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Charles A. Derby papers

Identifier: MS-0030

The bulk of the collection consists of Derby family correspondence. Approximately twenty-eight letters were written by Charles Derby. The Charles Derby letters, 1844-1862, cover the period from late boyhood up to his death in battle in 1862. Included are letters (1846-1847) written while he was a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute, as well as correspondence dating from his careers as teacher and Episcopal clergyman. Two items were written during his brief service in the Confederate Army.

The papers also include fourteen letters written by other members of the Derby Family, primarily Mary Derby Stancell ("Mollie") and her husband, Samuel.

Other items in the papers are clippings, wedding announcements, poetry, and other family miscellany.


  • 1839-1891


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions

Conditions Governing Use

Manuscript collections in the VMI Archives are made available for educational and research use. The VMI Archives should be cited as the source. The user assumes all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any copyright holders. Materials from our collections may not be redistributed, published or reproduced without permission from the VMI Archives. Contact the VMI Archives for additional information.


0.25 cubic feet (Approximately 80 items in 1 box)

Biographical / Historical

Charles A. Derby, the son of Perry L. Derby and Martha Jones was born in Dinwiddie County, Virginia on September 12, 1828. His early years were spent on his father's plantation and as a student at Winfield Academy in Dinwiddie County. He entered the Virginia Military Institute on August 8, 1845 and graduated on July 4, 1848, standing 5th in a class of 24.

Following his graduation from VMI, Derby began a teaching career that continued through the late 1850's. His various positions included work as a private tutor for a family in Northumberland County, Virginia; head of the Fairfax (VA)Academy; head of an academy in Sumterville, Alabama; professor of mathematics at military schools in Kentucky and Georgia; and as principal of a private academy in Eutaw, Alabama.

In 1856-1857 Derby began the study of theology and was ordained in the Episcopal ministry. He was named deacon at St. Stephens's Church in Eutaw, while also continuing his private school there. He subsequently gave up teaching as his primary interest and served at a church in Camden, Alabama, and then at St. Peter's Church, Lowndes County, Alabama.

Derby married twice during the 1850's. His first wife, Clara J. Hunt of Marietta, Georgia, died within a year of her marriage. On December 28, 1859, he married Charlotte Basset of Cahaba, Alabama. The couple had two daughters, Martha (b. October 1860) and Harriet (b. April 1862 d. February 1927).

A year after the outbreak of the Civil War, Derby joined the Confederate Army. He was elected Lt. Colonel of the 44th Alabama Infantry Regiment on May 16, 1862 and entered service at Selma, AL circa June 5, 1862. He was killed in action at the Battle of Antietam (Maryland) on September 17, 1862. His body was not recovered.

Physical Location

Manuscripts Stacks and Oversized case 1
A Guide to the Charles A. Derby Papers, 1844-1867
© 2024 Virginia Military Institute Archives

Repository Details

Part of the Virginia Military Institute Archives Repository

VMI Archives
Preston Library
Lexington VA 24450