The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Shreve (William Price) Papers
Collection Number: M29
Dates: June 1861 - January 1864
Volume: .70 cu. ft.
William Price Shreve's date of birth is unknown. He lived in Salem, Massachusetts, shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War, and on June 4, 1861, he enlisted in the 9th Regiment, New York State Militia. On October 4, 1861, he was appointed to quarter master sergeant of Company H, 2nd Regiment, United States Sharpshooters. Shreve remained in this capacity until his promotion to aide-de-camp on the staff of Colonel Hiram Berdan in the winter of 1862. Shreve subsequently served as Assistant Commissary of Musters for the First Division, Third Army Corps, Commissary of Musters, and Acting Assistant Adjutant General of the 10th Army Corps. He concluded the war as Commissary of Musters for the 25th Army Corps, the first African-American corps formed in the Union Army. Shreve was associated with the sharpshooters throughout most of the war.
Company H, 2nd Regiment, United States Sharpshooters, were recruited by H.R. Stroughton at West Randolph, Vermont(?) on November 9, 1861. Consisting of ninety-one officers and men from Vermont, Company H served in Berdan's brigade under various division commanders in the First, Second, and Third Union corps. The 1st and 2nd Regiments, were used as skirmishers who preceded the infantry, and their main tasks were to eliminate Confederate sharpshooters, to reconnoiter, and to determine battle lines and enemy troop movements.
The 2nd Regiment fought in the eastern theater of war, which consisted mostly of activities in northern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. The unit saw action in the battles of South Mountain, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and the Second Battle of Bull Run. Company H received minimal losses throughout the war and only suffered substantial defeat at the battle of Hatcher's Run in February, 1865. On the 25th of that month, Company H disbanded and became part of the Fourth Vermont Regiment.
This collection consists of four series of materials relating to William P. Shreve's military career in the American Civil War dating between June, 1861, and February, 1864. The first series is the original three-hundred and seventy page handwritten memoir of William Price Shreve. Written chronologically, the memoir covers Shreve's experiences in the 2nd Regiment, United States Sharpshooters. The account, written in 1875, is dated by year, and sometimes month and year, and includes letters from a daily diary kept by Shreve during the war.
The memoir focuses on the more important events that occurred to Shreve, and is not a day-to-day recollection of the war. He describes his time in Washington, D.C., his experience in meeting President Abraham Lincoln and his sojourns at a number of different Union camps during the war. He elaborates on the monotony of daily camp life and the personalities of the troops in his regiment. In addition, he discusses the generals under whom he served, namely George B. McClellan, John Sedgwick, John Pope, Ambrose Burnside, and Joseph Hooker. Interestingly, Shreve makes no mention of Ulysses Grant.
Shreve expresses his views on a number of political issues surrounding the war. He did not feel that the war was about slavery, but rather about preserving the Union. He believed that the North would ultimately win the war, and that General McClellan should not be replaced as commander of the Army of the Potomac. In fact, he responded in disgust when he learned that Burnside had succeeded McClellan.
Shreve either observed or participated in a number of major battles that occurred between the middle of 1861 and the early part of 1864. Second Bull Run was the first major battle Shreve witnessed, followed by J.E.B. Stuart's raid around McClellan's army, and finally Antietam. The battle of Chancellorsville marks the first engagement in which Shreve actually saw combat. He describes this battle, as well as the battle of Gettysburg, in great detail. Fighting at Bristoe Station and Kelly's Ford are the remaining activities he mentions.
The second series consists of a photocopy of the original memoir, and the third series is a typed transcript that is more legible than the original. However, the transcript contains numerous typographical errors and the researcher should refer to the photocopy of the original for accuracy. The original is very fragile and should only be examined with the aid of the archivist or other library staff.
The fourth series is a group of secondary materials relating to the 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters and the battles in which this regiment fought. These materials are photocopies from various Civil War sources.