Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice

    Description

    [Union Surgeon]. Dr. Abraham Landis Archive. A large archive of over 450 letters relating to Union surgeon, Dr. Abraham Landis, with approximately 189 letters from Dr. Landis, dating from April 5, 1862 - April 24, 1865. Many of the letters are accompanied by their original transmittal covers. Landis' early letters detail about his medical work in Tennessee near Nashville. In 1863, he was captured by the Confederates at Chickamauga and was taken to Libby Prison, and the archive has two letters from his time there and one immediately after his release. About half of the letters then cover his service in the Atlanta Campaign, the Battle of Resaca, movements on and around Dallas, Georgia, and on Kennesaw Mountain. Landis was then seriously wounded at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, and his letters that follow are about his recovery in hospital. The entire archive includes about 96 pre-war letters, 48 post-war letters, and about 335 war dated letters, along with a handful of miscellaneous letters and documents. Apart from the correspondences between Landis and his family, there are letters from relatives and medical inquiries from various people.

    Abraham Hoch Landis (1820-1896) joined the 35th Ohio Infantry in November 1862 at the age of 41. However, before he was mustered into the 35th OH, Landis was already helping the army in a medical capacity. On April 15, 1862, he wrote to his wife, Mary, from Pittsburg, Tennessee to describe the overwhelming work that surgeons had to shoulder and the unpreparedness he felt to be able to treat the hundreds of men under his care. In part:

    "The past week will ever be the most eventful epoch in my history. During that time I have witnessed events that will be commented upon by the historian centuries after I am dead and gone. My transition from home to the battle field was so sudden that I sometimes am at a loss to know whether it is a reality or a dream. My taste for military surgery has been satiated. I hope and trust and pray that I may never see another wounded man especially under such circumstances. Hundreds died of their wounds that could have been saved could they have been comfortably situated and properly attended to. Immediately on arriving here the medical director detailed me & several others to go to a cluster of tents near the landing and attend to about 600 whose wounds had never been dressed. It was raining at the time in torrents and as the tents were upon a flat piece of ground the whole surface was made water and although the wounded were placed upon straw or hay nearly everyone of the poor fellows was laying in the water. Many died who never recovered from the collapse which always follows a severe gun shot wound. In one large hospital tent were about thirty four of whom were dead the next morning. Of the 600 about 150 died in about 4 days. One Surgeon Dr. Rice of the 76th Ohio told me that he amputated 28 limbs on Monday. When night came he was so exhausted that he lay down upon the ground without any shelter and slept...A large majority of the wounds were in the thighs and legs & feet. In many instances the bones were not only broken but crushed to fragments. In such cases amputation was the only remedy, and that was a forlorn hope as most of those who had amputations performed upon them have died. Some of the most heart rending cases that I saw were boys from 15 to 20 years of age, who were either killed or badly wounded...One case in particular an Ohio boy named Silas Roby made an impression upon my mind that time can never erase. The poor boy asked me to write to his mother in case he died."

    Following his mustering into the 35th Ohio, Landis was posted at a hospital in Gallatin, just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Although unhappy with the conditions of the hospital, Dr. Landis did the best he could to care for his men as well as keep himself from falling ill. He also condemned the treatment of the men by both the Rebels as well as the Union. He wrote to his wife on December 5, 1862 to describe his work, in part:

    "I have been detailed for duty in a hospital in this town. I have charge of the wards in which there are about 50 patients. The diseases are diarrhea, Rheumatism, Inflammation of the lungs, Typhoid fever, &c. Two companies of the 35 are stationed at the Rail Road Bridge two miles north of this, and I have to go to their camp once a day to attend to some of the boys that are sick...The treatment the Union men have received from those Rebel hell hounds is a disgrace to humanity. If the history of this wicked rebellion were written without a single word of comment it would be the blackest record ever put upon paper. The more I see of the rebellion the worse I hate the instigators of it. If Jeff Davis & Co don't find themselves in a burning hell I think the institutions should be abolished...I am in hospital no 1, and am trying to do my duty. The only thing that troubles me is the poor accommodations for the sick. There is a want of medicines & the proper kind of food for the sick. Many poor fellows are dying for the want of a comfortable bed & the proper diet for a sick man. Oh what a disgrace to humanity and our...liberty for our soldiers to die in this manner. I keep away from the foul air of the hospital as much as possible. I get through with my patients as soon as I can and spend as much time as possible in the open air. The room where I sleep & eat is to itself. News reached here this evening of a fight at Hartsville 18 miles East of this. The cannonading was heard here plainly. The word is that one whole Brigade of our men is captured. I trust when we get the correct news it will not be so bilious."

    A little more than a week later, Landis wrote to his children and detailed his day-to-day activities in the hospital. His December 15, 1862 letter reads, in part: "All the churches in town and many other buildings are used for hospital purposes. The sick soldiers that I am attending are in three large rooms. Every morning when I get up and get my breakfast I go into a room and find from 10 to 15 sick men. I go from one to another and write on a piece of paper what kind of medicine each one needs, and the paper is taken to the hospital steward and he doses out the medicine. When I get through one room I go to another room until I get done. One house in town is used to keep rebels in. I went to see them one day. They were hard looking cases. It would scare you to see them, there was so much dirt on the floor that I could hardly see it and their shirts looked as if they had not been washed in a month."

    Despite his best efforts, Dr. Landis fell ill while on duty (likely due to the poor hygiene at the hospital and his hard schedule). He had suffered a severe cold and a case of Erysipelas, which almost proved fatal. During his recovery, he wrote to his wife on April 27, 1863, in part: "I am happy to inform you that I am still improving. I am gaining strength every day and am able to walk out a little farther every day. Last Friday I undertook to walk from Hospital no 8 to Hospital no 1 a distance of 75 yards. When I got about half way I gave out and had to sit down on the sidewalk. Everything turned green before me and if I had not set down I would have fallen down. In a few minutes a soldier came along and I asked him if he would be so kind as to help me to Hospital no 1. He helped me up and I put one arm around his neck and with a cane in the other hand I managed to get to the Hospital but was about exhausted. Now I can walk three times as far and not give out...Don't be uneasy about me, as I am doing well and am out of all danger."

    Landis, thankfully, made a full recovery and continued working in the Gallatin hospital for another month or so before he was moved into the field. Following the Union victory at Gettysburg, an almost giddy Dr. Landis wrote to Mary from "In Camp", possibly moving towards Hoover's Gap, on July 8, 1863, in part: "I sit down this evening to let you know that I have been drunk, gloriously drunk for the last 26 hours, not on whiskey nor lager beer but over the good news. Yesterday we heard that Lee had been well thrashed at Gettysburg Pennsylvania. Gen. Rosecrans ordered a salute of 35 guns to be fired in each Division, and the way Uncle Sams artillery howled was a caution. It sounded like the fight at Hoover's Gap."

    Misfortune was to fall again upon Dr. Landis after the Battle of Chickamauga. On the second day of the battle (September 20, 1863), disaster struck when Longstreet's forces were able to overrun Union defenses and capture seven divisional hospitals. While some surgeons and patients with less serious wounds were able escape, other patients found themselves captured by the Confederates along with a great many medical supplies and equipment. Sacrificing his freedom, Landis chose to stay with his patients and fellow surgeons who were unable to retreat. The Rebels captured approximately 2,500 wounded and almost 50 surgeons. About a week later, Landis wrote his wife on September 28, 1863, in part:

    "I write to you under singular circumstances. I am a prisoner of war in the hands of the Rebs. I remained here voluntarily with the wounded. I could [have made] my escape easily, but I preferred to remain with the poor boys that got hurt. I was at our Division Hospital during the fight and when the Rebs turned our left flank on Sunday we were under a terrible fire of shell. Several wounded men were killed, and one hospital tent burned. I have no idea how many of my Regiment were killed and wounded. I have the names of 70 whose wounds I examined and dressed, but most of those made their escape on Sunday. About 30 are here yet. The wounded are being paroled and will be sent to within our lines. The Rebs talk of holding us, the surgeons as prisoners, but I have no idea they will keep us long. They can take me to Libby Prison if they choose. I am prepared for the sacrifice. I expect to live through it, God being my helper. My health is excellent. I feel as though I was in the discharge of my duties. Don't fret about me...the Rebs generally are kind to us. Last night I slept with a secesh Capt."

    Landis was indeed transferred to Libby prison, where he spent nearly two months. On November 2, 1863, he wrote to Mary with requests for food and supplies to send him: "I wrote to you to send me a box of grub, but as the letter may be miscarried I will write again. Send the following 3 cans butter 15 pounds sugar 3 pounds ground coffee 2 cakes chocolate half pound tea 6 cans condensed milk 2 hams a piece dried beef 4 pounds cheese, knife forks & large spoon 3 cans peaches, acquire writing paper & envelope, a lot of Telescopes and Telegraphs...Don't send my clothes to the Regmt unless you have already. Write to Simon Kumler and ask him what has become of Lucy. I got separated from Joshua Davis who had charge of her Saturday evening and have heard nothing of either since. I fear both were captured."

    He finally gained his freedom when he was paroled at the end of November. He wrote home on November 26, 1863, to assuage his wife's fears and to let her know that he would return home after making a formal complaint to the US government about the treatment he endured. He wrote from Baltimore, in part:

    "With feelings of gratitude to Heaven I inform you that I am out of Libby Prison. 94 of us, all surgeons reached here this morning. After enduring the insults and indignities of the Rebs for over two months, I am once more a free man. I will not particularize as I have only a few moments to write, but I will say that I have seen the hardest times since Sept 20th that ever fell to my lot...Our food at times was scarcely fit for a hog to eat, and the lice came very [illegible] eating us alive. I may not be home for a week, as we are going to Washington City in a body to report to President Lincoln the treatment of our prisoners by the Rebels at Richmond...My treatment while a prisoner has not abated my zeal a particle. I feel more like fighting until the last Rebel gun shall have been spiked than ever. I want to go to Atlanta and Richmond once more but under different circumstances. I want to go with a line of bayonets. Oh how I would like to apply a torch to Libby Prison."


    Landis did briefly return home, but soon rejoined his regiment following the Battle of Missionary Ridge. He and the 35th Ohio joined General Sherman on his move South in the Atlanta Campaign. Landis was at the Battle of New Hope Church and on May 30, 1864, he wrote home about the wounding of Union general Richard W. Johnson, in part: "I was out near the front Saturday and saw a large number of dead and wounded. Gen Johnson who commands the first Division of our Corps was wounded in the side by a shell. I saw him & talked with him. He was in an ambulance accompanied by several of his staff officers. I saw the shell that struck him. It did not explode. It was round and about twice as large as the ball I brought from Shiloh. Johnson is one of our best Generals and a man from the ground up, and I think not seriously injured although he will be disabled for some time."

    Tragedy was to strike yet again when Landis was severely wounded at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. This wound would keep him in hospital for many weeks and ultimately result in ending his military career. He wrote from the Officers Hospital in Chattanooga shortly after he was hit, to notify his wife and family and to try to ease their concerns. His June 28, 1864 letter reads, in part:

    "I write this time under singular circumstances. I telegraphed yesterday to Philly the sad news that I was wounded, which happened last Wednesday June 22nd. Our Brigade was at the time 3 miles from Marietta and 23 from Atlanta. We were in the front line. The Rebels had a battery on Kennesaw Mountain about one mile in our front. Wednesday the 22nd about 4 oclock they opened on us a most terrific fire of shell and solid cannon shot. Nothing saved us from terrible carnage but our breastworks. About noon they quit firing for a short time and Major Budd and several other officers including myself went to our Quarters about 75 yards in the rear of the breastworks. We all got behind trees where we thought we were nearly as safe as in the breastworks. While we were thus situated twelve pounds solid shot fired from a Parrot gun struck a tree about 20 feet to my right behind which Major Budd was standing and bounced at nearly a right angle striking my left leg a little below the middle fracturing the bones. I was immediately placed upon a stretcher and taken to our Division Hospital half a mile in the rear where my leg was examined by the surgeons who told me that the limb could be saved. Oh what a precious drop of comfort this was! Up to that moment I feared I would have to suffer an amputation. I remained at Louisville Hospital until Saturday June 25th when I was put into an ambulance and taken to Big Shanty on the Raid Road five miles...We arrived here Sabbath evening and I was taken to the Officers Hospital. I have every attention that I could ask and am as comfortable as I could be made under the circumstances. Brother Frederick came to me as soon as he heard I was wounded and did all for me in his power. He stuck to me until he saw me aboard the cars and many of the noble boys of my own Regiment did all for me possible under the circumstances. The reason I did not write or telegraph sooner, I intended to go directly home. I procured a leave of absence before I left the front but the trip this far was so terrible that I determined to remain here for the present. I could not go home without endangering my life. Don't be uneasy about me. The surgeons say there is but little doubt of my recovery. I will start home the first day that I can travel with safety, which will be at least four weeks from the present time."

    After spending a considerable time in hospital recovering, he returned to Millville, Ohio to raise his family. The wound he received affected him so much that he would name his next born son Kenesaw Mountain Landis. At some point before the end of the war, the family relocated to Indiana. However, despite being out of the army, Landis still felt very strongly about the cause he had fought for. After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, he was deeply troubled and wrote to his wife to encourage her to take the children to see the president's body as it travelled the country. He wrote on April 29, 1865, in part:

    "President Lincoln's remains will be in Indianapolis next Sunday and if you can leave home I would like to have you & the girls & Walter to go there about Saturday and stay over Sunday if you can get someone to keep Charley & Johnny. The public will have an opportunity of looking at his dead body for the last time. I am particularly curious on account of the children. It would be a great satisfaction to them after a few years. Arrangements will be made to carry passengers on all the Indiana Roads at half fare...if I could only be at home I would keep house. Do as you think best, I would rather you would go than not."

    Abraham H. Landis passed away on November 9, 1896 and is buried in Logansport, Indiana. His sons would go on to do remarkable things in their own right. The eldest, Walter, became a journalist and the first United States Postmaster of Puerto Rico; Charles was elected to the House of Representatives six times; John became a public health inspector; and Frederick had a career as an author and publisher, and served two terms in Congress. Kenesaw Mountain, named in honor of his father's injury, was a federal judge for almost twenty years and became the first Commissioner of Baseball. This archive of letters to and from the Union surgeon serve as a memorial to the great work he performed during the war and of the legacy of his family.

    Condition: Letters range from very good to poor. All have usual mail folds, with soiling ranging from light to very heavy. Some letters have areas of paper loss or tears where folds created weakness. The transmittal covers have usual wear and tear, with some light to heavy soiling in places.


    More Information:

    Additional excerpts from the archive as follows:

     

    Four pages, 5" x 8", Louisville, Kentucky; November 23, 1862: A letter to his wife, in part: "There are 18 hospitals here and all of them well filled with sick and wounded soldiers. There is a strong secesh element in this City. Nearly all with whom I have conversed lean that way, and I am of the opinion that were it not for the presence of Union muskets and bayonets the Rebels would rule."

     

    Four pages, 5" x 8", Gallatin, Tennessee; December 15, 1862: A letter to his wife, in part: "I am still in hospital no 1 in this town. Today I have been kept busy most of the day. In addition to attending to the sick in the wards of the hospital I have to dress the wounds of 15 poor fellows who were wounded at Hartsville.I am attending a sick soldier in a private house in this town and every time I visit him the woman of the house gives me thunder. She is secesh up to the hub but very kind to the sick soldier. I have tried several times to discuss the question with her but I have come out second best every time."

     

    Four pages, 5" x 8", Gallatin, Tennessee; December 27, 1862: "A letter to his wife, in part: A terrible casualty happened here a few evening ago to one of our soldiers. A drunken orderly sergeant ordered one of his men to do something and he refused whereupon the orderly shot him, the ball entering the chest and lodged in the region of the spine. The man is yet alive but in all probability will dye [sic] a few weeks ago one of the guards of our hospital took his gun & struck the fire with it holding the barrel in one hand & the bayonet in the other. The gun went off and the bullet, a Minnie ball, passed through his wrist. Another had his gun loaded but no cap on. He cocked the gun and pointed it towards one of his comrades remarking 'I will shoot you.' The gun went off and hit the poor fellow in the hyp [sic] He died in two or three days."

     

    Four pages, 5" x 8", Gallatin, Tennessee; January 3, 1863: A letter to his wife, in part: "We have had a terrible battle there [Murfreesboro], more bloody from accounts than Pittsburg Landing. We heard the cannonading here for three days. Col. Minor Millikin of the First Ohio Cavalry was killed. Poor fellow! This morning being at the Depot when the train went north, I saw the coffin containing his lifeless body. I could have wept like an infant. He was a noble specimen of humanity and as brave as a tiger."

     

    Six pages, 5" x 8", Gallatin, Tennessee; January 11, 1863: A letter to his wife, in part: "I have heard no tidings from the battle field in addition to those I have already written. To be near enough to a battle field to hear the cannon roar and at the same time be denied the privilege of enquiring into the fate of ones friends known to have been in the battle is beyond all human endurance. But such is war, such is red tape, and the sooner a fellow becomes resigned to it the better."

     

    One page, 5" x 8", Millville, Ohio; December 13, 1863: A letter to a Reverend Granville Moody, in part:

    I was captured at the battle of Chickamauga and after our wounded were paroled and sent through the lines I was taken with the other surgeons to Richmond and lodged in Libby Prison. At Chickamauga Station I saw your Brother Capt. Moody who commanded a Louisiana Battery in the Rebel Army. He asked a great many questions about you, and asked me to write to you when I got through the lines and tell you for God sake to quit fighting and go to praying for peace.

     

    Four pages, 5" x 8", Chattanooga, Tennessee; February 29, 1864: A letter to his wife, in part: "Yesterday Dr. Salter the port surgeon told me he would have me detailed for duty in hospital here. I told him to excuse me as I had already had two attacks of Erysipelas while on duty in hospital, but he insisted on having me detailed. Today I intended to appeal to Dr. Perin medical Director of the Department of the Cumberland, but before I had time to see him, he sent me word that I should join my Regiment. This is the second time I have come very near being assigned to duty in hospital since I left home. I think I would offer my resignation instantly if they should put me in a hospital."

     

    Three pages, 5" x 8", Chattanooga, Tennessee; July 19, 1864: "I have just got Charley to prop me up in bed to write a letter to you. I am improving very slowly, the sore on my leg where the bullet struck causes me considerable suffering. I am now in a tent by myself."

     

    Four pages, 5" x 8", Millville, Ohio; July 24, 1864: A letter from Mary to Landis, in part: "Today I saw Capt Lewis he asked about you and told me that it is current all over Hamilton that your leg was off. now Doc I have took the matter so very cool so far I received your letter of the 17th in which you told me of the sore that came on your leg but not one word about 'off'. in your letter I can't think you keep it from me should such a thing be necessary. I don't know who started the story I did not go to any trouble to hunt it up I thought I should certainly be appraised of it if anything of that kind was done."





    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2018
    25th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 872

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $250,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $250,000 and $2,500,000, plus 12% of any amount over $2,500,000 per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    VIEW BENEFITS
    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
      winnings 
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 12 days left to consign to the 2020 March 29 Vintage Guitars & Musical Instruments Musical Instruments Signature Auction - Dallas!

    Learn about consigning with us

    Heritage has gone above and beyond my expectations in handling all of my transactions in a thoroughly professional manner. I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone worldwide for the exemplary auction and valuation services they provide.
    Richard H.,
    Corsicana, TX
    View More Testimonials

    HA.com receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source: Similarweb.com)

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2019 December 14 Historic Flags of World War II Signature Auction - Dallas
    2019 December 14 Historic Flags of World War II Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED $1,016,674