Description

    Edward A. Wild and Walter Wild Archive of Letters Including Content Regarding Their Service as Officer's in Wild's African Brigade. This extensive archive contains letters dated as early as 1846 through the early 1890s, ten war-dated letters from their sister Susan Wood relaying news about Edward, and six cartes de visite (three of Edward and three of Walter). Of particular note is a group of war dated letters: two from Edward and nine from Walter (including one containing a postscript by Edward).

    Brig. General Edward Wild, a Harvard graduate, was a doctor by training and was best characterized as an ardent abolitionist and adventurer. He joined the Union Army in 1861, electing to serve as a front-line officer. He served in many major battles including the First Battle of Bull Run and the Battle of Seven Pines. He lost his left arm to amputation from a wound suffered in September 1862 at the Battle of South Mountain. Despite the injury, Wild returned to service the following year as a recruiting officer. An ardent abolitionist, Wild focused exclusively on recruiting black soldiers as well as the white officers, who would lead them. He is credited with aiding Robert Gould Shaw fill his roster of officers for the 54th Massachusetts.

    In a letter dated September 30 and October 11, 1861 (4 pages, 9.25" x 11") Edward writes to his sister Susan: "Bivouac in the woods near Lower Marlboro... 3 weeks ago this morning, we started early from camp Union, Bladensberg, without tents, without baggage ... despatches followed us every day or 2 and kept bobbing about the villages of Maryland, Culvert County,... & Prince George, searching everywhere for arms, equipments, uniforms etc belonging to Secessionists, arresting one or two ringleaders and supporting the Union men generally..." He continues the letter from Camp Union, Bladensburg and recounts his exploits with little to report: "Our Brigade (Hooker's) is all encamped together, stretching along for nearly a mile. It is made up of 5 Regiments, including the 26th Pennsylvania under Col. Small... He has brought his family and quartered them in a large home in the middle of the camp." He signs the letter "Ned" adding a full signature with rank in the text of the postscript ("Captain Edward A. Wild") warning his sister not to share his news with newspaper reporters.

    Later in the war, Edward writes to his mother during what is the most controversial period of his military career: "Folly Island S.C. Sept. 17 [1863]... Yesterday was the anniversary of my amputated arm. It passed over with only some extra neuralgia, not enough to make a magical coincidence, but enough to indicate a coming storm... The enemy took advantage and planned a night attack and surprise on our end of the Island. But as we received some intimation thereof, we were all on the alert, and quite ready for them..." He share his misadventures of riding alongside his brother Walter in the storm and concludes that "Perhaps the storm was too violent even for them [the enemy]... Wagner & Gregg have fallen. Some of my men were of the foremost to rush into them. They being out all night in the trenches, armed themselves with pikes from the ditch of Wagner, and rushed upon Gregg, ahead of everything. [signed] E.A.W." Although Wild's brigade were honored as able soldiers, the General himself often came under scrutiny and criticism for his actions. Just three months later in December of 1863, complaints were lodged against Wild because he had taken two white women hostage in order to secure the safety of a captured black soldier. This was the most serious of a litany of complaints Wild faced, which included the seizure and destruction of the private property of Southern citizens.

    A letter from Walter written during this period relays the same conviction and passion as Edward for the Union cause: "Hdqrs African Brigade / Folly Island S.C. October 17 1863.... We have averaged a man defunct per diem ever since our arrival in this execrable District but think we get off cheap and I suppose we do out of twenty two hundred originally brought here... We are fighting in the old McLellan style with shovel and pick and axe and hatchet. E.A.'s health continues first rate... I only wish we could exhibit our Brigade today for a few hours in any Northern City and if we did not satisfy the most incredulous of our efficiency would willingly 'hide my diminished head'... Both of my old Captains Comstock and Brayton have gone home to Rhody to accept position in your Colored Reg. there. How wonderful a change from the opinions them both expressed to me when I was leaving them last..."

    The archive also includes ten letters (a total of 40pp.) written by Susan Wood, Edward's sister. All of the letters are war-dated, and share news of Edward's well-being, most poignantly, his recovery from his war wound and amputation. In a letter dated September 28 , [1862], Susan writes to her mother: "I thought you would prefer a letter written after Edward arrived... the only way he could be carried from Middletown to Frederick to Baltimore was in a sort of smoking car with eight coffins... Edward with his well arm was obliged to steady him self by backing against a coffin... I tell you this that you may have some idea what his journey has been one that required all self control... in an balance from Middletown to Frederick was so rough as to place him in almost mortal agony... he calls himself a poor maimed creature..." This four page letter contains much great content about Wild's physical and emotional recovery from his amputation.

    The post-war portion of the archive includes a letter from Edward detailing a silver mine venture in Austin, Texas; several letters from his wife Ellen; and finally, 5 documents related to his death and the settlement of his estate. Overall condition is very good to near fine. Additional scans of individual letters are available for review upon request.



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    Auction Dates
    December, 2010
    11th Saturday
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