Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Moore, John (1826-1907) [Collection of John B. Moore letters] [Decimalized .01- .30]

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04191 Author/Creator: Moore, John (1826-1907) Place Written: [various places] Type: Header Record Date: 1843-1848 Pagination: 30 letters

This collection of letters was written while John B. Moore taught school in Louisiana and Alabama. Eighteen letters are from John to his sister Mary Moore (2-3, 6-7, 9-11, 15-18, 20-22, 25-27, 29); three letters have notes to both Mary and brother Richard Moore on the same letter (2, 16, 18). Other correspondence involves brother Robert E. Moore (2, 4, 8, 12, 13, 14, 23, 28), and father Garrett Moore (19, 24), with two letters from Irish cousins (12, 14). In these letters he quits teaching school to enter medical school; his brother Robert E. Moore begins teaching on John's contract in Alabama. Many letters describe the social situation (especially Southern women), with comparisons to society at home in Indiana. Refers to the death of father Garrett Moore and care for their mother. Letters from Irish cousins refer to the Irish potato famine. A full inventory is available.

John Moore was born 16 August 1826 in Bloomington, Indiana, the son of Garret Moore and Catherine English. He attended Indiana State University and graduated in 1845, when he taught school in Alabama and Louisiana. He studied medicine at the University of Louisiana, 1848-49, and at the University of the City of New York, 1849-50, graduating in 1850. After an internship at Bellevue Hospital and two years at the New York Dispensary, Moore became an army surgeon in 1853 and was stationed in Fort Myers, Florida, until 1856. After a year in Boston harbor at Fort Independence, he was stationed in at Camp Floyd, Utah, in a governmental attempt to quell difficulties with the Mormons. Field duty at that time, however, was linked to Indian attacks. Moore returned East with the Civil War, assigned to the Marine Hospital in Cincinnati until August 1862. As a newly promoted major, he transferred to the Army of the Potomac, assigned as medical director of the Central Grand division, where he participated in the second battle of Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and in Chancellorsville as medical director of the 5th Corps. In June 1863 Moore became the medical director of the Department of the Tennessee, assisting in the battles of Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, and Sherman's march on Atlanta, where he acted as medical director of the armies of Georgia, Tennessee, and Sherman's army, and was given the rank of lieutenant colonel and then colonel. Moore saw the end of the war in Missouri in St. Louis and Vicksburg. Following the war Moore served two years at Fort Wadsworth and Fort Columbus in New York Harbor then practiced as a surgeon in the New York City area. He married Mrs. Mary Jane Dolan, widow of Michael F. Dolan of Roxbury, MA on 22 June 1873. After short stints in Europe, Virginia, Texas, Washington, and California, he was named Surgeon General in 1886.

18 January 1848: Moore describes the popular game called "Christmas Gift" in which, with the master's tacit agreement, slaves would quietly sneak up to (or into) the house to be the first to announce Christmas had arrived. The "winner" was given a gift. "These are the halcyon days for the negroes, and for weeks before they spend a part of each night in counting on their fingers the number of intervening days. It was truly cheering, and gave a double zest to Christmas, to see the negroes on the evening of the 24th wending their way from the fields to their ‘quarters'; their joyous laughing and singing giving token that the long expected holydays had commenced. They think it a wonderful thing to catch ones Christmas gift. And accordingly on Christmas morning an hour or two before day sundry ebony faces could be seen peering through the rooms to catch ‘de white folks.' The expression of pleasure and delight visible on the countenances of those who succeed is only equal by the woebegone expression of those who get caught themselves, as I caught one or two by pretending to be asleep until they, with shoes off and a light tread came to my bed to awake me when all of a sudden I roared ‘Christmas gift.' It was amusing to see what dolorous faces they turned away...."

8 July 1848: The slaves have been busy in preparation for an upcoming barbeque "which the planters are accustomed to give them about the 4th of July. Those who are not engaged in the culinary department are busily engaged in furbishing up their sunday clothes, so as to appear at their best at the bounteous feast...Sundry turkeys, ducks and other barnyard fowl...have fared sumptuously ...for the last month...expressly for this occasion...[the slaves] always have one or two days at the 4th, a week at Christmas, and on many plantations a Saturday or two in every month. And many of them make more money during these intervals than some abolitionists, who prate so fondly about their sufferings, ever handle in the course of their lives...."

12 October 1848: Discusses a man killed in a duel "by a young scion of the aristocracy." The latter had been sued after refusing to pay a debt; he considered this an insult, so challenged the litigant, and "met him in the street, and commenced an assault with a whip and when the other attempted to resist he put a pistol to his head and killed him instantly." The killer was apprehended after a "telegraphic description" of him was sent ahead.

19 November 1848: "A man who kills himself for a woman deserves in my opinion but little sympathy. There may be some plausible plea for a lady who terminates her existence from disappointed affection, as she must pine in secret...."

11 December 1848: "Its pretty cold to night & the niggers didnt pick much cotton & I hear the whip quite planely [sic] from the ginhouse. I opine uncle Flecher is warming them. It's a hard sight – but whenever man is enslaved the most severe means must be employed to keep them under. I suppose he had some doz. or so to whip tonight from what he remarked at supper."

15 December 1848: Met a Mr. Fitzsimons, "one of the Irish refugees and a leader in the late rebellion in Ireland," who says "Ireland is not yet conquered ....he thinks O'Brien will get a new trial and be acquitted on a writ of error." [William Smith O'Brien was one of the leaders of the "Famine Rebellion" (also called the Young Irelander Rebellion) of 1848.]

A full inventory is available and linked to this entry.

John Moore (1826-1907) was born in Indiana and taught school in Louisiana and Alabama. After medical school, he became an army surgeon and later served as U.S. Surgeon General.

Order a CopyCitation Guidelines for Online Resources