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    Union Officer's Letter Group by Captain John R. Graton of the 79th Infantry US Colored Troops. A total of twelve letters, beginning on January 13, 1863 and ending on November 2, 1865, a month after he was mustered out. The letters vary in size, with the majority measuring 7.5" x 9". All of his letters are to his wife in Lawrence, Kansas sending news of their movements

    Graton was commissioned as a captain in Company "C" on January 13, 1863, and writes home from Camp Henning, Fort Scott, [Kansas] with the news: "I was mustered into service at 2...with a full company. We mustered five full companies...we have deserters enough to fill the Regt...we will do garrison duty here...until we gather up our deserters..." This letter is written on a page that has had the bottom portion removed. The letter itself is complete, suggesting that this may be the only paper available to write on.

    The next letter in the group sends news of their location and their progress in preparations: "Camp J. M. Williams, Baxter Springs. May 10, 1863... we arrived here on Thursday...we are two miles from the Southern line of Kansas and five miles from the Missouri line...on the Spring river...our boys have had two scouts already. Started a party off...of a hundred men and one howitzer. After marching all day...the result was a lot of young colts and mules...started another expedition on Saturday of seventy five men...brought in some cattle, horses, corn & they also captured...four bushwhackers..."

    The 79th is assigned to the Department of Arkansas in 1864, and there are seven letters from various locations out west (four of which are dated after the end of the war). Most notably, a letter from Camden Arkansas dated April 21, 1864 with great content, including engagement with the enemy. In part: "...we left Roseville, Ark on March 24th and have marched more or less everyday...up to the 18th inst. We came through Danville, Hot Springs, Rock Port & turning west passed 4 miles north of Arkadelphia to within 18 miles of Washington, Hempstead Co...we joined Gen. Thayer's forces from Ft. Smith, March 26th and now constitute a part of his division and Col. Adam's Brigade. We joined Gen. Steele's forces from Little Rock April 8th. Since joining with Gen. Steele's forces we have been skirmishing with the enemy almost constantly resulting usually in our favor...being a few killed & wounded on both sides. The morning of the 16th our Regt. was ordered to escort a train of two hindered wagons to go for forage. We marched out twenty miles and loaded 19 part of the train the same evening. The morning of the 17th we marched back five miles and met the 18th Iowa Regt. and a part of a cavalry Regt. After loading the balance of the train and just as we were getting ready to start back we were attacked by a large force under command of Price and after a very severe fight were obliged to retreat, abandoning the train and four pieces of artillery. Our loss was very heavy. We have five officers missing and two wounded. My 2nd Lt. was shot through the left arm and I lost out of my company killed & missing 15 and four wounded. I was not injured...you will probably see more correct accounts of the fight in the papers ...direct your letters to Capt. J. R. Graton, Company 'C' 1st Regt. Kan. Col. Vol., Infantry, Genl. Thayer's Division of Seventh Army Corps...PS I did not write to give you much information only to let you know that I am alive..."

    His next letter is from Fort Gibson, C. N. [Cherokee Nation] and is dated August 30, 1864. He writes: "...the mail route is infested with a large number of guerrillas and we have had to fight for our mail recently in most every instance...a small portion of the most important matters was taken through the balance accumulated at Fayetteville, it was finally determined to send a strong escort and bring down the mail. The escort composed of sixty men and three wagons loaded with mail were attacked about twenty miles out from Ft. Smith. Over half the escort were killed and the wagons and mail captured...some of your letters were captured in these wagons...I have been in command of the Regt. since the last of June, Maj. Ward being absent. The 15th of August I received an order to take six companies of the Regt and provide to escort...which was to leave for Ft. Smith. No limit was assigned as to the distance we were to go so we thought that by shrew management we would be able to get through to Ft. Smith, but when we arrived at this post the commanders saw fit to detain us here and send Indians instead. Two of the companies are now doing guard duty in this post and the four other companies are guarding hay parties stationed from seven to thirteen miles out from the place. You had better believe there was some cursing when the order was received for us to remain here. We would have been nearly to America by this time. Since here I have been stopping partly with the hay parties and partly in town. We were paid off shortly before leaving Ft. Smith. I have forwarded to Mr. McCurdy $1300.00 dollars, $415.00 dollars of which belongs to some of my men... "

    The 79th was not mustered out until October 1865. Their assignment was not well greeted by the civilians in towns they were stationed in. He reports in a July 30, 1865 letter: "...We are camped close to the edge of town and not more than a quarter of a mile from the principle street. The people of this town are all intensely rebel and I understand have already gotten up a petition to send to Genl. Reynolds to have us removed... I have sixteen sick out of my little company. I have a slight attack of fever myself and was unfit for duty for five days...about one half of the officers are sick with ague & fevers. For the first time since entering the service I think we shall be able to get a supply of vegetables at this place. Market wagons from the Home or Freedman's farms are a few miles below this place..."

    Despite the end of the war, the 79th continue to lose men to disease. His letters focus mainly on the losses and his own poor state of health. Finally, on September 24, 1865, he sends news that his term of service will soon be over: "...I have had another one of my fevers since writing to you last. The doctor says I was threatened with Bilious Fever. I was quite sick for two or three days and have not entirely recovered my strength yet...you may have seen the order issued by the War Dept. in the papers to muster out all colored troops raised in Northern States. That takes us out of the service and we are expecting the order to prepare our muster out rolls everyday..." The remaining letters in the group focus on his preparations to return home.

    More than half of Graton's letters are accompanied by the original transmittal cover. Also in the group is Graton from a W.S. McCurdy regarding finances, sending advice about purchasing land. Graton was interested in building a house for his family, and many of his letters to his wife include content about these plans and their finances.

    Condition: Overall condition is very good, except as noted above.


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