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    Civil War Archive of Letters of Charles Augustus Dean, 8th Vermont Infantry. An extensive archive consisting of 73 letters, including 72 from Dean to his friend Everett Walker. Dean's letters to Walker date from December 7, 1861 [misdated 1862] to May 26, 1864, about a month prior to his mustering out of the service. One letter, dated January 8, 1865, is written to Walker by A.B. Morgan, who served with Dean in the 8th Vermont Infantry.

    Dean's letters, averaging in length from 3 to 4 pages, begin in the weeks prior to his enlistment, and offer a glimpse into the daily life of a soldier, camp life, and military news. After Dean's regiment mustered in, it left Vermont for New York and then sailed from there for Ship Island, Mississippi, arriving there on April 6, 1862. The regiment departed Ship Island for New Orleans on May 7. The day before, May 6, Dean wrote Walker from " this miserable Island" and updated him on the activities of Union forces against New Orleans. "The fort which guards New Orleans-Fort Jackson has been taken by our troops and our men have advanced on New Orleans and found when we came in sight that the stars and stripes were flying over one half of the city and 'secesh' flags over the other. Gen. Butler gave them 48 hours to give up then he should shell it." Later in the letter, Dean gave an update regarding New Orleans, writing that the city "has been taken from the rebels without much fighting."

    After leaving Ship Island, the 8th Vermont Infantry was on duty in New Orleans, specifically in the Algiers section of the city, from May to September 1862. In a letter written from Algiers on August 8, Dean expressed disappointment with the course of the war: "I am afraid this war is going to be a longer one that people expect. It is an awful looks as though that we should never conquer the rebels but it always looks dark before sunshine so the saying goes." He went on to write that more men will have to be drafted "to make up the 300,000. I should not blame any man for not wanting to enlisting [sic] when our Generals have acted so foolish. I am waiting patiently to see what will be done." In an October 9 letter from Algiers, Dean showed that his opinion of the war and the Union command had not changed: "The news from the north is not very encouraging thus I don't think the rebels are ever going to be [subdued?] . Our Gens are not much and unless we have better soon we cannot conquer."

    By November 1862, changes in command were taking place, with President Lincoln removing General Benjamin Butler from New Orleans and replacing him with General Nathaniel Banks. Dean wrote of these changes in his November 19 letter from Bayou Boeuf, Louisiana, claiming "We have cleared the rebels out of a good space of country. We now hold 80 miles of this R Road.... When Gen. Banks comes to New Orleans to march into Texas we shall have a good way of transportation open for his troops. I hear of his coming as soon as he can get his expedition started and we also hear of Gen. McClernand coming down the Miss river with Gen Porter's fleet. We also hear of a general move all around our whole army. I hope...a successful one as it is about time. I had made up my mind to stay my time out."

    On September 22, 1862, President Lincoln announced the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, in which he stated that on January 1, 1863, he would issue formal proclamation if the Confederacy did not cease its rebellion. In a December 7, 1862 letter from Berwick Bay, Louisiana, Dean referred to the planned Emancipation Proclamation, writing that "Some people think that Lincoln's emancipation is going to do wonders but they are mistaken for nearly all of the places we held now have sent in to congress representatives and are now loyal. The proclamation will not affect them. And where we don't hold we can't free yet, so what is his proclamation going to do."

    In 1863, while General Ulysses Grant was besieging Vicksburg, General Banks was ordered to capture Port Hudson, Louisiana. The siege of Port Hudson lasted from May 22 to July 9, 1863, and was the final engagement in the Union campaign to recapture the Mississippi River. After Banks' two assaults failed, Port Hudson eventually was surrendered after the fall of Vicksburg. On June 25, Dean wrote to Walker, describing the second assault on Port Hudson, which began on June 13 and continued into June 14. Dean wrote that he had "lived through some hard fighting and soon expect more after the charge of Sunday the 14 th of June (where we lost 87 men killed & wounded). Gen. Banks called for Volunteers to storm the rebel works...the charge has not come off yet but it will very soon.... Our Brigade will be in as support to the Volunteers. If we drive the rebs from their first works they have artillery to pour Grape and Canister into us. Our men are rather discouraged by the last charge. It was conducted so poorly and we gained nothing. The slaughtering that day terrible to behold. Gen. Banks has lost the confidence of his men." Days before Port Hudson was taken by Union forces, Dean wrote to his friend Walker on July 4 that some rebels "desert and come out to our lines every day. Gen. Banks has over one thousand volunteers who are going to storm the works soon it is believed. All sorts of stories are in circulation as to the amount of 'grub' the Rebels have inside. It is very certain they are short and will soon give in." Dean had grudging respect for the ability of the Confederate forces to hold out under such dire circumstances, claiming that they were "as sharp as our Men and more so in some things. They are entirely surrounded by our forces and still they know what is being done out side.... If they have not got Provisions for all summer and no force comes in our Rear we are bound to taking it by charge. It can't be done in my opinion but time will tell." Port Hudson fell to Union forces on July 9.

    On September 8, 1863, Dean's unit participated in the Second Battle of Sabine Pass in Texas, in which the Union's Army's attempt to invade and occupy the state failed miserably. Dean refers to the engagement in a September 15 letter, writing that "We went to Sabine Pass Island and took the Rebs by surprise but they were not to be so easily taken. They took 2 gunboats and drove back the other which went with us so we had to give up the Expedition." General Banks' attempt to invade Texas was continued with the Second Bayou Teche Campaign, which lasted from early October to the end of November 1863, and ended in failure. In an October 6 letter from New Iberia, Louisiana, Dean wrote that "We have made over 50 miles of our march and now wait one day or 2...and then we proceed on our march to Texas. We shall put right along now unless the rebs can stop us and I don't imagine they have force enough to do it as we have 30,000 at least and plenty of cavalry and flying artillery." Later in the letter he stated that "Our Cavalry has done all the fighting since we started and some smart little skirmishes they have had too. They have taken 3 pieces of Artillery and 25 or 30 men. We have not met their main force yet but most all of their troops are mounted men and can travel at a good rate much faster than a large army of infantry as ours is." Writing from Opelousas, Louisiana, on October 16, Dean expressed optimism regarding the outcome of the campaign, stating that "We had a slight Battle with the Rebels yesterday and it was nothing serious and we gave the rebels all they wanted." By November 7, when Dean wrote from Vermillion Bayou, he had lost his optimism and was very critical of General William B. Franklin, who led the campaign, claiming "We have been 30 or 40 miles above here but we could not hold so far as we had not Provisions or could not get them so far up into the country and the rebs scared our Gen so he fell back here. We have got command this army what the soldiers call a Potomac fool and he is not capable to command a Regt. I expect he will fool us round till he gets us cut all up. We lost 600 men in one Battle in killed wounded & prisoners. None of the army have any confidence in him and when the army has no confidence in their commander we shall not accomplish any thing."

    Dean was mustered out of service before his regiment moved on to Virginia and were involved in General Philip Sheridan's Shenandoah Campaign.

    Charles Augustus Dean (1844-1921) was born in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. He enlisted at age 18 in the 8th Vermont Infantry Regiment on January 6, 1862, and was mustered in as a private on February 18, 1862. He was mustered out as a private on June 22, 1864 along with other non-veterans. After the war, Dean became a successful and wealthy paper manufacturer, managing the largest manila paper and paper bag company in the United States. In 1875, he married Minnie Palmer in Woodstock, New York. They had one daughter. Dean died suddenly in Captiva, Florida, during a cruise with his wife on their yacht.

    The 8th Vermont Infantry Regiment was a three-year infantry regiment in the Union Army during the Civil War. It served in both major theaters, first in Louisiana and then in Virginia, from February 1862 to June 1865. It was a member of the XIX Corps of the U.S. Army. The regiment was mustered into Federal service on February 18, 1862, at Brattleboro, Vermont. It was engaged in, or present at, the Occupation of New Orleans and participated in the several battles, including Port Hudson, Opequon, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek. The regiment mustered out of service on June 28, 1865.

    Condition: Letters have the usual folds with some edgewear. Lightly toned and soiled; otherwise good.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2021
    19th Wednesday
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