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John White Geary letters

Collection number: ahc.mss55

Scope and Content

These papers consist mainly of photocopies (and some transcriptions) of letters written by John W. Geary to his second wife, Mary Geary, while he served in the Union Army during the Civil War between 1861 and 1865. Some letters predate the war, and others are written by John's son, Edward R. Geary, and sent to his stepmother Mary. The collection also includes an index of correspondence and information on the corps that Geary led.


  • 1858-1865, 1977, undated
  • Majority of material found within 1858 - 1865


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. All requests to publish, quote, or reproduce must be submitted through the Kenan Research Center.

Administrative/Biographical History

John White Geary (1819-1873) was born near Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, the son of Richard and Margaret Geary. In 1843, he married Margaret Ann Logan; the couple had 3 children, John White, Edward Ratchford (1845-1863), and William Logan. Between 1846 and 1848, John served as a lieutenant colonel (and later colonel) in the Mexican-American War. The Geary family moved to San Francisco in 1849 when President Polk appointed Geary postmaster of the city; later he served as Alcalade (a sheriff/probate judge), the first elected mayor, and the chairman of the Territorial Democratic Committee. Margaret Logan Geary died in 1853. Between 1855 and 1856, Geary was the territorial governor of Kansas. In 1858, he married Mary Church Henderson, and they had four children, Mary, Margaret, Eva Louise, and John Washington.

Administrative/Biographical History

Geary became colonel of the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry in 1861; his company occupied Leesburg, Virginia after it was evacuated in March 1862, and fought at Harper’s Ferry later in September. As a brigadier general, Geary fought at Cedar Mountain in August 1862. Then in 1863, he fought at the Battle of Chancellorsville in April and May, at the battle of Gettysburg in July, in Wauhatchie, Tennessee in October, and in the Chattanooga-Ringgold campaign in November. In 1864, he fought in the Atlanta Campaign, in the “March to the Sea” that ended in Savannah Georgia in December, and in the Carolinas campaign until July 18, 1865. Geary acted as military governor of Savannah and was promoted to brevetted major general. Edward Geary, John's oldest son, left Jefferson College at age sixteen to serve in the Union army as a lietuenant; he fought alongside his father in the battle of Wauhatchie and died in battle. In 1865, Geary served as a judge in the Andersonville Trial. He was later elected governor of Pennsylvania as the Republican nominee in 1867 and 1870, then in 1872 lost the republican presidential nomination to Ulysses S. Grant. Geary died on February 27, 1873.


0.417 linear ft. (1 document case)



System of Arrangement

This collection begins with an inventory of letters, and is then arranged alphabetically according to titles supplied by staff.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, 1967 with subsequent additions

Existence and Location of Originals

The original letters are held at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania under the title the Geary Family Papers, collection number 2062. The Kenan Research Center owns copies only.

Description Control

This collection was re-processed in 2015.

John White Geary letters
Leah Lefkowitz
December 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center Repository

130 West Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta GA 30305