Nelson C. Green

Date of Birth

Dec. 15, 1843

Date of Death


Letters Authored


Letters Received


Nelson C. Green was born 179 years ago.
116 years ago, Nelson C. Green passed away at the age of 63.


Nelson C. Green was a Union guard at Rock Island Prison. He mustered into the 197th Pennsylvania Infantry at Camp Cadwalader, Philadelphia on 15 July 1864 and arrived at Rock Island on or about 1 August 1864. He was mustered out in Philadelphia 11 November 1864. The two letters in this series were written by Nelson, age 20, to his younger brother, Charles, 13. Although the correspondence contains a typical discourse between a young soldier and his younger brother, the letters also reveal quite a bit about the prison, its surrounds, the prisoners within, and the life of the guards who watch over them.

The first letter was written 31 August 1864, and it begins with a discussion of the Iowa countryside and how it contrasts with his Pennsylvania home. It then briefly describes his duty while he is on guard, how prisoners are shot if they attempt to get away, and the recent escape of a prisoner.

The second letter begins with a discussion of rabbit and duck hunting, but thereafter provides an interesting look at life at Rock Island both as a guard and as a prisoner. Should a guard inappropriately discharge his firearm, he is likely to be locked in the guard house or “tied up” by his thumbs. Nelson tells Charlie about a prisoner who is tethered to a ball and chain for committing murder and who is likely to be court marshaled soon, as the court is already in session for another prisoner. Perhaps, the most revealing thing he writes to his brother is that sixteen hundred “rebs” have enlisted in the Union Army to go to Minnesota and fight Indians. In “Rebels at Rock Island: The Story of a Civil War Prison” by Benton McAdams, a description of an event that took place in February 1865 seems to corroborate Nelson’s account. “Adjutant General Fuller’s assistant, B. F. Smith, wrote to Johnson (Adolphus Johnson, Camp Commander) to ask whether he could enlist a further three companies to go fight the Indians. Johnson replied that his prison had already sent 3,000 men to the army and navy.” (McAdams, 180)

The two letters from Nelson Green provide an interesting look at life inside of Rock Island Prison from the viewpoint of a guard, but if the visitor would like to "see" the prison through the eyes of a prisoner at Rock Island, I suggest reading the Gibson Taylor letters.

Nelson’s father was Sharpless Green (b. 22 Aug. 1820) and his Mother was Mary Booth (b. 1 May 1820). As of this writing, my research has discovered very little about Mary Booth other than she was probably born in the village of Booth’s Corner, Pennsylvania. On the other hand, Sharpless Green was apparently a descendant of Thomas Green (b. 1640 d. 1691) who immigrated from England, arriving on the “Delaware” in Philadelphia on 14 May 1686. This information I obtained from, but it appears to be well documented. Nonetheless, including Charles, Nelson had six siblings: William M. Green (b. 16 Jul. 1842), Lydia Green (b. 10 Jan. 1847), Charles Green (b. 27 Jun. 1850), Phebe A. Green (b. 23 Dec. 1852), Martha C. Green (b. 4 May 1858), and Francis Harvey Green (b. 19 May 1861). Nelson references Phebe and Martha in his letter 4 Oct. 1864.

Nelson is listed in the Federal Census in 1870, living in Concordville, Delaware County, Pennsylvania with his wife Louisa J, 29. (I believe this is Louisa J. Dobson). In the 1880 Census he is living in Booth Corner, Delaware Co. with Lydia, his wife and there are four children listed: Louis K. Green, 7, Anna M. Green, 5, Sharpless Green, 3, and Nelson C. Green, 8 months. He is still listed in the 1900 Census as living in Bethel, Delaware Co., Pennsylvania with Lydia, Anna, Sharpless, and Nelson, Jr.

Louisa J. Dobson can be found in the 1850 Census and again in the 1860 Census living in Philadelphia with her parents, Christopher and Anna C. Dobson.