In two previous blogs I have introduced my readers to
1) How to navigate the microfilm collections at the National Archives and Records Administration, Pacific Region (Riverside) and
2) What the "Letters of Application and Recommendation During Presidential Administrations, 1797-1877" is and how to access the information on which NARA facilities have the various collections available for customer viewing.
In this posting I want to share some of the findings in the collection of "Letters" of the Administration of Ulysses S. Grant (to help you save a little time, just click on the link "Ulysses S. Grant" and you can easily follow along on the Information Document - also called the "Descriptive Pamphlet," "Publication Details," and the "Finding Aid" - it's a PDF document that explains the history behind the collection and provides - in most cases - an Index to all the organizations and people about which the Letters and Applications are written).
Seven NARA facilities have this particular collection: Pacific Region (Riverside County, CA), Archives I (Washington, D.C.), Southeast Region (Atlanta, GA), Great Lakes Region (Chicago, IL), Archives II (College Park, MD), Southwest Region (Ft. Worth, TX), and Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle, WA).
There are 69 rolls of film in the collection and the Record Group (RG) is 59 ("General Records of the Department of State"). This Record Group also contains "other documents relating to appointments to public office, including oaths of office, attested copies of confirmations and rejections by the Senate, copies of commissions, and resignations and declinations of appointments" (Publication Number M-968, Washington, DC: NARA, 1975, p. 2).
Within the document (we're not into the films yet, just checking the PDF "View Important Publication Details" at this time), you can learn the history of the Grant Administration, a hint of the types of documents you will find on the films (applications of Union Army veterans, African Americans, those already holding government positions, and civilians seeking political and other appointments, etc.). It is estimated that, during the early part of his administration, about 400 people approached Grant, and his appointees, for consideration for Federal positions (many having served under Grant in the War).
In the cases where an applicant might have had another name or a letter also involved another consideration, a cross-reference is provided in the Index: e.g., "Carlisle, John S., Mar. 10-May 11, 1869 (6). See also Campbell, Archibald W." So if you are looking for Archibald W. Campbell (for whom there are an associated 22 documents), in the same index you will find his listing but no cross reference to John S. Carlisle (for whom there are an associated six documents), plus the date range given is "Apr. 26-Nov. 1, 1869." It would behoove the researcher to investigate both of these document collections (Carlisle and Campbell) (pp. 15-16). As it turns out, both Campbell and Carlisle letters are located on the same film roll (#10, Cab-Cas) (p. 104). (Note: it is most likely that the Campbell material includes some Carlisle material, but only within the date range given under "Carlisle.")
I hope that clarifies how the Information Document works and how it can be used before you visit your local archives. Knowing the film number(s) (in this case, Series M968, roll 10) will help you find your information faster when you arrive at the facility. As mentioned before, if you have a number of films to view, call or email in advance so they can be pulled for you; Pacific Region email for this purpose is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next couple of blogs will give some examples of the letters received by the Grant Administration: 3 for well-known individuals and 1 for a lesser-known person (but possibly your ancestor?).