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Civil War letters (1861-1865) of James Kerr Proudfit, together with Proudfit and Howard Family papers

Call Number: RH MS 312


A collection of seventy-six bound Civil War letters written from 1861 to 1865 between James Kerr Proudfit of the Twelfth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment and his family members, together with related papers and published documents by and about Proudfit, the Proudfit family, and the Howard family.


  • Creation: 1801 - 1965


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of James Kerr Proudfit

James Kerr Proudfit was born in Argyle (Washington County), New York on July 24, 1831, to James and Maria Amelia Jane (Kerr) Proudfit. Following the death of his father in 1839, he moved with his family to Brookfield in Wisconsin Territory, and then to Delafield (Waukesha County), Wisconsin in 1847. He married Emelie Theresa Kreug at Delafield in 1855. From April 20 to August 21, 1861, Proudfit served as second lieutenant in Wisconsin’s First Volunteer Infantry Regiment. On September 27, 1861, he was mustered into service as first lieutenant and adjutant in Wisconsin’s Twelfth Volunteer Infantry Regiment. In the spring of 1862, Proudfit’s regiment was stationed at various locations in Kansas, including Fort Leavenworth, Fort Scott, Lawrence, and Fort Riley.

The Twelfth Wisconsin Regiment left Kansas on May 29, and by late 1862 had joined General Grant’s Mississippi Campaign. In 1863, Proudfit's regiment served at the Siege of Vicksburg and at the Siege of Jackson before being ordered to Natchez. In the course of his military service, Proudfit was promoted to lieutenant colonel, to colonel and, on March 13, 1865, to brevet brigadier general. He was mustered out on July 16, 1865, and received final discharge on August 9, 1865.

Following the Civil War, Proudfit was Assistant Adjutant General and Adjutant General of Wisconsin (1865-1868); first Department Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, Madison, Wisconsin (1866); and U.S. Surveyor General of New Mexico (1872-1876). In 1877, Proudfit settled in Wyandotte (now Kansas City), Kansas. He died in 1917.


.5 Linear Feet (1 document case + 1 oversize folder, 1 folder)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The James Kerr Proudfit Collection contains a bound volume of seventy-six Civil War letters written between James Kerr Proudfit and his family members from 1861 to 1865, during Proudfit’s service in Wisconsin’s Twelfth Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Seventy-one of the letters are from Proudfit himself—most written to his wife Emelie, but many also written to his sister Julia (Mrs. D. Worthington). Proudfit's earliest letters are from Kansas. In his letters from battle posts in the South, he describes the war's devastation, conditions of the soldiers, the state of Union Army leadership, and his devotion to the Union cause. His final letter of April 21, 1865 celebrates the war’s end and mourns the death of President Lincoln.

Of the five letters written to Proudfit, three are from his wife, one from his sister Julia, and one from her husband. Included are transcriptions of thirty-nine of the letters. Also included are a handwritten autobiographical sketch by Proudfit, a military history of General William Sherman authored by Proudfit, published and unpublished biographical sketches of Proudfit, biographical descriptions of other Proudfit and related Howard family members, a copy of the 1801 will of Thomas Cornelius Howard, and a copy of a published history of the Twelfth Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, inscribed by James Kerr Proudfit to his grandson.

A genealogical chart of the Proudfit family is at RH MS R39.

Photographs of James Kerr Proudfit (an original and one copy of a group portrait of Proudfit, his son, and his grandson), are at RH MS-P 312.

Physical Location

RH MS 312

Physical Location


Physical Location

RH MS-P 312

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Ellen P. Williams.

Guide to the James Kerr Proudfit Collection
Civil War letters (1861-1865) of James Kerr Proudfit, together with Proudfit and Howard Family papers
Finding aid prepared by mh, 2004; Finding aid encoded by mh, 2004
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in <language encodinganalog="language">English.</language>
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
James Kerr Proudfit Collection, Kansas Collection, RH MS 312, RH MS R39, and RH MS-P 312, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States