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    [Civil War]. John Willian, 4th New Jersey Militia; 6th, 8th, and 12th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry. Archive consisting of over 170 documents, with just over 120 letters from Willian, 115 war-dated and relating to Willian's service in the 6th, 8th, and 12th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry units.

    Willian served in four different Union regiments, and on the staff of three separate Union Generals. Willian's military service began right after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, when he served as a Second Lieutenant in the 4th New Jersey Militia. When the regiment was mustered out at the end of July 1861, he received a commission as Captain in the newly-raised 6th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry. In August 1863 he was assigned to the staff of Brigadier General Henry Price as his Assistant Commissary of Musters. After returning to his unit, Willian was promoted to the rank of Major in April 1864 before being transferred to the staff of Brigadier General Gershom Mott (who had been a colonel in the 6th New Jersey Infantry). He served as General Mott's acting Assistant Inspector General before being transferred to the 8th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, becoming its Lieutenant Colonel in October 1864. Willian was then again assigned as an Assistant Inspector General, this time on the staff of Army of the Potomac II Corps Commander Major General Andrew A. Humphreys. Finally, in January 1865 he was promoted to Colonel, and was given command of the remnants of the 12th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, a unit that had fought continuously since the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, and had been reduced to only a fraction of its original size. Even though he was the unit's Colonel, John Willian did not serve much time in that capacity, being assigned to brigade command soon after his appointment. He was breveted Brigadier General, U.S. Volunteers on April 9, 1865.

    The majority of the archive is comprised of Willian's letters home to his family during his Civil War service. Of particular note are letters relating to Willian's experiences at high-profile battles such as the Battle of Chancellorsville, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the Siege of Petersburg.

    Highlights from the archive:

    One page, 5.25" x 7.75", from the Battlefield of Fredericksburg (May 2, 1863), in a letter to his parents: "There is now being fought one of the greatest Battles of the War & up to this time our Brigade has not been engaged we are, at this time 3-oclock PM guarding one of the fords on the Rappahannock the fighting is some 3- or 6 miles distant I think we shall capture Richmond. I am very well & I hope you are, I pray to escape this fight the roar of artillery & musketry is so loud that I cannot write so I now conclude and remain your Affectionate son & Brother J. Willian".

    In a second letter written a week later on May 9, 1863 (two-pages, 8" x 10"), Willian detailed: "I received yours of the 4th just last night I was very glad to hear from you about half an hour after I wrote my last letter to you, we were ordered to the front, where we saw & took part in one of the most stubborn Battles of the War Our Brigade behaved handsomely & punished the Rebs more than they were ever punished before. I suppose you have heard that Jessie Baily was killed. Franklin Pike has not been seen since the fight he was with us when we made our last charge, nearly all the officers in our Regt were struck more or less & strange that none of [illegible]were killed Liet Howeth of this Co received a very dangerous wound, I was struck with a small piece of shell on the left arm fortunately it did not break the skin, so I am not any worse, it has just made a black mark on my left arm above the elbow I am glad you sent me some stamps I am anxious to hear from James there is no news whatever here we are very anxious to get a newspaper I now close hoping to hear from you son & Brother, John Willian".

    Willian's regiment also took part in the Battle of Gettysburg, and he sent his family a brief note on July 5, 1863, (one page, 5.25" x 8"): "You see by the heading of this that I have changed my quarters. This is caused by the consolidation of our Div. We have just won the greatest victory ever gained by this Army. We are moving in pursuit of Genl. Lee. I am well. Please direct as above". The letter has a bit of paper loss which does not affect text.

    This letter was followed with another dated July 19, 1863, while on the road from Harpers Ferry to Leesburg, VA (four pages, 3.75" x 6.75") sending further details of the battle. The riots that Willian mentions occurred from July 13-16, 1863 in Lower Manhattan. Multiple violent acts broke out, resulting from pent up resentment of the working classes toward the wealthy concerning the draft. At the time, those with money could pay to avoid the draft, instead sending a "substitute" in their place. When the riots ended, approximately 120 people were killed and numerous properties were destroyed. In full:

    "Three days ago I received a letter from you stating that you had not been in receipt of letters from me, the reason is that our Campaign in Md and Penn was the most severe I have ever experienced I wrote you on the 4th of July informing you that I had escaped unhurt from that most terrific battle We gave the Rebels an awful scrubbing & we are now following them with a fair prospect of catching them.

    The asking of leaving the Army, it is almost impossible unless it is on a surgeons certificate of disability. There is an order about the consolidation of companies. I hope it will go into effect soon, for I think the will muster our Colonels Captains & 2nd Lieut. In your letter you spoke of a report of my being lost in the march. I am happy to say that I marched every yard with my Co. with the exception of about four miles. With often aff from John Willian


    I must not forget to tell you that the Army of the Potomac swears vengeance against New York rioters. If the people in the north will keep still we can finish the War successfully. When you write let me know how the good people of Gloster took the conscription. When we came out everybody hurrahed for us now they want to leave us in the lurch. I hope they will be mistaken. I must close my health is good hoping this may find you the same
    ". Toning and some paper loss on edges.

    On October 6, 1864, Willian wrote of his predictions for the end of the war, during the Siege of Petersburg (one page, 10" x 8"): "Again we are in camp near Petersburg after a three days campaign. South of the Weldon R.R. our Div went down to the assistance of the 3rd & 9th Army Corps and of course we as usual got into a little fight. The Div lost about 130 men. You see we keep at work at the Rebels and depend upon it we shall eventually be possession of the South Side R.R. and if we should not be surprised if the war should come to an end very suddenly. It will at least cause the evacuation of Va. My health is still good. I have fully recovered from my cold. I have this day sent my papers to Washington DC to try and get $300 bounty which I think I shall get. I went Waltham Mass for a very superior silver watch which will cost me $73. I hope you are all well. Expect to receive a letter from you by this evening's mail". Slightly toned at folds, small hole in paper does not affect text.

    July 2, 1863 (four pages of bifolium, 7.75" x 9.75"), Willian wrote to Brigadier General Lorenzo Thomas, putting himself forward for promotion, and he soon received supporting references from both Major Generals Andrew A. Humphreys and Gershom Mott. The letter gives a concise layout of Willian's military career and his involvement during the war: "Being desirous of remaining in the Military Service and it being generally expected that the Regular Army is soon to be largely increased, I have the honor very respectfully to present myself as an applicant for appointment in it, with such rank as my services in the Volunteer force may warrant. I entered the Volunteer Service commissioned as a 3rd Lieut in the 4th Regiment of New Jersey three months volunteers in April 1861, and in the 6th Regiment as a 1st Lieut in August 1861. In the latter Regiment I participated in the following Battles and affairs viz:
    Williamsburg Va May 3rd 1862
    Fair Oaks or Seven Pines June 1st 1862
    " " 23rd "
    Malvern Hill July 2nd 1862
    Bristow Station August 27th "
    Bull Run " 28th & 29th 1862
    Fredericksburg Va Dec 13th "
    Chancellorsville May 3rd 1863
    Gettysburg Pa July 2nd & 3rd "
    Wapping

    I also participated as an actg staff officer 1st as Asst Com'g of Musters 4th Division, 2nd as Div Inspector 3rd Div, 3rd as A.A.I. Genl 2nd Army Corps in all the battles in which the corps was engaged from May 4th 1864 to April 9th 1863 and will forward reference from the General officers under whom I have had the honor to serve.
    I have received the following promotions since I entered the service.
    July 11th 1862 promoted from 1st Lieut to Capt
    April 26th 1864 " " Capt to Major
    October 27th " I was Brevetted a Lieut Col for my services at the battle of Brydon P.R.
    January 3rd 1863 I was promoted from Major of 6th to Lt Col 8th NJ Vols
    April 19th 1863 I was promoted from Lieut Col of 8th to Colonel 12

    For my services during the campaign just closed. I have been recommended by Major General Humphries
    [sic] for Brevett Colonel and Brevett Brig General. Hoping the above may be favorably considered. I have the honor to be. Very respectfully, your obt srvt
    John Willian, Colonel Comdg 12th NJ Vol
    ". Good condition, usual dirt and mail folds.

    This is an extensive archive that provides insight into the varied activities and responsibilities of officers of Willian's rank, with particular emphasis on the days following pivotal battles. The collection is a detailed record of Willian's service, and his letters reveal his desire to climb the military ranks. The archive also includes documents such as Willian's muster roll and two certificates of promotion.

    Condition: The archive is housed in eleven legal sized file folders. Overall the condition of the items in the archive range from good to near fine. The partially printed documents, especially those of large size, have prominent folds, which occasionally show weakness. Some of the documents have weaknesses along the mail folds. Slight toning or foxing on some letters, and there are usual stains or signs of wear on some letters.




    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2017
    19th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
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