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    Description

    Union officer's letters home including one from the Fredericksburg battlefield

    Civil War Union Officer Colonel Oliver Hazard Palmer Archive of the 108th New York Covering the Maryland Campaign and the Battle of Fredericksburg. Includes approximately 10 letters (various sizes), most addressed to his wife, spanning from December 14, 1862 to June 11, 1863.

    Oliver Hazard Palmer (1814-1884), a native of New York, was a lawyer, newspaper editor, and judge before his Civil War service. Palmer, originally a Democrat, became a Republican due to his evolving views on slavery, and actively supported Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election. Appointed colonel of the 108th New York in 1862, he fought under McClellan in the Maryland and Virginia campaigns, seeing action at South Mountain and Antietam.

    Three days after Antietam, Palmer wrote to his wife from the field of battle, where he and his men had held the Rebel forces back. In his letter (four pages, 5.25" x 8") dated September 20, 1862, Palmer describes both the recent triumphs and hardships the army has faced: "My bones ache a little this morning. I have slept several nights on the field without protection, sometimes able to get a little straw sometimes nothing. Our wagons, tents, & baggage all had to be kept back so far that they were not accessible...I hope tonight to be able to get a change of clothing. I have not had my clothes off for two whole weeks, not even my boots more than twice within that time. You may possibly imagine the plight I am in. In the absence of all supplies...my living has been very simple. In the first place, the Rebels going ahead of us have cleaned the country. We have no means of getting food. All I had or can get for Breakfast this morning is a pint cup of coffee made by Bat & our hard army cracker, both the coffee and cracker were borrowed of a private soldier...

    I do not believe since the war began the Rebels have been pushed so hard or suffered more. Since commencing this letter I have encamped on the ground occupied by them and the scenes are perfectly awful...while I regret the loss sustained by my Regt. I confess I am not sorry that it was brought into action. I think it is the greatest Campaign of the war and if it can be ended I shall not regret the small aid I had rendered in accomplishing so grand and magnificent result.
    "

    It was also during this time that, following the Union victory at Antietam, that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation; in one of his letters, Palmer makes a quick note to his wife about his feelings on the matter (four pages, 5" x 8"). He writes: "Harper's Ferry, Sept. 23d 1862... I have just read the Proclamation of the President. He gives me new hope. Let the army now put forth its entire strength. The policy is defined and we can surely work out the results. It seems what I have seen of the Rebel prisons and [illegible] with them I am entirely satisfied the great mass of the rebels are heartily sick of the war and want it to end."

    The 108th was first attached to the Defenses of Washington, under Whipple, and then became part of the Second Brigade, commanded by Colonel Dwight Morris, in General William H. French's Third Division of General Edwin V. Sumner's Second Corps in the Army of the Potomac.

    Palmer went on to lead a brigade at the battle of Fredericksburg. In a four-page letter, written during the battle, Palmer writes to his wife about the horrors he has witnessed: "Fredericksburg, Va. / Dec 14, 1862. 3pm... By the good Providence of God I am yet alive and unharmed. We have had a terrible scene - worse than Antietam and yet have not driven the enemy from their entrenchments. In my Brigade of 1200 I could get in line only about 400 this morning. It is impossible as yet to ascertain the casualties. The Brigade did itself great credit but it was wanton suicide to lead our men against such entrenchments against sharp shooters, shells and grape and canister...God only knows how we shall get out. I intend to do my duty & trust to him. Powers is the only field officer in my Brigade not killed or wounded & I have one Regt. 130 PA that now has to be commanded by a Lieut. and another the 14th Conn. by a Capt. The 108 suffered severely but to what extent is now utterly impossible to tell. We are expecting the fight to resume any moment. Whether we shall go in again or now I can't say...I trust no more front attacks will be ordered. It is a wholesale, gross and wanton butchery."

    Palmer continued in the army until he retired from command in June of 1863 due to ill health. Included in this group are three letters between Palmer and E.D. Morgan concerning his resignation. Palmer subsequently returned to Rochester, where he held executive positions at Western Union and Mutual Life Insurance. Palmer received the brevet rank of brigadier general following the war's conclusion. This small group of Civil War dated letters contain incredible historical content and would be a fantastic addition to any collection.

    Condition: Letters range from good to fair. All letters have usual mail folds, with toning to various degrees. One or two letters have heavy soiling, but text is still legible. At some places separation has occurred where paper was weakened at folds.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2017
    19th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
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