Mar 162011

Below: Octavia Van Dorn Sulivane, brother of Earl Van Dorn, daughter of Peter Van Dorn.

During the Civil War, she wrote a long, fascinating letter to her sister Jane—an annotated transcript of the letter is available here in three formats: HTML (best for on-line viewing, 84 Kbytes plus pictures), PDF (best for printing, 93 Kbytes), and Microsoft Word (95 Kbytes). The transcription is comprehensively footnoted by Edgar Crisler, a descendant.

The letter, written from Octavia in Maryland to Jane in Mississippi, recounts the difficulty of getting letters through the lines and blockades. She writes in detail about the Military Court of Inquiry into charges of incompetence against her beloved brother Earl; she describes her trip home from the trial where she shared a railway car with “the President” (i.e., Jefferson Davis), whom she overheard saying that it was the most complete vindication he had ever seen. Octavia lists the many friends and relatives killed in the war, most by battle, many by disease.

The annotation on the transcript reads: The letter is from the Murray J. Smith Collection in the U. S. Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. It is a transcription of the handwritten letter. The annotations to the letter were written 12-16 July 1993 by Edgar Crisler (deceased) of Port Gibson, Mississippi, who located the letter. None of the misprints, misspellings, or antiquated spellings were altered. An error in the numbering of the footnotes was corrected.