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Samuel D. Risley Papers

Identifier: MSS-4141

Scope and Contents

The collection contains papers documenting the military service of Samuel D. Risley and his brother John Risley in the 20th Iowa Volunteer Infantry. There are approximately 181 Civil War letters, primarily from Samuel D. Risley and, intermittently, his brother John, as well as other miscellaneous letters and manuscripts.

In addition there are three diaries Samuel kept during the war offering more details of his service, plus a number of very interesting pieces of ephemera, including newspaper clippings, an important manuscript view drawn by Samuel delineating the 20th’s encampment in New Orleans, a very rare copy of the Freeman’s Champion printed in Houston, Texas, June 26, 1865, a soldier’s manuscript poem written in camp near Falmouth, Virginia, in 1863, and various other pieces of Risley family genealogy including genealogies and reunion booklets from 1890 and 1904.


  • 1822-1909
  • Majority of material found within 1862 - 1865


Biographical / Historical

Samuel Doty Risley, third son of John S. and Mary Elizabeth Parker Risley, was born on January 16, 1845, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Growing up, he was educated in public and private schools in Cincinnati and Davenport, Iowa. During the Civil War, he enlisted as a private in the Twentieth Iowa Regiment. His regiment participated in the battles of Prairie Grove and Pea Ridge, the battle and siege of Vicksburg, as well as the battles of Fort Morgan and Mobile. After the war, he studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in ophthalmology in 1870. He married Emma D. Thompson; the couple had five children: Arthur Doty; Florence Giulia; Helen Irma; John Norman; and Rebekah Hildegarde. Emma died in 1904 and Samuel remarried in 1907, marrying Julia Louise Robinson; they had two more children: Parker Robinson and Louise. Samuel died on April 1, 1920.

John P. Risley, Samuel's younger brother, was born in 1846, and was also in the Twentieth Iowa Regiment.


1 Linear Feet (204 letters, three diaries, June 26, 1865 issue of Freeman's Champion, and various pieces of poetry and family genealogy)

Language of Materials



Papers documenting the military service of Samuel D. Risley and his brother John Risley in the 20th Iowa Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.


Purchased from Denning House, 2014


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Processed by

Martha Bace, 2015



Guide to the Samuel D. Risley Papers
July 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266