I’ll be bringing two interesting Civil War era holographic letters with me to the Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair this weekend.
The first is from a soldier describing his experience in the heat of battle:
Unknown. FOUR PAGE FRAGMENT OF A LETTER FROM A SOLDIER DESCRIBING A BATTLE IN WHICH HE FOUGHT DURING THE CIVIL WAR. 5” x 8”. Four-page fragment of a holographic letter from a Union soldier describing his participation in a battle on April 16. The letter fragment is not dated, but based on his description of fighting with the Fourth Regiment from Vermont on April 16, it is possible that the skirmish of which he writes took place in 1862, when the Fourth Vermont Regiment saw conflict at the Battle of Lee’s Mill (also known as the Battle of Yorktown) on April 16, 1862.
The author, who signs this letter to his mother only as “George,” describes his own role in the battle. I’ve left his spelling, some of which is incorrect, in place:
“I must say that on the day of the battle, April 16th, the day when the artillery shelled the rebels out of their works, four company’s of the Vermont Regt. (I think it was 4th Co.) undertook to cross the creek and drive the rebels from their rifle pits but did not succeed. They lost in killed and wounded about 150, the next day our Co. was sent out to cover the Sharp Shooters, but instead of covering them we crawled down to the edge of the creek so as to have a chance at them ourselves. I kept well under cover of the trees and had at last found a nice, large pine close to the creek that I could get behind and see their rifle pits and the men at work behind it as it was not much higher than a man’s waste in that place. I crawled along on my breast till I got to it and then looked out around to see if they had any chances to give in to me besides the one I had seen and within 6 feet of me layed the body of one of the poor Vermonters. I stayed their all day and at night with three others brought up the body.”
Next, he describes being shot at by Confederate forces, saying, “They knocked the bark off of the tree but did not hit me. One chap went by on a white horse. I dropped the horse and how he swore and damned the Yankee’s. Then came a whole volley into the tree tops not hitting a man and then we sent back a mocking laugh at them. I call it a fair specimen of Indian warfare.”
In an effort to make sure his mother doesn’t worry, “George” ends the letter with: “I have given you a rather hard description of our work out in this place, but I hope you will not let it excite you and make you sick for it does not make me so. I am as cool as a cucumber and calculate my distance just the same as I would if I was deer hunting on the Bluffs at the Mississippi.”
An intriguing firsthand account of the heat of battle from the American Civil War. $250.00
The second letter is written by a mother and discusses both her son’s survival in a battle and Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 re-election:
Wragg, Hester A. HOLOGRAPHIC LETTER FROM A MOTHER DESCRIBING HER SON’S SURVIVAL OF THE BATTLE OF CEDAR CREEK AND ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S 1864 RE-ELECTION. Paterson, NJ: 1864. 5” x8” 2pp.
Holographic letter from Hester A. Wragg of Paterson, NJ to her friend Mrs. Drake, dated November 8, 1864, shortly after Abraham Lincoln’s re-election. In addition to discussing her own life, she describes “the splendid turn out here for Mr. Lincoln” and how the city of Paterson “is all in an uproar. The Copperheads have been parading the streets all day yesterday and all night last night.”
The Copperheads were a vocal group of Democrats in the Northern United States who opposed the American Civil War, wanting an immediate peace settlement with the Confederates. The name Copperheads followed from their practice of cutting the Liberty heads from copper pennies and wearing them as lapel pins. Their opponents also associated them with the venomous copperhead snake.
Wragg goes on to give thanks that her son, “Sammy” has survived the crucial Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864.
The Battle of Cedar Creek, or The Battle of Belle Grove, October 19, 1864, was one of the final, and most decisive, battles in the Valley Campaigns of 1864 during the American Civil War. The final Confederate invasion of the North, led by Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early, was effectively ended and the Confederacy was never again able to threaten Washington, D.C., through the Shenandoah Valley, nor protect the economic base in the Valley. The reelection of Abraham Lincoln was materially aided by this victory and Union Army Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan received lasting fame. $100.00
As always, please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions about or interest in either or both of these items.
See you in the stacks!