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    Elmore A. Russell, 85th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Archive of Letters. A group of six letters, ranging from January 2, 1862 to June 28, 1863, all addressed to William Cook Harvey. Most of the letters are accompanied by their original transmittal covers. Elmore A. Russell enlisted at the age of 20 on September 23, 1861 and was mustered into Company F, 85th Pennsylvania Infantry. He was wounded on August 16, 1864 at Deep Bottom Run in Virginia, just one week after having been promoted to 1st Lieutenant.

    Russell wrote to his friend, William Harvey, who he sometimes called "Cook", about taking advantage of his schooling for as long as possible, in the event that Harvey might be called upon to serve. His January 2, 1862 letter, written from Camp Good Hope in Washington, D.C., reads in part: "...I have no doubt that if you study diligently that you will learn very fast I would advise you to make use of your time while you have a chance for the time may come when your country will need your services. You will then have but a poor chance to improve your mind in the way of science but I hope that this war will soon end not that I am dissatisfied here but that I love peace I have seen enough since I left home to learn something of the calamities of war but well as I love peace I would sooner live and die in my country's service than to see the glorious stars and stripes of our beloved country insulted by rebels and traitors without being revenged..." [Three pages of a bifolium, 5" x 8"].

    The following month, still writing from Camp Good Hope, Russell wrote to his friend about the news from the army. The 85th Pennsylvania had been stationed at Camp Good Hope to aid the strengthening of defenses around Washington, but would leave to join the Army of the Potomac at Fortress Monroe at the end of March. He wrote in a March 7, 1862 letter, in part: "it is likely that we will have to leave here pretty soon to cross the river into Vir. Report says that the forces over the Potomac were to make a forward movement yesterday and today it is thought here that they are going to attack Manasses as to the truth of this report I cannot testify if it should happen to be so you may look out to hear of a general 'smash up' in that corner pretty soon...I think that it will take a good deal of hard fighting to subdue such a monstrous rebellion but I think as the army is pretty well drilled and disciplined now that the war will be vigorously prosecuted...There is a good deal of complaining among the soldiers from Greene about the way the Commissioners have acted about the Relief funding cutting it down to such a meager sum and requiring the applicants to be qualified that they depended entirely upon what their husbands made to support them and that they were in a suffering condition. This with some very insulting language used by some of citizens in the vicinity of Rogersville that they would keep the wives and children of the soldiers until next winter and that they would have then a poor house to put them in. this does not concern me personally but I think that such proceedings are very degrading and that such men cannot be good and loyal civilians and therefore should be frowned down upon by every good and union loving citizens..." [Eight pages, 5" x 8"].

    One year later, Russell found himself in South Carolina. The regiment was moved to Folly Island and aided in the siege of Fort Wagner. Russell wrote to Harvey on May 24, 1863, with news of the rebel movements: "I was somewhat surprised when I first heard of the rebels making a raid into western Va. and had it not been for the Union men I would have been glad to hear of their going into Greene Co., and destroying the property of those infernal copperheads. I wish I had been there to see the excitement that must have been created...there have been various rumors afloat here concerning Hookers Army but nothing reliable, at one time we hear that Hooker is in Richmond then again that he is badly whipped driven back across the Rappahannock with a loss of fifty thousand men, with many more such reports none of which I can put any confidence in..." [Three pages, 4.75" x 7.75"].

    Russell's regiment did not have an easy time on Folly Island and were plagued not only by Confederate pickets, but disease and exposure on the island. One month later, on June 28, 1863, he wrote: "We are throwing up very formidable batteries on the northern end of this Island. Our camp worked on them some four or five nights. These batteries are within three or four hundred yards of the rebel fortifications on Hurricane Island so that we had to work at night to keep from being seen. We worked so close that the rebel guns could easily have the thrown grape and cannon among us if they had known we were there. We worked behind sand barracks and...we dared not talk above a whisper as we were close to the bank of the river...and the rebel pickets are on the opposite bank...You need not be at all surprised to hear of the capture of Morrisons Island before a great while after which the downfall of Charleston will be speedy and certain..." [Four pages of a bifolium, 6.25" x 8"].

    Russell continued his service without injury until August 1864. It is unknown what injury he sustained at Deep Bottom Run, but Russell recovered from his wound and was discharged on January 28, 1865. His friend, William Cooke Harvey did end up enlisting in the Union army in March 1864. He was mustered into Company I, 116th Pennsylvania Infantry. Tragically, he died just seven months after his enlistment after contracting typhoid.

    Condition: Flattened mail folds. Varying degrees of toning and soiling. A few small separations at the folds. There are areas of minor foxing. Transmittal covers have usual wear and soiling.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2020
    22nd Wednesday
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