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    Edward H. Vidlear, 114th New York Infantry Archive. A small archive of 11 letters written by Private Edward H. Vidlear, dating from October 8, 1862 to July 18, 1865. All of the letters measure approximately 5" x 8.25" and are addressed to members of his family and his friend Jane. Vidlear enlisted in the Union Arm as a private at the age of 19 in August of 1862. He was soon mustered into Company G of the 114th New York Infantry. The company saw engagements at the siege of Port Hudson, the Red River Campaign, Sheridan's Shenandoah Valley Campaign, and the Battle of Winchester, where Vidlear was wounded. In January 1865, he was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps of the 3rd Infantry, where he served out the remainder of his military career; Vidlear was discharged on July 6, 1865 at Brattleboro, Vermont.

    The bulk of the archive dates from 1864 to 1865, when Vidlear was involved in General Sheridan's Shenandoah Valley Campaign. Leading up to the operation, Vidlear wrote home about the army's preparations for the advance toward Alexandria from Franklin. A letter, dated March 10, 1864 from Franklin, reads in part: "It is quite lively times here all are preparing to march. We have taken down our tents and sent them to New Orleans packed up our extra clothing and sent it there also. We are now living in our little shelter tents and expect to march in a verry fiew days...New troops are coming here most every day. Some of them the Army of the Potomac the 8th VT have reenlisted and gone home on furlough."

    Two months later, Vidlear was stationed at Alexandria, but the Confederates had run them out of the city. He wrote on May 23, 1864 from Organza Landing: "We left Alexandria the 13th. While at Alexandria the rebs got in force below us and effectively blockaded the river cutting off our supplies and communications with New Orleans. They took 3 or 4 transports and 2 gun boats on the 4th days march from Alexandria the rebs were found to have quite a force in our front who seemed determined to give us battle. The troops were all formed in line of battle early on the morning of the 16 and in this order we advanced. We had gone a mile or more when the rebs commenced shelling our lines with I should judge 12 or 15 pieces of artillery. Our artillery was got into position and made them get out of that. We then continued to advance the rebs slowly falling back..."

    Philip Sheridan, now commander of the Army of the Shenandoah, slowly moved through the Shenandoah Valley in an attempt to gain control of the area without any costly defeats that could jeopardize Lincoln's reelection. As both sides amassed their forces, Vidlear wrote this letter, dated August 26, 1864 from Harper's Ferry, to his friend Jane: "This Army is commanded by General Sheridan. The 10th of this month we left this place and advanced upon the enemy who fell back showing but little fight until they arrived at Cedar Creek 10mi beyond Winchester. Here they were reinforced by Longstreet's corps of 20,000 men and they drove us back here a distance of 40mi, we have got a strong position here. Today our regt is building breastworks in front of our line it is thought that the rebs will attack us here. There is skirmishing going on at the front all the time during the day the rebs are said to be 60,000 strong."

    As Sheridan's forces continued their assault on the Confederates, Vidlear was clearly optimistic about the success of the campaign. He wrote again to Jane, this time from Berryville, Virginia, on September 11, 1864, to boast about the work his regiment had achieved. In part: "The rebel army commenced falling back two weeks ago and we followed them two weeks ago. Today we advanced 6 miles stopped and threw up fortifications and remained there one week when we again advanced to our present position and again threw up fortifications. The day we arrived here the rebs attacked the left of our line which is held by the 8th Corps and were handsomely repulsed. Our loss was 100 the rebel loss is estimated at 500."

    Despite recent successes, Vidlear's luck came to an end when he was wounded at the Battle of Winchester on September 19, 1864. However, he wrote home to his parents from the Second Division Hospital in Winchester, Virginia, to assure them of his health and belief in a swift recovery. The letter is undated and reads, in part: "We advanced the 19th from Berryville. When within 3 miles of Winchester we found the rebs in force and a terrible battle ensued. I was wounded in the beginning of the action. A bullet struck me in the left leg just below the knee [illegible] and came out 3 inches from where it went it, making only a slight flesh wound. The same bullet struck my right knee [illegible] causing a severe bruise & another bullet...through the fleshy part of my right arm near the shoulder...I am having good care and doing finely now so give yourself no uneasiness on my account...the rebs got whipped like the devil. Our regt is badly cout [sic] up when I write again I will give more particulars."

    Still recovering from his wounds suffered at the Battle of Winchester, Vidlear was transferred to Satterlee General Hospital in Philadelphia. It is clear from his letter of October 24, 1864, that he was impatient to rejoin his regiment. Vidlear also makes reference to the upcoming presidential election, and muses on the soldiers' ability to take part in voting. The letter, addressed to parents, reads in part: "I am enjoying good health and my wounds are doing first rate. More wounded are coming in here from the valley they were mostly wounded the 19th of this month [Battle of Cedar Creek]. The talk is here that the New York boys are going to be transferred home to vote."

    Vidlear ultimately recovered from his wounds and rejoined the army for a short period of time before the end of the war. Following his discharge, Vidlear wrote to his parents on July 18, 1865 while still in Brattleboro, Vermont. Despite his military career having come to an end, he was still struggling with being able to return home. Because the Union Army had to deal with discharging thousands of men, the process obviously dragged slower than many had hoped. The letter reads in part: "I have not been paid yet and the prospect is that I shall not be in the next 10 to 15 days. I am getting rather sick of staying here where I am earning nothing...I am truly sick of lazing around here."

    Vidlear's small archive of letters provide excellent content on the life of a regular soldier in the Union Army, with fantastic accounts from Sheridan's Valley Campaign. The group of letters would make a great addition to any historical collection.

    Condition: The letter written after Vidlear was wounded (undated) has an area of paper loss at the lower left margin, which affects all pages and some of the text is missing. All with flattened mail folds. Varying degrees of wear, soiling, foxing, and toning throughout all letters. Some weakness at folds. Overall good.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2019
    14th Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
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