Description

    Union Soldier Letter Group by Private Jerome Bottomly, Co. C, U. S. Engineers. Five war-dated letters on paper of various sizes, with enclosures; totaling 16 pages. Good content regarding the work performed by the corps, and the duress under which it was performed.

    The first letter in the group is four pages (5.25" x 8") and is written on "National Observatory" stationery and describes Union fortifications during the Siege of Yorktown: "In camp Yorktown, Va., Apr. 20, 1862... the first three days...we were very busy making gabions. Monday night we part of the company went about a mile and a half to build a bridge. We had good luck and finished it by three o'clock...at night had to go to bridging...we did not succeed in building the bridge...because we took material for what is called a trestle bridge and we found the mud too soft. The next night I was on guard. The company have built three boat bridges over the same creek. For the last few days our fellows have been at work laying out works for siege guns. They use the gabions in making them. Other soldiers have to do most of the shoveling. We have to make stakes and drive them so that the volunteers may know what shape to make the work and how high to throw the earth. [We] see that the gabions lay at the right angle. It is not very scientific work...there was no need of building our bridge in the night but Capt. Duane [future Bvt. Brig. Gen. James Chatham Duane] is very careful of us. He would not let us talk very loud or make a noise building the bridge. I hope McClellan will trap a few thousand secesh here. It may be another week before the regular bombardment commences but I have no doubt the rebels will run or surrender. I have seen two rebel flags flying but I was a mile...from them..." The original stamped transmittal cover is included.

    Another letter (four pages, 5.25" x 6") written from "Camp near Falmouth, Va., Jan. 18, 1863", describes a rebel officer's taunting, right before the Battle of Fredericksburg. In part: "Before you get this...there will be some movement of this army...I do not think it possible that Gen. Burnside will try to storm the works as he did before. We had orders to be ready to move...but they were countermanded perhaps the cold weather is the reason... Most all the rebels that I have seen wear blue overcoats that they have taken from our men. When we were building the bridge a rebel officer with a nice blue overcoat on rode up on the other side of the river and called for our men to 'stop firing'. They stopped for a minute when he waved his sword and sung out 'Halloa! Hurrah for Jeff Davis'. He did this three times and was fired at by a hundred men...but did not fall...though he was only a short distance off... Gen. Franklin's corps crossed over the bridge we built. It was three miles from the city..." The original stamped transmittal cover is included.

    In another letter (three and a half pages, 5.25" x 6"), Bottomly makes mention of the officers in his corps, several would go on to be Generals: "Near Falmouth, Va., Mar. 6, 1863 [bvt. Col. Charles E. Cross, KIA Fredericksburg June 5, 1863] is home on furlough. [Bvt. Brig. Gen. James C.] Duane is chief engineer on Hunter's staff and [bvt. Major Gen. Cyrus Ballou] Comstock is the same on Hookers. Weitzel is a brigadier. His name is often in the papers. He is with Gen. Banks. [James B.] McPherson [KIA Atlanta, July 20, 1864] has been nominated by the President for a Major General. All our officers get promoted. [Orville E.] Babcock is engineer on what was Franklin's staff and [Arthur Henry] Dutton [MWIA Bermuda Hundred, May 26, 1864] is acting brigadier. Does the conscript act cause much talk. Anyone who had an honorable discharge from the regular army used to be exempt...but don't know as they are now... " Slight margin, spotting, else VG.

    A two page letter (5" x 8.25") written from "Camp near Falmouth, Va., June 11, 1863" contains news of an officer's being killed while with his detachment as they crossed the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg on June 5, 1863: "...I suppose you see by the papers that Capt. [Charles E.] Cross was killed and were anxious to hear from me...only one man was killed besides Capt. Cross. All the wounded will live...there was a piece in yesterdays N. Y. Herald that I have copied to send to you. I have seen several pieces...about him. Monday night I was across the river nearly all night, laying out rifle pits. I was beyond the picket reserve. We lay out a long line of rifle pits is this shape. [Drawing of rifle pits appear her at the bottom margin of the front page]...Gen. Hooker has stopped all furloughs now, but they may be given again..." Bottomly encloses a handwritten copy of the article on Cross referenced in the letter; in part: "...The death of Capt. Cross of the Engineer Corps occasions much sadness. He was an accomplished soldier and a most estimable man...an officer of high position assert...that among the long list of major generals...there could not be found a man more thoroughly drilled in military science than Capt. Cross. The scene as his men gathered around him after he fell was very affectionate. Each one as he passed by stooped and kissed the cold pal forehead...and there were very few among those veterans whose cheeks were not stained with tears."

    The last letter in the group is a two page letter (6.5" x 10.25") with great description of the army corp's badges and headquarter flags. In part: "[Kellys Ford, Va., Nov. 10, 1863]...I am again on the Rappahannock and have bridged it for the fifth time in spite of the rebs. We were in our camp at Catlett's station three days after I wrote...we marched as fast as we could. Had eight days rations and it was a hard march...one o'clock when we came in sight of the river and we stacked arms and laid behind a hill so the rebs would not see us. Laid there two or three hours waiting for the infantry to come up...while we were behind the hill we heard artillery firing and supposed it was our batteries shelling the rebs...as we went down to the river we met two or three hundred prisoners and then we knew our men were acrost...the prisoners belonged to the 2nd N. Carolina. We soon had the bridge over and the third corps went over that night...the next morning the 2nd, 1st and 5th. The 6 crossed at Rappahannock Station...our cavalry had crossed the Rapidann. Do you understand the different corps marks? Each man wears his mark on his cap, sewed to the top...for the 1st div. the color is red. The 2nd white, 3d blue. There is always a flag at the head of each div. That tells what corps and which division is coming and there is brigade flag that tell by the color the brigade. These flags are three cornered. There is any quantity of flags. Gen. Head Qtrs flags is this [Draws a headquarters flag here.] letter G in the middle. I'll send you the corps marks. The 5 is more like this [Draws a fifth corps badge here.] The sixth corps mark look the purist I think. Gen. Hooker first ordered the marks..." Bottomly encloses a clipping with period markings of the various corps badges related to the Army of the Potomac. The original stamped transmittal cover is included.

    Condition: Overall very good with some staining along left margin of March 6, 1863 letter and enclosure. November 10, 1863 letter is written on a page removed from a ledger, uneven margin at left and bottom, and few light stains and foxing.


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    April, 2016
    5th Tuesday
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