Monday, March 21, 2011

The Civil War Scrapbook of Captain William White Dorr

The Governor’s Academy Archives house the Civil War-era scrapbook of Captain William White Dorr, a Union Army Commander in the 121st Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers. Captain Dorr was born in Philadelphia on October 31, 1837, the son of the Reverend Benjamin Dorr, D.D., Rector of the Christ Church, Philadelphia, and Esther Kettell Odin, daughter of John Odin, Esq., of Boston. Dorr’s paternal ancestors were some of the earliest settlers of Boston’s Roxbury section and of Salisbury, Massachusetts (the local Dalton family). On his maternal side, Dorr was a descendant of the Chief Justices Lynde (father and son) of the Massachusetts Bay Colony; the Reverend Increase Mather; the Reverend John Eliot, the “Apostle to the Indians”; and the Reverend William Walter, Rector of Christ Church, Boston.

Educated in Philadelphia, Dorr entered the army at age 25 and served in the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and at Spottsylvania Court House, where he was killed in action on May 10, 1864. His remains were taken to Salisbury Point, Massachusetts, and interred with other family members in a cemetery near the bank of the Merrimac River. A mural tablet was erected in Christ Church, Philadelphia, as tribute to his patriotism and virtues.

Captain Dorr’s scrapbook holds a number of letters from the battlefield, journal entries, newspaper clippings, sketches (see below, with caption), pressed flowers, and memorabilia from the Civil War era. Many of the sketches—soldiers’ camp sites, officers and enlisted men, and maps—were drawn by Captain Dorr’s men and, combined with notes on troop movements, capture a feel for the life of soldier in this mid-19th century period.

This is one of the many military-related items in The Governor’s Academy’s archival collection. For more information, contact Laurie DiModica, Archivist, at