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    Union Officer Nathaniel McLean Letter Describing the Battle of McDowell. 16 pages, 5.25" x 8"; Franklin; May 13, 1862. A letter to his wife with excellent content providing great and accurate detail of the events. McLean explains that his is the first opportunity he has had to write, and assures her that he has made it through the battle without harm. He writes: "... the news came that Genl Johnson who had been retiring before us had suddenly made a junction with Genl Jackson, and was with an overwhelming force marching to attack us. We were therefore ordered back, but rather doubtfully as the news was thought very strange... We however retreated leisurely, and I camped or rather bivouacked in the open air on the top of the Shenandoah Mountain. The next morning we marched towards McDowell, but after reaching the valley we were met by Genl Milroy who ordered us to encamp at that point until further orders... the next morning we found that the reported advances of the enemy was too true as their advance guard had made an attack upon our pickets who were stationed new our last camping ground on the other side of the Shenandoah and were advancing rapidly against us. The 32nd which was encamped beyond is had to retreat in a hurry leaving all their tents and camp equipage... Our retreat was orderly... we had information which led us to believe that part of the forces of the enemy were trying to get behind us so as to cut off our communications with McDowell some ten miles distant. When our advance in the retreat had reached the point so as to prevent Jackson getting into our rear, the 75th with Hyman's battery was ordered on the double quick to go back to Shaw's ridge in sight of our camp left but two hours before, and top the advance. I have the order about face and the men with great cheerfulness obliged. We soon reached the point, the enemy not hot having advanced further than our camp which we found them surveying very leisurely. Hyman unlimbered his guns in short order and sent a few shells with his compliments which scattered them like the wind and in ten minutes no enemy was within range. We could however see them in large force on top of the Shenandoah. We soon received orders to return to McDowell... We had sent messengers to hurry up the advance of Genl Schenck to reinforce us, but he did not arrive until the next morning, and then we found he had only about twelve hundred infantry, one battery or artillery and about four companies of cavalry. His force added to ours was pretty inferior to the force said to be advancing on us... Our scouts had not been out on the ridge of the mountains by which I suppose they approached McDowell almost the whole distance avoiding the road which our men were watching... The enemy reached us by a ridge unknown to us, which under the circumstances was inexcusable. You must not repeat this as I think it wrong to abuse our leaders, and there may have been reasons for their mistake which will change the whole matter, entirely unknown to me... I immediately went to Genl Milroy and received orders to the 25th and 75th and attack the enemy in the position they occupied on top of the mountain. I marched with only seven or my companies, the other were already out on duty, and with nine companies of the 25th under Lieut Col Richardson... The enemy were on top of a steep mountain in what force I did not then know, but I have since ascertained that Genl Johnson had his own army of four thousand men with six thousand picked troops form Genl Jackson's army. The whole force under my command making the attack at the beginning of the fight did not exceed eight hundred men, and the enemy had the advantage of a very strong position on the top of a steep mountain..." McLean continues in this vein for the entire letter, giving the positions of the various regiments throughout the battle.

    He provides general numbers of casualties suffered, and lists the specific wounds received by their acquaintances: "My Color bearer Sergeant Gordon... was shot in the breast whilst bravely going forward at almost the first discharge. He is severely wounded, but I think he will recover. The Sergeant Major Mr. Stewart... was also severely wounded..." This letter contains much more good content. Scans of all the pages are available for review upon request.

    The son of Supreme Court Justice John McLean, Nathaniel McLean (1815-1905) was a practicing attorney, when the Civil War began. He became a colonel of the 75th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, which he organized. He saw action in the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign against Stonewall Jackson, at Second Bull Run, Chancellorsville, and with William T. Sherman during the Atlanta Campaign and the Carolinas Campaign.

    Condition: The letter is in near fine condition with flattened folds and very clean paper. It is accompanied by the original transmittal cover, which has been neatly opened at top. The envelope has light soiling, toning along the edges, and the stamp has been cut away.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2016
    19th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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