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Identifier: MC 795

Brooks Family Papers


  • 1861-1924

Scope and Content Note

Enoch Brooks of Bridgeton, New Jersey, enlisted in the Union Army as a private in Company H, Third New Jersey Cavalry, on January 1st, 1864. The headquarters of the regiment was established at Camp Bayard, Trenton, New Jersey. Upon reporting there on January 6th, Company H was mustered into service for three years, unless sooner discharged, by William P. Martin, Captain and Commissary of Subsistence, U.S. Volunteers. Brooks would actually serve for 19 months, until the conclusion of the war.

Brooks' regiment left New Jersey on April 5th, 1864, and marched overland to Annapolis, Maryland, having been assigned to the Ninth Army Corps. It remained there but a short time before proceeding to Alexandria, Virginia, to join the Army of the Potomac. The regiment was first attached to the Third Brigade, First Division, Cavalry Corps, then to the First Brigade, Third Division, Cavalry Corps. Enoch Brooks saw action with his regiment in engagements in Virginia during the spring and summer of 1864. He received a head wound at the Battle of Winchester on August 17th and was hospitalized for a short time at Harper's Ferry before rejoining his regiment. Brooks saw further action in Virginia in the fall and winter of 1864 and the spring of 1865 and was in the vicinity when General Lee surrendered his army at the Appomattox Court House on April 9th.

Brooks' letters to his wife Elizabeth constitute the bulk of the Brooks family papers and provide a first-hand account of life in a New Jersey regiment during the latter stages of the Civil War. As Brooks was a private, the reader is offered an insight into the experience of the ordinary soldier at the front. His correspondence describes engagements from the perspective of an active participant. It also chronicles life in camp and field, troop movements and overall conditions behind Union lines. Individual letters describe the suffering caused by his wound, the capture of Petersburg, Virginia, the joy caused by the spreading of the news of Lee's surrender, the effect of the Union victory on Virginia women and Blacks, and the sadness and anger felt by the Union troops upon learning the news of Lincoln's assassination.

The correspondence Enoch Brooks received from his wife and other family members and friends in 1864 and 1865 paints a mosaic of community life in New Jersey during the war years. Elizabeth's letters inform her husband of the death of her mother, the welfare of their children, other relatives and friends, and local news from Bridgeton and its environs. Running through her letters is a warm domesticity that her husband must have found most reassuring. While Enoch was losing his ear at the Battle of Winchester, for example, Elizabeth was at home canning peaches to send to him at the front. In another letter, a description is furnished of the victory celebrations in Bridgeton, which featured cannon fire and illuminations. Elizabeth Brooks' letters present a fascinating civilian counterpoint to her husband's descriptions of military life at the front.

The Brooks family correspondence, 1862-1865, includes letters of Enoch's brother Reuben Brooks sent from the Maryland front in the summer of 1862 and a description of campaigns conducted in Maryland and Pennsylvania in June and July 1863, including the Battle of Gettysburg. Other noteworthy items within the collection include a New Jersey Honorable Testimonial of Enoch Brooks' service in the Civil War, signed by Governor Marcus L. Ward and dated July 4th, 1866; an 1869 diary of Enoch Brooks relating to farming and keg-making which includes financial accounts; and five family photographs, including one of Enoch Brooks and another of his wife Elizabeth, both dating from the 1860s.

The remainder of the collection is comprised of Brooks family correspondence and miscellaneous papers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The correspondence includes letters received by Elizabeth S. Brooks, circa 1879-1924, chiefly from her relations in Nebraska; letters received by Brooks' sister Matilda E. (Brooks) Horner, circa 1884-1918; and letters received by Albert R. Horner, 1900-1901. The Brooks family miscellany dates from circa 1893-1914 and includes an 1893 mortgage on some property and land in Bridgeton taken out by Enoch's daughter Ella L. Brooks and her aunt Matilda.


0.33 Cubic Feet (1 manuscript box and 1 oversize item)

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

No Restrictions.


The Brooks family papers, MC 795, date from 1861 to 1924 with the bulk of the documents covering the Civil War period 1861-1865. The collection contains correspondence, photographs, miscellaneous family papers (including a mortgage) and an oversize certificate.

Arrangement Note

The Brooks family papers were donated to Special Collections and University Archives in two parts. The first gift (85 items and typed transcriptions) was received in May 1963. These papers were subsequently arranged into seven folders and one oversize container. The second gift (97 letters and typed transcriptions) was received from a different donor in December 1984. The two donations have been integrated into one collection totaling 24 folders in one box and one oversize container. To differentiate the items added to the collection in 1984, these documents have been annotated with the accession number (3312) assigned to the later gift. Items acquired in the earlier accession (2032) do not carry an identifying number.

Inventory to the Brooks Family Papers
Edited Full Draft
Kevin Mulroy
September 2015
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.
Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.