Henry Van Sellar moved to Edgar County, Ill., in 1860 where he briefly taught school before enlisting in 12th Ill. Vol. Inf. After the war, Van Sellar, who was mustered out a colonel, became a lawyer, Mayor of Paris, Ill., state senator in the 34th Gen. Assembly, and a circuit judge for the Fifth Judicial Circuit. This collection mainly contains the Civil War correspondence between Van Sellar and his future wife, Sallie Pattison, as well as letters Sallie exchanged with various friends and family members. Van Sellar's Civil War letters contain descriptions of the South and references to Lincoln's assassination, but also provide considerable information on the social and religious ideas and customs of two young lovers during the Civil War. In addition, the collection also contains two wedding portraits of the Van Sellars and a negative image of Henry in his army uniform.
B. F. Henderson of Georgetown, Ill., donated the collection to the Survey in 1967.