Anderson's Civil War Letter

It is the year 1861 and the village of Manitowoc with a population of 3,061 people was still struggling to take its place as a center of lumbering, fishing and farming on the shores of Lake Michigan. Its citizens were increasingly concerned about the news regarding the problems of the Southern states and their withdrawal from the United States to create their own confederacy. On April 19, word reached Manitowoc that Southern forces had fired on Fort Sumter and President Lincoln had declared that military force had to be used to put down that rebellion and he called for volunteers to join the armed forces to fight for the Union.

It was June, 1861 when the first group of volunteers left Manitowoc for the Civil War. Among them was 19 year old James Anderson. Anderson had come to this country from Scotland with his parents, a brother and two sisters. They had settled on a small tract of land in the town of Kossuth and soon moved to Manitowoc. Upon the call for volunteers to join the military, he joined Company A .The following is a letter written by James S. Anderson, while he was camped near Richmond, Virginia on June 12, 1862:

Dear Parents and Sisters,

I received a letter from you tonight and was truly glad to hear that things were alright in the little home circle. I also got a letter from Uncle Walter yesterday which I will answer as soon as possible. We get our mail very irregularly here and that accounts for some of your letters being received and answered sooner than others.

Since I wrote you last we have crossed Chickahominy and we are now laying siege to Richmond. On our line, our Division has thrown up a formidable redoubt flanked on both sides by lines of rifle pits and also a small curtain. On the extreme left of our line opposite to us is a rebel redoubt masked by woods and rebel fire pits and curtains for field artillery.

Every night the rebels throw shot and shell into our camps and even now as I write I hear the shells scream and burst in the woods on our left. Last night as I was sitting in the Cox Boy’s tent reading the papers you had sent me, a shell past just over the tent and struck the ground a couple rods beyond, from where it glanced into the woods beyond and burst. As is customary we threw ourselves on our faces flat on the ground until it passed over.

As to that money matter, I have explained it once to you and will try to do so once more. On the first day of July the government will owe us four months’ pay or $52.00, in addition to this I have money owing me in the company amounting to $15.00 more, making a total of $67.00 which will be due to me on the first of July and which I have secured to you in the case of my death. I do not know what more you ask and as you hint about accounts with the sutler, I will tell you the largest amount I have ever owed him at any pay day was $3.00 and that was for necessary articles not furnished by the government. …

With much love I remain.

Your son and brother,

J.S. Anderson

Anderson returned to Manitowoc with Company A on July 28, 1864 with less than 20 men. You can learn more about Anderson and our local Civil War Volunteers during May 20 and 21 with the event Union Soldier Remembers at the Manitowoc County Historical Society.

Manitowoc County Teachers College Begins Next Chapter

Most of us can look back at our childhood and pick out a couple of teachers that we connected with, helping make us who we are today.  For seventy years, the Manitowoc County Teachers College was a place for these teachers to learn their trade. 

In the days of early settlement, teachers were not usually trained as educators.  The first school classes in Manitowoc County were held in 1837 in the corner of a warehouse owned by city founder Benjamin Jones at Sixth and Commercial (Maritime) Streets.  The first public school class was held in 1839 at the county courthouse in Rapids.  Growth continued quickly along with the influx of immigrants, and by 1860, the County had been divided into 86 school districts, with 3,971 children attending school.

The training of our County’s educators made a large leap forward in 1900, when the County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to establish and maintain a rural teacher’s training school.  The college began with classes being held in Garfield School from 1901 to 1904, when it moved to the second floor of the Manitowoc Public Library on North 8th Street. 

After outgrowing this site, the County Board authorized a new building to be constructed for the College at Michigan and 18th streets at a cost of $53,000. In its new home, the County Rural Normal School, would go on to produce 2,500 graduates until its closing in 1971. Students completed a two year course of study at the school including history, sociology, English, library science, fine arts, psychology, geography, and science.  The college also operated a laboratory school with elementary age students attending classes and provided hands-on teaching experience for the college students. 

Manitowoc County Teacher’s College, as it would come to be known, offered a diverse range of activities for its students including basketball, football, volleyball, a cheerleading squad, pep club, conservation camps, a chorus and forensics club. 

Following the Teacher College’s closing, the building became a home for various county offices and the County Board meetings until about 1996. A major step in the development site came in 1998, when the Society moved its administrative offices, exhibits, artifact storage and research library to the Manitowoc County Heritage Center after a successful $1 million fundraising effort to renovate the Manitowoc County Teacher’s Training College. The fundraising efforts of the Society resurrected the building to its 1922 appearance with a revived hand-painted auditorium, large windows, and an elevator. The Society ended the lease on the building in 2016 and brought all its operations to its property at Pinecrest Historical Village.

A new chapter for the County Teacher’s College begins later this month as the Manitowoc County ADRC (Aging and Disability Resource Center) and the County Veterans’ Service Office move to the Heritage Center. The County Board will again make its home at the historic building beginning on May 16.

At almost a century old, the “County Normal” holds a special place in the hearts of its graduates and Manitowoc County Historical Society.  The Manitowoc County Historical Society continues to maintain a fascinating and diverse collection of photographs, artifacts and documents from the College.  These artifacts hold many memories for alumni and ensure that the legacy of the institution will live on for perpetuity.