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    "A great battle [Antietam]. We were in plain sight of the field, 3/4 of a mile from it. McClellan was near us part of the day"

    [1st Battalion, United States Engineers, Co. "C"]. Artificer Jerome Bottomly Archive, consisting of over forty letters dated April 7, 1861, through September 17, 1864; two diaries dated September 23, 1861, through October 13, 1864; photographs; numerous post-war-dated letters; and a G.A.R. jacket, hat, and belt, along with other G.A.R. medals and documents. Letters and diary bear expected age-toning and minor soiling. Overall, the collection is in nice condition and is well organized.

    Hailing from Cherry Valley, Massachusetts, Jerome Bottomly (1842-1912), enlisted for a three-year term in September 1861 as an artificer in the 1st Battalion, United States Engineers, Co. "C". The 1st Battalion, which constructed roads and bridges to keep the Union Army of the Potomac moving (they built six bridges across the Rappahanoock River at Fredericksburg), saw action in the Peninsular Campaign and at the battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, and the Siege of Petersburg. The battalion, which bore arms and sometimes used them, was also trained as infantry. Bottomly's service ended in 1864.

    Included is a tintype (2.5" x 4") featuring three Union soldiers in uniform with Bottomly in the lower right. His letters contain content on his work as an engineer, his battalion's movements, his thoughts on the war, and much more. On page four of his letter dated November 10, 1861, he has drawn a full-page plan of Fort Independence in Boston. Labeling twenty-one parts of the fort. On July 3, 1863, at Westminster, Maryland, twenty-three miles southeast of Gettysburg, Bottomly writes that they "were there till all the army crossed and then took up the bridge." They then moved away from Gettysburg to Buckeystown, Maryland. June 17, 1864, found Bottomly "near Petersburg," where he remained until he left the service in September 1864. In July the engineer battalion was busy building a line of redoubts and forts. One of Bottomly's jobs during that time was telling "the non com what to have his men do. They were carrying logs and placing them on the parapet" (July 10, 1864). The conditions, however, remained deadly. "There is continual firing along some parts of the line. Today there is more than usual. The rebels use morters and the shells look very pretty in the night but the idea of them dropping down side of you and busting is not so pleasant. If you are in a rifle pit a common shell cannot hurt you but these things drop right down on you. It is quite sight to see the bomb proofs and places to sleep in the soldiers have made" (July 20, 1864). At Petersburg, Bottomly was confident of the handiwork of the engineers, writing on August 22, 1864, "I have been along our lines about two miles of them most every day and know it would beimpossible for the rebs to drive our men out of them. Some of our works are supposed to be undermined and there has been other works thrown up in rear of them and if they ever do try to charge us they will be sorry. . . . The two armies are so near together and there has been such an immense amount of shoveling. There was some fighting on the left yesterday. . . . I see about four hundred prisoners, fat, dirty, and saucy as ever." Most letters are accompanied by their original transmittal envelopes.

    The two diaries are dated from September 1861 through October 1864. The first is dated September 23, 1861, and ends April 5, 1864. Some of his entries express the dangers surrounding the work of the engineer battalion. For example on June 1, 1862, during the Peninsular Campaign, he writes, "We built two bridges, working up to our knees in water. Lieut Babcock and twelve men were ordered by Gen. Barnard to examine the road on the other side; the Rebels fired several shots and hit one of our men, the bullet going through his right lung." On the day of the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862), Bottomly wrote in his journal, "A great battle. We were in plain sight of the field, 3/4 of a mile from it. McClellan was near us part of the day. It is now the middle of the afternoon and I think our men have the best of it. There is still artillery firing but I cannot hear any musketry. A great many wounds have passed by here and two or three hundred prisoners. We have had several Genl. killed and wounded and there must be many dead on the field." On the opening day of the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11-15, 1862), Bottomly and other engineers were building bridges, again working under fire. Bottomly writes with excitement, "I can remember what happened this day better than I can write it. I ought to thank God my life is spared." On the 13th he writes, "Heavy cannon firing in the forenoon and this afternoon volleys of musketry. A terrible battle is going on. . . . I pray God to watch over me." Bottomly and the battalion were busy during the days leading up to the Battle of Chancellorsville, which took place on April 30-May 6, 1863. A few of his entries read in part beginning on April 28: "Preparations to build the bridge. . . . [while ferrying the troops across the river] six of our fellows rowed each boat full of infantry 15 New York had 20 boats. I was on the bank of the river when our boats got most across the rebels fired and killed 2 wounded 7. . . . We were called out . . . to throw up rifle pits at night." Included in this diary are a few of Bottomly's sketches (soldiers, a church, farmhouse, and more). The second diary begins on April 6, 1864, and ends October 13, 1864. On May 6, 1864, during the Battle of the Wilderness, the engineer records, "Went to the front and laid in the rifle pits all the forenoon, in the afternoon was digging rifle pits when our right broke. We laid in line all night." Other war-dated items are also included, such as Bottomly's three-year enlistment paper, dated September 20, 1861, and other letters written to the engineer.

    Making up a large part of this archive are Bottomly's G.A.R.-related material, such as two large albumen prints on a card, each with an overall size near 12" x 10", featuring G.A.R. members. One features the Sea Cadet Band. The other features a group of elderly veterans wearing G.A.R. medals. Bottomly's G.A.R. reunion jacket with vest - exhibiting some wear to the lining but in overall nice condition - is also included, as is a black felt hat with gold hat cord and gold bullion insignia with "131" sewn to the front (all very clean). Also the engineer's G.A.R. reunion leather belt with sword slings and buckle and three G.A.R. medals and one patriotic flag stickpin.

    Other G.A.R. items include the following: a leather-bound booklet dated September 17, 1898, commemorating the Dedication of the Monument . . . Antietam Battlefield, containing penciled annotations in the final pages; many pension documents; a booklet of souvenir postcards of Gettysburg; four copies of a G.A.R. list containing the names of the enlisted men of the U.S. Engineers who served during the Civil War (circa 1895); a thirty-four-page roster containing near 1,000 names of 1st Battalion veterans with information on each, including their current home; and documents, ribbons, and reunion programs.

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    April, 2015
    9th Thursday
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