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William Henry Proctor Papers

Identifier: fairbanks-013

Scope and Content

Includes diaries, correspondence, government documents, land deeds, newspaper clippings, photographs, and a personal account documenting William Henry Proctor's Civil War experiences and his life following the War up until 1908.

Three diaries exist covering the years of 1862, 1863, and 1865. The entries describe day-to-day life in the camps and related duties, including participation in major battles. Proctor writes of military reviews by such noted figures as Abraham Lincoln, Ambrose E. Burnside, Joseph Hooker, and Hiram Berdan. The earliest diaries, dated 1/1/1862 - 1/9/1863 and 1/1/1863 - 12/24/1863, describe the activities of the Second United States Sharpshooters, including a dispute between Berdan and the troops over the issuance of Colt rifles, participation in battles, vaccinations and illnesses amidst the troops, and changes in command and dress. Major events, such as General George B. McClellan's removal from command and the death of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, following the battle of Chancellorsville, are recounted. In the second diary, Proctor depicts life in an army hospital, where he is temporarily laid up. In his third diary, dated 3/11/1865 - 12/18/1865 and written while serving as Second Lieutenant of the 24th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops, he records his experiences as a white northerner interacting with African-Americans, observing that the Regiment "learns as quickly as white troops." He writes of his time overseeing captured Confederate Prisoners of War at the Point Lookout camp in Maryland and administering the oath of allegiance to the United States to them. The remainder of the final diary, following the last entry, contains inventories of farm items and expenses and of men and ordinances lost during the War.

A memoir, or personal account, written following the War contains Proctor's recollections of the days between 8/8/1862 and 8/30/1862 and his descriptions of battles from Rappahannock Station to Second Bull Run . Proctor's correspondence consists of letters written to his parents between the years 1862 and 1865 outlining his participation in the War. A single letter from William to his parents dated 1869 describes his purchase of farmland in Cold Water, Michigan.

Other documents include an undated license for William to teach school in Fair Haven, Vermont; records of his various Civil War appointments; a record of Proctor's marriage to Mary Marsh (possibly a page from a family Bible) in 1867; a homestead receipt from the 1870's; news clippings and official records relating to his appointment to the Special Examiner's Pension Bureau, dated from 1893 to 1904; deeds for land in Nebraska dated 1898 and 1899; and documents accepting Proctor into the Sons of the American Revolution. Two photographs identified by the donor as "unknown Proctor men" are also included.

Two letters written from the areas of Briggsville and Lewiston, Wisconsin were interfiled with Proctor's correspondence. One, dated 1855, is addressed to "Brother and Sister" and is signed Harvey Briggs. The second, dated 1862, is addressed to Betsey Proctor of Fairhaven, Vermont, as "Sister Betsey" and is signed A. B. Higgins. Both letters describe the settlement and farming conditions of the area, fill the recipients in on news about mutual acquaintances, and make references to Vermont. The second letter refers to Native American uprisings in the Midwest.

Handwritten transcriptions of the 1862 and 1863 diaries and of several of Proctor's letters to his parents accompany the original documents. These appear to have been prepared by the donor and may contain some inconsistencies. The materials that comprise the collection bear the accession numbers 13,071 through 13,078 and 13,100 through 13,107.


  • 1855-1908

Language of Materials



Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights:

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium Archives.

Biographical Note

William Henry Proctor (1840-19--) was born in Fair Haven, Vermont in 1840. He enlisted into Company E of the Second United States Sharpshooters from West Randolph, Vermont on October 8, 1861 at the rank of Sergeant, reporting his occupation as "student." In September of 1862 he was promoted to First Sergeant. Proctor participated in Civil War battles, including Second Bull Run at Manassas, Fredericksburg, Chancellorville, and Gettysburg. He was wounded at Second Manassas and transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corp. in December of 1863.

On March 3, 1865, he was appointed Second Lieutenant to the 24th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops, an African-American unit he served with until he was discharged on September 30th, 1865. In that capacity, he and his troops guarded the Point Lookout Prisoner of War camp in Maryland.

On November 21st, 1867 Proctor married Mary Marsh in her hometown of Clarendon, Vermont. Several documents in the collection locate Proctor in various parts of the Midwest from 1869 onward. He appears to have settled in Michigan, was assigned to an Ohio office, and was deeded land in Nebraska in the 1890's. In 1893 he was appointed to the Special Examiner's Pension Bureau. The date and location of his death are unknown.


.5 Linear Feet (27 folders, 1 oversized folder)


Includes diaries, correspondence, government documents, land deeds, newspaper clippings, photographs, and a personal account documenting William Henry Proctor's Civil War experiences and his life following the War up until 1908.

Physical Location

For current information on the location of these materials, please contact the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium Archives.

Acquisition Information

The materials were given to the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium in 1991 by Mrs. Brenda Proctor Morcock deMoll, presumably a descendant of William Proctor's.

Related Collections

As part of the same donation, Brenda Proctor Morcock deMoll gave the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium a Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) badge issued in 1902. It is marked "36th National Encampment. Kit Carson Post No. 2. Washington, D. C." and may have belonged to Proctor. The accession number for this artifact is 13,108. The Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium Archives contains several additional collections and individual items that document Vermonters' experiences in the Civil War.

Guide to the William Henry Proctor papers, 1855-1908, (bulk 1862-1908)
Processor: Tony Paré, and Peter Yarusewicz.
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Repository Details

Part of the The Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium Archives. Repository

1302 Main Street
St. Johnsbury Vermont 05819