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Edmund Kirby papers
mssEK 1-148  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administration Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Arrangement
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Edmund Kirby papers
    Dates: 1788-1865
    Collection Number: mssEK 1-148
    Creator OR Collector: Kirby, Edmund, 1794-1849
    Extent: 148 items
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens Manuscripts Department
    The Huntington Library
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2203
    Fax: (626) 449-5720
    Email: manuscripts@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: The collection consists of correspondence by Edmund Kirby. There are a few letters written to him as well as correspondence by other Kirby family members.
    Language of Material: The records are in English.

    Administration Information


    Collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, please go to following web site  .

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Edmund Kirby papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Acquisition Information

    Purchased by the Library Collectors' Council from William Reese & Co., January 19, 2014.

    Biographical Note

    Edmund Kirby (1794-1849), paymaster in the United States Army. Kirby was born in Litchfield, Conn., son of Ephraim Kirby (1757-1804), a prominent New England Jeffersonian. He attended West Point, and in July 1812 entered the United States Army. During the War of 1812, he fought under Winfield Scott and Jacob Jennings Brown (1775-1828). Later on, Kirby became Brown's aide-de-camp, and on February 14, 1825, married his daughter Eliza. The Kirbys settled in Brownville, founded in 1799 as the homestead of General Brown's family. They had nine children -- Jacob Brown (Jake) (1827-1860), Frances (Frank) Kirby Palmer (1829-1893), Pamela Kirby Everett (1831-1878); Eliza Brown Kirby Darby (1833-1858); Josephine Smith (Jojo) (b. 1836), Mary, Kirby Lady Contree Fairfax (b. 1838), Edmund (Ned) (1840-1863); Katharine Smith (Kitty) (1841-1871), and Reynold Marvin (1843-1886). Kirby was one of the founders of the Jefferson Woolen Company and the Dexter Village Company that later became Dexter Township. Kirby also continued his father-in-law's agricultural experiments and his leadership in the Jefferson County and New York State Agricultural Societies. On August 5, 1824, Kirby was appointed paymaster of the United States Army.
    In peacetime, his job mandated bi-monthly tours of garrisons of the Great Lakes region and regular trips to Washington. In wartime he was assigned to the staffs of the armies in the field. Kirby was with Winfield Scott in the Black Hawk War (1832) and in his 1836 campaign against the Creek Indians. In July 1846, Kirby was assigned to the headquarters of Zachary Taylor. In December, he was transferred under the command of Winfield Scott and remained on his staff until February 1848. Kirby took part in the battle of Monterey, the siege and taking of Vera Cruz, and all the battles that marked Scott's march to Mexico City, including Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, and El Molino Del Rey. At the end of the war he was brevetted Colonel for his "gallant and meritorious conduct" in battle. On January 31, 1848, Kirby was ordered to report to Washington, but was detained in Mexico City, having been summoned to testify in a court of inquiry launched against Winfield Scott. He was then directed to pay volunteers in Kentucky, and reached home only in August 1848. He died on March 9, 1849 at the Avon Springs resort where he had gone to recuperate from a disease he had contracted in Mexico.
    Kirby's sixth child and namesake, Edmund (Ned) Kirby, Jr. (1840-1863), entered West Point in 1856, graduating 10th in his class of 1861. In May 1861, he was commissioned Lieutenant of Co. I. of the 1st Regiment of the U.S. Regular Artillery. Wounded in the battle of Chancellorsville, he died at a Washington, D.C. hospital.


    The collection is arranged chronologically. It is housed in three boxes and one oversize folder.

    Scope and Content

    Letters that Edward Kirby wrote to his wife and eldest son Jake between 1827 and July 1848 constitute the largest portion of the collection. Kirby's peacetime letters describe his travels in Wisconsin, Michigan, and New York State, and his trips to Washington, D.C., and discuss family news, business investments, the management of his two-thousand acre farm, the increasingly complicated financial affairs, the fallout from the Panic of 1837, and local news, including the events of the Patriot War (1837) in the neighboring Canada. Kirby, a leader of the local Whigs, also discusses state and national politics, in particular the internal improvements, protective tariff, and the annexation of Texas. Kirby also recounts Washington news and rumors and comments on various aspects of military life as well as the news of the Second Seminole War. Included is a 1840 letter from William H. Seward soliciting Kirby's opinion on the "candidates." Kirby's letters written during the Black Hawk War discuss the progress of the war, the outbreak of cholera, peace negotiations, and the allegations against Winfield Scott.
    The Mexican War letters describe Kirby's journey to Northern Mexico and his war experiences, including the battle of Monterey, the siege and taking of Vera Cruz, the battles that marked Scott's march to Mexico City, and the occupation of the Mexican capital. Kirby also recounts news that were circulated at Taylor's and Scott's headquarters, in particular rumors of the eagerly awaited peace negotiations, discusses the financial operations of the United States Army, and shares his impressions of Mexico. The letters describe Winfield Scott, Nathan Towson, William Jenkins Worth, Zachary Taylor, John E. Wool, Jefferson Davis, Joseph Eggleston Johnston, George Gordon Meade, his nephew Edmund Kirby Smith, and others. Also included are Kirby's commissions and his certificate of membership in the Aztec Club.
    The collection also includes letters that Edmund Kirby, Jr. wrote to his brother Reynold Marvin Kirby in 1860-1863. The letters counsel his brother on the course of his studies and a college selection, (Marvin chose to go to the Geneva College, and his brother paid his tuition), vividly describe the life at the Military Academy on the eve of the Civil War, and discuss the secession crisis and other aspects of national politics. The letters written from the battlefields in Virginia describe the Union positions at Edwards Ferry and the Mud March of 1862 and blast the radical Republicans in Congress. The last letter, entirely devoted to Marvin's studies, is dated March 3, 1863. Also included is a letter of condolence from Henry Jackson Hunt to Kirby's mother.
    Also included are two letters addressed to Ephraim Kirby from Uriah Tracy (1788, Oct. 18), reporting on the on the proceedings of the state General Assembly, including the passage of "a very benevolent act relative to Africans" and Aaron Burr (1801, Feb.) requesting an urgent meeting, and Gideon Grange's letter to Thomas Worthington introducing Ephraim Kirby as the newly appointed commissioner on the Spanish Boundary.

    Indexing Terms

    Personal Names

    Brown, Jacob, 1775-1828 -- Family
    Burr, Aaron, 1756-1836
    Davis, Jefferson, 1808-1889
    Granger, Gideon, 1767-1822
    Hunt, Henry Jackson, 1819-1889
    Johnston, Joseph E. (Joseph Eggleston), 1807-1891
    Kirby, Edmund, 1794-1849
    Kirby, Edmund, 1840-1863
    Kirby, Eliza Brown, 1808-1864
    Kirby, Jacob Brown, 1827-1860
    Kirby, Reynold Marvin, 1843-1886
    Kirby-Smith, Edmund, 1824-1893
    Meade, George Gordon, 1815-1872
    Scott, Winfield, 1786-1866
    Taylor, Zachary, 1784-1850
    Towson, Nathan, 1784-1854
    Tracy, Uriah, 1755-1807
    Wool, John Ellis, 1784-1869
    Worth, William Jenkins, 1794-1849

    Corporate Names

    Jefferson County Agricultural Society (Jefferson County, N.Y.)
    New York State Agricultural Society
    United States. Army -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
    United States. Army -- History -- Mexican War, 1846-1848 -- Sources
    United States. Army. Regiment of Artillery, 1st. Company I
    United States Military Academy. Class of 1861
    Whig Party (N.Y.)


    Agriculturists -- New York (State) -- Correspondence
    Black Hawk War, 1832 -- Personal narratives
    Mexican War, 1846-1848 -- Personal narratives
    Military cadets -- United States -- Correspondence
    Seminole War, 2nd, 1835-1842

    Geographic Areas

    Canada -- History -- Rebellion, 1837-1838
    Connecticut -- History -- 1775-1865 -- Sources
    Dexter (N.Y.) -- History -- Sources
    Jefferson County (N.Y.) -- History -- Sources
    Michigan -- History -- To 1837 -- Sources
    New York (State) -- History -- 1775-1865 -- Sources
    United States -- History -- 1783-1865 -- Sources
    United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives
    Washington (D.C) -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
    Wisconsin -- History -- To 1848 -- Sources


    Letters (correspondence) -- United States -- 19th century