In 1860, 49 year-old Jenison Bancroft made a living as a shoe/boot maker in Manchester, Ontario county, New York. He was born in 1811 in Auburn, Massachusetts but had relocated to Ontario county, New York, prior to 1850. He married a New Hampshire woman named Esther Susannah Batchelor who bore him five children before her death in 1859: Almira E. Bancroft (1838-1926), Albert Henry Bancroft (1840-1864), William Jenison Bancroft (1844-1864), Susannah E. Bancroft (1847-1930), and Celia Ann Bancroft (1850-1899).

The letters in this collection were authored by Almira (“Myra”), Albert (“Bert”), William (“Willie”), and Susannah (“Suze”) and directed to one another. The majority of them were written by Albert Henry Bancroft (1840-1864) who served as a private and later as a corporal in Co. B, 85th New York State Volunteers during the American Civil War. Albert enlisted at Bristol on 26 September 1861 and served with his regiment throughout the war until he was taken prisoner at the Battle of Plymouth in North Carolina, on 20 April 1864, and imprisoned at Andersonville (Georgia) where he died on 11 August 1864. In addition to the letters (see list below), Albert kept a diary during the war; see “Diary of Corporal of Co. B., Eighty-fifth regiment, N. Y. S. V.” published in the Fifth annual report of the New York state Bureau of military statistics, 1868, p. 575-612.]

A few letters were written by Willie Bancroft (1844-1864). Willie enlisted at the age of 19 in December 1863 and mustered in as a corporal in Co. L, 24th New York State Cavalry. He was killed on 2 June 1864 in the fighting at Cold Harbor, Virginia.

Myra Bancroft was the recipient of most of these letters and she or her sister Susan should probably be credited as the one who preserved them. Myra wrote two of the letters herself, one of them mentioning a furlough visit to her by George Washington Webb (1834-1904), the soldier who would eventually become her husband. George enlisted in Co. D, 129th New York Infantry in August 1862. This infantry unit was re-designated the 8th New York Heavy Artillery in December 1862 and manned the coastal fortifications until the Overland Campaign of 1864 when they joined Grant’s army. He was wounded on 3 June 1864 at Cold Harbor and spent the remainder of the war in the Veteran Reserve Corps.

Susan Bancroft married Asa B. Evans (1828-1870) in 1868 but he died two years later. She took Joel Clark as her second husband.

This list of letters and notes was compiled by W. H. Pond in February 1974.