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Samuel B. Massa Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: FED
Date: Dec 1971

Biographical History

Samuel B. Massa was born September 17, 1842 in Brooklyn, New York. At the outbreak of the Civil War he joined the U.S. Navy, where he served first as a paymaster's clerk and then as a paymaster until the close of the war.

Massa was paymaster's clerk on the gunboat Cayuga from February 1862 until the end of that year. During that time the Cayuga was active in the taking of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Donaldsville on the lower Mississippi River. In 1863 Massa became paymaster of the "steamsloop" Pensacola, also stationed on the Mississippi. The following year he moved to Cairo, Illinois, as the paymaster on the fleet receiving ship Great Western. Massa remained at Cairo until November 1865 when he was transferred to the Boston Navy Yard.

Massa rewrote a copy of his Civil War diary in 1909, at the age of 67. The date of his death is unknown.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Samuel B. Massa Papers consist of the Civil War Correspondence, Diary, and Memorabilia of a paymaster in the U.S. Navy. The materials date from 1861 to 1868.

Correspondence numbers approximately one hundred items, which date from 1861 to 1868. Nearly all of these are outgoing letters from Massa to his family during the years when he was in the navy. He wrote most frequently to his mother and to Elizabeth and Ferd Massa, apparently his sister and brother. There are also a number of letters to "Clib," possibly another brother. An index of the correspondence has been prepared to show the date, place, and recipient of each letter. Massa was a faithful correspondent, and he wrote in detail about naval battles and his style of life in the navy, as well as on the conditions and society he encountered in occupied southern territory. There are copies of two letters from Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles in 1864 when Massa and others from his ship were involved in disciplinary proceedings.

Massa's Diary, which dates from February 1862 to July 1863, is titled "Cruise of the U.S. Gunboat Cayuga." Despite the title, the diary continued into Massa's service on the Pensacola in 1863. Included here are vivid descriptions of life on board ship and the Battle of New Orleans in 1862. Massa often supplemented his descriptions in the diary, as in his letters, with skillfully drawn maps and pencil sketches of fortifications and boats.

Memorabilia, 1864, includes a bill of fare from a steerage mess and several photographs of Massa and his ships and fellow crew members.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Massa, Samuel B., 1842-

Corporate Bodies

United States., Navy.


United States, History, Civil War, 1861-1865, Campaigns, Sources.
United States, History, Civil War, 1861-1865, Naval operations, Sources.
United States, History, Civil War, 1861-1865, Sources.
United States, History, Military, To 1900, Sources.

Genres and Forms


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Samuel B. Massa Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Purchase, 1966.

Table of Contents




Index of correspondence in the Samuel B. Massa papers