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    Description

    An account of travel to Port Royal, including witnessing of the reraising of the American flag at Fort Sumter

    John Butler Conyngham Letter to His Wife Giving an Account of Travel to Port Royal. 16 pages on four bifolia, 8" x 10", Port Royal, written over the course of April 13 through 16, 1865. Conyngham was a Lt. Colonel in the 52nd Pennsylvania Infantry. His regiment was the first to enter Charleston and raise the American flag in February 1865. This letter describes Conyngham's excursion with a group of U.S. dignitaries, first to Cuba, then on to Port Royal, and finally to witness the flag raising at Fort Sumter.

    Writing to his wife, he provides a detailed travel log and includes descriptions of the natural wonders such as Bellmar Cave in Matanzas. He describes a U.S. installation there, including Sutler's stores and General Gillmore's planned celebration: "... on the evening of the day of our arrival here Gen. Gillmore and staff came off on a visit, and left us invitations to attend a ball at his headquarters the following evening, which was given by the staff officers, as an anniversary of the fall of Fort Pulaski. Yesterday afternoon by way of change I concluded to go ashore at Hilton Head, and as we were laying on the Bay Point side which was about three miles distant, I took the tug sent us. I was the only officer wishing to go ashore, and on getting there obtained the boat until I was ready to leave. Things looked very much changed since I was here in /61. Sutlers' stores, government store houses, and rough small frame dwellings gives the place quite a village aspect. After walking around some in the sand, I thought I would look up Mr. Dennis' store, and see how things looked there. On inquiry I learned the direction of his place of business. I walked up 'Robber's Row,' which is the principal street, and where all the Sutlers' stores etc. are... Gen. Gillmore's Headquarters were beautifully arranged and draped in flags for the occasion. The hall for dancing was a large spacious tent attached to the Headquarters. There was a good floor with U.S. Coat of Arms painted in the center and the sentence 'Fort Pulaski April 11th 1862.' Above were five large chandeliers suspended burning each about fifty candles. A good band of music enlivened, and invited the light fantastic ball."


    A wonderful description is given about their party's invitation to attend an abolition celebration at Mitchelville (a town built for escaped slaves during the war on what is now Hilton Head: "This morning on Gen. Littlefield's invitation, Fox & party and a few of our officers went to an abolition celebration at Mitchelville. Among the speakers were Wm. Lloyd Garrison, Judge Kelly (Senator), Mr. Hoxie, Mr. Tilton (editor N.Y. Independent), Judge Kellog of Michigan, Geo. Thompson of England, the pastor of the nigger church, and Gen. Littlefield. I saw correspondents taking down some of the speeches phonographically, the subject of which no doubt you will learn from the papers and save me the trouble of writing. As you may judge from the names of the speakers the meeting was a rank one & required a cultivated taste to appreciate in toto. The Bible was read, quoted, etc. and Psalms, hymns & songs sung. Included among the later were 'John Brown's body lies a moulding in the grave.' 'We will hang Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree'... We rode in ambulances while there, and drove some ten miles visiting the country. There is quite a large party from New York here - including Ward Beecher etc. They have all gone to Charleston to be present at tomorrow's celebration while hoisting the flag on Sumter etc. etc."

    When he begins his letter anew on April 16th, Conyngham describes the good news of Lee's surrender and the evacuation of Richmond. He then describes the raising of the American flag: "According to [the] programme the flag (the original Fort Sumter flag which Major Anderson was obliged to haul down, but which he was allowed to bring away) was to be hoisted at 12 o'clock. Owing to delay of something, it was not until twenty minutes to one before the flag was hoisted. Cheers resounded fro shore and ships, followed in close order the firing of one hundred guns from Fort Sumter. The same from Moultrie and Johnson, and fro nearly all the vessels in the harbor. We fired only 21 guns. The noise was almost like a bombardment..."

    The letter is beautifully scripted, and the pages are bright and clean. A small hole that has proceeded through each page of the letter has been archivally repaired, and the words filled in. Writing to his wife, Conyngham signs the letter, "Your own O.", apparently a term of endearment. There is no doubt as to the authorship of the letter, as it was included in the original collection with the previous lot which is signed in full.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2015
    12th-13th Friday-Saturday
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