Wilson Archive Update

Since last reporting, much progress has been made on the processing of the Samuel V. Wilson Papers. All items have been placed in acid-free folders and boxes. The collection has been organized at the folder level to allow for easier access to materials. Dr. Colin Woodward, Hampden-Sydney’s Project Archivist, has been working for months on a finding aid that will be uploaded to the Hampden-Sydney College Archives and Special Collections’ catalog and will also be available as a PDF. When finished, the finding aid will be 150 pages long, providing researchers with a detailed breakdown of materials in the collection and where they are located. 

The collection is organized into various series covering major portions of Wilson’s life and career. The papers begin with Wilson family genealogical material before moving into Sam’s early military days, including his time in Merrill’s Marauders during World War II, his Cold War intelligence work, and his time as a commander in Vietnam. The collection includes thousands of letters, military papers, and photographs, as well as Sam’s speeches, personal writings, and family correspondence. The Samuel Vaughn Wilson Papers will serve as the centerpiece of the newly created Hampden-Sydney College Archives and Special Collections.   

In December, Colin Woodward met with veteran, poet, and H-SC faculty member Alan Farrell for an interview at Bortz Library. Dr. Farrell was a professor of modern languages at Hampden-Sydney for over twenty years before working at the Virginia Military Institute. He also served in Special Forces during the Vietnam conflict and was training at Fort Bragg when Colonel Sam was there (though the two did not meet until later). Woodward and Farrell talked for over an hour about Dr. Farrell’s life and career as well as his admiration for Wilson and friendship with him. The interview is available at Colin Woodward’s General Wilson blog.      

Angela Way and Richard McClintock have been meeting with Woodward to plan an exhibit on General Wilson for the Hampden-Sydney Museum. The exhibit will feature memorabilia, exhibit panels, and enlarged photographs that will tell the story of Wilson’s life and career. The exhibit will open in March. 

In the spring, Dr. Woodward will give a talk on General Wilson at the Virginia Forum. Using photographs from the collection, Woodward will provide a brief overview of General Sam’s contributions, and will also discuss the processing of the collection and its opening to researchers in July. The time and date of the talk is uncertain at this time. The conference has been rescheduled due to the ongoing pandemic.  

The acquisition of the Samuel Vaughn Wilson papers has had a positive ripple effect for Archives and Special Collections at Hampden-Sydney. In March of 2020, political strategist and former Nixon campaigner Ken Rietz transferred his papers to the college. The collection includes personal papers, including correspondence, campaign proposals, memoranda, visual media, photographs, and a large amount of original campaign paraphernalia, representing over thirty years of Republican candidates at the national and state level. Selections from these materials, including buttons, posters, and bumper stickers from Rietz’s inspired “Young Voters for the President” campaign in 1972, are currently on display in Bortz Library. 

With the help of Merrill’s Marauders liaison officer Jonnie Melillo Clasen and the Wilson Center, H-SC Archives and Special Collections were able to secure the acquisition of over thirty linear feet of historical material related to Merrill’s Marauders in March of 2020. These materials include General Orders, Special Orders, photographs, oral histories, and a database of soldier names, all meticulously maintained and collected by Hansel Haycox, Merrill’s Marauders descendant historian, together with former Marauder and official historian of the unit, Bob Passanisi.  

The acquisition of these collections ensures that researchers will have other in-house archival collections available for more targeted research, if they so choose. Archival and Digital Projects Librarian Sarah Almond, hired in March of 2020, will begin processing both collections early this year with an eye towards having them available in tandem with the July release of the Samuel Vaughn Wilson Collection to the public.   

A public exhibition of the Wilson Collection is planned at the College’s Atkinson Museum this March.  Please stay tuned for more information!