Description[Civil War]. Autograph Letters Signed by Robert C. Crouch, Confederate Prisoner of War at Johnson's Island, along with a Photograph Taken in Prison. Two autographed signed letters from Robert C. Crouch, written long after the Civil War, concerning his time at Johnson's Island, a Union Army prison camp for Confederate officers located on Lake Erie, together with one of the original transmittal covers and a photograph.
The first letter is two pages, 8.5" x 11", on letterhead with a Confederate flag, Morristown, Tennessee; May 3, 1912. Crouch wrote to Nancy E. Jones, Sweetwater, Tennessee, concerning a book she loaned him about Johnson's Island. In part: "I have enjoyed the book you so kindly loaned me. What a flood of recollections it brought up when I saw so many familiar names, but oh! So sad to realise [sic] that a large majority of them are gone. The world never saw such an army. It never will again. What greater honor could one desire than to say 'I was a Confederate Soldier.' I enclose you the copy of a picture I had taken in Johnson's Island in 1864. Lieut. Smith of Bristol when captured concealed his lens & whilst a prisoner mounted it in a tobacco box. He bribed a Yankee to smuggle him in some chemicals. He had his galery [sic] in the garret of Block 3. One could not stand upright in it. Old oyster cans furnished the plates for his pictures. With this crude outfit he brought out his tin types..."
The albumen referenced in the letter is included. The albumen measures 2.5" x 3.5", on a 5.25" x 7.25" mount by Dr. A. J. Bruner, Morristown, Tennessee, of Crouch. On the back of the photograph, in pencil, is a description of how Smith produced his photographs in Johnson's Island, which is also described by Crouch in his letter to Miss Jones. The letter is accompanied by a canceled postal cover from Crouch's personal stationary.
The second letter is one page, 8.5" x 11", on letterhead of the Tennessee Board of Pension Examiners, Morristown, Tennessee; November 24, 1922. Crouch wrote to a Mr. Stickley (probably Robert H. Stickley) concerning a book he loaned him on Johnson's Island, which included a roster of Confederate prisoners: "... you loaned me a book on Johnson's Island Ohio a kind of sketch of the place & a roster of the prisoners, I neglected to note the title of the Book together with name of publisher & place published. Will you allow me to ask you for this information..."
The documents are accompanied by materials relating to the book referred to by Crouch in the two letters. In all, an interesting collection of documents relating to a Confederate veteran whose imprisonment in Johnson's Island played a significant role in his life. The photograph is part of a great story concerning the production of tin types in the prison.
Robert Chester Crouch (1844-1931), was a seventeen-year-old farmer in Jonesboro, Tennessee, when he enlisted in July 1, 1861 as a private in Company B of the Tennessee 19th Infantry. He was a first lieutenant when he was captured on September 11, 1863 at Chickamauga, Georgia, and sent to the Union prisoner of war camp at Johnson's Island, Ohio on September 20, 1863. After taking the oath of allegiance to the United States, Crouch was released from Johnson's Island sometime in June 1865. After the war, he lived on a farm in Morristown, Tennessee, served for a time president of the Tennessee Board of Pension Examiners, and wrote articles for Confederate veteran publications.
Nancy Elizabeth Jones Stickley (1881-1962) of Sweetwater, Tennessee, graduated from Randolph-Macon Women's College in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1905 and married Robert H. Stickley in October 1915. She moved to Memphis, Tennessee with her husband and spent most of her life there as a genealogist. She was a member of the National Colonial Dames of America.
Robert H. Stickley graduated from Cumberland University, where he received his law degree in 1905. For years he was a partner in Madisonville, Tennessee, law firm of Harrison & Stickley. In 1908 Stickley moved to Memphis, where he entered into another law partnership and became a prominent lawyer in the city.
Johnson's Island Prisoner-of-War-Depot, opened in 1862, was located on a 300-acre island in Sandusky Bay, on the coast of Lake Erie, three miles from the city of Sandusky, Ohio. Designed and built specifically to hold captured Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, Johnson's Island, 16.5 acres surrounded by a 15 foot high wooden stockade, was eventually converted to a prison that held officers only. The remote island was an ideal location for a prison, since it was close to Sandusky, making it easy to build, outfit and supply. In April 1862, the first prisoners arrived - 200 Confederates transferred up from Camp Chase, a prison in Columbus, Ohio. Soon after, Johnson's Island became a prisoner-of-war depot for Confederate officers. (The government also housed a small number of political prisons, persons sentenced by courts martial and spies at Johnson's Island as well.) Johnson's Island operated throughout the remainder of the Civil War. Approximately 10,000 Confederates were imprisoned on Johnson's Island for at least a portion of that time.
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