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    Archive of Letters From an Officer in the North Carolina 26th Infantry Regiment Imprisoned at Johnson's Island. A compelling archive of about twenty letters written by James Bell Jordan, a 1st lieutenant in the North Carolina 26th Infantry to his future wife, Mattie Fearn of Milton, Kentucky, while he was a prisoner of war. James B. Jordan (1836-1899) enlisted on May 29, 1861 as a 1st lieutenant and was commissioned into "D" Company of the 26th North Carolina Infantry ultimately being appointed Adjutant. Jordan served with distinction until wounded and taken prisoner on the third day of the Gettysburg battle. The 26th North Carolina regiment was savaged in the face of Wisconsin's Iron Brigade, losing more than 700 of its 800 members. Jordan was severely wounded in the hip and was incarcerated at the Union prison at Johnson's Island, Ohio. Jordan's letters begin on December 11, 1864, 17 months after his initial capture. Each of the letters begins "Cousin Mattie". Whether she was actually Jordan's cousin or whether he used this salutation to circumvent the rules that may have only allowed sending letters to related parties is unknown. The correspondence ends on June 25, 1865 when Jordan, now released from prison writes to Ms. Fearn seeking her permission to come visit her in Kentucky. The two ultimately married in 1868. The couple moved to Florida 1876 where James became a tax collector and clerk of the district court of DeLand, Florida.

    Jordan's first letter to Mattie assures her that he would have written sooner if only he had known her address but indicates that "I am truly sorry too for my time has not been pleasantly spent for the last 17 months as in former days." He writes that "A description of our prison home would undoubtedly prove interesting if I had room to give it but we are only allowed one page at a time so I will defer it for a while." The letters mainly deal with the monotony of prison life and speak to Jordan's thinly veiled attempts at wooing Ms. Fearn. In fact, Jordan presents a perfectly positive appearance in all of the letters that runs contrary to what one would expect. He writes on June 13, 1865: "Would you believe it? I am free - Glory be to God...". He wastes no time in wooing Mattie once he is released and, free for scarcely two weeks he writes her to make plans to journey to Kentucky to visit her. Mattie's parents my have been less than thrilled at the prospect because Jordan enlists the help of Zebulon Baird Vance, wartime governor of North Carolina and a former colonel of the 26th. In a letter dated June 22, Vance writes: "My Dear Sir, If the enclosed letter will advance you any in the opinion of the hard-hearted 'parent' you are more than welcome to it. My fee - if you are successful will be a kiss from 'Mattie' on sight, and you must let her know the terms! What in [?] did you go to Ky after a wife for? What are our poor NC girls (God bless them!) to do? Shame on you! Truly Yours, J. B. Vance". All letters are in very good or better condition, and many of the letters from Johnson's Island prison have the original envelopes with "Prisoner's Letter Examined Johnson's Island, O." stamps.

    Included is a full plate tintype of James B. Jordan in the uniform of the 26th North Carolina. The image has been hand-tinted but has darkened with age. It was once matted and framed and the oval of the mat has ghosted onto the image. There is also a cabinet card of Mattie taken after the move to Florida.

    Also included with the lot is a copy of volume II of Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions From North Carolina in the Great War 1861-'65 edited by Walter Clark, (Goldsboro: State of North Carolina, 1901), 807 pages, illustrated with photographs of men of the regiment, grey cloth with gilt titles, 8vo (6.5" x 9.5"), complete but coming unbound, poor but restorable condition.

    Rounding out the archive are photocopies of Jordan's obituary, Civil War dated letters to his brother, H. B. Jordan, and a few war time date letters to unknown recipients. This is a wonderful archive of letters and ephemera which warrants further research.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2007
    24th-25th Sunday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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