Uberto Adelbert Burnham Papers, 1853-1928; bulk 1853-1864

Quantity: 2 boxes (1.0 cubic ft.) plus 2 extra-large (EL) folders: EL18; EL27
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Purchase; Howgate, May 1947
Processed By: Fred Bassett, Senior Librarian, Manuscripts & Special Collections, November 2009

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Biographical Note

Uberto Adelbert Burnham, a Civil War soldier and school teacher, was born December 16, 1837, near Homer, Cortland County, New York, the eldest son of Marvin and Caroline Webster Burnham, both of whom were descendants of Revolutionary War soldiers. He was educated at common schools in Homer, and later at the Normal College in Cortland, Cortland County, New York. In the autumn of 1857 he commenced his teaching career at Black Creek, New York, a small hamlet in Allegany County that was home to his uncle Alvin Webster. In 1859 he headed west to take a teaching position in Wapella, Illinois, and most likely took up residence with relatives who lived there at the time. The following school year, he was living and working a few miles to the north at Heyworth, Illinois. During his time in Illinois, he had an opportunity to see Abraham Lincoln while he was running for president. (Forty-four years later he saw the Prince of Wales at the exposition in St. Louis.)

Soon after the Civil War broke out, Burnham returned to New York and enlisted in the 76th New York Volunteers, which was made up of recruits primarily from Cortland County and vicinity.  Records show that he enlisted at the age of 23 on October 4, 1861, mustering in the next day as first sergeant in Company D.  He was promoted to first lieutenant on October 7, 1862, and to quartermaster of the regiment on May 19, 1863. Later he served for a few months as acting assistant quartermaster of the 2nd Brigade. It was reported that he was never off duty (except for two short leaves) until he was honorably discharged from service on December 11, 1864, at Petersburg, Virginia.

Details about the life and career of Uberto Burnham after he was discharged from military service are fairly sparse. Initially, it appears that he returned to Homer, New York, in early 1865, and may have lived there for a few years. The federal census for 1880 shows that Burnham was married with two children and living in Cuba, Allegany County, New York, working as a dry goods merchant. By the 1890s, state and federal census records show Burnham and his family were living in Duluth, Minnesota, where he was employed as a clerk in a feed store. Documents concerning Burnham’s veteran’s pension application (1912-1913) indicate he was living in or near Schenectady, Schenectady County, New York. By 1920, census records and papers in the collection indicate he was living in Cortland, New York, where he probably spent the last years of his life. It has been said that he was the last surviving member of the 76th Regiment at the time of his death on July 3, 1930.

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists chiefly of letters written by Uberto Adelbert Burnham to his parents, Marvin and Caroline Burnham, regarding his career, first as a teacher in rural schools in New York State and Illinois, and then his military service in the 76th New York Infantry Regiment during the Civil War.  There are also several letters in the collection that were written by family, friends, and relatives who were living in Allegany County, New York; Illinois; Iowa; and other places. The letters generally contain news about family and routine chores, but also include comments on matters regarding political, religious, and social sentiments of the time.  In addition, some letters relate the experiences of other family members and friends who were also serving in the armed forces during the Civil War.

Burnham began writing his parents in the autumn of 1857 from Black Creek, a hamlet in Allegany County, New York, where he had taken a job teaching in a one-room schoolhouse. In his letter of November 17, 1857, he recounts the hectic journey by train from Homer to Black Creek, made more difficult by extensive flooding in the Chemung River valley. In subsequent letters, he writes about the teaching profession and what helps to make a teacher succeed. He mentions that his salary at Black Creek was five dollars a week with every other Saturday and holidays off.  In the letter of January 2, 1858, he writes, “Everybody that teaches school ought to have the sympathies of the world … If anybody merits pity and sympathy, it is the teacher.” 

Burnham’s letters contain detailed descriptions of the places in which he lived, including comments on the condition of the land, crops, and the price per acre. After he had moved to Illinois in 1859, he wrote in the letter of October 10 of that year an extensive description of the landscape and type of farming done in Illinois, and compares it with that in New York State.  Making a deal for land appears to have been on his mind as he often wrote about the value and price per acre of land.

Although, Burnham was never actively involved in politics, he was knowledgeable enough to comment on political issues and campaigns of the time. Many of his letters contain lively opinions that indicate his sentiments were clearly with the Republican Party. Living in Illinois at the time the Republican Party nominated Abraham Lincoln as its candidate for president, he wrote in his letter of June 1, 1860, that Lincoln has been seen and heard by most men in the local area and describes “him as tall ungainly ‘ugly’ (homely) fellow ...”  Burnham continues:

“I never was more surprised and disappointed when I heard of his nomination. Lincoln may be honest and capable, but he is nothing extra as near as I can learn. They call him here: ‘Old Abe’ and ‘Honest old Abe’.”

Despite these misgivings, Burnham cast his very first vote in a presidential election for Lincoln.

Letters written by Burnham while he was serving in the army during the Civil War provide a detailed narrative of his activities and experiences. The story began in December 1861 when he wrote about reporting to Albany, Albany County, New York, to muster into service with the 76th New York Volunteers.  From there he was sent to New York City, where he camped briefly in Central Park and then at Riker’s Island. By early February 1862 Burnham was writing from Fort Slocum (Washington, D.C.), where his regiment was garrisoned for much of the winter and spring. Letters written during this time comment on camp life, drill, troop morale, and disease and sickness among troops. In his letter of May 10, 1862, he wrote: “Saturday is given us that we may clean our clothes and our guns, that we may be ready for inspection on Sunday.” In the same letter, he expresses his displeasure regarding the poor morale of his fellow soldiers, particularly those in his own company.

The wartime letters of Burnham are often filled with anecdotes about what he had seen and heard. One letter (June 8, 1862) comments on the ladies of Fredericksburg and their attitude toward the American flag. He also comments frequently on the abilities of his commanders, particularly his own, General Abner Doubleday. In the letter of July 20, 1862, he mentions that Doubleday and his staff are perceived as being radical abolitionists. In the same letter, he says “Our colonel [Nelson Greene] has the confidence of all ... [and] is a well-educated man ... I believe he is well qualified to be a general.”  When General George McClellan was relieved of his command, Burnham mentioned in his letter of January 1, 1863, the men were “clamorous for his restoration to command the army.” In the same letter, he describes camp life and gives a vivid picture of the type of huts men built to shelter themselves from winter weather. In his letter of March 16, 1863, he mentions the rate of pay for officers and the sectional system into which the army is divided.  

The 76th Regiment was involved in several major battles and campaigns during the war. His letter of September 6, 1862, discusses the 2nd Battle of Bull Run that had been fought a few days earlier from August 26 to 29, in which his regiment lost seventy men including two officers.  (Burnham wrote a history of this battle, noting that the men of the 76th Regiment “were equal to the regulars.”)  On September 18, 1862, Burnham wrote, “We whipped the Rebels bad on Boonesborough [sic] Mountain” while describing the engagement between his company and Confederate troops during the Battle of Antietam. The letter of December 28, 1862, tells of having been under constant artillery fire during the battle at Fredericksburg: “… some of our men escaped almost [being hit] by a hairs breath only.”  Letters written on July 13, 26, and 30, 1863, discussed the Battle of Gettysburg and the heavy casualties suffered by the 76th Regiment.   In his letter of July 31, he comments on the draft riots: “Not a soldier but would shoot a rioter with as little compunction as he would a rebel.”

After Burnham was appointed quartermaster, he was much less engaged in front-line action, but continued to have many experiences to write about. For example, in the letter of March 28, 1864, he mentions General James S. Wadsworth taking command of the division and remarks “Old Waddy as the boys familiacly [sic] call him is known and liked by all.” In the same letter he tells about General Ulysses S. Grant setting up headquarters in Culpepper, Virginia, and that he had met General Grant in person. Finally, in his letter of November 25, 1964, he wrote that he would soon be discharged and anticipated being home by Christmas. 

The letters written by family members, relatives, and friends are also noteworthy for historical content. Alvin B. Webster, the brother of Caroline Burnham, who operated a general store in Black Creek, New York, wrote several letters to his sister with news about the family, business affairs, and religious sentiments. Similarly, another brother, J.S. Webster, wrote a few letters about his experiences of living in Wapella, Illinois. Later, the letters of J.S. Webster indicate he was serving in the army during the Civil War. Likewise, the experiences of military service during the war are detailed in letters of Byron R. Carpenter, who was quite likely a close friend of the Burnham family.

Ancillary to Uberto Burnham’s letters are his military service records, which include enrollment and discharge certificates; commissions of appointment; veteran pension papers; papers related to veterans of the 76th New York Regiment; and four letters written by Confederate Army soldiers that were found by Burnham in the aftermath of the battle at Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia.

Box and Folder List

Box Folder Description



Correspondence, 1853-1928



Letters of Uberto A. Burnham to Marvin and Caroline Burnham, 1857-1859  

  1. Black Creek, [N.Y.], November 16, 1857
  2. Black Creek, [N.Y.], December 13, 1857
  3. Black Creek, [N.Y.], January 2, 1858
  4. Black Creek, [N.Y.], January 30, 1858
  5. Black Creek, [N.Y.], February 12, 1858
  6. Pecatonica, [Ill.], July 4, 1859
  7. Pecatonica, [Ill.], July 24, 1859
  8. Wapella, [Ill.], August 22, 1859
  9. Wapella, [Ill.], October 10, 1859
  10. Wapella, [Ill.], October 25, 1859
  11. Wapella, [Ill.], December 3, 1859



Letters of Uberto A. Burnham to Marvin and Caroline Burnham, 1860

  1. Wapella, [Ill.], February 4, 1860
  2. Wapella, [Ill.], February 5, 1860
  3. Wapella, [Ill.], April 7, 1860
  4. Wapella, [Ill.], April 8, 1860
  5. Wapella, [Ill.], June 1, 1860
  6. Wapella, [Ill.], June 30, 1860
  7. Wapella, [Ill.], August 11, 1860
  8. Heyworth, [Ill.], October 9, 1860
  9. Heyworth, [Ill.], November 4, 1860
  10. Heyworth, [Ill.], December 22, 1860



Letters of Uberto A. Burnham to Marvin and Caroline Burnham, 1861

  1. Heyworth, [Ill.], January 9, 1861
  2. Heyworth, [Ill.], February 16, 1861
  3. Heyworth, [Ill.], March 17, 1861
  4. Albany, [N.Y.], June 8, 1861
  5. Camp Rathbone, [Albany, N.Y.], December 29, 1861
  6. [Washington, D.C.], 1861



Letters of Uberto A. Burnham to Marvin and Caroline Burnham, January-July 1862

  1. New York, [N.Y.], January 20, 1862
  2. New York City, Central Park Barracks, January 19, 1862
  3. Rikers Island, [N.Y.], January 27, 1862
  4. Washington, D.C., February, 2, 1862
  5. Meridian Hill, [Washington, D.C.], February 19,1862
  6. Fort Slocum, [Washington, D.C.], March 11, 1862
  7. Fort Slocum, [Washington, D.C.], April 2, 1862
  8. Fort Slocum, [Washington, D.C.], April 10, 1962
  9. Fort Slocum, [Washington, D.C.], May 4, 1862
  10. Fort Slocum, [Washington, D.C.], May 10, 1862
  11. Fort Slocum, [Washington, D.C.], May 20, 1862
  12. Fredericksburg, Va., June 8, 1862
  13. Fredericksburg, Va., June 15, 1862
  14. Fredericksburg, Va., June 24, 1862
  15. Camp opposite Fredericksburg, July 6, 1862
  16. Camp opposite Fredericksburg, Va., July 20, 1862
  17. Fredericksburg, Va., July 27, 1862



Letters of Uberto A. Burnham to Marvin and Caroline Burnham, August-December 1862

  1. Camp near Cedar Mountain, [Va.], August 8, 1862
  2. In the field near Rappahannock, Va., August 21, [1862]
  3. Upton Hill, [Va.], September 6, 1862
  4. On the battlefield near Petersville, Md., September 18, 1862 (Antietam)
  5. Sharpsburg, Md., September 28, 1862
  6. Camp near Sharpsburg, Md., October 1, 1862
  7. Camp near Sharpsburg, Md., October 6, 1862
  8. Camp near Sharpsburg, Md., October 11, 1862
  9. Camp near Bakersville, Md., October 22, 1862
  10. Camp near Warrenton, Va., November 8, 1862
  11. Camp near Fayettesville, Va., November 16, 1862
  12. Aqua Creek, Va., December [?], 1962
  13. Camp near Pratts Point, Va., December 28, 1862



Letters of Uberto A. Burnham to Marvin and Caroline Burnham, January-May 1863

  1. Camp near Pratts Point, Va., January 1, 1863
  2. Camp near Pratts Point, Va., January 17, 1863
  3. Camp near Pratts Point, Va., January 27, 1863
  4. Camp near Pratts Point, Va., February 9, 1863
  5. Camp near Pratts Point, Va., February 16, 1863
  6. Culpepper C[ourt] H[ouse], Va., February 28, 1863
  7. Camp near Pratts Point, Va., March 1, 1863
  8. Camp 76th N.Y.S.V., March 5, 1863
  9. Camp 76th N.Y.S.V., March 6, 1863
  10. Camp 76th N.Y.S.V. near Pratts Point, Va., March 5, 1863
  11. Camp 76th N.Y.S.V., March 22, 1863
  12. Wagon Train, 1st Div. 1st A. O., April 29, 1863
  13. Camp 1st Div. Wagon Train, May 23, 1863



Letters of Uberto A. Burnham to Marvin and Caroline Burnham, June-December 1863

  1. Camp 76th N.Y.S.V., June 22, 1876
  2. Camp near Middletown, Md., June 28, 1863
  3. Camp near Middletown, Md., July 13, 1863
  4. Warrenton Junction, Va., July 26, 1863
  5. Camp at Warrenton Junction, Va., July 31, 1863
  6. Benton Station, Va., August 7, 1863
  7. Benton Station, Va., August 11, 1863
  8. Benton Station, Va., August 16, 1863
  9. Benton Station, Va., August 24, 1863
  10. Camp 76th N.Y.S.V., September 8, 1863
  11. Camp near Culpepper, [Va.], September 18, 1863
  12. Thoroughfare Gap, Va., October 22, 1863
  13. Benton Station, Va., October 29, 1863
  14. Rappahannock Station, Va., November 17, 1863
  15. H.Q. 76th N.Y.S.V., December 31, 1863



Letters of Uberto A. Burnham to Marvin and Caroline Burnham, 1864

  1. H.Q. 1st Brigade, 1st Div., 1st A.C., January 13, 1864
  2. H.Q. 1st Brigade, 1st Div., 1st A.C., January 13, 1864 (to mother)
  3. H.Q. 1st Brigade, 1st Div., 1st A.C., January 27. 1864
  4. Culpepper, C[ourt] H[ouse], Va. February 25, 1864
  5. Camp 76th N.Y.S.V., March 11, 1864
  6. Camp near Culpepper, C[ourt] H[ouse], Va., March 28, 1864
  7. Camp 76th N.Y.S.V., April 21, 1864
  8. Camp near Fredericksburg, Va., May 14, 1864
  9. Camp near City Point, Va. June 19, 1864
  10. Near City Point, Va., June 21, 1864
  11. Near City Point, Va., June 26, 1864
  12. Near City Point, Va., July 6, 1864
  13. Near City Point, Va., August 10, 1864 (to father)
  14. Near City Point, Va., August 10, 1864 (to mother)
  15. Near Petersburg, Va., August 20, 1864
  16. Near Petersburg, Va., September 8, 1864
  17. Near Yellow Tavern, Va., September 16, 1864
  18. Near Petersburg, October 11, 1864
  19. Near City Point, [Va.], October 27, 1863
  20. [Washington, D.C.], November 27, 1864



Letters of Byron R. Carpenter to family, 1859-1863

  1. Pittstown, Penn., October 30, 1859
  2. Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Md., September 17, 1861
  3. Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Md., February 22, 1862
  4. H.Q. 3rd Infantry Regiment, Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Md., March 26, 1862
  5. Camp near Suffolk, Va., June 9,1862
  6. Camp Arthur, Suffolk, Va., September 3, 1863
  7. Fortress Monroe, Va., December 19, [1862]
  8. Fort Monroe, Va., January 18, 1863
  9. Camp 5th N.Y. Cavalry, April 4, 1863
  10. Fortress Monroe, Va., April 17, 1863



Letters of George P. Morrison and Cordelia A. to Uberto Burnham, 1854-1856

  1. Groton, [N.Y.], June 9, 1854
  2. Groton, [N.Y.], June 18, 1854
  3. Groton, [N.Y.], January 20, 1855
  4. Groton, [N.Y.], April 20, 1856



Letters of Alvin B. Webster to Marvin and Caroline Burnham, 1853-1864

  1. Black Creek, [N.Y.], May 10, 1853
  2. Black Creek, [N.Y.], April 11. 1854
  3. New York, [N.Y.[, April 20, 1857
  4. Black Creek, [N.Y.], October 12, 1857
  5. Black Creek, [N.Y.], August 29, 1860
  6. Cuba, [N.Y.], August 4, 1864
  7. Black Creek, N.Y., November 27, 1864
  8. [Cuba, N.Y.], November 29, 1864



Letters of J.S. Webster to Caroline Burnham, 1861-1864

  1. Wapella, [Ill.], March 2, 1861 (to sister)
  2. Wapella, [Ill.], March 2, 1861 (to brother)
  3. Wapella, [Ill.], November 6, 1861
  4. Wapella, [Ill.], December 14, 1861
  5. Wapella, [Ill.], January 12, 1862
  6. Elmira, [N.Y.], January 22, 1863
  7. Camp Bayard, April 2, 1863
  8. Bealeton Station, Va., May 24, 1863
  9. Camp near Bealeton, [Va.], July 27, 1863
  10. Camp in the woods, September 24, 1863
  11. Camp Stoneman, November 16, 1863
  12. Camp Stoneman Hospital, November 27, 1863
  13. Camp Stoneman Hospital, December 14, 1863
  14. Camp Stoneman Hospital, January 11, 1864
  15. Camp Stoneman Hospital, June 14, 1864



Letters to Marvin and Caroline Burnham from various persons (mostly friends and relatives), 1858-1862

  1. Sophia [?], [Jefferson, N.Y.], to Marvin and Caroline Burnham, December 26, 1858
  2. S.H. Allen, Black Creek, [N.Y.], to Marvin Burnham, December 29, [18]58
  3. Carrie [?], West Jefferson, [N.Y.], to [Caroline] Burnham, November 8, 1859
  4. Sophia [?], to Caroline Burnham, February 10, 1860
  5. Lottie [Charlotte] A. Rounds, Greenfield, [Mass.], to Caroline Burnham, March, 4, 1860
  6. Carrie S. Ball, Syracuse, [N.Y.], to Marvin Burnham, October 1, 1860
  7. [Charlotte] Rounds, Greenfield, Mass., to Caroline Burnham, May 5, 1861
  8. [Charlotte] Rounds, Greenfield, Mass., to Caroline Burnham, September 18, 1861
  9. Sophia [?], North Washington, [N.Y.], to Caroline Burnham, June 1, 1862; with postal cover – RFD cancel
  10. C. H. Blodgett, Petersham, to Caroline Burnham, May 1, 1862
  11. Carrie W. [Rone?] to Caroline Burnham, undated
  12. M.J. Henry, to Marvin Burnham, undated



Burnham family correspondence, ca. 1856-1892 (12 items). Noteworthy:

  1. Letters of James Henry to Uberto Burnham, ca. 1858-1861; Northville, [N.Y.?] and Okaboji, Iowa; discusses politics and current events
  2. Letters of Eugene Burnham to Marvin and Caroline Burnham; Washington, D.C., February 9, 1862; Fredericksburg, [Va.], June 17, 1862; Waterford, Penn., July 21, [186-?]



Correspondence of Uberto Burnham with various persons, ca. 1862-1864 (5 items)



Military Records



Military service records of Uberto Burnham, 1861-1864

  1. Muster-in roll of Uberto A. Burnham as first lieutenant, February 24, 1863
  2. Discharge from rank of first sergeant for promotion in rank to lieutenant, February 20, 1863
  3. Certificate of discharge of Uberto Burnham, December 1, 1864



  1. Commission of appointment as first sergeant, October 4, 1861
  2. Commission of appointment as first lieutenant, February 7, 1863
  3. Commission of appointment as first lieutenant – quartermaster, June 1, 1863
  4. Special Order No. 86: H.Q. 2nd Brigade: Appointment as acting commissary of subsistence of 2nd Brigade, March 27, 1864
  5. Order: Appointment as assistant quartermaster of 2nd Brigade, 4th Division, 5th Army Corps, May 31, 1864


18 (EL)

Muster Roll, 76th New York Regiment of Infantry Company D, October 4, 1861 (files with extra-large documents)



Veteran’s Pension papers of Uberto Burnham, 1912-1922 (6 items); includes the Bureau of Pension’s Certificate of December 16, 1912; and statement relative to invalid care requirement, December 6, 1922



Veteran organization papers, etc. 1920-1928

  1. Treasurer’s report of the reunion of veterans of the 76th New York Infantry Regiment, 1921
  2. Roster of members of the Willis A. Gorman Post of Grand Army of the Republic, ca. 1920
  3. Letter from Lewis A. Blodgett, Middleburg, N.Y., to U.A. Burnham, Cortland, N.Y., November 21, 1922; concerns the passing of Hiram A. Blodgett of Co. D of 76th N.Y. Regiment
  4. Letter from Fred W. Cross, South Royalton, Mass., to U.A. Burnham, Cortland, N.Y., June 8, 1928; concerns news about Civil War veterans






Letters of Confederate Army soldiers picked up in the aftermath of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, May 1864

  1. James M. Aniston, Camp near Dalton, Georgia, to Captain N.R. Davis, April 8, 1864
  2. N.H. Dear (1st Miss. Regt. Co. A), Raleigh, Miss., to S.N. Davisson, April 12, 1864
  3. Caroline Taylor, Newberry, S.C., to S.M. Taylor, April 26, 1864
  4. [Z. Medlin?], Johnston, N.C., to [John Medlin?], April 27, 1864



Speech: “The Wars of the United States”; 6 p.



Speeches / Narratives:

  1. “2nd Bull Run Battle, 1st day, known as Battle of Gainesville” [August 28, 1862]; 12 p.
  2. “2nd day at Bull Run” [August 29, 1862]; 9 p. (attached note indicates this speech was delivered August 27, 1900)



Printed brochures

  1. False Impressions Concerning the Use of Cornell Geographies Corrected (New York: D. Appleton Co., 1856)
  2. Phinney & Company, Publishers, Wholesale Booksellers, and Manufacturing and Importing Stationers ... Buffalo, N.Y. (S.l.: s.n. [ca. 1858])
  3. Public Expenditures. Speech of Hon. R. H. Duell, of New York, Delivered in the House of Representatives, June 14, 1860(Washington D. C.: Buell and Blanchard, [1860])
  4. July 1860: Delaware, Missouri, and Kentucky State Lotteries; Wood Eddy, & Co., Managers (S.l.: s.n. [1860])




  1. Manuscript note listing casualty figures for 76th N.Y.S.V.
  2. Newspaper clipping: “Aid to Wounded Soldiers”
  3. “Growing Older: A Tribute to the Fifteenth New York Cavalry,” a poem by E.I. Baldwin (Los Angeles, California.: [s.n.])
  4. New York Commanders at Antietam (printed sheet)
  5. Printed flyer of National Tribune concerning veteran’s pensions
  6. Partially completed form relative to land in the State of Minnesota being claimed by McIllhargry, 1898



Photograph: Battle flag of the 76th N.Y.S.V. (MISSING June 29, 1999)


27 (EL)

Newspaper clipping: “Aged Veteran, Who Voted for Lincoln Walks Mile to Register for 1928 Election/Uberto A. Burnham, 91, Indicates Choice Is Not for Liquor Traffic/Blind Many Years/ Employs School Girl to Read Morning Paper to Him Each Day” [Syracuse] Post Standard, October 13, 1928



Diary of Uberto A. Burnham, January 1-June 1, 1862 (1v. bd.; ca. 150 p.; 15 cm.) Accompanied by 3 carte-de-visite photographs: [Marvin Burnham], [Caroline Burnham], and [Josephine Burnham]



Diary of Uberto A. Burnham, 1864 (1v. bd.; ca. 400 p.; 15 cm.)



Account memorandum book, ca. 1862-1864 (1v. bd.; ca. 150 p.; 15 cm.)


Last Updated: May 24, 2021