David Gilmer Watts and Clara Watts papers
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David Gilmer Watts and Clara Watts papers

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center. 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, GA 30305. 404.814.4040. reference@atlantahistorycenter.com
Creator: Watts, Clara, 1836-1884
Creator: Watts, David Gilmer, 1829-1864
Title: David Gilmer Watts and Clara Watts papers
Dates: Bulk, 1862-1864
Dates: 1855- 1889
Quantity: 1.25 linear ft. (2 document cases, 1 oversized box)
Identification: ahc.MSS248

Biographical/Historical Note

David Gilmer Watts (1829-1864), referred to primarily as Gilmer, was born in Madison Ohio. Clarrisa C. Eames (1836-1884), commonly referred to as Clara, was born in Vermont. Gilmer married Clara in 1856 and the two settled in La Salle County, Illinois and had two children, Alpha and Walter. Gilmer was a teacher before joining the Union Army in 1862. After Gilmer enlisted, Clara also taught. In April 1863, Clara moved to Sandoval, Marion County, Illinois to live with Gilmer’s parents.

Gilmer enlisted as a private in Company B of the 88th Illinois Infantry in 1862. He fought in the Battle of Perryville, and on December 31, 1862 was wounded in the Battle of Stone’s River in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and taken prisoner. While a prisoner, he was sent to a hospital in Annapolis, Maryland where he stayed from January 28 until March 11, 1863. From Annapolis he travelled to Benton Barracks in Missouri, where he stayed until June 2, 1863. Watts was freed in an exchange of prisoners and fought in battles in Chattanooga, and later in the Atlanta Campaign. He was killed during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain on June 19, 1864.

Around April 1864 Clara moved to Normal, McLean County, Illinois to study for a teaching certificate. She remained in Normal after Gilmer’s death. In 1870 Alpha, and likely Walter, stayed in the Soldiers’ Orphans Home in Normal. Clara died in 1884. Alpha married Randolph Zeph in 1877, and they lived in Pontiac, Livingston County, Illinois and had two children, Walter (b. 1879), and Olive (b. 1883). Walter Watts moved to Gainesville, Florida in November 1882.

Scope and Content Note

This collection primarily consists of letters written between Clara and Gilmer Watts between August 1862 and July 1864. Her letters deal with her management of the family and her new occupation as a teacher. Clara’s letters also include her encouragement of Gilmer’s desire to become a preacher, as well as occasionally soliciting his advice. Gilmer writes about his sicknesses, poor rations, sporadic pay, and vagaries of camp life. His letters document his unit’s movements through Kentucky and Indiana, and also include descriptions of his time as a prisoner of war in Maryland and Missouri. After his release, Gilmer rejoined his unit and continued to write about the hard edged life of a soldier in camp until his death.

In addition to Gilmer’s and Clara’s correspondence, which include several letters written in 1855, the collection contains two separate death notices for Gilmer; currency; his enlistment papers; and three small books entitled The Soldier’s Hymn Book, A Rainy Day in Camp, and The Roll Call or How will You Answer It. Gilmer also kept a journal in which he recorded his army movements as well as a list of letters he received and sent, a list of addresses, and a list of money accounts. The remainder of the collection includes correspondence, poetry, and other Zeph family documents.

Index Terms

Atlanta Campaign, 1864
Illinois--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives
United States. Army. Illinois Infantry Regiment, 88th (1862-1865)

General Notes

America's Turning Point: Documenting the Civil War Experience in Georgia received support from a Digitizing Historical Records grant awarded to the Atlanta History Center, Georgia Historical Society, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the Digital Library of Georgia by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Administrative Information

Existence and Location of Copies

Transcriptions of all correspondence in the collection are available in box 2.

Preferred Citation

David Gilmer Watts and Clara Watts papers, MSS 248, James G. Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, 2009.

Description Control

Collection processed in 2009.


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote or reproduce must be secured from the Kenan Research Center.

Container List




11Letters, August- September 1862 View online.
2Letters, October- December 1862 View online.
3Letters, January- March 1863 View online.
4Letters, April- May 1863 View online.
5Letters, June-July 1863 View online.
6Letters, August- September 1863 View online.
7Letters, October- December 1863 View online.
8Letters, January- March 1864 View online.
9Letters, April- September 1864 View online.
10Gilmer’s Soldier Papers View online.
11Post 1864 Letters Involving the Watts Family, 1864- View online.
12Letters from 1855, 1855 View online.
13Walter J. Watts’s Poetry View online.



21Empty Envelopes View online.
2Zeph Family Documents View online.



MSS OS Box 3.2951Oversized Letters, August 1862-April 1863 View online.
2Oversized Letters, May 1863-May 1864, June 1888 View online.