Scope and Content
Title: Edmund Kirby papers
Collection Number: mssEK 1-148
Creator OR Collector:
Kirby, Edmund, 1794-1849
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
The Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2203
Fax: (626) 449-5720
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.
Collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the
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obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.
[Identification of item], Edmund Kirby papers, The Huntington Library, San
Purchased by the Library Collectors' Council from William Reese & Co., January 19, 2014.
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.
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
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
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