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    Union Officer's Grouping of Thirteen Letters by Arthur S. Nesmith, Captain & Assistant Quartermaster, U.S. Volunteers Quartermaster's Department. Thirteen letters, totaling more than 35 pages written from Washington D.C. between January 15, 1864 and July 25, 1865. All letters are written to his sister in New Hampshire sending both political and war news, but most notably Abraham Lincoln's assassination, the ensuing chase after the assassin, and the capture of Jefferson Davis. Ten of the letters are written on bifolia measuring 5" x 8", and three are on bifolia measuring 8" x 10".

    In a three-page letter dated April 15, 1865, Nesmith describes the grief and anger palpable in Washington. In part: "I have no doubt Pres Lincoln was willing to give up his life for his country. But all the vile Rebs of the south can not atone for the loss. There is nothing to wicked for these fellows to do... the city is trembling with excitement. One man was shot to day for saying he did not care if the Pres was dead & the public justify the act. All the stores and places of business have been closed... Fred Seward is said to be dead. The Chronicle ... says it was a blow to the Head Heart & Right arm of the nation. Seward, Lincoln & Stanton. J. Wilkes Booth is said to be the villain who committed the murder and he is reported to have been caught for nothing can repay such a loss. The leniency that has been shown the Rebs I hope will not continue they deserve nothing but blows until they are thoroughly subdued." He thinks it was a waste of money to illuminate D.C. in honor of Lee's surrender and that the money would have been better used in caring for the soldiers who gave so much in defending the Union. Writing on the very day of Lincoln's death, much of the information he passes on is wrong, though no doubt that the sentiments expressed correctly capture the mood of the city.

    His April 23, 1865 letter (3 pages) further describes the grief felt by the city, and describes Lincoln's funeral procession. He writes: "... strong guards were placed over the Rebels in this city to prevent the people... from hanging them... Sec Stanton is making every possible effort to capture the assassin large teams of Cavalry are scouring the Counties of St. Mary and Prince George where the murderer was sure to have gone to... the most disloyal Co. in Maryland And during this was there have been lots of people in this city & elsewhere all thro the south who professing to be loyal were secretly furnishing aid & comfort to the enemy... the day of the funeral was the warmest of the season. I see Genl Grant on that day for the first time. Genl Augur [Christopher C. Augur] commanded the military escort on that solemn occasion. I had the honor to take a post as one of the staff. Such crowds of people I never saw before there were about 5000 troops aside from the [unintelligible word] of people representing all branches of the military & civil Gov't in the procession. Everything went off like clock work... The War is most over soon the burdens will he lightened... the slaves liberty costs something & we feel that it is right." General Christopher C. Augur was in command of the District of Columbia, and was in charge of Lincoln's funeral procession. He later accompanied Lincoln's body back to Illinois.

    He writes three letters in May recounting the closing days of the War, including the capture of Jefferson Davis (in a letter dated May 14) and the arrival of the "Potomac Army." His May 23, 1865 letter gives an accounting of the Grand Review of troops, exclaiming that more than 300,000 were present. Sherman's army disappointed everybody not fully informed, but he thinks it surpassed in general appearance compared to the "Pet" Army of the Potomac. All the dignitaries were in full view and he mentions sightings of President Johnson with Grant, Sherman, Howard, Meade, Logan, Blair, Slocum Hancock, Humphreys, Custer, Griffin, Parke, and Thomas. He writes: "The city is thronged with people and the cars are filled on all the trains... The intelligencer is making a great cry about Sherman the Dems propose to pick him up and put him for the presidential race."

    Also included in the group are four war-dated documents as follows: a receipt for uniforms and camp equipment, a receipt for musician's clothing and equipage, general orders granting Nesmith leave for twenty days; and lastly, a letter dated July 4, 1865 transmitting his commission as Assistant Quarter Master of Volunteers.

    Condition: All but one of Nesmith's letters are accompanied by their original transmittal cover. Overall, the letters are very clean, with the usual mail folds.


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    October, 2016
    19th Wednesday
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