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Diary September 1st - November 30th, 1862, 1862-09-01 - 1862-11-30


Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

The Nathaniel Wilson Leighton Papers consist of diaries, correspondence, memorabilia, and biographical information. The material primarily relates to his work as a surgeon during the United States Civil War from 1861-1864. He was a member of the Seventy-second Regiment of the New York Volunteers, and then was transferred to the One Hundred and Seventy-third Regiment. His earlier diaries primarily discuss the weather and his desire to go home and be with his wife. As the time goes on and Leighton's regiment enters combat his diaries become considerably more detailed. They describe the movement of the regiments, battles, and medical issues he had to deal with. The correspondence, primarily letters between Leighton and his wife, provides information about the Civil War but more closely documents the relationship between the two. Leighton frequently expresses his desire to return home and offers advice for the care of their daughter, who was born while he was with his regiment. Leighton's wife, Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Purinton, also expresses her desire to be with her husband and offers him details about their child's progress. The papers also contain a significant amount of memorabilia relating to his service in the United States Civil War, including insignia, a note regarding resolutions passed upon Leighton's resignation, recommendations for Leighton to be accepted as a medical volunteer, and other documents. Of note is "An Alphabetical List of the Battles of the War of the Rebellion," in which Leighton marked numerous battles that he participated in. These battles include the Second Battle of Bull Run, Virginia (August 30, 1862), Manassas, Virginia (November 5, 1862), and the Siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana (May 27 to July 9, 1863), among others. Several photographs of Leighton along with a number of photographs and other images of battlegrounds are included in the collection.


  • 1862-09-01 - 1862-11-30

Conditions Governing Access



From the Collection: 1.71 Linear Feet (1 full Hollinger and 1 specialty boxes)

Language of Materials



This diary begins with Leighton camped near near Centreville VA, where he recounts a violent storm and bemoans the misery of wounded soldiers left on the battlefields. His regiment soon moves through Fairfax, VA and then finally stops close to Alexandria, VA. Since they appear to be settled for the near future, the recently-married Leighton arranges to bring his wife Lizzie to Alexandria and then to semi-permanent camp housing near the rest of the battalion (referred to in the diary at one point as "Camp Comfort"). On September 25 he receives word that he must report to Col. Morton of the 4th regiment "Metropolitan Guard" in New York City, and by October 10 departs VA for Brooklyn, NY with Lizzie in his new role as Surgeon (a promotion). Leighton meticulously records his daily routines including the purchases and costs of clothes, furniture, and hotel stays, visiting friends and colleagues, his frustration with government and army administration "red tape," and trying to secure adequate housing for himself and Lizzie in Brooklyn. He finds his new duties fairly dull, which mostly have to do with approving new recruits. On November 28, the second-last entry in the diary, he receives a letter that the recruiting office is being closed and he must report to camp (presumably in VA) immediately.

Repository Details

Part of the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections Repository

50 College Street
8 Dwight Hall
South Hadley MA 01075-6425 USA