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    Description

    "In my estimation the loss of Stonewall Jackson was a much greater one than all their entire loss in men and material."

    [Battle of Chancellorsville]. George Armstrong Custer Autograph Letter Signed "G. A. Custer." Twelve pages, 5" x 8.25", on Headquarters First Cavalry Division, Army of the Potomac letterhead, "Near Potomac Creek [Virginia]," May 17, 1863. Writing to Michigan Supreme Court Associate Justice Isaac Peckham Christiancy, Custer claims that he "can give you no highly interesting news from the army,'" but instead provides valuable insight into the state of the Army of the Potomac just eleven days after suffering defeat at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

    He begins by relating the state of the army itself, saying that "Gen Hooker [commander of the Army of the Potomac] paid a 'flying visit' to Washington the past week. The most serious difficulty at present, is the rapidity with which Gen Hooker is losing his men, owing to the expiration of the term of service of so many regiments." Custer is concerned whether or not the army "will be in a condition to accomplish much, before this army is enlarged by conscripts."

    Of the recent engagement near Chancellorsville, he says: "The men and officers are united in their refusal to acknowledge the late contest a defeat on our part, nor is it to be wondered at when it is known that not one half . . . was engaged at all, it is perfectly inexplicable to them why Hooker recrossed the Rappahannock . . . Gen Mead[e] Comdg the 5" Corp said in the council of war . . . 'if we couldnt whip them here we cant do it elsewhere,' he begged to be allowed to engage his entire corp . . . but was refused." Custer believes that the first part of operations were successful. He praises the efforts of Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick asserting that "had our right wing kept the enemy's left occupied . . . all would have been well." The Confederates instead massed against Sedgwick, forcing him "back from the heights he had so gallantly carried." All the while the "right wing and centre remained idle" which he believes with certainty was the cause of "our failure to crush and capture the entire rebel army." He further blames Hooker for allowing "Lee to adopt the tactics of Napoleon in permitting him to engage his entire force against fractions of our own."

    As far as losses were concerned, Custer reports that there were "15000 in all . . . we captured nearly if not quite as many . . . as we lost, the rebels probably took more prisoners than we, but loss of arms and blankets provisions &c theirs bears no comparison to ours. . . . I do not think, except in isolated cases, that the rebel loss in killed wounded and missing, will come up to ours." But the Confederate Army had suffered an even greater loss during the seven days of fighting: "In my estimation the loss of Stonewall Jackson was a much greater one than all their entire loss in men and material." Gen. Jackson was struck by friendly fire while returning to camp in the dark and died eight days later of complications with pneumonia.

    The remainder of the letter concerns Custer's hopes for a new appointment. A fascinating letter showing the usual age toning, especially along some of the folds. The upper edge of pages nine through twelve has a small .5" x .5" hole which does not affect the text. Scattered spots of foxing




    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2014
    3rd Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 12
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