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Simms family letters

Collection number: ahc.MSS11

Scope and Content

This collection contains 1 telegram and 106 letters written between members of the Simms family. The collection also contains transcriptions of 52 of the letters. Most of the letters were written by Arthur Benjamin Simms to his sister Lucy Jane Simms, however there are also some letters written to his mother Jerusha Simms. Other letters were written by Lucy Jane Simms, James Phillip Simms, Jerusha Simms, and Richard Lee Simms, Jr. All but three of Arthur Benjamin’s letters were written from Virginia. Most of the them from his camp in and near Richmond, however other locations in Virginia include New Market, Yorktown, Petersburg, Leesburg, Fredericksburg, Gordonsville, Fisher’s Hill and Charlestown. The other three letters by Arthur were written from Goldsboro, North Carolina, Bristol, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia. The letters contain accounts of family news such as illness, births, deaths and moves. Arthur Benjamin’s letters often detail rations, campsites, marching orders, and the generally good quality of life in his Confederate infantry. He often describes the mood of the soldiers as optimistic and eager in the early years of the war, however notes increased discontent and hopes for an end to the fighting throughout 1864 and 1865. Simms says this longing was expressed in the soldiers’ increased destruction of cities and towns, regardless of the city’s allegiance to the Union or the Confederacy. The primary concern of many of these letters is money or business matters such as payment of taxes, debts or hiring of slaves. He often discusses the changing currency value of greenbacks, gold and Confederate money. When discussing battle Arthur usually describes life for soldiers in the trenches and the precautions taken to ensure the soldiers’ safety. Arthur notes the progress of General Sherman’s march through Georgia and repeatedly warns his family of the dangers for civilians when Union soldiers are present, especially for people living in the country instead of the city. In the letter from Arthur dated February 2, 1865 he writes that Union President Lincoln expects foreign nations to help fight. In this same letter he also notes that the Confederate Vice President, President of the Senate and Assistant Secretary of War had gone to Washington to discuss possible peace settlements with the Union.


  • 1841, 1860-1878
  • Majority of material found within 1860 - 1878


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

The Simms family of Covington, Georgia included Richard Lee Simms, Jerusha Bonner Simms and their five children: Sarah Lee, Lucy Jane (1845-1919), James Philip (1837-1887), Richard Lee Jr. (1838-1862), and Arthur Benjamin (1842-1887). All three sons served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

James Phillip Simms was born January 1, 1837. He married Mary Lucy Bates on April 20, 1860, and had two children, Jimmie Jr. and Alice Lee. He enlisted in the 53rd Regiment of the Georgia Volunteer Infantry and achieved the position of Brigadier General before being captured by the Union Army on April 6, 1865. He was held at Fort Warren near Boston before being released on July 24, 1865. After the war he returned to his law practice. James Phillip Simms died on May 30, 1887.

Richard Lee Simms, Jr. was born on July 10, 1838. He married Lucy Hyde Branch from Tampa, Florida on June 17, 1861, and had one son, Richard Lee Simms III. Before the war he was an attorney in Decatur and Dekalb, Georgia. He reached the rank of 1st Lieutenant in Wofford’s Brigade, McLaws Division of Longstreet’s Corps before he was killed on September 9, 1862, in Maryland during the Battle of Harper’s Ferry.

Arthur Benjamin Simms was born on March 15, 1842. He attended Emory College in Oxford, Georgia and later Franklin College in Athens, Georgia. He served in the Lamar Infantry of Cobb’s Legion. In late 1862, he was taken prisoner and held in Johnson’s Island Prison Camp at Lake Erie until he became sick and was sent home. When he returned to war he joined the regiment of his brother James. He achieved the rank of Major before mustering out on February 18, 1865. In 1886, he became a lawyer and in 1871, he established the practice Simms & Simms with his brother James. He married Sarah Shelton Terrell Jackson on January 3, 1878, and they had three children—Bonner, Arthur Benjamin Simms Jr. and Sarah Jackson. He was elected Mayor of Covington sometime in the 1870s. He died on June 6, 1887.

Lucy Jane Simms was born on December 11, 1845. She graduated from Southern Masonic Female College. She married Edward Heard on November 11, 1882, and had four children, two of whom survived to adulthood—Lucy Hyde and Benjamin Simms.


0.84 linear ft. (1 document case, 1 oversized box)



System of Arrangement

This collection is arranged chronologically with the exception of oversized documents that are housed separately.

Existence and Location of Originals

This collection contains only a transcription of the letter dated 1841. The existence of an original has not been determined.

Existence and Location of Copies

Transcriptions of letters in this collection are housed in Box 1, Folders 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14.


America's Turning Point: Documenting the Civil War Experience in Georgia received support from a Digitizing Historical Records grant awarded to the Atlanta History Center, Georgia Historical Society, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the Digital Library of Georgia by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Description Control

Collection re-processed in 2009.

Simms family letters
Paul Crater
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 Atlanta History Center Repository

130 West Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta GA 30305