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John G. Burggraf collection

Identifier: WUA015

Scope and Contents

The letters written by John G. Burggraf begin in May 1860 when he traveled to Holly Springs, Mississippi for work. The majority of the letters were written after December 29, 1861 when he went to Camp Butler, Illinois as part of the newly formed 49th Illinois Infantry.

These letters cover various aspects of Burggraf's war experience. The 49th Illinois Infantry fought in a number of major battles during the Civil War including the battle of Shiloh and the battle of Pleasant Hill. While Burggraf does not speak of the battles themselves in his letters, he frequently describes the aftermath of battle. His description of walking through the battlefield of Shiloh is vivid.

The letters also describe daily life in camp. His account of "capturing" a writing desk from an abandoned house in the town of Dover, after the capture of Fort Donleson, provides insight into how soldiers provisioned their camps. In other letters Burggraf describes how soldiers built housing and kept warm during the winter months.

The majority of the letters are to his wife, Eliza, but there are also letters to his sons Willy and Frank; his daughter Lizza; and his sister, Margaret McNulty. The collection also contains a letter to Burggraf from Colonel Phineas Pease, a letter from Margaret McNulty (Burggraf's sister), Civil War memorabilia, and poems.


  • 1860-1904
  • Majority of material found within 1860-1865


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

Library acts as "fair use" reproduction agent.

For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library.

Copyright Information: Before material from collections at Willamette University Archives and Special Collections may be quoted in print, or otherwise reproduced, in whole or in part, in any publication, permission must be obtained from (1) the owner of the physical property, and (2) the holder of the copyright. It is the particular responsibility of the researcher to obtain both sets of permission. Persons wishing to quote from materials in any collections held by University Archives and Special Collections should consult the University Archivist. Reproduction of any item must contain a complete citation to the original.

Biographical / Historical

John G. Burggraf was born in Baden-Baden, Germany in 1825. His family moved to the United States in 1835 and settled near Columbus, Ohio. In 1851 Burggraf married Eliza Cox. In 1856 they moved to Centralia, Illinois where they lived until 1883. The Burggraf family moved to Salem, Oregon in 1891.

Burggraf volunteered soon after the Civil War began, joining the United States Army on October 19, 1861 in Salem, Illinois. He served in the 49th Illinois Infantry from December 1861, when the unit was mustered in, until it was mustered out on September 9, 1865. During his time in the military, he served as a carpenter, a mechanic, and secretary to Colonel Phineas Pease.

The Burggrafs had nine children. One of their sons, Charles H. Burggraf, became an architect noted for his designs of public buildings, including Education Hall and Waldo Hall on the campus of Oregon State University. Burggraf died on November 24, 1904. He was survived by two of his children, Charles Burggraf and Elizabeth Draper.


0.5 Linear Feet (1 box)


Letters written by John. G. Burggraf to his family from 1860 to 1865 comprise the bulk of this collection. The majority of the letters detail his experiences as a member of the 49th Illinois Infantry. Burggraf describes the aftermath of conflicts such as the battle of Shiloh, the capture of Fort Donleson, and the battle of Pleasant Hill. The letters provide details about daily camp life as well. The collection also contains Civil War memorabilia.


The collection contains two series. Series I contains the Burggraf letters, which are arranged in chronological order. Series II contains Civil War memorabilia and poems. These items are arranged in alphabetical order.

Physical Location

Mark O. Hatfield Library

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Lural Burggraf, Class of 1924

Related Materials

Oregon State University Archives. Board of Regents Records (RG 8)

Oregon State University Archives. Buildings Photo Collection (P 16)

Oregon State University Archives. OSU Facilities Services (RG 193)
Guide to the John G. Burggraf collection, 1860-1904
Finding aid processed by Rose Marie Walter.
© 2009
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Willamette University Archives and Special Collections Collection Descriptions

Mark O. Hatfield Library
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 United States