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Edward A. Holton Civil War Papers

Identifier: mss-678

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of correspondence from Edward A. Holton to his mother (a few letters) and wife Kate (several letters) during his Civil War service. They were written from sites in Virginia such as Camp Griffin, Culpeper Court House, Brandy Station, and other sites in Culpeper and Fairfax counties.

The Civil War letters have been transcribed and include information that does not survive as originals, specifically letters Edward wrote to his mother in 1862. Topical coverage includes everyday life such as rations and pay as well as tales from the camps and battlefields, a desire for letters, news, and goods from home, and his thoughts on relevant issues such as deserters and leaders. He writes of his duties and desire for promotion. He also gives reports of other enlisted Holton men and "the Williston boys", including illnesses such as diphtheria and typhoid fever, and changes in the roster.

Envelopes present in the collection indicate that Kate Holton lived in Alburgh, Vermont in 1863 and 1864. Edward's letters to her begin just after they are married and are more emotional in tone. Photographs are black and white portrait style images depicting Edward A. Holton, Kate Holton, and others. Some additional Civil War documentation rounds out the collection.


  • 1861-2001
  • Majority of material found in 1863-1864


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts

Biographical / Historical

Edward Alexander Holton (1835-1906) was born in Westminster, Vermont to Erastus Alexander Holton (1803-1849) and Hannah Brainard May (about 1806-1899) who were married in 1834. He had three younger siblings: David May Holton (1836-1864, see below), Catherine May Holton (1838-1841), and Joel Huntington Holton (1841-1912, see below) who were also born in Westminster.

In 1854, Hannah remarried Hiram Phelps (1801-1892); he appears in Edward's letters as "HP." His family with first wife Lucinda Murray (1810-1845) included Oscar Phelps (1835-1898, see below), Katherine Phelps Chapin (1841-1931, see below), and Haskell Phelps (1843-1866, see below). According to the 1860 Census, Hannah and Hiram lived in Williston, Vermont, as did sons David and Haskell.

Edward A. Holton served as a Private in Company I of Vermont's First Regiment. He is listed as residing in Williston on his enlistment date of May 2, 1861. He was mustered in on May 9, 1861 and after a three month term of service, he was mustered out on August 15, 1861. Very shortly thereafter, on August 28, 1861, he re-enlisted in Company I of the Sixth Regiment, as a Sergeant alongside his brother David (see below). Edward was mustered in on October 15, 1861. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant on January 18, 1862 and promoted to First Lieutenant on June 5, 1863. On May 5, 1864, his Regiment was engaged in the Battle of the Wilderness, during which he was injured and both his brother and the Company's Captain, George H. Randall, were killed in action. Edward was commissioned as Captain and moved to Company F (still of the Sixth Regiment) on May 15, 1864. He was discharged on August 17, 1864 due to wounds received at the Battle of the Wilderness.

On September 15, 1863, he married Katherine "Kate" Matilda Chase (1841-1891) in Alburg, Vermont while on leave. She was the daughter of Rev. John Chase (about 1806-1883) and Roxanna Sheets Chase (about 1805-1887). Kate had three older siblings: Calista "Cal" M. Chase (b. 1832), Hascal J. Chase (b. 1831), and Jane Chase (b. 1839). Edward and Kate had two children, both born in Lee, Massachusetts. Katherine May Holton (1865-1942) was a nurse; she married Dr. John Cram (1858-1935) in 1889. Charles Edward Holton (1868-1939) was a doctor; in 1896, he married May Fleming (b. 1873), a nurse from New Jersey.

After the war, Edward worked as a laborer, millworker, and carpenter in Lee, Massachusetts and in Burlington, Vermont (1880 federal census). He also worked in the Island Pond, Vermont area as Deputy Inspector of Customs from about 1891 to 1898.

In 1892, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for actions on April 16, 1862 while a First Sergeant in Company I of the Sixth Vermont Infantry in Lee's Mills, Virginia. The citation reads "Rescued the colors of his regiment under heavy fire, the color bearer having been shot down while the troops were in retreat.

Edward died in January 1906, at the home of his son, in Bernardston, Massachusetts.

David May Holton (1836-1864) attended Williams College, graduating in 1859, and worked as a teacher in Williston, Vermont in about 1860. He enlisted on September 23, 1861 and was mustered in on October 15, 1861. He was hospitalized in Hagerstown, Maryland in October, 1862. He was discharged on December 15, 1862 for re-enlistment as a Veteran Volunteer. He was appointed Sergeant at re-muster as a Veteran in Company I of the Sixth Vermont He was killed in action on May 5, 1864 in the Battle of the Wilderness.

Joel H. Holton enlisted in Company I of the Twelfth Regiment as a Sergeant. He is listed as residing in Westminster, Vermont on his enlistment date of August 18, 1862. He was mustered in on October 4, 1862 and mustered out on July 14, 1863. After the war, he worked as a silver plater, hardware store owner in Derby Line, Vermont, a manager of the Bellows Falls and Saxton's River Street Railway Company, and a wholesale paper merchant. He was a Democratic alderman in Burlington, Vermont and nominee for mayor. He was also active in the veterans' fraternal organization, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). In 1863, he married Emma Jane Diggins (1839-1881) and had three children. In 1883, he married Catherine "Kate" E. Wiley (1856-1936).

Oscar Phelps served as a Corporal in Company F of the Thirteenth Regiment. He enlisted on September 10, 1862 and mustered in on October 10, 1862. He likely saw battle in Virginia before being mustered out on July 21, 1863. He married Sarah Walker and they moved to Iowa by 1871. Their family included at least two sons.

Katherine Phelps Chapin had two daughters and died in San Diego, California.

Haskell M. Phelps served as a Private in Company H of the First Regiment. He enlisted on May 2, 1861, mustered in on May 9, 1861, and was mustered out on August 15, 1861. Note that these are the same dates as Edward's first term of service. Haskell next enlisted as a First Sergeant in Company D of the Tenth Regiment on July 19, 1862. He was mustered in on September 1, 1862. On November 10, 1863, he was discharged from the Tenth for promotion to full Captain in the Ninth Regiment of the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Edward's letters discuss this opportunity in general terms. Haskell was killed on January 31, 1866 near Evansville, Indiana when the steam ship Missouri exploded on the Ohio River.

Edward noted that all five sons of this one family served in the Civil War in a May 17, 1863 letter to his uncle David Parsons Holton, his father's brother. The letter was published in the New York Evening Post and in the genealogy compiled by that uncle. David Parsons Holton (1812-1883) was a doctor and temperance campaigner; Erastus also appears to have been active in the temperance movement. David co-authored a family genealogy with his wife Frances (see Bibliography).


1.2 Linear Feet (1 box, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials



Collection consists of Civil War letters from Edward Holton, 4 photographs, and a few miscellaneous documents.

Physical Location

Library Research Annex; contact for access.


  • Holton, David-Parsons and Holton Frances K. Winslow memorial : family records of the Winslows and their descendants in America, with the English ancestry as far as known. New York, New York, 1877.
Guide to the Edward A. Holton Civil War Papers
2018 August
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)