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    Amos B. Eaton Post-Civil War Archive, containing near 200 letters dated from March 4, 1865, through May 15, 1874. The Union general writes most of these letters from Washington, D.C., to his son, Professor Daniel C. Eaton of Yale, following the close of the Civil War. Through this large archive, General Eaton provides an important viewpoint - that of a military insider - of the mood and events in the capital city during the turbulent days of Reconstruction.

    At the outbreak of the Civil War, Amos Beebe Eaton (1806-1877), a West Point graduate and Mexican War veteran, was assigned the arduous task of forging a workable supply allocation system for the burgeoning Federal army. After succeeding at that, he was promoted to commissary general of the U.S. Army; he continued in that position until his retirement in 1874. While serving as commissary general, he wrote these letters, which contain significant information about cabinet members, Congressional activities, government corruption, judges, numerous generals, and his opinions about several topics, such as Southern political rights. Though most of the letters were written following the close of the war, two were written during its final days. In one, dated March 4, 1865, Eaton, hopeful that the war's end is near, writes, "We all look for great things between Grant, Schofield, Toby, Sherman & Meade, Sheridan. . . . The anaconda has sprung from his nest, has his prey in close quarters, & seems about to squeeze."

    After the war had ended, Eaton reports that healing process was painful for the nation's leaders: "The President's course & the want of harmony between him & the majority in Congress are sources of great anxiety to all thoughtful men. . . . There are those who would, if they could, plunge the country into another civil war, if thereby they could put down the great patriotic party of the North that put down the armed rebellion. I fear the P___t [President] is not to be trusted. That either his mind is not entirely sane, or that he imbibes too much or that he indulges in political infractions only to be gained by favor of the South." The general showed little sympathy for Andrew Johnson during his tumultuous presidency: "we have an unfit person in the White House [April 1866]." Through these letters, Eaton keeps his son informed on the president's "impeachment case" which was "moving along steadily & seemingly with a force that nothing can necessarily resist. If the country can stand the assassination of Lincoln, it is not probably that the legal taking of ____ will create a ripple on the surface of our public affairs [March 1868]."

    Amidst the political news, glimpses of Eaton's personality are revealed, such as when he laments that he has turned "60 years old!" Later, he confesses that he has "a powerful sense of having led a life of no results [February 1870]." The hardened military man seems to take pride in reporting to his son that "Gen. Grant [is] always personally respectful & kind to me [November 1872]." He was equally delighted to write that he was "upon entirely good terms with the Sec. of War & general Sherman [June 1869]."

    The recipient of these letters, Daniel C. Eaton, was a professor of botany at Yale College and served as the curator of the Yale Herbarium for thirty-one years. Many of General Eaton's letters include information, intended to be helpful to his son, about various natural science topics, such as a May 1865 letter in which the general reports that he has contacted Isaac Newton, the commissioner of the department of Agriculture, asking help for his son to obtain "specimens for a Botanic Garden, should it be determined to establish one in connection with Yale college." Included in the archive is an autograph letter signed by Commissioner of Agriculture Isaac Newton, dated January 18, 1867.

    In addition to the numerous letters, the archive also contains one cabinet card featuring the bearded general (ca. 1871, 4.25" x 6.5") and two calling cards (one reading, "Gen. & Mrs. A. B. Eaton"; and the other, "Mrs. E[phraim] Kirby Smith", whom he later married). Also included is a copy of "Special Orders No. 140", dated June 13, 1868, and issued "by command of General Grant". Though a few letters contain stains and foxing, overall, this archive is in fine condition and merits much further research.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2010
    11th-12th Thursday-Friday
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