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    Union Soldier's Civil War-Dated Letters. Private Albert Swap writes these twenty-one letters to his sweetheart (and cousin), Sarah Watson. Nineteen letters were written during the Civil War, two were written shortly thereafter (August 1865 and November 1866). All are in transmittal envelopes. Swap includes information about camp life, troop movements, and battle news, including an account of the Second Battle of Memphis (August 1864). He also writes several letters during his participation in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign.

    Private Albert E. Swap of Mendota, Illinois, enlisted on August 25, 1862, as a private in Co. C, 6th Illinois Cavalry. He mustered out on July 12, 1865. He wrote Sarah about one of his earliest battle experiences on November 11, 1863: an attack by Confederate General James Ronald Chalmers. "We have had some very hard fighting to do since I wrote to you last. On the 11th of Oct. we was attacted [attacked] by a force under the Rebel General Chalmers. They attacted us in camp with a force of over twenty to one. We kept them out of camp ½ an hour they routed us and drove us two miles across Wolf River. They burnt our camp and all of our clothing and took [?] a number of prisoners. My bedfellows was taken. Then we were attacted again on the 3d of this month by the same force but we had men enough o whip them badly. The Union loss was 3 killed 10 wounded. The Rebels state their loss in killed wounded and prisoners to be 200. The battle lasted two and a half hours."

    Three weeks after his participation in the Second Battle of Memphis, the private includes an account of the battle in his September 12, 1864, letter: "We have been on the move nearly every day since the Raid on Memphis after the Raid we followed Forrest three days and then we was ordered to La Grange. . . . We lost three men in the fight at Memphis, two Prisoners and one Killed, one his horse fell upon him and broke his Shoulder blade and he was taken Prisoner and taken about 6 miles and they let him go and he came back to camp and is now in the Hospital at Memphis."

    In an October 2, 1864, letter, Swap communicates to Sarah his optimism that the war will soon end, especially if President Lincoln is reelected: "I think our future begins to look brighter and Brighter every day. I begin to think that if we are successful in Electing Abe Lincoln this fall we will soon see the end of the war [October 2, 1864]." Lincoln was reelected in early November, but there were still many battles to be fought. In a November 30 letter, Swap correctly predicts one of those battles, the bloody two-day Battle of Nashville, and gives an account of events that led to it. He writes that Union regiments "are now about 40 miles from this place at Columbia where they are having some very hard fighting with [Confederate General John Bell] Hood's army. [Union General George H.] Thomas is out there with two Corps of Infantry but the rebs still drive him back. We could hear very heavy cannon action in that direction for about an hour this morning. There is going to be some very hard fighting about this City in a short time if they keep driving our men back." Later, he contemplates the effects of President Lincoln's assassination. On May 2, 1865, only two weeks after the event, the soldier writes that "Some think it will be the means of making peace as the South was determined never to Surrender to Abe Lincoln. But my opinion is they have killed their best friend. They will find Johnson far more tyrannical than Lincoln ever was."

    Though Swap's letters contain much war-related content, they also contain tender flirtations. He was in love with Sarah and found that the war and distance from her had emboldened his pen to express his feelings. Apparently, after he returned home, the two were engaged. But in the final letter of this collection, he writes her a forlorn letter in response to her heart-breaking news that she loved another. November 5, 1866: "I am willing to relinquish you to the one you love although it is almost killing me. . . . Good by." All letters are in fine condition.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2010
    26th Saturday
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