Civil War Manuscripts Project

Manuscript Examinations



A-B || C || D || E-F || G-H || I-J || K-L || M-N || O-P || Q-R || S-T || U-V || W-X || Y-Z
Index of Names || Index of Regiments || Index by Residence
About this Project || Comments || Catalogs & Online Resources


Adams, Sherman W.
U. S. Navy / Acting Assistant Paymaster
1 Box

Correspondence and papers; approximately 264 of 383 items relate to the Civil War. Adams officially enlisted on 10 November 1862 (though he reported for duty in March 1862) and was assigned Acting Assistant Paymaster of the gunboat U. S. S. Somerset. He resigned from the Navy on 11 October 1864. The collection includes his record book, 1862-1863, and papers and correspondence (156 items) pertaining to his service as Acting Assistant Paymaster aboard the Somerset, 1862-1864; among the papers are returns, surveys, invoices, vouchers, requisitions, summaries of courts martial proceedings (May 1863 and May 1864) and transfer accounts. Names mentioned in the record book include Earl English, A. F. Crossman, William E. Dennison, William A. Arthur, Jonas S. Higbee, Thomas Chatfield, and Edward Healy. The collection also contains papers and correspondence (57 items) pertaining to Adams's tenure as Secretary of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument Committee, 1882-1894, and/or as Chairman of the Park Commission in Hartford. Also, included in the collection are papers and correspondence relating to the Naval Veterans' Association of Connecticut, 1885-1891, and eight apparently confiscated letters written to Confederate officer M. Whit Smith in Florida.
Location: MS

Letter No. 1 : 5 August 1861
Letter No. 2 : 12 December 1863

Letter No. 1
[Edited and transcribed by K. Nolin, M.L.I.S., Assistant Library Director, The Connecticut Historical Society]

[From the confiscated letters of Confederate officer M. Whit Smith, variously addressed as Major, Colonel, and General, commanding at Cedar Keys, FL. Smith may have been serving with the 3rd Florida Volunteer Infantry. The letters are dated, 1861 July 9, 16, 19, 21, 24 and 1861 August 5 and 14:]

Washington, No Ca Aug 5th 1861.

Dear sir

On the 23rd of June last, our schooner, the "Olive Branch," laden with one hundred bbls of spirits turpentine, & having on board as a sailor an old negro man of ours, from our turpentine establishment in Baldwin County, Ala, on her way to New Orleans, with other small vessels, was captured by a Federal Cruiser, & subsequently, as the newspapers report, she was re-captured by the gallant Florida troops stationed at Cedar Keys. We have written to several persons at different places, & among them to Col Thomas J. Pasteur, who lives in your State, near Silver Spring, in Marion County, a brother-in-law of one of the partners, for information in regard to the disposition that will be made of the vessel, cargo, & negro. Feeling anxious to learn directly from the place of capture, what, it is intended to do with them, & not having, as we are aware of, a single acquaintance at your town, we have taken the liberty of addressing you upon the subject. We respectfully request, that, you will ascertain, & inform us immediately, what disposition will be made of the property, vessel, cargo, & negro, if taken to Court to decide upon the salvage, where, the Confederate court is held that will determine it, if, any decision has been given yet, if not, when, the court will sit, if, a sale has been ordered, when, & where will it take place, & such other information as will aid us in the recovery of our property. We understood that the negro had been sent home. Is this so? The entire property belongs to Southern men, & ardent secessionists, & one of the partners is now raising, & equipping a company of Riflemen, at his own expense, for service during the war against the despot, & usurper Abraham Lincoln. Being strangers to you, we would refer those, who may be curious to Know more about us, to Messrs Marshall J. Smith & Co. & E. Blessy, New Orleans, S. S. Webb & Co, J. A. Wemzss [?] & Co, Hon R. H. Smith, Judge Bragg, brother of Genl Bragg, & to many others, if, it were necessary of Mobile. We have inclosed the money to pay the postage of your letter in reply. We hesitated to give you this trouble, & had we a single acquaintance there, should not have done so; we shall, however, properly appreciate your attention to our requests, & should an occasion offer ever, will cheerfully reciprocate the favor. Be good enough to inform us if, the railroad is completed to your place from Fernandina, & if, the Steamers run daily from Savannah to the latter place.

Very respectfully, your obt servts --,

Kennedy & Ellison.


Letter No. 2
[Edited and transcribed by K. Nolin, M.L.I.S., Assistant Library Director, The Connecticut Historical Society]

[Draft of a letter by Sherman Adams from aboard the U. S. S. Somerset, 12 December 1863, Apalachicola Bay, FL, to an unknown party, possibly Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles. It is unclear whether the letter was ever sent:]


I know not whether you will pardon me for addressing to you a few lines but hope you will do so. For although I shall be unable to communicate anything in the slightest degree interesting as a news-letter yet a sense of duty impels me at least to express to you (what should have been long, long ago expressed) my obligations for valuable assistance received at your hands. You know Sir, to what assistance I refer. In the multiplicity of my unlearned official duties I have never found it convenient to make known in any suitable manner, my sense of gratitude to you. Through your influence I have been enabled I trust to make myself in some degree useful to our country, in a manner alike creditable to myself and worthy the cause, for the maintenance of which my quota of services was proffered. I shall ever be grateful while I remember that to you Sir I am mainly indebted for the opportunity of serving honorably during this period of our country's trials. Since I reported for duty to the then captain Paulding on the 20th March 1862 I have been the disbursing officer of this vessel. It was about the first of May when the "Somerset" arrived at Key West for the purpose of becoming attached to the E. B. G. Squadron. She has ever since formed a part of that squadron and since she captured the "Circassian" on the 20th May 1862 - has been assigned to blockade duty on the western coast of Florida. Her cruise in the gulf proved her general unseaworthiness - (You know she was originally a ferry-boat) but for coast and river service - hardly a better wooden gunboat exists. A recapitulation of the doings of this vessel - though not lengthy, would yet be comparatively interesting. I may mention however that we have captured the English Steam Barque Circassian, the Schooners Curlew [August 1863?], and Hortense [February 1863], and many small boats and parcels of Rebel property; we burned the Steamer Habana in Dead Man's Bay; shelled the Rebels from Way Key and St. Marks Light House; captured (by forces sent for that purpose in small boats) the Salt-making establishments near James Island at "Station No. Four," Cedar Keys; at Alligator Harbor, James Island, and Marsh Island, destroying some two thousand bushels of salt, with all appurtenances to the works, captured whites, negroes, horses &c. At "Station No. Four" and at St. Marks some twenty men were wounded and at the former place one man killed. Of our crew, usually numbering about one Hundred and twenty five, Five Have been lost by other casualties to wit four drowned and one dead from sickness. Many have [been sent ?] to hospital north, where, I presume they have recovered from their illnesses. On my muster Roles are borne the names of about fifty "contrabands" who having been received on board, were shipped in the Naval Service. They generally perform the duties of landsmen and Coal Passers, as well as the white men would perform them. Of lesser duties, such as making soundings, setting stakes and buoys we have performed a great number.

We have been in no general engagement with the enemy, a fact which I much regret, as I am fond of the excitement and decisive action which is incident to a state of belligerency. If my desire for witnessing the collision of powerfully armed and hostile forces, is not gratified during the continuance of the present civil war, it probably never will be - as I intend the undertaking of practice in my profession, when I shall have returned home from the current crisis. I never anticipated remaining in the service so long as I have now remained.

The last sentence reminds me that I wish to suggest that one of our most valuable staff officers who has tendered to the Department his resignation - should be retained in the Service; that is, should be promoted so that by the increase of his pay he can afford to stay in the service. I refer to our Chief engineer Act. 2d Asst. Engineer Wm D. Peters, who I understand was a former resident of Glastonbury. I think his experience, and watchfulness over all transactions in his own department make him entitled to increased consideration. His knowledge is practical - and I think there is at present ample room for the exercise of such knowledge. I cannot help feeling quite justified in recommending his retention in the service.

If I were to venture a general suggestion concerning acting officers - it would be that they should be furnished with warrants, or commissions, in like instances as when the same are presented to regular officers. They generally feel that they merit them, and they are in a measure dissatisfied when being themselves passed by - they see them given as of course to all regular officers. I candidly admit that I am one of those who would gladly enough be the recipient of such evidence of public service.

I might recite another suggestion or two - but will not, lest I seem to be presumptuous.

I am very glad that the recent elections in the North have resulted in the exposition of a "copperhead" minority, and the abundant proof of a prevailing and determined Union sentiment. I have not doubted that fidelity was more prevalent than treachery - but I had begun to fear that the wicked apologists for treason might be able to mislead too many of the indifferent and pliable classes.

I would be exceeding glad to see my Home next Spring, and also to pay my respects to yourself - but have not yet applied (though I think I would have been justified in doing so) for a leave of Absence.

I have the Honor to be Sir
Very respectfully Sir
your obedient Servant
S. W. Adams


Further Chronology
[Edited and transcribed by K. Nolin, M.L.I.S., Assistant Library Director, The Connecticut Historical Society]

  • Initially, the Somerset was assigned to the western coast of Florida near Apalachicola Bay, with A. F. Crossman in command of the fleet which formed the Eastern Gulf Blockading Squadron.
  • In 1863 the Somerset was still part of the Eastern Gulf Blockading Squadron, with T. Bailey then commanding.
  • May 1863 found the Somerset in West Pass, St. George's Sound, FL.
  • Papers include a copy of Confederate parole for Captain Thomas Castell, 3 May 1863, Camp Duff, signed by Colonel James Duff, commanding Rio Grande forces in Texas.
  • Papers and record book report the capture of the Mabel (August 1863?) and the Memphis (February 1864?).
  • 10 bales of cotton were captured at Apalachicola, FL, on 30 October 1863.
  • On 20 November 1863, Adams reports the difficulties of properly storing bread on board the ship.
  • Papers contain a legal question and answer essay regarding lawful seizure.
  • Document dated 13 February 1871 reports the distribution of prize shares in the capture of the steamship Circassian on 4 May 1862.
  • Adams, a graduate of Harvard, was partially deaf and weighed only 110 lbs. He was a lawyer by profession.