Wilson Archival Project

Upon Gen. Wilson’s passing in the summer of 2017, the Wilson family donated all his writings, awards, books, and memorabilia to Hampden-Sydney College—a treasure trove that includes pictures, U.S. Army papers, diplomatic passports, personal notes, and artifacts. The depth and breadth of this collection is astounding, encompassing military history from WWII to the Global War on Terror, the building of our current national security infrastructure, higher education, Virginia politics, and local civic life.  

A small group of alumni and friends made generous gifts to support the hiring of a full-time term archivist—Dr. Colin Woodward, who began his work in July—to digitize and catalogue the collection. In so doing, they ensured that General Wilson’s memory will continue to teach and inspire generations of Hampden-Sydney men as well as others across the Commonwealth and nation. 

Here are some important updates from that work:

  • As of February 2020, the entire collection—270 boxes of material spanning 135 feet of shelf space—has been surveyed to remove duplicate or redundant documents and to check for mold and other conservation issues. All items have been placed in new, acid-free boxes and folders, and the collection has been organized chronologically, starting with early family papers going back to the 1700s.
  • The majority of items in the collection span the 20th century. In addition to manuscript papers, the thousands of photographs in the collection have been organized separately, with many of the most significant large photos (8 x 10) placed in Mylar sleeves. These photos will be the foundation for future public exhibitions.
  • Dozens of boxes of audio-visual material have also been organized as a separate “collection-within-the-collection.” These DVDs, cassettes, and reel-to-reels contain documentation of General Wilson’s speeches and public appearances as well as other items of historic interest, such as Richard Nixon discussing the Vietnam conflict in 1964. The expectation is that many of these resources will be digitized and uploaded to the internet so other researchers will have access.
  • Dr. Woodward will be giving a talk on General Wilson at the Virginia Forum, a history conference hosted by the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond. Originally planned for the end of March, the event has been moved to September. More information will be forthcoming.
  • Dr. Woodward conducted an interview with Drew Prehmus ’08, who wrote the biography about General Sam and is a newly elected member of the Wilson Center for Leadership in the Public Interest Board of Advisors. 
  • Dr. Woodward has also started a blog entitled, General Sam — Documenting the General Sam V. Wilson Papers Project.
  • As we hoped would happen, word about this project has gotten out and others are excited to explore the possibility of archiving material at Hampden-Sydney College. We are currently in talks with a Nixon-era political operative and a distinguished collector of Merrill’s Marauders materials about having Hampden-Sydney serve as a home for their papers.