary Commission under her maiden name, Miss Lettie E. Covell from October 1863 to June 1865 at the Washington and Adams Hospitals in Memphis, Tennessee.  Mrs. Buckley is 73 years of age and receives a pension.  She has held several offices in the Association.  Her address is 1955 North Erie Street, Chicago, IL

Lettie E. Lovell  
Mary L. Mannon

Mrs. Mary L. Mannon responded with three other ladies to a call for nurses from Governor Morton of Indiana, leaving Goshen, Indiana in February 1863 and served in the hospital at Memphis, Tennessee until June 4, 1865.  She was a volunteer but receives a pension.  Mrs. Mannon was born in 1843 and resides at Los Angeles California.


Mary L. Mannon

Margaret Hayes (Maggie Meserolle)

Under the name of Maggie Meserolle she served for two years and six months at Adams General Hospital No. 2 and Gayoso Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee as a regular nurse.  She is nearly blind but continues to take an active part in the Relief Corps of which she is now a member, thereby still working for the soldiers.  Her address is 1200 E. 43rd Street, Los Angeles, California.


Maggie Meseroll

Margaret Meseroll Hayes was the oldest living Civil War nurse according to this notice in the Ingham County News, Mason, Michigan, dated 21 June 1934. 


Mrs. Elizabeth Baldridge

Mrs. Baldridge served as a volunteer nurse for nine months at Memphis, Tennessee.  She served under her maiden name, Miss Elizabeth Lee.  Mrs. Baldridge is 77 years of age and receives a pension.  Her address is Pomona, California.

  Mrs. Helen M. Burnell

Mrs. Burnell served under her maiden name, Helen M. Beckett, was a regular nurse in Adams Hospital Memphis, Tennessee for two years and six months. She is now 80 years of age and resided at 1110 Windsor Place, Pasadena, Ca.

Eliz. Baldridge     Helen M. Burnell  

Mary B. Maxfield

Mrs. Mary B. Maxfield

Mrs. Maxfield left Peoria, IL November 11, 1863, with the 6th Illinois Cavalry, which went to Springfield, Illinois, and from there to Paducah, Kentucky and then to Memphis, where she transferred to the Adams Block Hospital.  She served under her maiden name, Miss Mary Kenny for twenty two months and was commissioned by Miss Mary A. Livermore.  Mrs. Maxfield is 70 years old and receives a pension.  She resides at Kansas City, KS, and is the Department President of the National Association of Nurses of the Civil War of Kansas.

Susan L. Brown

Mrs. Susan L. Brown

Mrs. Brown served under her maiden name, Sue L. McLaughlin.  She answered a call for volunteers from Governor Morton of Indiana, serving for 9 months on hospital boats on the Mississippi and in hospitals at Memphis.  She is now the wife of S. C. Brown, Commander of the G.A.R.Department of Georgia and South Georgia.  She is 74 old and resides at Fitzgerald, Georgia.  She receives a pension.  She with her soldier husband do active work in looking after the veterans in the South, and in caring for the graves of the prisoners in Andersonville Cemetery.


Leonora Wright

Mrs. Leonora Wright

Mrs. Wright served under her maiden name, Leonora Smith.  Her field of labor was Terre Haute, Indiana, Nashville and Memphis, TN.  She was commissioned by Governor O.P. Morton.  Mrs. Wright is 79 years of age.  She receives a pension.  Her address is 467 W. 3rd St. Terre Haute, Indiana.

Comelia Tompkins

Mrs. Comelia M. Stanley

Mrs. Stanley served under her maiden name, Miss Comelia M. Tompkins.  Her home at teh time being Niagara Falls, NY.  She was enlisted by James E. Yeatman, agent for Miss Dix and received a commission from the later.  She served two years and one month at Memphis, Benton and Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis.  Mrs Stanley's present residence is Gardena, CA, Box 10 RD.  She is 72 years of age.



Mary E. Willson


Mary Eleanor Willson

Mrs. Willson volunteered as a nurse in 1862 and served 3 months.  She was the regularly commissioned by Mrs. Mary A. Livermore, acting for Miss Dix at Chicago, February 1863.  Her services covered almost a period of two years with the Army of the Cumberland on the field in Post Hospitals, Adam's Block Hospital, Memphis, and on hospital boats on the Mississippi. Age not given.  Mrs. Willson resides at Westgate, California, or 622 N. 10th St. Sawtelle, CA.


The Civil War Nurse

Women took it upon themselves to prove their use to their nation by serving as nurses during he Civil War. But they also wanted to avoid social stigma that could accompany such a task.  Often single women working among many single men who they didn't know could cause scandalous gossip. To avoid such a stigma, women took pains to portray themselves as matronly, and shunned any notions of romance or feelings beyond matronly, nurturing care.  They also often signed on using their maiden names.

Generally all women seemed to agree that this was the way they wished to be seen, but there were considerable differences on how to go about achieving this. Some hospitals even insisted that women should be "plain", both in their physical appearance and their clothing, and refused to hire any nurse under the age of thirty five.  With these varied methods and approaches, almost any woman could become a nurse, provided she did her best to appear as a respectable, matronly woman.






The Historic-Memphis website does not intentionally post copyrighted photos and material without permission or credit.  On occasion a "non-credited" photo might possibly be posted because we were unable to find a name to give credit.  Because of the nature of our non-commercial, non-profit, educational website, we strongly believe that these photos would be considered "Fair Use.  We have certainly made no monetary gain, although those using this website for historic or Genealogy research have certainly profited.  If by chance, we have posted your copyrighted photo, please contact us, and we'll remove it immediately, or we'll add your credit if that's your choice.  In the past, we have found that many photographers volunteer to have their works included on these pages and we'll  also do that if you contact us with a photo that fits a particular page. 


The "Historic-Memphis" website would like to acknowledge and thank the following for their contributions which helped make this website possible:  Memphis Public Library, Memphis University Library, Memphis Law Library, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Memphis Press Scimitar, Shelby County Register of Deeds, Memphis City Schools, Memphis Business Men's Club, Memphis Chamber of Commerce, Memphis City Park Commission, Memphis Film Commission, Carnival Memphis, Memphis Historical Railroad Page, Memphis Heritage Inc, Beale Street Historic District, Cobblestone Historic District, Memphis Historic Districts, Vance Lauderdale Family Archives, Tennessee State Archives, Library of Congress, Kemmons Wilson Family, Richard S. Brashier, Lee Askew, George Whitworth, Woody Savage and many individuals whose assistance is acknowledged on the pages of their contributions.  Special thanks to Memphis Realtor, Joe Spake, for giving us carte blanche access to his outstanding collection of contemporary Memphis photos.

We do not have high definition  copies of the photos on these pages.  If anyone wishes to secure high definition photos,  you'll have to contact the photographer  or the collector.  (To avoid any possibility of contributing to SPAM, we do not maintain a file of email addresses for anyone who contacts us).


 Please visit the website that sponsors this page

   Historic Memphis Website