Skip to main content

Engelmann-Kircher Family Papers

Identifier: MS-BC190

Scope and Contents

The papers are divided into those of Theodore Engelmann, Adolph Engelmann, and Henry Kircher. The papers of Theodore Engelmann, 1798-1888 (147 items with translations), include letters from his wife Elizabeth Kipp Engelmann, his sister Dorothea Engelmann Hilgard, his brother Peter Engelmann, his nephew G. Fritz Hilgard, Elizabeth’s sister Dorothy Pless, and the Engelmann children Margaretha, Charlotte, Caroline, Theodore, Josephine and Sophie. Ninety-five of the letters were written before the move to the U.S. They describe the daily lives of various members of the Engelmann and Hilgard families. They are chatty, informative letters touching on many aspects of family life including schools, churches, war, government officials, entertainment, household chores, travel, work and sickness. Some of the longest and most interesting of the letters are from Theodore Engelmann and concern his life at the university, his trips to Heidelberg and Jena, his living quarters, dissatisfaction with his studies, student brawls, his involvement with duels, his revolutionary attitudes, and the imprisonment of his friend Gustav Koerner. There are 9 letters dated after the arrival of the family in Illinois, one from Sophie and 8 from Theodore. Five of Theodore’s are written to Margaretha in Germany. They are reflective and soul searching letters in which Engelmann contrasts the German emigrant to the American settler. He describes his adjustment to pioneer life, his discontent at his parents’ farm, his difficulty overcoming the language barrier, and the struggle to find gainful employment as tanner, lawyer, publisher, business agent, or librarian. Also included, but not translated, are 12 compositions by Theodore Engelmann. Titles or subjects of these are the Lookingglass Prairie; a report on a St. Louis concert; description subjects of a trip north to Des Moines River; notes on the Illinois constitution; introduction to a historical and descriptive essay on St. Louis and its surroundings followed by a long essay on Kentucky and the backwoodsmen; reminiscences written in old age; notebook on readings; and a description of a trip with a client to see a plot of land for sale. Many of these letters were published in an article “Belleville Germans Look at America”. Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, v. 40, March 1947, pp. 23-37. There is one folder containing a letter sent to Theodore from Madrid in 1862 from an unknown correspondent. There is also one folder of un-translated letter fragments, 1833-1845 and undated. Adolph Engelmann’s letters, 1846-1847, 1862-1865, and 1932, include 332 items with translations. Forty of the letters were written during the Mexican War and were sent to his parents and Gustav Koerner. These letters have been translated and published in an article “The Second Illinois in the Mexican War: Mexican War Letters of Adolph Engelmann, 1846-1847” in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, v. 26, January 1934, pp. 357-452. 270 letters were to his wife, Minna, while he was serving in the Civil War. They are intelligent, descriptive letters of military service in Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Engelmann participated in the battles of Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh), the siege at Vicksburg, and the capture of Little Rock. Also included in Adolph’s letters is a folder of 22 letters sent and received from various colleagues and fellow officers in the Union during the Civil War, years 1862-1865. Henry Kircher’s papers, 1860-1903, include a four volume diary, August 1861-November 1863, all written in English. The 200 letters are in German and have translations. An edited version of the letters was published in A German in the Yankee Fatherland: The Civil War Letters of Henry A. Kircher, edited by Earl J. Hess, 1983. Campaigns and battles covered include Corinth, Yazoo River, Vicksburg, and Ringgold. Many of the letters include sketches of fortifications and battlefields. Other military papers include 31 property returns for the 12th Missouri Infantry, 1863, and a one-volume record of morning reports from September 1861 to July 1862. Post-Civil War material includes three letters from William T. Sherman, 1865, to Kircher as Recorder of St. Clair County, concerning land Sherman owned east of Caseyville. There is also a diary of a trip to Germany in 1869. In addition to the letters and papers of these three individuals, an oversize folder includes a wallpaper newspaper from April 1863 and two copies of the Engelmann family tree, written in German.


  • Created: 1779-1932
  • Other: Date acquired: 00/00/1946


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research


1.89 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The Engelmanns were a family of German emigrants who came to America in 1833 and settled on a farm near Shiloh in St. Clair County, Illinois. The collection consists of the letters and personal papers of brothers Theodore and Adolph Engelmann and their brother-in-law, Henry Kircher of Belleville, Illinois. The bulk of the collection is correspondence.

Arrangement Note

Materials are arranged in four series, with one series for each of the three primary creators: Series 1,Theodor Engelmann; Series 2, Adolph Engelmann; and Series 3, Henry Kircher. Series 4 consists of oversized documents pertaining to the family as a whole. Series 1 includes Theodor Engelmann's letters and papers, compositions, handwritten translations of letters and papers, typed translations, letters from unidentified correspondents, and a notebook. Series 2 includes letters of Adolph Engelmann's parents, letters to his wife, translations of letters to his wife, working copies of translations, letters from colleagues, and Engelmann birth certificates from 1779 to 1825. Series 3 includes Henry Kircher's letters and papers, property returns for the 12th Missouri Infantry, miscellaneous printed material, Civil War diaries, morning reports, diary of a trip to Germany, and translations of letters. Letters and papers are arranged chronologically within each category. Series 4 consists of a wallpaper newspaper from 1863 and two copies of the Engelmann family tree.

Accruals and Additions

1983, 1996, 2016-17
Archon Finding Aid Title
Karl Janssen
Description rules
Other Unmapped
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collection Repository

112 North Sixth Street
Springfield IL 62701 US
(217) 558-8923