Leighton, N. W.
Manuscript Collection: MS 0564
Agency History/Biographical note:
Nathaniel Wilson Leighton was born on June 11, 1833, in Falmouth,
Maine. In 1857 he graduated from Bowdoin College, and in 1858 from
New York Medical College. He worked as a physician in Brooklyn, New
York. During the Civil War he served with the Union Army for three
years. In 1861 he married Mary Elizabeth Purinton of Portland,
Maine, with whom he had three children. Mary Elizabeth died in 1882,
and in 1884 he remarried to Helen Hudson. They had one daughter.
N.W. Leighton died on August 12, 1899 in Brooklyn, New York.
Scope and Content:
The Nathaniel Wilson Leighton Papers consist of diaries,
correspondence, memorabilia, and biographical information. The
material primarily relates to his work as a surgeon during the United
States Civil War from 1861-1864. He was a member of the
Seventy-second Regiment of the New York Volunteers, and then was
transferred to the One Hundred and Seventy-third Regiment. His
earlier diaries primarily discuss the weather and his desire to go
home and be with his wife. As the time goes on and Leighton's
regiment enters combat his diaries become considerably more detailed.
They describe the movement of the regiments, battles, and medical
issues he had to deal with. The correspondence, primarily letters
between Leighton and his wife, provides information about the Civil
War but more closely documents the relationship between the two.
Leighton frequently expresses his desire to return home and offers
advice for the care of their daughter, who was born while he was with
his regiment. Leighton's wife, Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Purinton,
also expresses her desire to be with her husband and offers him
details about their child's progress. The papers also contain a
significant amount of memorabilia relating to his service in the
United States Civil War, including insignia, a note regarding
resolutions passed upon Leighton's resignation, recommendations for
Leighton to be accepted as a medical volunteer, and other documents.
Of note is "An Alphabetical List of the Battles of the War of the
Rebellion," in which Leighton marked numerous battles that he
participated in. These battles include the Second Battle of Bull
Run, Virginia (August 30, 1862), Manassas, Virginia (November 5,
1862), and the Siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana (May 27 to July 9,
1863), among others. Several photographs of Leighton along with a
number of photographs and other images of battlegrounds are included
in the collection.
Cite as: Nathaniel Wilson Leighton Papers, Mount Holyoke
College, Archives and Special Collections, South
Access Restrictions: Unrestricted