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    Sidney Smith Lee Letter Signed Twice as Chief of the Bureau of Orders and Detail. One page, 7" x 9", Richmond, Virginia, June 17, 1864. The older brother of General Robert E. Lee and the third child of Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee, Confederate Captain Sidney Lee had a distinguished career in the U.S. Navy. Lee submitted his resignation the day Virginia seceded and accepted a commission as a commander in the Confederate Navy. One month prior to signing this letter, he was assigned chief of the Confederate Navy's Bureau of Orders and Detail.

    Offered here is Lee's official order appointing First Lieutenant John Rutledge, Commander of the CSS Palmetto State, to be "a Member of a Naval General Court Martial to commence at or near the City of Charleston, South Carolina on Tuesday, June 28th, 1864, at 10 o'clock A.M." Docketing on the verso tells more of this curious story. One docket addresses Flag Officer Duncan N. Ingraham of the CSS Chicora, requesting that he "forward this to Lieut. Rutledge, as the Department is ignorant of his place of service." This message is signed by Captain Lee, and is followed by Ingraham's notation "Forwarded. D.N. Ingraham, City Station, 22 July 1864."

    The letter was then passed on to Flag Officer John R. Tucker, Commanding Afloat, of the Chicora, who has signed a second docket, which reads: "Respectfully returned with the remark that First Lieut. John Rutledge is not attached to this command, having been detached from C.S. Palmetto State, and is absent on sick leave. I do not know where he is." Tucker's holograph notation and signature is also included on the recto: "Forwarded by Your obt Srvt, J.R. Tucker, F.O. Afloat." (Interestingly, Tucker has the rare distinction of serving as an officer in the navies of three nations -- the U.S., the C.S.A., and Peru. Upon the secession of Virginia in 1861, he resigned his U.S. Naval commission and joined the Confederate Navy as a naval commander. Following the war, he accepted an invitation by the Peruvian government to serve in their navy as a rear admiral.) Rutledge's whereabouts at the time cannot be discerned, but it is almost certain he never appeared in Charleston to serve as member of the court-martial. Letter is lightly toned.

    More Information:

    This Confederate Naval document is from the personal archive of Confederate Navy Lt. Commander John Rutledge (1820-1894), a grandson of John Rutledge Jr. (1739-1800), who served as the governor of South Carolina and an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. The younger Rutledge joined the U.S. Navy as midshipman in 1835, serving in the American Navy until he resigned on February 23, 1861, to join the fledgling Confederate Navy. He was quickly appointed a lieutenant on March 26, 1861, and rose through the ranks to lieutenant commander. Present at the firing on Fort Sumter as Beauregard's inspector of ordnance, Rutledge commanded the CSS Lady Davis from 1861 to 1862 and fought at the battle of Port Royal, South Carolina, on Nov. 7, 1861. At the beginning of McClellan's Peninsular Campaign in April 1862, he commanded the CSS Nansemond which patrolled the James River. Later Rutledge commanded the ironclad CSS Palmetto State when she patrolled Charleston Harbor and attacked the Union blockading fleet on January 31, 1863. Their content reveals that Rutledge served in several positions of importance in the C.S.N. in addition to commanding the aforementioned vessels. They are a testimony to Rutledge's illustrious naval career.

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