Western Connecticut State University recently received a donation of about 130 letters written as correspondence during the American Civil War. WCSU alumna Carol Lieto ’99, donated the letters, which were penned by her great-great-grandfather Joseph Dobbs Bishop.
Bishop was a Danbury soldier during the American Civil War, serving as the chief musician in the 23rd Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. Lieto published transcriptions of the letters in a book titled “Noble Sentiments of the Soul: The Civil War Letters of Joseph Dobbs Bishop, Chief Musician, 23rd Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, 1862-1863” before donating them to the Western Connecticut State University Archives.
Alongside Bishop’s letters, the collection included additional documents including his enlistment papers, music book, schedules and photographs. WCSU Archivist and Special Collections Librarian Brian Stevens said that the date and location of the letters place Bishop in the middle of the Vicksburg Campaign, making the collection of interest to researchers studying that integral chapter in the history of the Civil War.
“These letters will probably be used most directly in the spring 2022 semester by an Honors course working with war letters,” Stevens said, indicating that he will co-teach this class with Professor of Writing Dr. Edward Hagan of the WCSU Department of Writing, Linguistics and Creative Process. Hagan taught a similar course in 2010, studying the wartime letters of notable Danbury and World War II veteran Truman Warner, for whom WCSU’s Warner Hall is named.
“These letters produce questions in the minds of academics and provide truly interesting insight into what it was like to be a soldier in these times,” Hagan said. “Over the span of the semester-long course, the students will read the letters, write about them and research the topics discussed to help contextualize historical knowledge.”
Only a few of the records have currently been digitized. Stevens hoped for the entire collection to be available online “by the end of next semester.” In the meantime, Stevens and his team will work to catalog and scan the documents and their transcriptions.
The Bishop collection is primarily available for in-person viewing at the archives, located in the basement of the Haas Library on WCSU’s Midtown campus. To make an appointment, there is an online form on the archives’ website.