Collection Title: Dr. Daniel Garrison Brinton Papers

Collection Number: Ms. Coll 177

Dates of Collection: 1863-1899, bulk 1863-1864

Box Numbers: 1 box, 16 folders, .5 linear feet

RepositoryChester County Historical Society, West Chester, Pennsylvania 19380

Language: English

Project Archivist: Margaret Miles Baillie


Dr. Daniel Garrison Brinton (May 13, 1837 – July 31, 1899) was born in Thornbury Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, on “Homestead Farm” to Lewis and Ann (nee Garrison) Brinton. 

            Daniel’s brother Joseph sent him to Florida for his health during the winter of 1856-57.[1]  He wrote a book while there entitled, The Floridian Peninsula:  Its Literary History, Indian Tribes and Antiquities.  It was the first of many books he wrote on the topics of ethnology, anthropology and linguistics of North and South American culture and history.  The multi-volume set he edited, Library of Aboriginal American Literature, was published in 1880’s, and received the prize medal of the Société Americaine de France.[2]

            Returning to his studies, he was granted an A.M. degree from the Medical Department of Yale in 1858 and received his M.D. from Jefferson Medical College in 1860.  He entered the army as Surgeon of the US Volunteers after he finished a year of study in Paris and Heidelberg, and served as the Medical Director of the 11th Army Corps, holding the rank of Brevet Lt. Col.   It is said that he suffered from sunstroke during the fall of 1863[3] and, therefore, was sent to Quincy, Illinois, to be the Superintendent of Hospitals until the close of the war.[4]  There he met and married his wife, Sarah Maria Tillson, and they had two children, Robert and Emilia.  After the war, he returned to Pennsylvania and resided in Media on the corner of Baltimore Avenue and Lemon Street.[5]

            His first post-war position was that of editor of the Medical and Surgical Reporter, which was a weekly medical journal in Philadelphia.  He held that position from 1867 to 1887.  He also was made Professor of Ethnology at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, in 1884; Professor of American Linguistics and Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1886; and was the President of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia from 1884 to 1889.  He kept active in a number of Anthropological/Ethnological societies abroad and on the continent.

            Brinton’s letters give the reader descriptions about troop movements before, during, and after the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.  He tells of the difference of Hooker’s appearance before and after Chancellorsville, and states in his letter concerning the Battle of Gettysburg, “The wounded came in rapidly so that by the next day we had over a thousand to attend to.  Many of them were hurt in the most shocking manner by shells.  My experience at Chancellorsville was nothing compared to this and I never wish to see such another site.”[6]

            Throughout the letters, there are details on personages such as Gen. Howard, Gen. Schurz, Gen. Barlow, Gen. von Steinwher, Gen. Mead, Gen. Lee, Asst. Adj. Gen. Stowe, Gen. Armistead, Dr. Stiles, Mosby’s Guerillas, and Horatio Worrall.  Brinton also mentions his cook, John Copeland, Sr., who was the father of John Copeland, Jr., of Harper’s Ferry fame.[7]

            Although Brinton is said to have served with the troops at Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge[8], the letters in the collection stop at September 1863 and begin again in August 1864 when Brinton writes his family from the United States General Hospital in Quincy, Illinois, where he was superintendent for the remainder of the war.

[1] CCHS clippings. Delaware County Institute of Science – 100 Year Anniversary of Birth.

[2] Book News. July 1893, no. 131. p.472.

[3]Brinton Memorial Meeting: Report of the Memorial Meeting held January 16, 1900 under the auspices of the American Philosophical Society. 


[4] CCHS clippings.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Letter July 9, 1863.  Ms. Coll. 177. Box 1, Folder 3.

[7] Letter May 14, 1863. Ms. Coll. 177. Box 1, Folder   .

[8] Brinton Memorial Meeting. January 16, 1900.


The collection spans the years 1863-1899 and generally contains Dr. Brinton’s letters to his parents during the Civil War years of 1863 and 1864.  After the war, Dr. Brinton became well known for his work in ethnology, anthropology and linguistics of North and South America.

Collections Scope:

The collection spans the years from 1863-1899.  It consists of personal correspondence.

Information For Researchers:

  • Access:
    Collection is open for research
  • Publication Rights:
    For permissions to reproduce or to publish, please contact the Librarian of the CCHS library.
  • Preferred Citation:
    Dr. Daniel Garrison Brinton papers, 1863-1899. Ms. Coll. 177. Chester County Historical Society Library. West Chester, Pennsylvania.
  • Acquisition Information:
    In Memoriam article donated by Dr. Christian Brinton.
  • Processing History:
    Processing and finding aid prepared using DACS by Margaret Miles Baillie, 2009.

Collection Arrangement:

The primary arrangement of the manuscripts is chronological and they are housed in acid-free folders and acid-free boxes.  The secondary arrangement is by author.

These documents were transferred from the general manuscript and letter collections at CCHS, which, in the past, used an alphanumeric cataloging system and are still marked accordingly.  This allows for in-house cross-referencing between the two systems.

Related Material:

–    Guide to Civil War manuscripts at CCHC.

–    CCHC clippings files, family files and manuscript collection.

–    CCHC Photo Collection

–    CCHC Museum Collection

Collections Contents:

Box 1 – Correspondence 1863 – 1899. 

Folder 1 – Letter to Father from Falmouth Station, VA.  April 27, 1863. 1 letter.

Folder 2 – Letters to Father from Headquarters, 1st Div., 11th Army, near Brooke’s Station, VA. May 1863. 4 letters

Folder 3 – Letters to Father from Headquarters, 2nd Div., 11th Corps, near Berlin, MD. July 7-9, 1863. 2 letters.

Folder 4 – Letters to Father from Headquarters, 2nd Div., 11th Corps, near New Baltimore, VA, and Warrenton, VA  July 24; July 31, 1863. 2 letters.

Folder 5 – Letters to Father from Headquarters, 2nd Div., 11th Corps, near Catlett’s station, VA, and Bristol Station, VA.  August 1863. 4 letters.

Folder 6 – Letters to Father and Mother from United States General Hospital, Quincy, IL.  August 1864.  He gives details of the Sanitary Fair and the responsibilities he has in it. Interesting report on his stopping a strike of the hospital washerwomen. 3 letters.

Folder 7 – Letters to Father and Mother from United States General Hospital, Quincy, IL.  September 1864.  He gives more details of the Sanitary Fair and the responsibilities he has in it. Details of his archaeology outings.  Details about a soldier being murdered in the town and the results.  2 letters.

Folder 8 – Letters to Father and Mother from United States General Hospital, Quincy, IL. October and November 1864. Gives details about the Sanitary Fair and the prizes he won. Tells of furloughs for many soldiers. 2 letters.

Folder 9 – Letter from William Cortland, Fifth Avenue Hotel, New York City [possibly from Germany] inquiring as to the address of Dr. Brinton.  September 23, 1863. 1 letter.

Folder 10 – Letter to D. G. Brinton from a German man, Bridgeport, AL. October 26, 1863.  Letter written in German. 1 letter and envelope.

Folder 11 – Letter to D. G. Brinton from David Meconkey, brother in law, West Chester, PA. October 5, 1863.  1 letter.

Folder 12 – Letter to D. G. Brinton from Francis Washburn, Worcester, MA. March 7, 1864. He tells Brinton about the formation of the 4th Massachusetts Cavalry. 1 item.

Folder 13 – Announcement from D. G. Brinton to the Trustees of the Soldier’s Monument Association of Chester County. February 2, 1867. 1 item.

Folder 14 – Articles of Copartnership between Joseph H. Brinton, John C. Savery and Daniel G. Brinton. March 1, 1869. 1 item.

Folder 15 – Memorandum to Mr. Eben P. Dorr from D. G. Brinton requesting railway rates from Philadelphia to Buffalo for the A.A.A.S. meeting[1]. August 15, 1896. 1 item.

Folder 16 – “In Memoriam:  Daniel Garrison Brinton.” Alex F. Chamberlain. The   Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 12, No. 46 (Jul. – Sep., 1899), pp. 215-225.  2 copies.         

[1] (American Association for the Advancement of Science. Note:  A resolution was passed at this meeting in favor of the adoption of the Metric System. https://archives.aaas.org/docs/resolutions.php?doc_id=106)