Robert Robison McCandliss Diary

Identity elements

Reference code

US US kmk 2015-16.042

Level of description



Robert Robison McCandliss Diary


  • 1863-1865 (Creation)


1.00 Linear Feet, 1.00 Box

Post- Fire Oversize Extent:
Box 1 (9x12); 509S: 19/6/4

Name of creator


Biographical history

Born in Warren County, Ohio, Robert Robison McCandliss (1826-1908) was a Civil War surgeon who enlisted in the Union Army as a medical officer in 1862. He and his wife, nurse Priscilla McCandliss, rode with the 110th Ohio Volunteers. Captured during the Battle of Winchester, the pair were taken as prisoners.
After the Civil War, McCandliss and his family moved West. He established a medical career in Emporia, Kansas. By 1880, he owned a 9-acre farm in Lyon County. McCandliss died 5 May 1908 and was buried in Emporia's Maplewood Memorial Lawn Cemetery, Lyon County, Kansas.
November, 1826 - Robert R. McCandliss is born in Warren County, Ohio. He later graduated from Miami Medical College in Cincinnati, Ohio.
December 17, 1835 - Priscilla Youart is born in Troy, New York.
December 29, 1852 - Priscilla and Robert R. McCandliss marry in Hillgrove, Ohio.
August 25, 1862 - Dr. McCandliss enlists in the Union Army as a medical officer. McCandliss is attached to the110th Ohio Volunteers.
May, 1863 - The 110th Ohio Volunteers moves to Washington City. Priscilla accompanies Dr. McCandliss as a nurse. Over the course of the war, the McCandlisses stay at several boarding houses and roadside inns along the routes utilized by the regiment.
May 1, 1863 - Upon the resignation of Surgeon Sumner Pixley, Dr. McCandliss is raised from the position of Assistant Surgeon.
May 6, 1863 - As there were no available rooms for rent, nearby, Dr. McCandliss spend the night in the ambulance with Kife and Foster.
May 7, 1863 - The 110th Ohio Volunteers is attacked by Bushwackers who continued to harass the line for several days.
June 4, 1863 - Dr. McCandliss is present at the first death of the regiment, Samuel Thompson of Camp D, at the makeshift hospital.
June 13,1863 - The regiment is attacked by Confederate forces a mile south of Metz
June 14,1863 - The regiment retreats to the main fortification during the Second Battle of Winchester in Virginia.
June 15,1863 - During the Second Battle of Winchester, the regimental commanders orders the medical staff to elicit an evacuation of the hospital from the fortification. The evacuation is interdicted when the enemy completely encircles the Union camp. The Confederates reportedly capture 4,000 prisoners, including 100 wounded prisoners of the 110th Ohio Regiment under the care of Dr. Robert McCandliss, his staff, his wife, and the doctor himself.
June 21,1863 - The wounded prisoners are moved from the makeshift hospital to nearby York Hospital.
July 8,1863 - The doctor and his accompaniment (including Priscilla, Frank Foster and Dr. Smith) are separated from the rest of the regiment and sent to Richmond for court martial.
July 11,1863 - After marching sixty miles in captivity, the axel on the ambulance breaks. The prisoners are, subsequently, put on a train for Richmond
July 12,1863 - The prisoners arrive in Richmond at two o’clock in the morning. They are placed before the Provost Marshall for court-martial by the Confederacy. After a brief hearing, the prisoners are placed on half-ration status and divided between the region’s rebel prisons. Dr. McCandliss is ordered remanded to the notorious Libby Prison. Priscilla is remanded to Castle Thunder Prison. The remainder of the prisoners are removed to Citizen’s Prison. Two weeks later Priscilla McCandliss is paroled.
July 19, 1863 - Dr. McCandlisss attends a sermon by Ebenezer Walker Brady of the 116th Ohio Volunteers. Around this time, the doctor assumes the duty of medical care for prisoners at Libby Prison.
August 1, 1863 - Rumors circulate that a prisoner exchange will take place the following week. The exchange does not materialize.
August 2 ,1863 - Dr. McCandliss is given extraordinary latitude of sitting on the rooftop of the prison, watching the activities of the James Cotton Mills and a procession of gunboats sailing the James River.
August 5, 1863 - Dr. Meaher and Henry Milles are noted as arriving at the prison from Winchester, Virginia.
August 17, 1863 - Along with the other prisoners, Dr. McCandliss has his remaining Union currency confiscated by prison officials.
August 21-25, 1863 - The prisoners learn of a prisoner exchange commission being discussed between the Union and Confederate armies.
September 12, 1863 - Dr. McCandliss notes at least eleven regiments of Confederate soldiers and artillery moving through the area.
September 13, 1863 - The prisoners learn of Union victories in Tennessee.
September 25, 1863 - The prisoners watched a large gallows being erected at Castle Thunder for the hanging of Union spy Spencer Kellogg Brown, son of the Kansas Osawatomie township founder, Orville Brown. After several previous successful intelligence and sabotage operations, Brown was arrested, tried, and convicted in connection with the sinking of the ferry supplying Fort Hudson in Georgia.
September 27, 1863 - One of the doctor’s patients, prisoner William Mays, dies in Libby Prison Hospital, leaving behind a wife and two small children
September 28, 1863 - Details of the hanging of Spencer Kellogg Brown reaches the prisoners.
October 8, 1863 - The chaplains are removed from the Libby Prison populace and sent to Citizen’s Prison in Richmond, Virginia.
October 11, 1863 - Forty-three new prisoners arrive from Union General William Rosecrans’s army in which Dr. McCandliss discovers many friends.
October 16, 1863 - New rumors spread of a flag of truce and a prisoner exchange to be held in the near future.
October 20, 1863 - Dr. William P. Rucker escapes from prison.
October 31, 1863 - When some inmates are caught throwing items to passers-by outside the walls, prison official threaten to “nail up” the windows of the prison.
November 24, 1863 - Dr. McCandliss is released from Libby prison and conducted north.
December 2, 1863 - Dr. McCandliss arrives in Washington City. He witnesses the placement of the “God of Liberty” placed on the dome of the Capitol building.
June 25, 1865 - Upon mustering out from the Union Army as major surgeon of the 110th Ohio Volunteers, Dr. and Mrs. McCandliss move to Savannah, Missouri.
1870 - The couple’s first child is born stillborn.
1871 - Dr. and Mrs. McCandliss move to Emporia, Kansas, where Priscilla gives birth to three boys, including Robert, Harry, and William.
1893 - The eldest McCandliss son, Robert E., dies of a brain tumor.
August 24, 1899 - Priscilla McCandliss dies in Emporia, Kansas.
May 5, 1908 - Dr. Robert McCandliss dies at home.
1901 - Harry McCandliss dies.
March 17, 1933 - William Burton McCandliss dies in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

This Civil War era pocket diary and account book records the daily life and finances of 110th Ohio Volunteer Infantry surgeon Dr. Robert Robison McCandliss (1826-1908) from May-December 1863. It  includes Major General Horatio G. Wright's 1865 letter authorizing McCandliss to administer  to the wounded during the final days of the war.
Born in Warren County, Ohio, Dr. McCandliss enlisted in the Union Army as a medical officer on 25 August 1862. Along with his wife, Priscilla (née Youart),  and two orderlies, he rode with the 110th Ohio Volunteers in an ambulance. Surrounded by Confederate troops during the Battle of Winchester, the surgeon, his wife and hundreds of others were taken as prisoners. McCandliss was ultimately incarcerated in Libby Prison, his wife in Castle Thunder.
The diary's entries cover a wide range of topics, including the daily life of a medical officer in the Union Army, personal relationships, regiment fatalities, and brief mentions of skirmishes with Confederate Bushwackers. His account also provides readers with information regarding his capture, transfer, imprisonment and anticipated release. The diary concludes with his arrival in Washington, D.C. as workers were placing Thomas Crawford's statue atop the U.S. Capitol 2 December 1863. Supplementary pages include addresses of boarding houses and roadside inns, as well as notations regarding McCandliss's finances.
A small pocket within the binding contained a separate letter, dated 7 April 1865, authorizing the surgeon to administer to wounded soldiers until their impending transfer to Burke Station, Virginia. This was removed to a four-flap enclosure due to preservation concerns.
The Robert Robison McCandliss Diary is identified as University Archives accession number 2015-16.042. Preliminary processing of the diary was completed by Paul A. Thomsen on August 17, 2011.

System of arrangement

This collection contains one item, the Robert Robison McCandliss Diary.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

No access restriticion: All materials are open for research.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

Language and script notes

Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

The Robert Robison McCandliss Diary was purchased from Lloyd Zimmer, Books and Maps on May 20, 2011.  Once the book arrived at the Morse Department of Special Collections is was placed in the processing queue and processed on August 17, 2011, by Paul A. Thomsen.  It received accession number 2015-16.042.

Immediate source of acquisition

Acqusition Source: Lloyd Zimmer, Books and Maps
Acqusition Method: Purchase.
Acqusition Date: 20110520

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information

Acquired because it documents Dr. Robert Robison McCandliss's capture and imprisonment in the notorious Libby Prison during the Civil War and enhances the department's Military History Collection.


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Specialized notes

  • Citation: [Item title], [item date], Robert Robison McCandliss Diary, Box [number], Folder [number or title], Morse Department of Special Collections, Kansas State University Libraries.

Alternative identifier(s)

Archon Collection ID


Description control element

Rules or conventions

Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Sources used

Sources outside the collection used in preparing the biographical note includes newspaper articles and internet records.  These items have been printed and placed with the diary.

Archivist's note

Finding Aid Author: Paul A. Thomsen
Processing Info: Paul A. Thomsen, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History, Kansas State University processed this collection.  Tony Crawford, Curator for Manuscripts reviewed it in August 2011.
Publication Date: 2017-01-27

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