Creator: McIlheny, Samuel D.

Provenance Note: Original letters written by Samuel D. McIlheny were loaned to Montana State University for photocopying by Mrs. C. H. Stamm of Lewistown, Montana on October 17, 1967. Following their copying, the letters were returned and their present location is unknown. This collection was reported to the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections in 1979 and assigned accession number 79-679.

Historical Note: Samuel D. McIlheny was a soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War and a miner in Montana Territory immediately following the conflict. He enlisted as a private in Company G, Twenty-Fifth Illinois Volunteer Infantry in Champagne County, Illinois on August 8, 1861. His regiment served in Missouri and Arkansas until May 1862 when they transferred east of the Mississippi. The Twenty-Fifth participated in the battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and were part of General Sherman's forces advancing on Atlanta in 1864 when their allotted time of service expired. Sent back to Illinois in August, McIheny mustered out on September 1, 1864 with the rank of sergeant. In the spring of 1866, McIlheny joined a party of men headed for Montana Territory by way of the overland trail along the Platte River and up the Bozeman Trail. They arrived in Helena by October and remained there at least through the following year. McIlheny had apparently left the territory by 1870.

Content Description Note: The McIlheny letters consist of photocopies from four originals written to his mother and sister, two during the Civil War and two from Helena, Montana Territory. The first is dated July 15, 1862 and was written from a camp south of Jacinto, Mississippi. McIlheny describes the price of food, foraging expeditions, camp rumors, and very little on enemy movements. Another letter, dated Murfreesboro, Tennessee, February 18, 1863, again discusses foraging for food, the unpopularity of division commander Brig. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis, the abuse of civilians by some members of the Fourth Cavalry, and some camp rumors on troop movements. McIlheny wrote from Helena, Montana on October 11, 1866 giving details on his overland journey to the territory, his disillusionment with mining prospects in the area, and local food prices and wages. In this letter he also repeats the proper spelling of his last name in order to insure return letters are addressed properly. His last letter, written from Helena on January 10, 1867 describes his decision to stay through the winter keeping the cabin for his partners who had gone to a new strike twenty five miles distance. Again he describes prices, mining conditions, and food. McIlheny also tells of money owed to him by relatives and his reaction to other news from home. This final letter was apparently so faded that it was transcribed by library personnel after its photocopying.

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Updated: 12/31/12