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    Civil War Archive of Letters of Jesse H. Holmes, 35th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. An archive consisting of 32 letters, including 28 written by Holmes, mostly to his mother, dating from September 26, 1862 to May 4, 1865 (4 letters are undated), plus 4 canceled postal covers (3 without stamps).

    Holmes' letters cover family matters, camp life, his health, weather, and military news.

    The earliest letter in the archive is dated September 26, 1862, and written from Antietam, where Holmes' regiment was camped. In this letter to his mother, written days after the bloody Union victory, Holmes mentioned that he had seen "considerable Soldiering for a 3 weeks Volunteer. I was in both of the Battles. The one Sunday was quite severe, but the Wednesday's is said to have been the gravest yet fought in this War...our loss was quite heavy 17 wounded and 8 killed in our company."

    In late May, 1863, Holmes' regiment moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi, and was attached to the Army of the Tennessee. On June 19, Holmes' wrote of participating in the siege of Vicksburg and confronting the enemy in a "very brisk engagement which lasted nearly 2 hours. Our Pickets say some Cavalry told them that the rebel troops tried to get out of the City, but they did not make it out and I don't think they will very soon. I have great confidence that Vicksburg will be ours." Vicksburg fell to Union forces under Ulysses S. Grant on July 4. For most of September 1863, Holmes' regiment was stationed at Crab Orchard, Kentucky. In a September 20 letter to his mother, Holmes describes how women of the town greeted Confederate prisoners: "There was 200 Rebel Prisoners passed through this place day before yesterday. They were the ones Burnside took at Cumberland Gap....Lyman says they were the most forsaken looking lot of men he ever saw.... A number of Young Ladies in the Town thought they would create a sensation...when the Rebels passed through they (the ladies) cheered them and waved their handkerchiefs."

    By the end of 1863, Holmes' regiment was suffering from lack of good clothing. In a December 9 letter to his father, written from Knoxville, Tennessee, Holmes wrote that the army "is very bad off for Clothing. We have not drawn any for 3 months and many of the men are excused from duty on account if their clothes being so poor. Out of 220 men in our regiment 204 wanted shoes. There is about 800 men in the brigade and over 1300 pairs of stockings wanted."

    In 1864, Holmes' regiment saw action in several battles in Virginia, including the Wilderness Campaign, Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor, and the Siege of Petersburg. During this time, Holmes lost his brother Lyman to illness and suffered his own sickness which put him in the hospital in late August. He was promoted to Quartermaster Sergeant during 1864 and wrote his mother from outside of Petersburg about the position on September 6: "The pay of a Q.M. Sergt. is $(22) twenty-two dollars per month, and I cannot be sent into the ranks, unless I am reduced, or promoted, neither of which will happen very soon.... I have a horse to ride, and my baggage carried." Holmes also mentioned the possibility of an expected attack from a Confederate army under General Jubal Early "with 30,000 men on our left flank. They are preparing for him, digging entrenchments.... We are getting reinforcements from Hospitals, Recruits, Substitutes etc. quite fast. Our regiment has (350) Germans, Frenchmen, Prussians etc. just over from the German Army. They cannot talk our language at all. Were hired as Substitutes for Boston men before landing in the United States." Three days after this letter, Holmes received a letter inviting him to apply for a promotion in another regiment, which he declined. This letter is in the archive.

    In his letters, Holmes didn't speak much of politics, but he supported President Lincoln over George McClellan in the 1864 election. In an October 31 letter to his mother, he referred to the upcoming presidential election, writing "I think Middleboro people must be very much interested in Politics.... I hope there are not old Copperheads, and young cowards, enough to elect McClellan.... I am glad to see the old Soldiers who have served their (3) years go home. I should like to see their places here filled with Copperheads with Union bayonets behind them, and they compelled to charge some of the Rebel Fortifications."

    On April 12, 1865, Holmes writes home to his mother concerning General Lee's surrender and of the ending of the war, stating that "I cannot realize it, although I know that it is. What a week of rejoicing it has been in the land, both at home and in the Army.... I saw... (6000) six thousand prisoners pass the other night. They were joking with our men, and our bands played 'when Jonnie comes marching home again' 'Down with the traitor' 'Yankee doodle' 'Hail Columbia' 'Old Hundred' and so forth. Gens. Sheridan and Custer passed here this forenoon. Gen. Custer had 34 battle flags. I saw Gens. Grant, Ord, Williams, Parke, and several others, besides the President's son last night." This letter was written two days before President Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre. In a May 4 letter, misdated 1864, Holmes wrote he was "hoping to hear every day that that worst of Traitors Jeff Davis has been caught, and I hope they will kill him by inches. It is fitting that Booth got off so easy, his death was to [sic] small a punishment."

    Jesse H. Holmes, originally from St. Louis, Missouri, but living in Middleboro, Massachusetts, was 19 years of age when he enlisted in the 35th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment sometime in early September 1862. He was mustered in as a private in Company H and was mustered out as a Quarter Master Sergeant on June 9, 1865.

    The 35th Massachusetts was organized in Boston and Chelsea, Massachusetts, and trained from August 1-22, 1862 and mustered in for three-year service on August 28, 1862 under the command of Colonel Edward A. Wild. The regiment participated in a number of important battles, including South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Vicksburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor, the Siege of Petersburg and the Battle of Petersburg, and the Appomattox Campaign. The 35th Massachusetts mustered out of service on June 9, 1865 and was discharged June 27, 1865.

    Condition: Letters have the usual folds with some light toning and soiling; otherwise good.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2021
    19th Wednesday
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