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Byron Gilman Papers, 1830, 1861-1864

Identifier: MSS 332

Scope and Content Note

The Byron Gilman papers contain a daily account of Gilman's life from September 16, 1861 until September 27, 1864. There is a hiatus between November 30, 1862 and August 1, 1863, during which time Gilman was serving in the Union Army as a volunteer. However, toward the end of his tour of duty, he resumed his journal. This portion of the journal is on notepaper sewn into a booklet; entries before and after his military service are in a hard-bound book. Entries in the diary resume in August 1863 when Gilman, although not yet mustered out, is back in Lynn.

With the exception of accounts of Byron's life in the infantry, the diary consists primarily of descriptions of social evenings with friends, parties and visits, and the entertainments he attended both in the Lynn area and in Boston. Numerous printed programs, newspaper clippings, detailed descriptions and critiques of plays, concerts, lectures, and other curiosities such as acrobats, mesmerists, etc. are inserted in the diary, together with Byron's own evaluations. A photograph of Gilman is also inserted.

In addition to the diaries, the collection includes a document listing the names of soldiers with an account of the articles of clothing they received, a handwritten list of "Articles Worn or Carried about the Person," and "Contents Knapsack". Folder 3 also contains a list of "Massachusetts Militia Company, May 4, 1830 Commanded by Charles Merritt, Leutenant (sic) H. Burchstead Ensign Othis Newhall."


  • Creation: 1830, 1861-1864


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical Sketch

Byron Gilman was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1843, the son of Joseph Gilman, a millwright, and Louise J. Gilman. He was trained in music, played the flute and violin, and experimented with other instruments. In 1861, Byron was working as a clerk with Boyce & Nichols, a "shoe findings" establishment, in Boston. On August 20, 1862, he enlisted in the Union Army as a member of the Eighth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, to serve for nine months as a musician and was subsequently stationed in New Berne, North Carolina. He was involved in some experimentation with a new kind of signaling system employing whistles instead of bugles. Although in the vicinity of several battles, he saw no action, and mustered out of the service on August 7, 1863.

After being mustered out, he was engaged for some months in recruiting efforts for the Heavy Artillery and attempted unsuccessfully to obtain a commission for himself. He worked for a time in a machine ship, doing repairs and projects for local industries. By the summer and fall of 1864, determined to see his fortune abroad, he attempted to find a berth on a ship going to China. When that proved unsuccessful, he tried to find a place with the Panama Railroad. Gilman went to California soon afterward and was first engaged on the Pacific steamers and later as secretary of a mining company in San Francisco.*

*Much of the biographical information is derived from an insert in the front page of Gilman's diary, provided by John Albree.


0.25 linear feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



Byron Gilman papers contain a daily account of Gilman's life from September 16, 1861 until September 27, 1864.

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


This material was donated by Hugh F. E. Farrell on January 22, 1917.


Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War. Vol. I. Norwood, MA: Adjutant General, 1932.

Lewis, Alonzo, and James Robinson. Newhall. History of Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts: Including Lynnfield, Saugus, Swampscot, and Nahant. Boston: J.L. Shorey, 1865.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Frances Malamy, March 2003. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, March 2016.

BYRON GILMAN PAPERS, 1830, 1861-1864
Processed by: Frances Malamy; Updated by: Tamara Gaydos; machine-readable finding aid created by: Rajkumar Natarajan.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA