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    Albert M. Edwards 24th Michigan Letter Archive and Field Desk. An extensive archive of letters, documents, field desk and other supporting material, including Edwards diary as a POW. With over 500 letters and documents, over 125 being war dated. The majority of the letters were written to Edwards, some personal in nature and others with military content. The most intriguing are the eight war-dated letters written by Edwards and the diary he kept as a POW.

    Albert M. Edwards enlisted April 16, 1861 into Co. K of the 1st MI Infantry as a Captain. He transferred to Co. F of the 24th MI Infantry on August 15, 1862. On November 22, 1863 he was promoted to Major, and to Lt. Col. on June 9, 1864. On March 13, 1865 he was promoted to Colonel by brevet. In an unlucky stroke of luck, Edwards was captured at 1st Bull Run on July 21, 1861 and was not exchanged until May 1862. He survived the rest of the war and mustered out on June 30, 1865. By all accounts Edwards should have received the Medal of Honor for his actions on May 5, 1864 at Wilderness, Va. While his unit charged the enemy, and capturing 300 prisoners, he secured the flag of the 48th Virginia from a Confederate color-bearer. By the criteria commonly used during the Civil War capturing a Confederate flag entitled Edwards to a Medal of Honor, which he never received.

    After being captured by the Confederate Army, Edwards was held as a POW at numerous different prisons. In a letter dated December 1, 1861, he wrote to his mother from Charleston Jail to describe his experience, in part:

    "I was taken prisoner at the Battle of Manassas, July 21st, with about seventy more of my Regiment. We were carried to Richmond and kept there till September 10th, then carried to Castle Pinckney in Charleston Harbor, and kept there till the first of November; and then brought to this old jail...My health has been very good most of the time, though many of the prisoners have died. One was buried to-day - Dr. Griswold of New York. We are kept on very short allowances of food - only three crackers and 12 ounces of meat and a little coffee per day, and one meal of rice every five days. I was fortunate enough to have money with me when taken prisoner so I have not suffered as much as some have for food and clothes. Some of the men are almost naked, but the weather fortunately is warm. We do not hear any news here, as they do not allow us to read the newspapers. We are entirely shut out from all the world, and do not know if our Government is doing anything for our release. We hope to get out of this horrible confinement soon, but we may be disappointed. My letter will be read before it goes from here, so you see it is not best for me to write you a long letter. I can only let you know that I am in good health, dear Mother, and live in hopes of soon meeting you in our old home..."

    The following year, Edwards was transferred to Columbia Jail in South Carolina. He expressed his frustration with unanswered mail in a letter to his mother on February 7, 1862. In part: "I have not forgotten you, though it may have been a long time since you hear from me. I have written to you three or four times, but have heard ne'er a word from you since July 21st. You can imagine my anxiety. If this note reaches you, write me immediately. My health is quite good. We were brough from Charleston here January 1st. We are treated better here than in Charleston. Our Government has sent us plenty of clothing so we are now quite comfortable. I have not the privilege of writing a long letter, I can only let you know that I am alive and well...We hope to be exchanged too very soon. Give love to all our family and friends: and assure them of my continued remembrance and affection..."

    By April, Edwards had still not been exchanged and had been moved to yet another prison in Richmond. He wrote his mother on April 2, 1862: "...We left Columbia, South Carolina, February 25th, expecting to go directly North, but when we reached Richmond we were detained, by order of the Government and we seem likely to be detained still longer. God only knows how long. I should have written you before, but it was not allowed...My health is firm, and my spirits tolerably buoyant - thank providence. Our Government has furnished us comfortable clothing, so we are not suffering in that respect. I am proud that I am serving a country that is not unmindful of its unfortunate soldiers, more than of its more fortunate ones. I cannot tell when I shall see you, but I hope it may not be long. You must not expect to see the same boy who left you three years ago. Time has passed but foughtly with me since. Nine months in a gloomy prison does not improve a prisoner's looks much..." Among his letters are also two tables and written figures representing the Prisoner Ration's at one of the prisons he was held at, Columbia Jail. Edwards outlines the names of prisoners and the rations of beef, bread, rice, soap, sugar, salt, and other foods allocated to each man. Edwards would spend another three months as a POW; he was finally exchanged on May 20, 1862.

    Edwards kept a diary during the period of 1861-1862. Although his early entries are brief, containing personal details about his comings and goings and visits to other people, the entries become more interesting after his enlistment. On May 11, he wrote: "Got uniforms to-day. An excursion train came in this corning from Adrian bringing 400. The Regiment went to the city, and received a stand of colors from the ladies of Detroit. Who wouldn't fight for them? I came to Adrian to-night." On May 24, Edwards described the tragic death of Col. Ellsworth in Alexandria: "Left Washington this morning a 1 o'clock, for Alexandria. Twelfth Regiment of N.J. came with us. Ellsworths Zoaves came by boat. Col. Ellsworth was shot while tearing down a Secession flag. We captured 70 men and 70 horses, we destroyed the Railroad Track." July 19: "We are encamped to-day at 'Little Rocky Run' - one mile East of Centreville. This is one of the outposts of the Grand Army of the rebels in Manassas." July 21: "...Firing began at 4 a.m., lasted till dark. I was taken prisoner at 6." July 22: "Rained hard. I was taken to Manassas last night. Six of Company K and 56 of our Regiment. Our army was beaten yesterday at Bull Run. Wilcox was surrounded and taken prisoner. About 500 of us prisoners started for Richmond." July 26: "Went out again on parole and bought about $60 worth of articles for the boys. The civilians treated me very kindly. TJHey all regret the war, and hope for peace. Business is very dull. The stores nearly deserted." August 5: "The boys are getting disgusted with prison life, the want of exercise and fresh air is the worst feature. They complain too of the short rations. Not much to blame." August 8: "The mounded prisoners are fast dying off from want of care in the crowded hospital. Nine were buried in the last twelve hours. A prisoner was put in irons for stealing." August 19: "Excessively hot to-day. The thermostat reads 93° to 100° in the shade. Troops and Camp Equipage have been moving all day through the city. Something is brewing. God knows what." October 25: "Still further reports from the Potomac. Col. E.B. Baker was killed and many prisoners taken. Leisburg in the hands of the rebels. According to the Southern papers, we are getting whipped everywhere." The last entry in the diary, January 1, 1862: "We started for Columbia at 8 o'clock a.m. A man at the depot shook hands with me and gave me fifty cents. He was a stranger, but God bless him - he has a human heart."

    Of great importance is also a description of the Battle at Gettysburg, dated Head Quarters 1st Brigade, 1st Div. Culpepper. Va, February 22, 1864, a small folio, 12 pages. The description is addressed to Capt. Wood, A.A. General, and likely in the hand of Edwards. It reads, in part: "I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the 24th Michigan Volunteers in the Battle of Gettysburg July 1st, 1863 and the weeks immediately preceding". The battle report goes into great detail about marching to Gettysburg, getting into "line of battle on the double quick..." The 24th Michigan entered the battle with 496 men. After the first day's fight, only 99 men remained with their flag. However, the great sacrifice of the 24th Michigan and the Iron Brigade helped slow the Confederate advance upon Gettysburg and allowed Federal forces to gain a position for victory.

    Apart from the letters and diary, the archive consists of numerous military documents, over 200, including charges against members of the 24th Mich., leaves of absence and furloughs, Payments & clothing, transmitting commissions for officers in the 24th Regiment, ordinance circulars and notice of death and discharge of certain members of the 24th Mich. Some have been bundled together and tied with the original ribbons used by Edwards. The archive also includes 7 buttons Edwards brought home, including 2 Texas, a Massachusetts militia button, two South Carolina, a Virginia, an Excelsior, as well as Michigan state buttons from his uniform. With an embroidered officers side plate, an eagle side plate, and an officers embroidered front plate designated for the 24th Michigan. Another amazing piece in the archive is a large 3.5" x 15" silk ribbon celebrating the 24th Michigan, the commanders and the battles they participated. Edward's hat cord, in the original box, and sword belt are present. There is an old tag on the belt that reads "Purchased from his Grandson. He kept the belt buckle." Also included is Edward's wooden field desk, which measures 12" x 16" x 18", with slots for storing mail and other documents. With the original lock key present.

    Part of the archive is a nice section of material, including three books and other papers. The books, one signed by Edwards, pertain to Michigan in the war and the history of the 24th Michigan. Also included is a commission appointing Edwards as a Sergeant in the 1st Michigan Vol. dated June 20, 1861, and a GAR document regarding Edwards being a member of the GAR. Three "Roll of Honor" documents listing the men who were KIA during the war, and "The Re-Union And Michigan Military Record" paper. One of more interesting pieces in the archive is a miniature knap sack from the 25th National Encampment in Detroit in 1891. It comes in the original box, and measures 6.25" x 10.5". Inside is the program for the festivities, who was on the committee, etc.

    The archive is truly an extensive collection, with numerous documents, letters, medals, and ephemera relating to the 24th Michigan and Albert M. Edwards. Many of the letters have retained their original transmittal covers. A fascinating group that would make a grand addition to any Civil War enthusiast's collection.

    Condition: Varying degrees of wear, soiling, and foxing to the letters, with most being very clear and legible. Diary is worn at extremities. The field desk is worn but sturdy and in working order. Books have rubbing and bumped corners and edges. With some cocked binding. Additionally, varying degrees of wear and soiling to other documents, papers, and personal materials.


    More Information: The 24th Michigan Infantry mustered into U. S. service August 15, 1862 numbering 1,030 men. Commanded by Colonel Henry A. Morrow, these volunteer soldiers became part of the famous Iron Brigade and first distinguished themselves, under enemy fire, at the battle of Fredericksburg. Virginia. They fought at Chancellorsville and in three other engagements before Gettysburg. The 24th Michigan struggled through 14 more battles, including the siege of Petersburg, Virginia. New recruits brought the regiment back to full strength and on May 4, 1865 they served as funeral escort for President Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois. The regiment mustered out and disbanded at Detroit, Michigan on June 30, 1865.


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    November, 2020
    12th Thursday
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