New York State Library
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Philip Corell
Papers, 1862-1930


Quantity: 3 boxes (1.0 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Gift: Louise I. Corell, August 1947, and June 1952; see provenance note for further information
Processed By: Fred Bassett, Senior Librarian, Manuscripts & Special Collections, November 1994; revised March 2010; includes an essay written by J. Kenyon, [1947?]

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Biographical Note:

Philip Corell, born in New York City on February 13, 1847, was the oldest son of Adam and Christina [Sibila?] (Leisenheimer) Corell. He was of French Huguenot and German ancestry. Corell enlisted for three years as a drummer boy in Company B, 99th New York Infantry (Union Coast Guard) on March 2, 1861, was discharged December 3, 1864, re-enlisted March 10, 1865, as a private in Company E, 5th United States Veteran Volunteers, for which he received $300.00 bounty money and was discharged a year later. It is quite obvious that he was only 14 years of age at the time he enlisted for service and was only nineteen when he returned to civilian life at the end of the Civil War.

After the war, it appears that Philip Corell was actively involved in veterans' organizations, particularly the 99th New York State Volunteers Infantry Association. Documentation found in the collection indicates he served as secretary of the organization and compiled a history of the regiment, which had a limited press run: History of the Naval Brigade, 99th New York Volunteers, Union Coast Guard, 1861-1865 (New York: Regimental Veteran Associations, 1905). A copy of this book presented to William Michael Stetson is held by New York State Library (Call number: N973.7447 qJ99).

Information gleaned from census records provides a glimpse of Philip Corell's life after the Civil War. In 1870 he was employed as a journeyman piano maker and a member of the household of Henrietta Corell in New York City. By 1880 he was married to Louisa [?] and had two sons in the household, John and Philip. The family was living in Manhattan and he was working as a "piano maker."  Later census records show a daughter, named Louise, was born circa 1883.  Philip Corell was still living in Manhattan at the time of the 1930 Census, which also showed his wife and daughter, Louise, and another person residing in the same household.

Scope and Content Note:

This collection includes original manuscript diaries kept by Philip Corell from 1862 to 1866 that record his personal observations and experiences of military life during the Civil War. Corell details marine operations in the bays and inlets around the outer banks of North Carolina. He also discusses ground combat and skirmishes he witnessed on Roanoke Island and New Bern, North Carolina. Later, he detailed operations in the vicinity of Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia. Routine aspects of life in army camps, drill, and marching are also mentioned quite often as well as news about fellow soldiers. After the war, the tragic circumstances of the assassination of President Lincoln generated a number of entries in his diary. (See essay below for further information and analysis of the diaries.)

The collection also includes research materials used to compile the regimental history of the 99th New York Volunteers. A large folio volume called the "descriptive book" includes data forms with recorded information that appear in the history. This volume was also used as a scrapbook for letters, printed circulars, news clippings, and other printed material. Prior to 1906, the letters generally contain news and information about fellow soldiers of the 99th Regiment. Some letters may also contain more detailed recollections of battles and other events relative to the history of the 99th Regiment. Later letters tend to be congratulatory notes or concern the publication and distribution of the history.

Lastly, the collection includes an assortment of publications related to the history of the Civil War, such as a portfolio of 18 photographic prints of the Civil War taken by Matthew B. Brady that was distributed as a sales promotion for the Photographic History of the Civil War, published by Review of Reviews, and an untitled volume that may have been a publisher's proof copy of Thirty Years After: An Artist's Story of the Great War ..., by Edwin Forbes. 


The Civil War Diaries of Philip Corell, by J. Kenyon

[Philip Corell's] diary begins January 1, 1862, at Fort Monroe. He left that place on January 16, two days after General Burnside's expedition arrived, to sail for Fort Hatteras 140 miles away, reaching that destination the next morning. On that day a rebel gunboat was sighted and given chase; but it escaped. Nevertheless, while Corell's unit was in the waters off Fort Hatteras, many rebel boats were captured. The names of the Union vessels and their movements are mentioned. Reference is made to the bombardment of New Bern on March 13-15, 1862. Union ships also fired on rebel cavalry in an attempt to drive them from their entrenchment in the wooded area on shore. When Fort Macon was captured, and a large number of prisoners taken, there was much rejoicing. Corell lists the names of those who died at Roanoke and New Berne. Later his company sailed back for Fort Monroe. It is interesting to note that the weather for nearly every day in the year is recorded in this as in his other diaries.

The 1863 diary contains little information of importance. Corell apparently wrote many letters although the number of his correspondents is few. On January 28, 1863, he states that a detachment of Mounted Rifles under Major Wheelan retreated over a hundred miles to escape capture, but they brought with them 10 wagonloads of bacon which Corell's regiment promptly devoured. New Year's Day and St. Patrick's Day, and other holidays, are referred to only as ordinary days and are rarely celebrated. On April 9, 1863, Corell's regiment received marching orders. Their line of the march is not indicated, but from April 11 through May 4, 1863, the 99th regiment was engaged in many skirmishes. He specifically mentions the one at Carrsville, Virginia, and the consequent removal of all troops from that area. For the date June 10, 1863, Corell has recorded a list of promotions, evidently in his company. His diary shows that the Union Army employed Negro soldiers by mentioning that in his area, there were two colored units - the 4th Regiment United States Colored Volunteers and a colored cavalry regiment. In the memoranda of this diary, Corell lists the names of the Generals under whom he has served and the camps at which he has been stationed.

In his diary of 1864, Philip Corell remarks that the rate of enlistments is very poor and that men are desperately needed. He says that on March 20, 1864, there was a Negro mutiny near his camp and troops eventually had to be sent to quell it. He records that rebel forces give no quarter to Union Negro troops. Another interesting observation of the diarist is that fighting in the area nearby was a regiment of North Carolina Union Volunteers. He describes an attempt to blow up a rebel iron-clad at the Roanoke River a few miles upstream. Richmond seems to be in dire straits for want of food. It is rumored that her inhabitants are catching and eating rats. There seem to be three major diseases (yellow fever, black vomit and typhoid fever) which put numerous soldiers on sick report. Many of these eventually died. After his discharge in December, Corell was forced to remain at camp until he received his pay, after which, he traveled homeward, visiting relatives on the way.

As the 1865 diary opens, Philip Corell is a civilian, but on March 10, he re-enlisted and was sent to the Washington area. He says, "this day [April 3] will be ever memorable in history. The news of the capture of Richmond and Petersburg was received. Guns from all forts fired and everybody seemed to be jubilant;" and the next day, "troops paraded [in Washington] in honor of the recent success." Following this, Corell says that April 9 "decided the cause of the south by the surrender of General Lee of the so-called Confederate Army."

Concerning Abraham Lincoln's death and the events following, Corell made the following entries:

April 14: "Abraham Lincoln the President of the United States was assassinated by J. Wilkes Booth, an actor, at Ford's Theater. He escaped through the scenery exclaiming the south avenged; also "Sic semper tyrannis.' Sec. Seward had his throat cut; also his sons were stabbed."

April 15: "President Lincoln died this morning at 7:22 a.m. Sec. Seward is alive and doing well; also his sons. Vice President Johnson was inaugurated as President. Business was closed and everybody seemed to wear a downcast look. The men in camp were greatly excited and wished for marching orders to fight the rebs."

April 16: "Everything seems dull. The sermons of all the churches referred to our late President's assassination."

April 17: "A Sgt. of this corps, 3rd Regt., was arrested in this camp for using disrespectful language toward the late President Lincoln."

April 19: "The remains of President Lincoln were escorted by a large procession; also the head of the country, to the Capitol, previous to its departure for Springfield."

April 29: "The news of the surrender of Johnson and his forces was received" and an "order curtailing the expenses of the government was issued." A few days later, May 14, "Uncle Jeff was captured in Georgia by General Wilson's cavalry." President Johnson set June 1, 1865, apart as a "day of Humiliation and prayer in honor of the late President Lincoln."

The first months of 1866 Corell was stationed, or was visiting in Rhode Island. Eventually he left for New York City, where he remained until [he was] muster[ed] out at the age of nineteen. Inserted in the diary is a newspaper account of "Lincoln Under Fire."

Included in this collection is a pamphlet issued to soldiers by [the] U.S. Christian Commission entitled Parting Words for Our Soldiers. It contains a list of rules which one must keep in order to have a good standard of moral integrity. Compared with our present-day standards and ethical rules, it seems very prudish and victorian. But strangely enough, some of its rules are still fundamental doctrines of minor Protestant sects.

Provenance Note:

The Civil War diaries and Parting Words for Our Soldiers were donated to the New York State Library in August 1947 by Louise I. Corell of New York City, the daughter of Philip Corell.  This group of papers was accessioned shortly thereafter as collection SC11850. In June 1952 Louise Corell donated the "descriptive book" and most of the printed memorabilia. The second gift was accessioned as SC12594. The two separate collections were collated in November 1994. 

Related Collection:

Additional documentation on the history of the 99th New York Regiment is found in the manuscript diary/personal narrative of William M. Stetson. This volume provides a detailed record of Stetson's experiences and activities of military service during the Civil War. It also includes a description of the naval battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac and information about the U.S. Navy blockade of principal Southern seaports. (NYSL/MSC Collection call number: BD9976)

Container List (Inventory of Documents):

Box Folder/
    Civil War Pocket Diaries, 1862-1865
1 1 Diary, 1862; 1 v. (ca. 120 p.); 13 cm.
1 2 Diary, 1863; 1 v. (ca. 120 p.); 16 cm.
1 3 Diary, 1864; 1 v. (ca. 200 p.); 13 cm.
1 4 Diary, 1865; 1 v. (ca. 200 p.); 13 cm.
1 5 Diary, 1866; 1 v. (ca. 140 p.); 16 cm.
    Printed Materials (includes pictorial works and publications)
2 1 Parting Words for Our Soldiers from the U.S. Christian Commission / United States Christian Commission (Philadelphia: Sherman & Co., S.W. cor. 7th & Cherry Sts., 1861-1865)
2 2 Portraits of Union Army Officers (engravings with facsimile signatures)
  1. Abraham Lincoln (New York: E.B. Hall's Sons, [186-?])
  2. Robert Anderson, engraved from photograph of H. Wright Smith (Boston: Samuel Walker, [1862])
  3. Nathaniel P. Banks, painted by Alonzo Chappel (New York: Johnson, Fry & Co., [1863])
  4. Ulysses S. Grant, engraved by H.&C. Koevoets, New York
  5. Henry W. Hallack, painted by Alonzo Chappel (Johnson, Fry & Co., New York, [1863])
  6. George B. McClellan, engraved from photograph by H. Wright Smith (Boston: Samuel Walker, [1862])
  7. Ormsby M. Mitchell, engraved from original painting of Alonzo Chappel (S.l.: s.n., [ca. 1862])
2 3 Prints of Civil War Battles
  1. Merrimac and Monitor Naval Battle [Battle of Hampton Roads, March 8-9, 1862]; page from a book featuring a map showing the location of the engagements between naval vessels
  2. Battle of Cedar Mountain [near Culpepper, Va., August 9, 1862], engraved from original painting of Alonzo Chappel (New York: Johnson, Fry & Co., [1862])
  3. Attack on Fredericksburg – Dec. 1862 [Battle of Fredericksburg, Va., December 13, 1862], engraved from original painting of Alonzo Chappel (New York: Johnson, Fry & Co., [1863])
  4. Siege of Vicksburg [1863], engraved from original painting of Alonzo Chappel (New York: Johnson, Fry & Co. [1864])
  5. Capture of New Orleans [April-May 1862], engraved from original painting of Alonzo Chappel (New York: Johnson, Fry & Co., [1862])
  6. Action of the Gunboats at Memphis [June 6, 1862], engraved from original painting of Alonzo Chappel (New York: Johnson, Fry & Co., [1863])
  7. Attack upon Roanoke Island – Landing of the Troops [North Carolina, February 7-8, 1862], engraved from original painting of Alonzo Chappel (New York: Johnson, Fry & Co., [1863])
  8. Newbern [sic] [Battle of New Bern, N.C., March 14, 1862], engraved expressly for Abbott's Civil War
2 4 Photographic prints of the Civil War taken by Matthew B. Brady "Being a few of the 3500 photographs contained in the Photographic History of the Civil War in ten volumes published by the Review of Reviews Company, New York" (18 items and remnant of the original portfolio cover (wrapper) – list of items by caption title)
  1. A Conspirator about to Die – Lewis Thornton Powell, alias Payne, Would-be Assassin of Secretary Seward [Scene showing Powell being held under watch of an armed guard]
  2. Lee at His Time of Triumph – August, 1862; [Gen. Robert E. Lee, with his son, Maj. Gen. George Washington Curtis Lee, and Col. Walter Taylor]
  3. The Confederate Defences [sic] Protecting Atlanta, Taken in 1864 (Within in sight of 16-Story Office Building Today) [Wooden stockade constructed of cut logs and boards]
  4. The Terror of '61 Is Now a Mere Curiosity – Like the Bitter Passions of the Time [View of 16-inch smooth-bore "Rodman" gun (cannon)]
  5. A Balloon in Warfare – Nearly Half a Century Ago [Balloon being filled with hydrogen gas from two wooden box pumps]
  6. Noble Women of the United States Sanitary Commission Softening the Horrors of War – May 1864 [Nurse tending to wounded soldiers at Fredericksburg]
  7. A Regiment that Ranks with the Immortal "Light Brigade" – The 93d New York, or "Morgan Rifles," September, '62 [Group photograph taken at an Army Camp]
  8. The Dashing Cavalryman Custer with Pleasonton, His Chief – June '63 [Gen. George Armstrong Custer and  Gen. Alfred Pleasonton sitting on horses facing one another]
  9. The Price of War – Union Dead at Gettysburg, the Greatest Battle Since Waterloo
  10. Glimpse at a Homelike Scene in the Midst of Fighting [General Rufus Ingalls and family on front steps of his home]
  11. The Great Camp Stretched for Many Miles [Scene of many tents and horse-drawn supply wagons at an Army camp at Cumberland Landing, Maryland, May 1862]
  12. October 3, 1862 – Lincoln and McClellan after Antietam – McClellan's Last Battle [Lincoln and McClellan conferring over maps and plans inside an army tent]
  13. How Union Soldiers Got Their Mail – Taken Before Petersburg, August, 1864 [Portable post office station for receiving and posting letters and parcels]
  14. Watching the Enemy – U.S. Signal Corps at Antietam [Soldiers keeping watch from wooden stockade]
  15. A Noon-day Halt on a Long Day's March [Soldiers engaged in various leisure activities such as reading letters or playing cards while relaxing on the ground]
  16. Grant in '64 – The Calm and Silent Center of a Furious Storm Nearing Its Climax [Gen. Ulysses S. Grant with wife and son at winter headquarters, City Point, Va., 1864-1865]
  17. A Confederate Spy in Prison – Mrs. Greenhow and Her Little Daughter [Rose O. N. Greenhow and daughter, Rose]
  18. From Here Came Hot Coffee, Prayers, and General Good Cheer – U.S. Christian Commission in Washington
2 5 Miscellaneous Printed Material
  1. Advertisement for the Photographic History of the Civil War published by the Review of Reviews Company, New York; page taken from Saturday Evening Post, April 8, 1911
  2. News clipping {picture): "Cavalry Charge – De Thulstrup," New York Times, May 1, 1910
  3. Advertisement for The Red Letter Life of the Republic, (New York: Fords, Howard, & Hulbert Publishers)
  4. Page taken from unidentified book of verse and illustrations
  5. Illustration clipped from magazine: "Grant and staff at Bethesda, near Richmond, Va." (Copyright in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, 1884-1888, by the Century)
2 6 Pages of text and illustrated plates removed from Thirty Years After: An Artist's Story of the Great War ... by Edwin Forbes; 9 pieces; 41 cm.; includes half-tone portrait: "Custer at Trevillian Station"
2 7 [Thirty Years After: An Artist's Story of the Great War / Edwin Forbes] ([New York?: Fords, Howard, and Hulbert?, c.1890?]); 1 v. ; 319 p.; illus. 34 cm.; cover title: The Army Sketch Book; news clippings inlaid throughout the volume
3 1 "Descriptive Book" and scrapbook related to and the history of the 99th New York Infantry (Union Coast Guard), and activities of the 99th N.Y.S.V. Veterans' Association, compiled circa 1892-1930; 1 v. 426 p.; 40 cm.; content includes rosters of officers and enlisted men, some of which provide details of military service, age, physical characteristics, birthplace and occupation;  letters, circulars, news clippings, and other miscellaneous information concerning veterans' affairs and publication of the regimental history. (There is evidence that some materials have been extracted and removed from the book.)
Last Updated: January 13, 2022