Dr. James Russell Cumming

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The Litchfield Historical Society is pleased to announce the acquisition of a collection of original letters from Dr. James Russell Cumming, a surgeon with the 12th Regiment of Connecticut Volunteers from 1862-1865. Born in North Adams, MA in 1830, Cumming studied at the Canajoharie Academy in Canajoharie, NY prior to teaching in Colebrook and Farmington, CT. He married Jane Elizabeth Cowles in 1853. The couple had one child, a daughter named Daisy, prior to his wife’s death in 1856.

Cumming studied medicine with Dr. Holcomb of West Granby while continuing to teach, and later graduated from the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1862. He entered the army from Winsted, Connecticut as an assistant surgeon in 1862 and was promoted to surgeon in 1865. He mustered out later that same year. Following the war, Cumming returned to Columbia to continue his study of general medicine. He and his daughter moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1867 where he started a general practice. In 1871 he married Anna Stillman Hubbell with whom he had two sons, Timothy Cowles Cumming, and Pierson Russell Cumming. Dr. Cumming died in 1891 and is buried at The Mountain Grove Cemetery, in Fairfield, Connecticut.

During his years in the army, Cumming served in New Orleans, Port Hudson, Brashear City, Winchester, Fisher’s Hill, and Cedar Creek. The correspondence contained in the collection consists or letters to his parents written from several cities, ships, and army camps. The letters reference food, clothing, prices, Army pay, medical procedures, skirmishes and retreats, and race among other topics. The collection also contains several military records and a tribute to Cumming from his peers following his death.

The Dr. James R. Cumming Civil War letters, along with historical notes which are the source of the information contained here, are a gift of Robert Cumming and family, direct descendants of James Russell Cumming. Robert Cumming provided the Society with a transcription of the correspondence, which may be obtained upon request. A finding aid detailing the collection’s contents is in progress here: https://archives.prod.litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org/repositories/2/resources/1324.

Letter from James Russell Cumming to his parents, Oct 24, 1864

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About Linda Hocking

I have been the Curator of Library & Archives at the Litchfield Historical Society since 2002. I also serve on the State Historical Records Advisory Board, as Immediate Past President of New England Archivists, and as newsletter editor for the Academy of Certified Archivists. I have been a certified archivist since 2005.

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