Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Harding, J.L. mss., 1861-1864, are Civil War letters of John Lucas Harding, 1841-1865, who served in the Indiana infantry, Seventh Regiment, Company I, which fought first with the Army of Virginia and later with the Army of the Potomac.

John Lucas Harding was born March 5, 1841, in Wayne Township, Marion County, Indiana, the son of Laban and Jemima (McCrary) Harding. He was mustered into the infantry at Indianapolis on September 3, 1861, for three years' service, appointed corporal and later sergeant in the ranks, and mustered out on September 20, 1864. He participated in the engagements at Port Republic, South Mountain (Antietam), Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania Courthouse, and the Battle of the Wilderness.

In the letters to his family Harding disclaimed having received any serious injury and did not mention having been wounded at Chancellorsville. In Pictoral and Biographical Memoirs; Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana (Goodspeed, Chicago, l893) pages 365-366 it is stated, however, that he was wounded by a shell at Chancellorsville and that he died from the effects of the same at his home in November, 1865. He was single.

The letters in this collection were written by John Lucas Harding to his parents, Laban and Jemima, to his sisters, Almira, Mary, and Nancy, and to his brothers, Samuel and William Newton, and by members of his family, Samuel, Laban, and Almira, to John Lucas. The collection includes one letter written by a lieutenant in Harding's company, William Pugh, to Laban Harding.

The letters contain comments about the heavy boots of "french kip" requested from home, a new variety of Virginia wheat, a military hospital at Claryville, Maryland, the Emancipation Proclamation, desertion from the army, the behavior of certain officers as well as reports of the battles in which he participated. In addition he frequently included references to other soldiers in his company, their daily routines, and state of health. He gave details about the death of Joseph A. Craig, killed accidentally near Baltimore in l863. After the war he planned to become a sutler (trader or storekeeper) and/or perhaps attend college at Greencastle on a scholarship.

Occasionally in his letters he referred to brother "Nute" or "Nuit" and addressed one letter to him. This was William Newton Harding, born in 1852, who graduated from Hanover College, became a law partner of Alfred P. Hovey in 1880, served as prosecuting attorney of Marion County, 1884-1886, and was candidate for mayor of Indianapolis on the Republican ticket in 1897 but was defeated. He married Mary E. McConnell in 1882, and died Mar. 8, 1924.

An inventory is available.

Collection size: 83 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.