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Underwood, Key families papers

Collection number: ahc.MSS213

Scope and Content

This collection contains correspondence, envelopes and financial and legal documents belonging primarily to members of the Underwood family of Franklin County, and later Lithonia, Georgia. Most of the correspondence was written by William and Alvin Underwood to their parents and siblings when the pair served in the Confederate Army from 1861-1864. William sent correspondence to his family telling of his unit’s fitness and preparation, his optimism about a short war, his difficulties in getting furloughs, his need for clothes, and comments on his participation in the battle at Gettysburg, and General Robert E. Lee’s success against General George Meade. His last letter in the collection was dated May 13, 1864 and written from a hospital in Lynchburg, Virginia where he was recovering from a gunshot wound. He died three months later in battle. Alvin Underwood also touches on a variety of subjects in his correspondence, including diseases (measles) in camp, his good health, his optimistic views of the war, including his hopes that Great Britain will intercede the conflict, and mentions battles in the Peninsular Campaign, including the 1862 battle involving the Merrimac. He also mentions battle wounds and disappearances of members of his unit. The collection also includes letters from B. L. Key, W. J. Key, and M. J. Key, A. C. Giles, W. H. Morris, J. L. Philips, all written from 1861-1864. Also included is a letter from “Mary” in 1886 written from Stone Mountain, Georgia in which she describes the appearance of James Longstreet and Jefferson Davis at an event in the town. The collection also includes financial records belonging to Little Berry Underwood such as postmaster bills, Georgia and Confederate tax bills, and land deeds. The collection contains genealogical information about the Underwood family, and also a copy of Samuel Pettit’s (father of Florence DeAllen Brockman) will, in which he bequeaths his land and slaves to his children.


  • 1827-1951 (bulk 1861-1864)


Conditions Governing Access

The 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Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright.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 Underwood and Key families were merged on June 27, 1832 with the marriage of Little Berry Underwood (1804-1879) and Louisa Maria Key (1815-1895). The couple moved from Tennessee to a village in Franklin County, Georgia known as Walnut Hill, and later to Lithonia before the Civil War. Mr. Underwood was a merchant. The couple had eight children, including Nancy Sarah Ann, who died in her infancy in 1833; Harriet Frances who married Paschal Philips (1838-1916); William Jackson (1840-1864); Alvin Columbus (1843-1864); James Knox Polk, known as “Uncle Jimmy” (1846-1915); Marion LaFayette (1849-1938), who married Florence DeAllen Brockman; Cornelia Malissa who married Charles H. Miller (1851-1926), and Mary Louise who married James Franklin Hill (1855-1940). Alvin Columbus Underwood served with Cobbs Legion, a Georgia Volunteer Infantry unit during the Civil War and was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864. Alvin’s brother, William Jackson Underwood (Jacky) served in the 4th Regiment, Georgia Volunteers, Company F, and was killed in the Battle of Winchester. Biographical information about members of the Key family of Georgia has not been determined.


0.25 linear ft.



System of Arrangement

Collection is arranged alphabetical according to titles supplied by staff.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Florence Underwood Adams, 1977(1977.535)

General Physical Description note

Extent: .25 cubic feet (1 half document case)


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 processed in 2007

An Inventory of Their Papers at the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center
Inventory prepared by Paul Crater
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Kenan Research Center at Atlanta History Center Repository

130 West Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta GA 30305