The Samuel Comfort Family Papers (C0407), in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, have been recently reprocessed, and the finding aids is now online (http://findingaids.princeton.edu/collections/C0407). Most important are the papers of Samuel Comfort (1837–1933), a Union officer during the U.S. Civil War, which is well documented through his extensive correspondence with family, friends, and fellow officers. The papers include Comfort’s diary from August 1864 to May 1865, official documents, muster rolls, and photographs.
It was around this time 150 years ago at Camp Couch in Philadelphia that Union officer Samuel Comfort was solidifying the core of his all-volunteer independent cavalry unit, Company “L” of the 20th Cavalry Regiment, 181st Pennsylvania Volunteers. Comfort began recruiting (and financing) his company the previous summer, spurred on by General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania.
This was Comfort’s second military stint in the Civil War. Previously, in the fall of 1861, he was selected to be a part of “Anderson Troop,” another independent Pennsylvania unit, which served as body guards to Major General D. C. [Don Carlos] Buell. After the Battle of Shiloh, April 6–7, 1862, Comfort became disabled by typhoid fever and was honorably discharged before reenlisting in June 1863. Stationed along the Shenandoah Valley, the 20th Pennsylvania Regiment took part in several key battles, including the Battle of New Market (May 15, 1864). Comfort was promoted to the rank of major in March 1865 when the 20th Regiment became involved in the pursuit of Confederate forces that led to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. Comfort was mustered out and honorably discharged from military service in July 1865.
The Samuel Comfort Family Papers also document Comfort’s time after the war as a foreign representative for Standard Oil Company, a predecessor of Exxon. It was while living abroad that Comfort’s daughter, Emma, met her husband, Harry Maule Crookshank. Descended from a distinguished military and political Scotch-Irish family, Crookshank was a decorated physician and surgeon who served as British Controller-General of the Daira Sanieh Administration in Egypt from 1897 to 1907. Previous to this appointment, Crookshank was a surgeon with the British Red Cross Society, and served in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871) and the Serbo-Turkish War (1876–1878). Crookshank is documented in the Samuel Comfort Family Papers through both personal and professional correspondence, official documents, ephemera, and photographs.
Harry Frederick Comfort Crookshank, the son of Harry and Emma Comfort Crookshank, is also represented in the collection, though modestly, through a few letters and photographs. A distinguished World War I veteran, Harry was a British Conservative politician who served as Minister of Health from 1951 to 1952, Leader of the House of Commons from 1951 to 1955, and Lord Privy Seal from 1952 to 1955. Of special note is a letter from Crookshank to his family written during the Battle of the Somme (September 14, 1916) as well as a letter from Winston Churchill (December 7, 1954).
For more information about the Samuel Comfort Family Papers and about the Manuscript Division’s extensive holdings of personal papers pertaining to the Civil War, contact email@example.com
(Left) Letter from Comfort to his father about his involvement in the Battle of Appomattox Court House, April 10,1865. (Right) Samuel Comfort.