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    [Battle of Gettysburg]: Archive of Charles and Edwin Platt of Jersey City.
    Charles P. Platt enlisted in the Army of the Potomac on September 2, 1861. He served in Company F, 7th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, part of Hooker's Division. He was wounded on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863, captured by the Confederates and released on parole. Returning home to Jersey City to convalesce, his died of his wounds on July 28th. His brother Edwin enlisted the same day and likewise was part of Company F. The two brothers shared the same tent with Charles regularly writing letters home to "Dear Ma", signing for both him and Edwin. Edwin seemed to adapt well to army life, but deserted on January 21, 1863. He returned to the unit on April 1, 1863, granted immunity under President Lincoln's proclamation, forfeiting pay for the time he was absent. He fought at Gettysburg alongside his brother and was also taken prisoner. Paroled, he was sent to Camp Parole at Annapolis Junction, then to Winchester, Virginia. He was granted a disability discharge on November 2, 1863, possibly a result of a flesh wound received at Fair Oaks. They had one brother, Jesse, a businessman who did not serve and another family member, Ben, who served in the hospital corps at Fortress Monroe for a brief time. Charles likened himself as a war correspondent and had many articles published in metropolitan area newspapers, including the Courier, the Standard and the New York Caucasian. Their mother traveled to meet with President Lincoln on October 16, 1863 in order to plead for Edwin's discharge from the service, per the following citation in "Collected Works":
    To Edwin M. Stanton
    Executive Mansion Washington Oct. 16, 1863
    Today Mrs. Elizabeth J. Platt calls and states that she is a widow, and at the beginning of the war had two sons only, both whom entered the army, and the eldest was mortally wounded at Gettysburg, and afterwards died; that the younger Edwin F. Platt, of Co. F. 7 New Jersey Vols. was made a prisoner at same battle, but by parole or exchange is now at Annapolis Md. She says he was under sixteen when he entered the service and is now only a trifle over eighteen and is in feeble health. She says he and his brother were in all the battles of their Regiment.
    She now asks his discharge and if Hon. Daniel S. Gregory will say in writing on this sheet, that he personally knows Mrs. Platt and that he fully believes this statement, I will allow the discharge upon the papers so indorsed being presented to me.
    A. LINCOLN
    Let Edwin F. Platt, named in my note on the other half of this sheet, be discharged. A. LINCOLN
    Oct. 21, 1863

    The archive includes a ledger book with newspaper clippings dealing with Charles and the 7th New Jersey, published articles he wrote using the byline "Charley" and ten pencil sketches (buildings and a portrait of Rev. Beecher). It has extensive bookworm damage. There are also nine diaries or account books owned by Jesse, issued in the years 1860, 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864 and 1867. The content is generally routine. In 1860, the election of Lincoln & Hamlin is noted. There is an entry dealing with the impending battle at Gettysburg, expressing hope that his two brothers will survive the ordeal as well as entries detailing his trip to locate the wounded Charles and bring him home to recuperate from his wounds. [Monday, July 13, 1863]: "... went out to the battlegrounds with a friend. Saw troubling sights & suffering. Found Charley. The sight was sickening. I tryed [sic] a long while to get a conveyance for him to Gettysburg. Walked in the rain everywhere. Had dinner at Hospital. Dead lying all over. I got a carriage and got him to a private home in Gettysburg. Had good supper and slept with him on the floor. Got pass and conveyance car. [Tuesday, July 14th]. Got him aboard a cattle car at 9 A.M. Very rough road and very warm and close all day. Charley suffered much. Had beds of hay on the floor. Reached Baltimore at 5 P.M. Took him in to Ladies' Relief Association. Ladies are untiring in doing [their work]. Treated him nobly. Put on good clean clothes and had wounds dressed." There are also references to the Draft Riots in New York City and the dismissal of a housemaid who expressed inappropriate remarks in connection with the riots.

    The 7th New Jersey participated in nearly all the major battles of the Eastern theatre. During the period of the Platt Brothers involvement, they fought at Yorktown, Williamsburg, Fair Oaks, Malvern Hill, 2nd Bull Run (Charley got separated from his regiment and missed the battle), Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, among others. The archive includes approximately 20 letters dated 1861, 33 dated 1862 and 21 dated 1863 along with two telegrams, two letters of recommendation for a commission written on behalf of Charles and one document related to Edwin's disposition after the Battle of Gettysburg. The vast majority of the letters, nearly all written in legible pencil (most with their envelopes), were written by Charles to his mother. Some are written to a brother (either Jesse or Ben) and there are two letters written by Ben (one war-related and the other describing his war-time sojourn in Cincinnati, home to "thousands" of saloons and gambling halls. After Edwin's desertion, he advises him not to return to the army and face the "butchery" of upcoming battles. He also advises family members not to enlist and to do whatever they can to avoid being drafted. All letters, save one, are written on plain writing paper.

    The archive is especially interesting as it documents the life of two brothers who shared a tent and fought together in many significant battles, constituting a mini "time capsule". Surprisingly, there is little political commentary. Knowing Charles' fate, the letters are rather poignant, as he longs to return home to smell the country air and live happily with family, celebrating the holidays and partaking in a slice of Ma's mince pie. At the same time, there is a sense of foreboding, as he repeatedly broaches the possibility of not surviving the war. Most of the interesting content occurs in 1863. Before that, the regiment was reviewed by President Lincoln & General McClellan, Generals Hooker and Burnside. The usual concerns include the well-being of his mother and younger brother Freddy, financial matters (delayed pay, mail getting stolen), attempts to obtain an officer's commission, overpaying for supplies from the sutler, receiving packages from home, plus the less-than-patriotic efforts by some officers to avoid battle or dangerous situations, no matter what, as well as unqualified men becoming officers and drunkenness among officers.

    Some excerpts:
    November 14, 1861. Slaves reported their masters had "gone South to join Dixie." The regiment went to Maryland to oversee state elections and make sure Unionists were not prevented from casting their ballots.

    March 18, 1862. "There are a great many contrabands crossing the river. They seem to be glad to get away from Virginia."

    May 19, 1862. Charles and Edwin get lost while searching for rubberized blankets, "18 miles from Richmond". While resting beneath a tree, they are approached by three unarmed rebels whom they took prisoner. "We did not know at the time their army had ran off. It was quite an adventure we thought. [we] made the three men [rebels] believe we were desperate characters and therefore made them afraid of us."

    June 13, 1862. Fair Oaks. "The woods close by our camp is full of dead carcasses and in many places dead bodies yet unburied. Those that are buried only have dirt thrown on them."

    August 27, 1862. Fortress Monroe, written by Ben Platt. who talks about the hospital, contrabands and a negro funeral. ".... [they] went to the grave singing all kinds of hymns which puts one in the mind of Christy's Minstrels." Talking with rebel POWs: "[they] have not been paid since being in the army and never expected to be... they were compelled to volunteer."

    January 18. 1863. "Eddy and I become tired of being made to suffer for the blacks and not being in good health we have made up our mind to make an effort for our freedom... we can see no hopes for the close of the war and to go through another summer campaign even if we live would be awful."

    April 20, 1863. "Will you burn my foolish copperhead letters and let them be forgotten and thus save me (should I live through the war) from having copperhead attached to my name."

    May 5, 1863. Chancellorsville. "On Sunday, we attacked the enemy capturing five stand of colors. Our own regiment alone made three bayonet charges driving the enemy... four or five hundred from our Co. were wounded."

    June 18, 1863. "The rebels are on their way over the Blue Ridge for the invasion of Pennsylvania and we are close on their heels."

    June 22, 1863. "We have but 20 men left in our Co. A great many dropped out and many were struck out of the brigade or died on the roadside."

    We are also selling a Confederate Bible flag retrieved by Charlie's brother, Jesse, when he traveled to Gettysburg to escort his wounded brother back to Jersey City.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2020
    6th Sunday
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