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Dorence Atwater papers

 Collection
Identifier: RG069_177

Scope and Content

Richard Atwater, Dorence's brother, assembled the collection to document the career of and to right the miscarriage of justice experienced by his brother. A former officer in Dorence's unit, Edward W. Whitaker, assisted Richard in gathering information and artifacts. The bulk of the collection consists of letters between Richard and individuals including Edward Whitaker, Clara Barton, Moetia Atwater, and others. There are also letters between Jason Fenn and Richard about a memorial statue for Dorence in Terryville. In addition, the collection includes personal documents including letters written by Dorence; his discharge papers; printed proceedings from his court martial and his hearing before the U.S. Congress; resolutions of the Connecticut General Assembly; correspondence of Connecticut State Librarian George Godard about the collection Richard was assembling; newspaper clippings; photographs of the family; a pocket mirror carried by Dorence; and Richard's historical sketches of the Atwater family, Dorence's military service, and essays related to various aspects of Dorence's life.

Dates

  • 1863-1913

Language of Materials

The records are in English.

Biographical Note

Dorence Atwater, the son of Henry and Catherine Fenn Atwater, was born in Plymouth, Conn., February 3, 1845. Although under age, in 1862 he successfully enlisted in the first squadron of Connecticut Cavalry (Harris Light Cavalry) which was attached to the 2nd New York Cavalry. He was captured by the Confederates near Hagerstown, Maryland, in July 1863 and was moved among several prisons before his final incarceration at Andersonville Prison in Georgia. After a stay in the hospital, he was selected to maintain the death register for Union soldiers. As a precaution, he made a copy for himself, which he carried in his bag when he was released on February 1, 1865, for exchange one month later.

The War Department learned of this unauthorized copy of the death register and demanded it be turned over to the government. Atwater frequently requested a copy for himself but was repeatedly denied. With the aid of Clara Barton, he procured permission to erect wooden markers for the dead at Andersonville, and while he had the death register in his possession, he took it home with him. Atwater was convicted in a court martial and sentenced to hard labor, from which he was eventually pardoned. In 1868 he was named consul to the Seychelles Island and later to Tahiti where he married Princess Moetia Simon in 1875. Atwater died November 26, 1910, in San Francisco and was buried two years later in Tahiti.

Extent

1 cubic foot

Abstract

Dorence Atwater served in the first squadron of Connecticut Cavalry (Harris Light Cavalry) which was attached to the 2nd New York Cavalry. Dorence was captured by the Confederates near Hagerstown, Maryland, in July 1863 and was incarcerated at Andersonville Prison in Georgia. He was selected to maintain the death register for Union soldiers. As a precaution, he made a copy for himself and turned it over to the United States government upon his release. He later would request a copy of it repeatedly but was denied. Dorence with the aid of Clara Barton procured permission to erect wooden markers for the dead at Andersonville using the death register which he then took home. Atwater for taking the register home was convicted in a court martial and sentenced to hard labor, from which he was eventually pardoned. In 1868 he was named consul to the Seychelles Island and later to Tahiti where he married Princess Moetia Simon in 1875. Richard Atwater, Dorence's brother, assembled the collection to document the career of and to right the miscarriage of justice experienced by his brother. A former officer in Dorence's unit, Edward W. Whitaker, assisted Richard in gathering information and artifacts. The bulk of the collection consists of letters between Richard and individuals including Edward Whitaker, Clara Barton, Moetia Atwater, Jason Fenn, George Godard, and others.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in roughly chronological order.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Richard Atwater to the Connecticut State Library in 1913.

Related Material

Researchers may also want to review petitions to the General Assembly to restore Atwater's forfeited rights, General Assembly Papers, 1821-1870, RG 002, Box 113, Folders 14 and 15.

Processing Information

Processed by Lizette Pelletier and Barbara Austen in 2017.

Title
RG 069:177, Dorence Atwater Papers
Subtitle
Inventory
Author
Finding aid prepared by Barbara Austen.
Date
2017
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the Connecticut State Library Repository

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