Traveling Preacher, Williamson S. Wright, 1863 Diary Referencing Gettysburg, Plus Photographs and Related Wright Family Correspondence
A collection of over 100 items spanning three generations of the Wright family including Williamson S. Wright's 1863 diary; other family diaries; two family CDV albums containing 80+ cartes, and 7 loose photographs; pocket-sized books; and other documents. Ca 1863-1947.
In his photograph, Williamson Smith Wright is the picture of piety. His styled hair and young face show a boy, not yet a man, attempting to look mature. His snappy vest bears a cross above his peacefully gripped hands. Wright was born in 1840 in Lafayette, IN. He was determined to become a minister like his father and grandfather. Carrying his Bible, Wright traveled most of his life from Indiana to Pennsylvania and from Texas to Oregon spreading the word of God. Fresh out of the Western Theological Seminary, the 23 year-old Wright carried scripture to the battlefield. He wrote in his 1863 diary:
This morning Bill White and I went out to Camp and after much deliberation put our names on Capt. Phillips of Co. C. roll. The re'gt is independent, to remain in discipline only during emergency, to be dismissed then, liable however to other calls.
White and Wright spent a few days in camp. They drilled and met other men in the regiment. His few months of service seemed like a grand tour, rather than military service. His regiment was charged to defend the city of Pittsburgh. On July 7, he wrote down exciting news:
Gen. Lee with an immense army has invaded Penna and is near Harrisburg. The intention is to transfer the battlefield from Va. to Pa. Today we have rec. the news that after an awful battle, 3 days long, his entire army was finally defeated on the 4th and that now they are retreating completely demoralized. Gen. Meade was our Commander. It was by far the bloodiest battle of the war and the most decisive. We have also just rec. the news that Vicksburg with 27,000 prisoners had surrendered that same day. A glorious 4th.
The next day Wright returned to camp. He wrote:
To my great surprise I learned that the boys had nearly all been dismissed and that the 15th was virtually broken up. The battle of Gettysburg has been so successful for us as that the rebels have been completely swept from the State, therefore it is no longer necessary for 3 mos. State men, and there was on this account a general feeling in the re'gt against being sworn in.
The Army dismissed Wright of his military duties. He traveled to Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania filling empty positions as pastor. In 1884 he and his wife, Annie M. Davis, moved to Texas. He stayed there for ten years until he moved to Oregon and founded the Portland Gospel Mission.
While the majority of the CDVs included in the archive are portraits of family and friends (some identified) the albums contain a Bendann Bros. carte of Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy, and two views of unidentified Union officers, one showing a major or lieut. col. by Morse & Peaslee, Army Photographers, Dept. Cumberland, and the other showing a 2nd lieut. by Lockhart, Bryon, OH. Accompanied by three cartes capturing exterior views of an Allegheny, PA residence, one showing a family posed on the front porch.
The remainder of the archive includes a Bible inscribed as a gift from Wright's dear Grandmother in 1848, family photographs, many with personalized inscriptions or identifications, an 1860 autograph book signed by Wright's classmates, a pocket dictionary, and a 1901 diary written by Rev. W.S. Wright while in Oregon.
Many of the items are in good condition. The diary has some staining but does not effect its legibility.