Charles Ray Brayton Papers
Politician and Union soldier of Providence and Warwick, R.I.
Papers 1853-1908. Bulk 1853-1865.
Size: 0.25 lin. ft.
Catalog number: MSS 304
Processed by: Amy Spence Lappin, December 1997
©Rhode Island Historical Society
Charles Ray Brayton (1840-1910), later known as "Boss" Brayton, served as a Union soldier in the Third Regiment, Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. Mustered into service October 11, 1861, he spent most of the Civil War in South Carolina and Georgia. Brayton ended the war as a general and was then appointed postmaster of Port Royal, S.C., a job he performed until 1967 when he returned home to study law. Prior to his political career, Brayton served as postmaster of Providence from 1874-1880. By the turn of the century, he had established himself as leader of the state's Republican party working closely with senators Henry B. Anthony and Nelson W. Aldrich.
In 1903, the New York Evening Post contended that, "A who's who of the Republican party in the state of Rhode Island, if edited by machine partisan, would contain the name of but one man, Charles Ray Brayton, with the possibility of a footnote, like this: (See Aldrich, Nelson W.)."
Brayton's career was marked by reports of bribery and corruption, but he was able to justify it to himself and told a reporter, "I have been the scapegoat of the party for twenty years. People have said all sorts of things about me, most of them lies. I am not as bad as I have been painted, but I don't care much what they say."
Brayton was born in Apponaug, RI, the son of the Hon. William D. Brayton and Anna W. Clarke. He married Antoinette P. Belden (1840-1922) in 1865. They had two children, Antoinette Percival (1870-1893) and William Stanton Brayton (1871-1933). Charles Ray Brayton died in Providence in 1910 of complications from diabetes.
Concise Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1964).
To the People of Rhode Island: a Disclosure of Political Conditions and An Appeal for Their Reform. Articles Reprinted from the New York Evening Post, 1903.
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Scope and content:
The Charles Ray Brayton papers are mostly correspondence, the bulk of which was written from Brayton to his father, William D. Brayton, during the Civil War. Typewritten transcripts of most of the letters in the collection are included.
The papers also contain a Civil War journal written by Brayton in August 1863 on Morris Island, S.C. Three letters in the collection were written after the war. One as Postmaster of Providence to William Richardson requesting his resignation in 1877 and two notes to Clarence S. Brigham regarding the RIHS's potential purchase of The Acts and Resolves of the RI General Assembly 1767-1907. Two interesting letters to his father have been highlighted in folder 3. The first dated November 8, 1861, details the arrival of Brayton's fleet in South Carolina and the taking of Hilton Head. The second dated May 17, 1865 relates to a conversation he had with Alexander Stephens while Stephens was a prisoner of war and mentions an escape attempt by Jefferson Davis who was being held with Stephens.
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The bulk of this collection was donated in three gifts in 1964 and 1968 by Charles L. Brayton of Elmira, New York, including the journal, 53 letters from CRB to his father, and the typed transcriptions. The two letters to Clarence S. Brigham were donated by Mr. Brigham in 1948. The two letters from CRB to his father in folder 3 were donated by Frederick S. Peck as part of the Peck Collection in 1944.
The provenance of only one item is uncertain: the 1877 letter to William Richardson. That letter appears to have been cataloged circa 1968, which may possibly suggest that it was part of the larger gift from Charles L. Brayton. The 1968 gift also included the two scrapbooks that now comprise the separate Antoinette Percival Brayton Collection (Mss 929). These scrapbooks contain many news clippings relating to Gen. Brayton's later career.
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The papers were rehoused in acid-free folders and an archival box in 1997. The order of the papers remains chronological.
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Folder 1. Correspondence - Charles Ray Brayton to Wm. D. Brayton, 1853-1866.
Folder 2. Correspondence - CRB to WDB, 1853-1866, typewritten transcripts.
Folder 3. Correspondence - CRB to WDB, 1861 and 1865.
Folder 4. Correspondence - CRB to his cousin [?] re: Tybee Island, Georgia and plans to take Pulaski.
Folder 5. Charles Ray Brayton - "Daily Journal of Observations and Incidents Among the Federal Batteries on Morris Island, S.C. Before the Rebel Forts 'Sumpter' and 'Wagner' August 16, 1863" with a typed transcript.
Folder 6. Correspondence - CRB to William A. Richardson requesting Richardson's resignation as Supt. of Letter Carriers, November 15, 1877.
Folder 7. Correspondence - CRB to Clarence S. Brigham re: RIHS potential purchase of the Acts and Resolves of the RI General Assembly 1767-1907, Dec.10 and 19, 1908.
Folder 8. Miscellaneous - Envelopes from letters sent by CRB to his father, WDB.
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Brayton, William D.
Davis, Jefferson (1808-1884)
Diaries -- 1863
Postal Service -- Rhode Island -- Providence
Richardson, William A.
Stephens, Alexander (1812-1883)
Third Regiment, RI Heavy Artillery
United States - History - Civil War, 1861-1865
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