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Collection Scope and Content Note

These papers consist of correspondence with colleagues and friends; personal prose and poetry; Civil War correspondence and history with papers and clippings re Burt Green Wilder's career and service as a medical cadet at the Judiciary Square Hospital in Washington, D.C. in 1862, and as assistant surgeon (First Lieutenant), 1863, and then surgeon of the Massachusetts 55th Black Volunteer Regiment until 1865. After the Civil War and for the rest of his life, BGW actively corresponded with veterans of the war, both Yankee and Confederate. There are letters and clippings re pension requests, commission papers, discharge and parole papers, treatment of prisoners from both the North and South; a history of black soldiers; federal government segregation; clippings and letters re battles such as River's Causeway, Fort Wagner, the siege of Charleston, Grimball's Causeway, Fort Sumter, Honey Hill, Pocotaligo and Folly Island. (While he was stationed at Folly Island in 1863, BGW discovered a large spider later named the NEPHILA WILDERI, from which at a later time he reeled off 150 yards of yellow silk.) An account of "The 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Colored", written by BGW and given as a address before the Brookline, Massachusetts Historical Society on May 28, 1914; and letters and clippings re the death and burial of Col. Robert Gould Shaw of the Massachusetts 54th Volunteers with his fallen black troops at the battle of Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863, and clippings re the Shaw Monument in the Boston Common by Augustus St. Gaudens are also included. Other Civil War reminiscences include BGW's Civil War diary, 1863-1865; letters and newspaper clippings re Lt. George T. Garrison (eldest son of William Lloyd Garrison), General Sam Jones, Robertson James (brother of Henry James), Lt. Col. Charles B. Fox, Capt. Charles C. Soule, Capt. Wheelock Pratt, Francis H. Brown, M.D., James F.A. Allen, M.D., Rev. James H. Fowler, Luis F. Emilio, Col. Robert Gould Shaw, Col. Norwood Penrose Hallowell (Commander of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment), Col. John L. Clem (the youngest soldier to serve with the Union Army), Gen. William T. Sherman, Jefferson Davis, and many others.

These papers also contain correspondence with Prof. Louis Agassiz (the naturalist), Asa Gray, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., and Jeffries Wyman, with whom BGW worked at Harvard University as an assistant after receiving his M.D. degree there in 1866. There are letters, papers, clippings and various medical pamphlets from BGW's years as a professor of anatomy, physiology, comparative neurology and vertebrate zoology at Cornell from 1867-1910, where he devoted special attention to human and animal brain mechanism experiments, and the nervous system. At the time of his retirement he had gathered between 1,600 and 2,000 brain specimens with completed data. (Currently, 70 of these specimens survive.) The collection also contains "Brain Bequest" forms, and letters dealing with the reneged brain bequest of Goldwin Smith; papers relating to BGW's laboratory studies of cats (possibly as many as 400 cats per year were used for these studies) and other "wild" animals such as opossums (including many others.)

At the end of twenty-five years of teaching, Professor Wilder was presented with "The Wilder Quarter Century Book" (a festschrift). This was a collection of original papers dedicated to him by former students in 1893.

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