24 October 2006
Writing previously on this subject, I worried about a soldier’s wartime letter disappearing into a private collection, never to be seen again. That was as nothing compared to what I found online today. Oh how I wish now I’d gone for the money instead of personal satisfaction and life-balance in my career choices.
Cowan Auctions is selling a mass of Americana on November 16th. There are some truly magnificent finds for the student of the American Civil War listed in the catalog. This looks like a wide array of archives and artifacts.
I’d be overjoyed if collectors of historical ephemera would publish online, or loan to museums, or at least make scans or transcriptions of their treasures available to the rest of us. In the meantime, I’m snatching digital samples related to Antietam and the Campaign as they go by.
After a little more research, I expect to use some of this material on AotW:
I have a special fascination with Medal of Honor recipients. One I’d not previously associated with the Maryland Campaign is Captain Wilmon Whilldin Blackmar of Boston. That’s him above, from a gilt-framed CDV, part of Lot 232 (est. $3,000-4,000). Blackmar
… enlisted as Corporal in Company K, 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry in August 1862. The novice regiment participated in the Maryland campaign before transferring west to join the Army of the Cumberland in December 1862 …
Colonel Palmer’s 15th was still only part of a Regiment that August, the rest still organizing in Pennsylvania. Corporal Blackmar may have been no closer to Antietam than Greencastle, Pennsylvania that September. More digging is needed here.
Then there’s Lot 241 (est. $4,000-5,000): The Huge Civil War Archive of Jacob Winans, 9th PRI (9th Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry). Huge is right: 58 letters, a photograph, and a period newspaper, pertaining. With a good editor, there’s probably a fine book there. Think such a book will ever be published?
A brief excerpt of one of the letters, on the fights at South Mountain and Sharpsburg, is quoted by the lovely people at Cowan’s:
We stormed the Hights at South Mountain on Sunday evening after a march of 14 miles. Our loss was light¨∂ The Rebel force was larger than ours and had the advantage of position. We had to descend a hill, we soon drove them out of the hollow then up the mountain. At dark we were on the highest part of the Mt. ¨∂
[At Sharpsburg] We then took the Road leading the right of Sharpsburg. We marched about 2 or 3 miles, then maneuvered around until dark before we found the enemy. We attacked them, but did not accomplish much. The enemy's artillery played on us until about 9 P.M. We slept on our arms. Were awakened several times during the night by them firing a volley or two at our pickets. We commenced the battle next morning about 3 o'clock. We went out under a shower of shells & shot in front of our battery and laid down along a fence waiten for the rebels. The field in front (a cornfield) was on a little raise. Part of Kings division were in it engaging the Rebels. They fell back soon after we got into position. We waited until they were all out and until the Rebels came within 30 or 40 yards of us. At the word the 9th gave them a withering volley. The enemy halted and fired but their balls went high & did little damage. The enemy (a Texas brigade) did not stand long, they fell back in disorder and a fresh brigade took their place & commenced firing from the opposite side of the field …
Born in Fairfax Country in 1831, William Augustine Morgan served the entire length of the war in the elite 1st Virginia Cavalry joining as a private in Company F, known as the Shepherdstown Troop, advancing to colonel of the regiment by December 1864 …
Morgan was elected captain of Company F in April 1861 and briefly took charge of the regiment after Chancellorsville and ranking as major rode towards Pennsylvania with the cavalry corps under J.E.B. Stuart. At Gettysburg the 1st Virginia charged Custer and the 7th Michigan Cavalry in the seesaw fighting of July 3 and then broke off the engagement when Lee ordered the main army to begin withdrawing that night …
I have much to learn about Morgan and the 1st Virginia on the Maryland Campaign.
All of the quotes and images above are from the Cowan’s catalog.
It may sound like I’m unhappy with Cowan’s, but I’m not. It’s the marketplace. Cowan has done a really nice job in cataloging, excerpting, and describing this material online. If not for that effort, few of us would have seen any of it.
If you don’t already know this, you’ll be amused: Cowan’s, the agent for these treasures, is Wes Cowan‘s auction house. You will recognize him from PBS Television’s History Detectives and Antiques Roadshow. He also has a blog, though not terribly active. Perhaps I’ll contact him directly about encouraging the buyers to share.
Maybe it’ll be different this time.