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John E. Rastall papers


John E. Rastall papers
Rastall, John E.
Collection number:
2 linear inches (128 items)
Bulk dates:
Inclusive dates:
Collection Area:
State of Maryland and Historical Collections
Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, Hornbake Library, College Park, MD 20742. Tel: 301-405-9212, Fax: 301-314-2709, Email:

John E. Rastall was a Union Lieutenant with the First Regiment, Eastern Shore, Maryland Volunteers during the Civil War. The collection includes 128 letters written by Rastall to his family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin detailing his service in Virginia and Maryland, especially on the Eastern Shore.

Important Information for Users of the Collection


This collection is open for research.

Preferred citation:

John E. Rastall papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

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Publication rights:

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.

Alternate formats:

Digital copies of the letters in this collection are available at in the University of Maryland's Digital Collections.


This collection is PROCESSED.

Historical Note

John Edward Rastall was born on July 23, 1840 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England to Richard and Sarah Rastall. He had four brothers: Samuel, James, Richard (Dick), and Benjamin. The family emigrated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1852 or 1853, where young Rastall learned printing through working at the Milwaukee Sentinel and at the Beloit Herald in Beloit, Wisconsin. Only a few years later, he was one of a group of Wisconsin abolitionists headed by E. G. Ross who went south to join the Free State Army in Kansas. Rastall made raids on slave-holding villages with riders led by Jim Lane and John Brown. He was captured by federal troops but escaped and made his way back to Milwaukee, where he worked at the Sentinel until the Civil War broke out in 1861. He enlisted immediately as a private in the Fifth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, Company B. In September 1861 he was discharged from the Fifth Wisconsin to accept a commission as a first lieutenant and adjutant of the newly organized First Maryland Eastern Shore Volunteers. He served with the First Maryland Eastern Shore from September 1861 to October 1864. The regiment spent time at Salisbury, Point of Rocks, and Cambridge, Maryland, as well as at Fort McHenry and other sites around Baltimore. They saw action at the battle of Gettysburg. As adjutant, Rastall assisted Colonel James Wallace and later Colonel John R. Keene with administrative and clerical duties, and he officiated at court-martial proceedings.

After the war, Rastall spent several years dividing his time between farming in Manistee, Michigan and printing in Milwaukee. In 1867 he married Miss Fannie Hawley, the daughter of a Milwaukee dry-goods merchant. In the early 1870s he returned to Kansas with his wife. From 1876 to 1877 he published the Junction City Union in Junction City, Davis County. In 1877 the couple settled in Burlingame, Osage County, where they remained for many years while Rastall published the Osage County Chronicle. Beginning in 1881, Rastall served in the Kansas state legislature. Fannie Rastall was also active in the community and used her influential position in the local chapter of the Women's Christian Temperance Union to help establish an Industrial School for Girls in Beloit, Kansas.

Rastall later moved to Washington, D. C., where he worked in the United States Government Printing Office until his retirement, probably in the late 1910s. Fannie died in Manchester, Vermont in 1920. Rastall returned to Wisconsin for medical treatment at the Wisconsin Veterans' Home in King in 1923 but resided in Washington until his death in 1927.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Papers of John E. Rastall consist of 128 letters written between September 1861 and October 1864 by John E. Rastall to his parents and brothers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Of particular interest are discussions of both the military and social aspects of army life, as well as descriptions of how Union and Confederate sympathies were expressed by civilians in Maryland during the war.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The University of Maryland Libraries purchased the Papers of John E. Rastall from manuscripts dealer Charles Apfelbaum in 1997.

Processing Information

Processed by:

Processed by Sarah Heim, October 2001.

Processing note:

The letters were placed in acid-free folders and stored in an acid-free box.

Encoded by:

EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Henry Allen, July 2004.

Arrangement of Collection

The collection is organized as one series.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Correspondence, 1861-1864 (128 items)

Series I consists of letters sent from John E. Rastall to his parents and brothers. The letters discuss the social and professional aspects of life in the military, as well as current events and specific battles. Rastall describes his regiment's role in the battle of Gettysburg, speculates on the possible effect of the draft on his brothers in Wisconsin, and offers his impressions of prominent people such as General McClellan and Mary Todd Lincoln. He also reminisces about life at home in Milwaukee and describes civilian parties, meetings, and excursions he enjoyed in Maryland. The subjects addressed also include deserters from the First Maryland, Rastall's attempts to secure a promotion, his role in the battle of Gettysburg, court-martials, the draft, and the impressment of free blacks into the Union army. The arrangement is chronological.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Correspondence (Online), September 1861-December 1862 series 1box 1folder 1
Correspondence (Online), January-June 1863 series 1box 1folder 2
Correspondence (Online), July-November 1863 series 1box 1folder 3
Correspondence (Online), January-June 1864 series 1box 1folder 4
Correspondence (Online), July-October 1864 series 1box 1folder 5

Related Material

The Wisconsin Historical Society Archives holds an autobiographical sketch Rastall wrote in 1924 and three 1923 articles from Wisconsin newspapers. Additional information can be found in History of the State of Kansas by William G. Cutler (Chicago: A. T. Andreas, 1883), at the Kansas State Library and maintained by Monty Lee. All web addresses were valid as of October 2001.

For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.

Selected Search Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the University of Maryland Libraries' Catalog. Researchers desiring related materials about these topics, names, or places may search the Catalog using these headings.