The Francis Osbourn Papers, comprising .5 inches of documentation, primarily span the career of Francis Osbourn in the Twentieth Regiment Indiana Volunteers and the Sixth Regiment U.S. Colored Troops, from 1862 to 1866. The papers, mostly letters, focus on duties, experiences and observations, and requests for items from home by Osbourn.
The collection is composed primarily of letters sent by Osbourn to his mother, father, and brother, Jim, as well as several letters received, an order, an appointment, and an advertising brochure.
The Osbourn Papers are arranged alphabetically by document type into a single series with no subdivisions. The letters written by Osbourn while serving with the Twentieth Regiment Indiana Volunteers include descriptions of Confederate encampments, reaction of the citizens of Norfolk towards the Union Army, the amputation of his left arm, and most prominently, the Battle of Hampton Roads between the ironclads U.S.S. Monitor and C.S.S. Virginia (Merrimack). The final letter sent from this portion of his career serves as a summary of the previous two years of service by Osbourn. Letters written by Osbourn while with the Sixth Regiment U.S. Colored Troops include description of the capture of Confederates outside Yorktown, Virginia, life at the Sherburne Barracks in Washington, DC, and frequent discussions of a possible trip to Boston with his mother. Many of the letters also include requests for certain personal items to be purchased for him, such as a valise. The collection also includes two letters received by Osbourn. The first, dating from the Civil War, was written by a friend informing Osbourn of his recent relief from duty, and the second, dating from Pennsylvania State Senate career of Osbourn, is an invitation to dinner at the Metropolitan Club with several United States Senators. The remainder of the collection is composed of an order attaching Osbourn to the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, his appointment as a Second Lieutenant in the Sixth Regiment U.S. Colored Troops, and a pamphlet advertising the publications of McCowat-Mercer Press.
In addition to biographical and genealogical studies of Francis A. Osbourn, research interests served by the Osbourn Papers include the Battle of Hampton Roads, civilian attitudes towards the Union Army, and the nature and treatment of battlefield injuries, as well as the operational histories of the Twentieth Regiment Indiana Volunteers and the Sixth Regiment U.S. Colored Troops.
Francis A. Osbourn was born on March 1, 1845 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Osbourn joined the Union effort, serving in the Twentieth Regiment, Indiana Volunteers. Along with his regiment, Osbourn saw action at Fort Hatteras in 1861, and while encamped at Newport News, Virginia, witnessed the Battle of Hampton Roads and the engagement between the ironclads U.S.S. Monitor and C.S.S. Virginia (Merrimack) on March 9, 1862. Two months later, he participated in the capture of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia. After his regiment was transferred to the Army of the Potomac, Osbourn took part in the Battle of Seven Pines, as well as the Battle of Oak Grove outside Richmond, Virginia on June 25, 1862, during which he sustained a gunshot wound resulting in the amputation of his left arm below the shoulder
After returning to his home in Philadelphia, Osbourn received an appointment as a Second Lieutenant in the Sixth Regiment, United States Colored Troops. During his time with the Sixth Regiment, Osbourn took part in cavalry expeditions of General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick and the siege of Petersburg. On March 13, 1865, Osbourn was temporarily promoted to the rank of Captain of the United States Volunteers, and closed out his service as a company commander of the Sixth Regiment, Veteran Reserve Corps.
After the war, Osbourn studied law, and was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1869. In 1876, he was elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly as a Representative. After a six year term as Assistant City Solicitor of Philadelphia, Osbourn was again elected to the General Assembly as Senator in 1884. Osbourn continued to serve as State Senator until his death on January 20, 1901.