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Alonzo Van Vlack papers

Identifier: MSS-0166

Scope and Contents note

The collection contains typed transcripts of a description of prison life by Alonzo Van Vlack, a Union soldier captured near Athens, Alabama, on September 24, 1864. Besides the five typed copies of letters to his parents in Michigan, written from the parole camp near Vicksburg, there is also one handwritten letter dated December 16, 1864, while he was a prisoner of war at Cahaba Prison in Dallas County, Alabama. [The originals of the typed transcriptions are held by Bentley Library, University of Michigan.]


  • 1864-1865


Conditions Governing Access


Biographical / Historical

Alonzo A. Van Vlack, oldest son of Edmund and Sarah Van Vlack, was born in Hillsdale, Michigan, on October 8, 1843. He enlisted in Company F of the Eighteenth Michigan Infantry Regiment on August 5, 1862. He was captured on September 24, 1864, at Athens, Alabama, and spent approximately six months in the Confederate prison in Cahawba, Alabama. He was paroled in March 1865, and moved to Vicksburg. There he was exchanged and was aboard the Steamer Sultana, headed up the Mississippi when, around 2:00am on April 27, 1865, the steamer exploded just north of Memphis, killing approximately 1,500 men. In the last letter to his parents, written in Ohio and dated May 12, 1865, he tells them that he should be in Woodbridge (Michigan) in two weeks "if Nothing Happens."

After his return to Michigan, he married Louisa E. Divine on July 4, 1866. The couple had one daughter, Sarah Adelia. Van Vlack died on April 8, 1896.


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Language of Materials



Typed transcripts and one handwritten letter from a Union soldier to his parents while he was a prisoner of war at Cahaba Prison in Dallas County, Alabama, and at a parole camp near Vicksburg, Mississippi. There are also typed transcriptions of manuscripts describing prison life and the explosion of the Steamer Sultana.


Gift of Jack C. Northrup, 1992; additional gift, 2004

Processed by

updated by Andrew Harris, 2012; updated by Martha Bace, 2015



Guide to the Alonzo Van Vlack letter
February 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266