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    An extensive collection of the Papers of Colonel Francis Jewett Parker of Massachusetts

    [32nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment]. Papers of Colonel Francis Jewett Parker, dated January 1862 through December 1908, and consisting mostly of over eighty items. Over seventy items are letters - Colonel Parker's letterpress copies plus letters to the colonel from military and political men. Most of the letters are dated from 1862-1865 and concern the 32nd Massachusetts after Parker's retirement. Also included are documents related to Parker's command of the 32nd. Also included is a war-dated Fitz John Porter Autograph Note Signed. The remaining items are post-war-dated. Most items bear mounting remnants on their final page. Items also bear expected toning and minor foxing.

    Francis Parker (1825-1909) was a thirty-six-year-odl Massachusetts state senator from Boston when the Civil War began. He organized the Parker Battalion in November 1861, which evolved into the 32nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment in December with Parker serving as the first colonel of the regiment. In June 1862, the regiment arrived in Northern Virginia and was assigned to the Army of the Potomac. The colonel commanded the regiment at the Peninsular Campaign, the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. He resigned on December 27, 1862. The regiment went on to fight at Gettysburg and other battles. After his military retirement, Parker became a prominent figure in Boston, serving in the state legislature and running unsuccessfully for city mayor in 1878. In 1880 he wrote The Story of the Thirty-Second Regiment Massachusetts Infantry.

    Eleven of Colonel Parker's letterpress copies are included, dated 1863-1866 and addressed to various officers, as well as to Congressman Tappan Wentworth and Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew. Most of the letters in this collection (including those written to Parker) illustrate some of the troubles of the 32nd. After Parker left his regiment in December 1862, accusations flew accusing him of leaving an undisciplined regiment. In one letter written on February 23, 1863, Parker writes Colonel Jacob B. Sweitzer, asking if the colonel thought Parker was responsible for "a very bad condition of affairs in the 32nd Mass. . . . I do not ask or expect a whitewashing reply." Two weeks later on March 7, Parker wrote Lt. Col. Harmin Ritchie that he thought it "sufficiently clear that I am not responsible for the unfavorable inspection report of which you transmitted to me." One reason why Parker thought he left the regiment in good condition for its next commander was because matters between the 32nd and other regiments seemed to improve after the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11-15, 1862): "After the battle of Fredericksburg the gallant behavior or the regiment completely subdued the feud between it and the other regiments and at the same time welded the various material of its companies into one homogenous whole. Our commander in the brigade declared that whoever said ought against the 32nd mad a personal difficulty in the brigade." In other letters, Parker asks for updates on the regiment.

    The remaining letters were written to Parker, many from officers in the 32nd (such as Lt. Joseph P. Robinson, Lt. Col. Luther Stephenson, Lt. Col. Frederick T. Locke, Lt. Col. Harrison Ritchie, Lt. Josiah C. Fuller, and Lt. Col. Charles G. Sawtelle), some in response to his letterpress copies. In many letters, soldiers ask for promotion recommendations, while others ask for Parker's influence in other ways. Many letters include information about the regiment, such as its size, health, and strength. All but one letter was written after Parker's retirement from the military in December 1862. That letter is dated January 6, 1862, and is written by Lt. Joseph P. Robinson regarding "several jealous officers." Robinson emphasizes that he did "not belong to that class & in no way or manner will I help to increase the ill feeling that exists among the officers in the Regiment." Some letters concern accusations against Parker for leaving an undisciplined regiment upon his retirement. Lt. Col. Luther Stephenson of the 32nd Massachusetts writes Parker on February 28, 1863, exonerating the former commander of the regiment of the results of "the famous inspection" that showed "neglect or incompetency in the performance of your duty as Commander of the Regt. . . . In my opinion the Reg't was not in so good condition as when you relinquished the command." The officer includes "Extracts" of comments on the performance of the regiment since Parker left. Sergeant John Hirsch writes on March 1, 1863, "Since you have left us, our Regiment has suffered much in its reputation, and no doubt you have heard of it ere this. I suppose it aint my place to write all the particulars about it to you, but if you wish me to, I shall be happy to inform you of all, sufficient is to say that the 32nd is malignantly slandered, and that innocently but through this very accident the Executive Department in Massachusetts will realize the value of Col. Parker." Finally in March 1863, Sergeant Hirsch informs Parker that the regiment received a satisfactory drill report from Lt. Col. Webb. Some letters try to clarify the past. For example, Lt. Josiah C. Fuller wrote on June 23, 1863, that "in all sincerity and with careful deliberation . . . as far as yourself was concerned I never complained of your treatment of myself."

    Some letters concerned unfinished matters from 1861-1862, such as a request on April 5, 1864, by James Woodbury: "Will you please make an officer certificate for Private Marquis L. Ward, Co. (B) 32 Regt. Mass Vols. He says you left him near . . . [illegible] Md. on the march from 'Miners Hill' to 'Antietam', in charge of Lieut. Bibbee. He thinks you will certify to his condition at that time. He wishes to get a pension & I think he needs one. He is poor and sick & can do nothing to earn his living."

    In at least two letters, denigrating details about General Joseph Hooker appear. In one dated March 8, 1863, Lt. Col. Stephenson reports to Parker about a friend who was introduced to General Joseph Hooker, "who was so drunk that he came very near falling on to him while he was in conversation with him." In another, Lt. Col. Charles Sawtelle writes on June 1, 1863: "Hooker hasn't altogether covered himself with glory. He tried to find a victim in Meade - failing in that in Uncle John Sedgewick but in doing this waked up such a hornets nest that he was compelled to discontinue that scheme." Some letters pass on unfavorable opinions of soldiers from the 32nd, such as one written by Private Stephen Rich near Petersburg on September 20, 1864: "Private Joseph Few . . . has always been a straggler & shirk. He straggled on the first days march. May 1st and has not been with his Reg't since."

    In mid-1863, Parker wrote Massachusetts Governor John Andrew asking if his military services might be needed again. In a letter dated August 19, 1863, written on the governor's letterhead, a secretary informs Parker that the governor "knows of no position at this time which he could offer." In a post-war letter, Major Edward Shepard, on June 14, 1865, wrote Parker about a new flag for the regiment: "The 32nd Regt. is to have a new flag. The flag on which will be inscribed the list of battles (twenty four) the regt. is entitled to by published orders from Hd. Qrs. A. of P. I remember that you once desired to present the regt with a set of colors but was prevented by a circumstance which we all regret." Shepard continues the letter by asking "'unofficially'" that Parker present the new flag to the regiment ("every man in the regiment would have felt proud to receive the flag from you").

    The following are also included: manuscript copy of General Orders No. 24 court-martialing a surgeon for disobedience to Parker; printed biography for Col. George L. Prescott, who was killed at Petersburg; a "List of Killed & wounded" was sent to Parker on June 18, 1864, during the Siege of Petersburg; Ordnance documents; invitation and dinner program for an 1864 dinner given by Parker "to his old Comrades"; printed letter signed in print by Edward O. Shepard announcing the formation of "a permanent organization to be called the 32d Massachusetts Regiment Association"; documents associated with the 32nd Mass. Association (bylaws, lists of officers, etc.); a G.A.R. printed address dated 1877 and given by Luther Stephenson; and more, such as a Fitz John Porter Autograph Note Signed "F. J. Porter" in pencil on the back of a white envelope. The note reads, "To Comdg officer of troops on the Steamer. Land your men above and move direct up the road and report to me at my head quarters where you will be stopped. Come up with arms and ammunition (40 or 60 cartridges each man). This order is from Genl. McClellan. [Signed] F. J. Porter Brig Genl." The note is soiled and wrinkled and is affixed to a larger backing. A few items have been affixed to a black binder. This collection as a whole is significant and merits much further research.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2015
    9th Thursday
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