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    Malcolm McArthur Archive. Young Captain McArthur is still a long way away from Little Bighorn in time and space. But there are some telling and worthwhile items in this small collection that give a glimpse of life and duty in the post-Civil War Army. First is a photograph showing Cadet McArthur in another pose looking coolly into the camera. In the published biographical sketch of Malcolm's father, Arthur McArthur, the engraved portrait shows a stern and dauntingly successful man (a lawyer). Next are a telegram and a letter, both from 1868, which name some of the officers who were McArthur's colleagues. The two officers named in the telegram with whom he interacted were Col. Ebenezer Gay, an 1854 West Point graduate and Civil War veteran who did not have much longer to live (he died in 1871), and 1st Lt. Charles E. Morse of the 26th Infantry; Morse retired in 1884.

    On September 24, 1868, Captain McArthur wrote a gossipy letter home to "Dear Mary." Historians, by the way, no matter how zealously they guard their own and others' privacy in the present, love to pry into other people's business in the past. McArthur opened his letter from Fort Columbus (Governor's Island, New York) by announcing his arrival and delivering a dig: "Here I am safe and sound but not as contented as I might be under the circumstances. It is only necessary to say Hayden still commands to give you an idea what I mean."

    "Hayden" was Lt. Col. Julius Hayden of the 15th Infantry, post commander in his last Army assignment. Hayden was already a veteran at the start of the Mexican-American War! He was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the 16th Infantry in January, 1839. After meritorious service during the Civil War, he undoubtedly was cranky and set in his ways. McArthur admitted being somewhat mouthy to his commanding officer, Hayden, and he wrote: "He is at present rather down on me but I am all right. The best way to get along with him is to keep out of his way." Other officers McArthur mentioned, most of them Civil War veterans, were: Lt. Gulian Verplanck of the 5th Artillery; Capt. James Hopkins of the 35th Infantry; Capt. Edward P. Pearson of the 17th Infantry; Capt. William Henry McLaughlin, 26th Infantry; and Capt. John Brandt Parke, 26th Infantry;

    Accompanying these more or less happy documents are three receipts that may reveal a darker side of lonely frontier duty. In 1870 and 1871, H.J. Miller, the post trader at Fort Rice, D. T., and Durfee & Peck, at the Cheyenne Agency, S.D., submitted at different times invoices for liquor... nothing but liquor.

    Reconstruction duty was not happy duty for most American officers. As the great landscape architect (he designed Central Park, New York City) Frederick Law Olmstead discovered and reported on a tour of the South after the Civil War, southerners were not repentant or remorseful. In Texas, McArthur was serving among a sullen and resentful people. Service on the Great Plains during the Great Sioux War did little to restore McArthur's faith in progress, and old before his years, he died in 1886.
    From the Glenwood Swanson Collection.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2018
    9th Saturday
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