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Lt. Colonel John M. Hamilton Papers

Identifier: 1994-027-08

Scope and Contents

The collection has been arranged in five series, Biographical, Correspondence, Documents, Ephemera, and Photographs.

The core of the collection is a scrapbook of memorabilia related to the career of Lt. Colonel John M. Hamilton, probably assembled by his granddaughter. After accessioning, the book was photocopied to document the original layout and appearance of the pages. The scrapbook was then sent to a paper conservator; it was disassembled, the letters, documents, photographs, and other items in the scrapbook were removed, stabilized, and, if necessary, repaired. In addition to the scrapbook, a drawing, 14 photographs, and a letter relating to Lt. Colonel Hamilton were also donated. See the Processing Note for more details.

The scrapbook was originally arranged in rough chronological order. It was decided to use an archival arrangement by series, rather than maintaining the original order of the scrapbook. This was done for several reasons: the scrapbook was already disassembled, so any artifactual value had already been lost; user access is improved by series arrangement, as compared with the partial chronological arrangement of the original scrapbook; and the non-scrapbook materials related Hamilton are better integrated into the collection using a series arrangement. To assist researchers interested in reconstructing the scrapbook, the following tools are available: photocopies of the original pages can be found in the accession file; the container list notes the original scrapbook pages in square brackets (the front of the page is indicated by “A,” the back by “B”); and individual collection items have scrapbook page numbers noted in pencil on the verso. The paper conservator’s report, which documents treatment and repair of collection items, is also available.

Alphabetical subject or name arrangement is primarily used; the one exception is the Documents series, which is arranged chronologically to better assist an understanding of Lt. Colonel Hamilton’s military career. The bulk of the collection dates from 1898.


  • Creation: 1863 - 1925


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research. It is advisable for researchers to discuss their proposed research with staff prior to visiting the Center.

Conditions Governing Use

Lt. Colonel John M. Hamilton Papers is the property of the Donald C. & Elizabeth M. Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Literary right, including copyright, belongs to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, with the exception of copyrighted artwork images and published literary works, which are the property of the respective copyright holders. It is the responsibility of the researcher, and his/her publisher, to obtain publishing permission from individuals pictured, relevant copyright holders, and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.


1.50 Linear Feet (1 document box, 1 flat box)

Language of Materials



Papers and photographs of Lt. Colonel John M. Hamilton, a soldier whose career spanned almost 40 years, from the Civil War through the Indian Wars, until finally ending with his death on San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War. The collection includes biographical material such as newspaper and first-person accounts of Hamilton’s military career. There is substantial correspondence, mostly arising out of Hamilton’s death and the attempts of his widow, Isabel B. Hamilton, to obtain a pension. Notable correspondents include Frederic Remington and Theodore Roosevelt. Other letters provide multiple first-person accounts of the Battle of San Juan Hill and the death of Hamilton. Official documents show the progression of Hamilton’s life and career, including officer appointments signed by presidents Andrew Johnson and Grover Cleveland. Ephemeral items in the collection include broadsides and invitations that provide a glimpse into life at a frontier fort, two drawings from life that depict aspects of the frontier military, and the autographs of two major 19th century military figures: General George Crook and General Adna R. Chaffee. Photographs include portraits of John and Isabel Hamilton, and an interesting group of photographs showing life at Fort Robinson, Nebraska at the end of the 19th century, including a striking portrait of a 9th U. S. Cavalry Regiment bugler.


Series 1: Biographical (1871-1918) This series has been divided into two subseries: military and personal. Both subseries primarily comprise newspaper and magazine clippings. The military subseries includes Frederic Remington’s April 1898 Harper’s New Monthly Magazine article about the 9th U. S. Cavalry at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. The “Colonel” referred to in the article is Lt. Colonel Hamilton; during Remington’s research trip to Fort Robinson he became quite friendly with Hamilton and his wife. After Hamilton’s death in Cuba later in the year, Isabel Hamilton wrote to solicit Remington’s assistance in obtaining a widow’s pension (see Correspondence series). Also included is a published account of the pivotal November 1876 battle with Dull Knife and the Cheyenne in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming in which Hamilton is mentioned. Other material includes a newspaper cartoon of the members of a court martial on which Hamilton served. The bulk of the military subseries comprises 1898 newspaper articles about the 9th U. S. Cavalry and the death of Lt. Colonel Hamilton at the Battle of San Juan Hill. Two typescript accounts of Lt. Colonel Hamilton’s death by firsthand observers are also included.

The personal subseries consists entirely of newspaper clippings documenting important events in the Hamilton family: an 1871 announcement of the marriage of John M. Hamilton and Isabel Bowie, several accounts of the reinterment of Lt. Colonel Hamilton in Geneva, New York, two articles about Isabel Hamilton’s attempt to secure a widow’s pension, and obituaries for Isabel Hamilton and Hamilton’s mother.

Series 2: Correspondence (1873-1925) Comprises primarily letters concerning the death of Lt. Colonel Hamilton and its aftermath. Included is Hamilton’s last letter home, written on the S. S. Miami en route to Cuba; several eyewitness accounts of Hamilton’s death on San Juan Hill, including one by his orderly, Private William H. Lee; and letters written to Isabel Hamilton in response to her pleas for a widow’s pension, including several letters from Theodore Roosevelt, who gained national fame after the Battle of San Juan Hill, three holographic letters from artist Frederic Remington, and letters from several generals and senators, including two from General ‘Fightin’ Joe’ Wheeler, who served in the Spanish-American War in the twilight of his career. Other notable correspondents include Lieutenant (later Major General) Leonard Wood. A letter from an unknown correspondent to one of Hamilton’s daughters provides an interesting description of San Juan Hill as it appeared in 1925. Several other letters refer to Hamilton’s experiences in the Indian Wars, including his own firsthand account of the battle with the Cheyenne Indians in the Big Horn Mountains in November 1876.

Series 3: Documents (1863-1900) Includes 15 documents, which show the arc of Hamilton’s military career from his service with Co. H of the 33rd New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War to the widow’s pension awarded to Isabel Hamilton by way of a private bill in the U. S. House of Representatives in 1900. Notable documents in the series include Hamilton’s 1863 discharge from Co. H of the 33rd New York Volunteer Infantry; officer appointment documents signed by presidents Andrew Johnson and Grover Cleveland; General Orders No. 14, Department of Arizona, which cites Hamilton for “conspicuous services and gallantry” in engagements with the Tonto Apaches in February and March 1873; and General Orders No. 9, Headquarters, Cavalry Division, which changes the name of the main cavalry encampment in Cuba to Camp Hamilton in honor of Lt. Colonel Hamilton.

Series 4: Ephemera (1864-circa 1896) Includes several items Hamilton collected through his life, some related to his personal life, some to his military career. Personal items include a sash from the Loyal Orange Lodge No. 331, Charleston, Ontario that belonged to his father, David Hamilton; holographic copies of The Gettysburg Address and Abraham Lincoln’s favorite poem, “Oh, Why Should the Spirit of Mortal be Proud” (also known as “Mortality”); and a lock of Isabel Hamilton’s hair. Items related to Hamilton’s military career include the autographs of Generals George Crook and Adna R. Chaffee, two 1886 broadsides advertising plays presented at Fort Riley, Kansas in which Isabel Hamilton acted; two invitations to a 9th U. S. Cavalry Band concert at Fort Robinson, Nebraska; and two pencil drawings done by soldiers while in the field during the Indian Wars. One is a colored pencil drawing of cavalry soldiers on foot patrol during the 1873 Tonto Apache campaign and the other shows a soldier doing laundry at the White River Agency near Meeker, Colorado.

Series 5: Photographs (circa 1871-1898) Includes 24 photographs. Photographs include two of Isabel Hamilton, one in middle age and the other in old age; several photographs and one negative of Hamilton in uniform; an image of the main street of Charleston, Ontario with the Hamilton family home indicated; and a photograph of the Hamilton grave marker in Arlington National Cemetery. Images documenting Hamilton’s military service include a group portrait of soldiers taken at Fort Assinniboine, Montana, an 1898 group portrait of officers taken at Tampa, Florida (with Hamilton indicated), and a group of 12 snapshots of life at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, including photographs of Hamilton, soldiers at target practice, family life at the Fort, and a 9th U. S. Cavalry bugler.

Processing Information

Geraldine C. Putney of Oklahoma City, Hamilton’s granddaughter, donated a scrapbook documenting the life of Lt. Colonel John M. Hamilton in 1994; Elizabeth Putney Winn, Putney’s daughter, donated additional photographs in 1997. The collection accession number is 1994.27.08, which was the number originally given to the scrapbook; the collection also includes a drawing with accession number 1994.27.07, 14 photographs accessioned as 1997.09.02-.15, and one letter concerning the reinterment of Lt. Colonel Hamilton in Arlington National Cemetery, donated by another member of the Winn family, but apparently never formally accessioned.

The scrapbook was disassembled; the documents, photographs, and other materials in the scrapbook were removed and stabilized by a professional paper conservator in 1994. Jonathan Nelson processed the collection in November 2004.

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Repository Details

Part of the NCWHM Special Collections at Dickinson Research Center Repository

1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City Oklahoma 73111 United States