This collection contains the correspondence and personal records of the McNitt family of Irving, Ill., mainly three sisters, Sophronia, Helen, and Jennie. The bulk of the collection contains the correspondence to Sophronia from soldiers fighting in the Civil War, including members of the 9th, 14th, 70th, 117th, 126th, and 143rd Ill. Vol. Inf. regiments.The files for some of the correspondents include typescripts of their letters and data relating to their military service.
Their letters provide glimpses of life in the western theater of action, such as boredom with picket duty, loneliness, yearning for female companionship, terror in battle, black troops taking revenge in the wake of the Fort Pillow massacre, and reaction of the troops to the news of Lincoln's assassination. Other correspondence to the McNitt sisters illustrates courtship in 19th century Illinois, as various suitors ply the sisters with flattery and love poetry. In addition, the collection contains family financial records, Union and Confederate currency, and scattered issues of local newspapers.
Sophronia McNitt eventually married Eli Cress, a veteran of the 117th Ill. After his death in 1871, she successfully managed their farm for over half a century until her own death at the age of 90 in 1933. Her descendant, Jeanne Tingley, and Donald F. Tingley, of Charleston and Savoy, Ill., donated the collection to the Library in 1999.