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Nathaniel Wilson Leighton was born on June 11, 1833, in Falmouth, Maine. In 1857 he graduated from Bowdoin College, and in 1858 from New York Medical College. He worked as a physician in Brooklyn, New York. During the Civil War he served with the Union Army for three years. In 1861 he married Mary Elizabeth Purinton of Portland, Maine, with whom he had three children. Mary Elizabeth died in 1882, and in 1884 he remarried to Helen Hudson. They had one daughter. N.W. Leighton died on August 12, 1899 in Brooklyn, New York.
The Nathaniel Wilson Leighton Papers consist of diaries, correspondence, memorabilia, and biographical information. The material primarily relates to his work as a surgeon during the United States Civil War from 1861-1864. He was a member of the Seventy-second Regiment of the New York Volunteers, and then was transferred to the One Hundred and Seventy-third Regiment. His earlier diaries primarily discuss the weather and his desire to go home and be with his wife. As the time goes on and Leighton's regiment enters combat his diaries become considerably more detailed. They describe the movement of the regiments, battles, and medical issues he had to deal with. The correspondence, primarily letters between Leighton and his wife, provides information about the Civil War but more closely documents the relationship between the two. Leighton frequently expresses his desire to return home and offers advice for the care of their daughter, who was born while he was with his regiment. Leighton's wife, Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Purinton, also expresses her desire to be with her husband and offers him details about their child's progress. The papers also contain a significant amount of memorabilia relating to his service in the United States Civil War, including insignia, a note regarding resolutions passed upon Leighton's resignation, recommendations for Leighton to be accepted as a medical volunteer, and other documents. Of note is "An Alphabetical List of the Battles of the War of the Rebellion," in which Leighton marked numerous battles that he participated in. These battles include the Second Battle of Bull Run, Virginia (August 30, 1862), Manassas, Virginia (November 5, 1862), and the Siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana (May 27 to July 9, 1863), among others. Several photographs of Leighton along with a number of photographs and other images of battlegrounds are included in the collection.
Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:
Nathaniel Wilson Leighton Papers, Mount Holyoke College, Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, Massachusetts
Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
8 Dwight Hall
50 College St.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Phone: (413) 538-2013
Fax: (413) 538-2370 Email Reference Form: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/lits/library/arch/forms/areq.htm