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    Clara Barton Autograph Letter Signed "Clara Barton." Two pages of a bifolium, 5" x 8", Hartford, Connecticut; March 21, 1867. Addressed to General Benjamin Butler, regarding the plight of Barton's colleague, Dorence Atwater, who worked with her in the Office of Missing Soldiers. Atwater had been, in her opinion, unjustly imprisoned and Barton updates Butler on the petitions circulating to free Atwater. During the Civil War, Dorence Atwater was a Prisoner of War at Andersonville Prison who, despite great risk to himself, secretly kept a copy of the "Death List" of Union prisoners who died there. After the war, Atwater smuggled the list out of the prison and shared it with Barton, who was corresponding with families of missing soldiers. Despite also sharing the list with government officials, Atwater refused to relinquish his copy of the list to the U.S. government because it refused to publish the names, as Atwater wanted. As a result, Atwater was court martialed and imprisoned, but not before Horace Greeley, Editor of the "New York Tribune", published the entire list of names, causing an enormous public outcry to free and pardon Atwater.

    In her letter, Barton asks for aid from the general, in part: "...You have doubtless already read a petition from the Citizens of Auburn N.Y. respecting Atwater's case, another must be nearly on its way from New Haven and from present indications Hartford will soon follow their example...it is the design and desire of all that you assume the management of the case and hold it entirely subject to your own will, and judgment until justice is done. Will you General, please do this one more favor for me - I was more than willing that it sleep on the last session of the late Congress for I foresaw that nothing satisfactory would be accomplished, and besides - I knew that you were coming. His cause lies very near the hearts of the whole American people, I could send a full petition from every community in the loyal States if necessary, praying that he be not only restored to his rights but rewarded for his services..."

    The letter also includes, on the third page of the bifolium, Butler's reply. Dated March 25, he responded:
    "Thus My dear Miss Barton. Nothing can be done this [Congressional] session. So many men desire to get away. So many are afraid of the impeachment and so many are in the slough of Presidential hopes circles and [illegible] that public business even the watching of a faithless execution will be neglected. I need not tell you I will do all I may."

    Butler's response came three weeks after Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act, which attempted to limit the power of President Johnson, and which would ultimately trigger impeachment proceedings against Johnson the following year. The Act was designed to protect Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, whom Johnson wanted to remove; the Congressmen perhaps felt that it they intervened on Atwater's behalf, it would give cause for Johnson to remove Stanton from office.

    Condition: Flattened mail folds and light toning and soiling throughout. Tape remnants at the top and left edge. Small separations starting at some fold edges. Boldly signed by Barton.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2020
    22nd Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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