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    "The dutiful son, the loyal citizen, the intrepid soldier sleeps his last sleep..."

    Admiral John Dahlgren Letter to Benjamin French Lamenting the Death of His Son On the Richmond Raid. Four pages, 7.75" x 9.75", Washington, March 18, 1864, in ink, to Benjamin Brown French, with a signed carte de visite of Ulrich Dahlgren tipped in, bound with a two page autograph manuscript signed memorial poem to Ulric Dahlgren by Benjamin B. French. This poignant letter expresses the grief of a proud father just two weeks after the death of his son Colonel Ulric Dahlgren on the unsuccessful raid to free Union prisoners of war from Belle Isle prison and to wreck havoc on Confederate installations in Richmond. During the raid, which was approved personally by Abraham Lincoln, Colonel Dahlgren was to dart in, covered by diversions from Generals Custer and Sedgwick and liberate the camp. Unfortunately, on the night of March 2, 1864, as Dahlgren and his force were poised for the raid, he was discovered by a sizable force of Confederates. Although he managed to escape, he was ambushed a second time and killed during the first exchange of fire. His men surrendered shortly thereafter. Papers allegedly found on Dahlgren's body suggested that he intended to sack Richmond and planned on killing Jeff Davis and his cabinet. The text of these documents was published in Confederate newspapers, the publication of which prompted Union General George Meade to send a letter to General Robert E. Lee denying that this had been the purpose of the raid. Many Civil War scholars still consider the raid somewhat of a mystery.

    Admiral John A. Dahlgren's letter to Benjamin Brown French, commissioner of public buildings reflects a father's admiration and loss for a beloved son. The letter is a classic example of the patriotic prose of the Civil War era. It reads in part: "Accept my grateful thanks for your note and the lines to the memory of my beloved son, they breathe the true spirit which inspired his own brave heart. It was a part of his high unselfish nature to 'do with his might whatever his hand found to do', and when he undertook the mission of freedom to the weary captives who pined in the Rebel dungeons of Richmond, he did it with a fullness of purpose that know no limit; the danger that lay in the way never palsied his resolve for an instant. His last letter to me, written just before setting out from the camp expresses the conviction that the enterprise 'if successful will be the grandest thing on record' calls it 'a desperate undertaking' and ends thus 'I will write you more fully when we return - if we do not return there is no better place to give up the ghost'. And so he fell, as a gallant soldier of the great cause should fall, at the head of his men...His name should stand in living light before the young men of our land and inspire their hearts with the same unselfish resolution to carry the glorious banner of the Union over the ruins of a causeless Rebellion."

    Bound with the letter is a poem inspired by Ulric Dahlgren's death written by B. B. French, dated March 10, 1864 and later published in Admiral Dahlgren's 1872 biography of his son Memoir of Ulric Dahlgren. "Sleep, young hero, thou, in dying,/ Fellest in the cause of Right!/ And thy memory, time defying/ Shall be ever-ever bright." This is obviously the first appearance of this original poem and must have moved the elder Dahlgren enough to include it in the book. In gratitude Dahlgren sends French a CDV of his son which is signed in ink "Colonel Uric Dahlgren US Army", presumably by Ulric himself with a postscript in the letter which reads: "The enclosed photograph represents my son just before leaving - not recovered from the effects of losing his leg [at Gettysburg]". The letter has a chip at the top of the first page that does not affect text, old fold marks, else it is bright, bold and in fine condition. An intimate and historic letter showing the very human side of the war.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2007
    24th-25th Sunday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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