Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice

    Description

    William H. and Charles E. Winslow, 8th Massachusetts Infantry, Archive of Letters. A collection of over fifty war dated letters, ranging from April 30, 1861 to March 27, 1862. The two brothers enlisted at Marblehead, Massachusetts as privates and were mustered into Company C of the 8th Massachusetts on April 30, 1861. They only served with the 8th MA for four months, as they were mustered out on August 1, 1861, and William was mustered into the 23rd Massachusetts. He was wounded at New Berne on March 14, 1862, and eventually discharged due to his injury in December of that year. William did return to the military in August 1864, with the 4th MA Heavy Artillery, and served until the end of the war when he was mustered out on June 17, 1865. It is unknown if Charles Winslow returned to service after he was mustered out in August 1861, as we have no record of further activity. Both men, however, moved back to Marblehead, Massachusetts, became members of the GAR there, and passed away in 1916. The majority of the letters run two to four pages and measure 4.75" x 7.75" or 7.75" x 9.75". Many have retained their transmittal covers. There are numerous spelling and grammar errors.

    The 8th Massachusetts was a peacetime regiment and one of the first to respond to Lincoln's call for volunteers following the attack on Fort Sumter on April 15, 1861. Both men would be sent to Maryland in the aftermath of the Baltimore Riot, when Copperheads and Confederate sympathizers clashed with militia from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania on their way to the capital. Four soldiers and twelve civilians were killed in the brawl, making it the "First Bloodshed of the Civil War". One day after the riot, on April 20, 1861, the 8th MA was ferried to Annapolis under the command of General Benjamin Butler and sent to secure the area around Baltimore.

    William wrote to his mother while stationed in Washington about conflicts with the civilian population. His May 1, 1861 letter details in part: "There was a man shot by the guard it was a New York ruf Sunday there was another stuck with a bayonet about three inches it made him come back very soon two of them is going to hang or shot I don't know which...one man told me that they probably shot or hang them the very worst devils in the city. Bill Wilson says if everybody can find a cut throat gambler or pickpocket in the city he will give five hundred dollars if that is the case they clean New York out..."

    Charles wrote home with similar stories on May 9, 1861: "Ther was a great fire up in the city. It was Willard's Hotel. It is the largest hotel in the city. We cant tell how bad it is burnt because we cant get outside of the capitol grounds to see. They are very strict now with us and we are drilling a new drill which they call the Hardeys drill. All the Zouaves drill it...Last night one of the city troops was in front of the National Hotel after hours and he was arrested by one of the police and he got away from him, but while he was running the police shot him through the head and killed him. The excitement was very great and they wanted to shoot the police on the spot..." The next day, on May 10, Charles provided further details of the events to his father: "...there has been 4 fires in the city. One was Willard's Hotel and the other they tell me was Georgetown Bridge but I don't know what the other two was and don't know what the damage is. While I am writing our company is out drilling a new drill. It is call the harctic drill and the Salem Zouaves are teaching them. It is a fine drill. The Salem Zouaves can load and fire (there is 100 of them) 1000 shots in a minute. They load very fast..."

    Towards the end of the month, the 8th MA were sent to Camp Essex, just outside Baltimore, and Charles writes about a brutal conflict between two Union commanders, Captain Devereux and Colonel Edward F. Jones. The letter dated May 31, 1861 reads in part: "Night before last our Capt [Knott V. Martin] and Capt Devoix of the Salem Zouaves took half of our company and half of the Salem company and some of the other companys to go out on a scouting party. There was in all about 90 all together. They went about 25 miles (what do you think about that for a march) They arrived back about 11 o'clock yesterday morning after they had arrived back our Capt and Capt Deverix was put under arrest by Col. Jones of the 6 regiment and was made to give up there swords! After that our company and the Salem company marched up to the colonel's quarters with there arms reverse and give up there muskets. They put them all in a heap in front of his tents. The company then marched back to quarters and we done just as we were a mind to. Now I will tell you were the other half of the company went. They went out on picket guard, out on the Harper's Ferry Rail Road. They went about 6 miles in the course of the night. They saw a train of cars coming a long (they had orders to stop all trains) and they waved a lantern three times and the engenerr would not stop and about twelve or fourteen fired into the train...after they had stopped, they went into the cars to serch and see if they was anything for them to take there was nothing. The boys said when they went into the cars that the women were on there were praying and talking on as if there hart would break. The men were scared almost to death. They said they were for the Union and pled hard to let them go. They said they thought they were seceionest troops. But after they told them they were United States troops, they felt sorry. One of the shots graised by the engineer's chin and I guess that is what brought him to. The reason that they stoped the train is that Col Jones has let about all the trains go through with out searching them. He is as mean as dirt. I don't believe but what he is a regular secessionist for he don't care what passes through to Harper's Ferry. All his Reg are down on him and so is all the 8 Reg...we all said that we would not take our muskets until our Captains had their swords, but we had to for the Adjunct came and read the articles of war...And now I will tell you what the Salem Zouaves were doing. Last night they mad an effigy of Col. Jones and they put into his head some powder for brains and hung him up in a tree in front of the encampment. Then they built a fire in front of there tents and there you could see Old Jones hang there with his head on one side and his hands spread out and they took him down and set him on fire. When the fire reached his head it blowed right square off..."

    William also writes on May 31, providing further details of the expedition that caused the conflict: "...Capt Martin and Devroe had clue of a load of ammunition that was goin over the road to Harpers Ferrey. They took forty of their best men and twenty from two others company and started for the five roads. The manner of the roads I don't know but two liberty and the ferry roads we had to march a round about way to get there, for this reasons, Jones is against our goin..." He then relates about what happened when they returned to camp: "Capt. Martin and Capt. Deveroe was arrested as soon as we got back. They boys felt so mad they they carried there muskets to heard quarters and left them all in a pile. The whole regiment was in confusion. I did not leive mine. I took it up with the rest but capt spoke to me saying Winslow if you have any respect for me don't lay that musket down there. I did not altho cries were lay it down..."

    On May 24, 1861, Charles writes about the death of Colonel Ellsworth in nearby Alexandria. Elmer E. Ellsworth had been a lawyer and was a close friend of Abraham Lincoln. He was the first Union officer killed during the war, slain by a civilian while removing a Confederate flag from hanging at the Marshall House. His body lay in state at the White House in the East Room. After his death, "Remember Ellsworth" was used as a rallying cry for Federal soldiers. Charles writes of the event in part: "While I was writing we had orders to fall in and we fell in and Capt told us to hold ourselves in readyness. At three o'clock with all our equipments on for he said that Col. Ellworth of the New York Fire Zouaves had been shot at Alexander [sic] and his body was in Washington and we think of going there..." Five days later, on May 29, he again writes: "I suppose you have heard of the death of Col Ellsworth well he was shot out there by a secessionist and his men the New York Zouves are revenged his death. They are going right straight into them, they don't care for anything. I have seen them when we were at the Capatol. They look like a hard set of men. They look as tho they would fight like tigers..."

    After he left the 8th MA and was mustered into the 23rd Massachusetts, William fought at the Battle of Roanoke Island, where the Union trapped the Confederate forces by wading through the surrounding swamplands, which were thought to have been impassable. William describes the battle in his letter dated March 1, 1862 in part: "I am anxious to see another fight, certainly not like the last one. The other we had to swim almost. We looked like drownded rats when we came out of the swamp. It puzzled those rebels to think we got through such a place. They were sure no one could get through to flank them. There battery was flanked on both sides with swamps...flanked in the rear with a large thick [illegible] swamp. They like Indians in woods. Sum of them were up in the tops of trees. I made one get down rather quick. I happened to look up about as far as the factory is from our house. I up rifle and fired. He came down head first and biting the ground like a mad dog..."

    The archive is a remarkable collection, documenting the experiences of two enlisted brothers. It also provides great content from one of the first regiments to enter the war.

    Condition: Letters have usual mail folds, with varying degrees of soiling, toning, and foxing. There are a few small tears and separations at the edges and folds where paper was weakened. The envelopes have usual wear and soiling, with tears where opened. Overall good.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2019
    14th Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 346

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $300,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $300,000 and $3,000,000, plus 12.5% of any amount over $3,000,000 per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    VIEW BENEFITS
    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
      winnings 
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2021 May 19 Manuscripts Signature Auction - Dallas.

    Learn about consigning with us

    You reach a customer base that is in many ways completely unknown to the major auction houses, and your marketing to this base is as professional as one could hope for. As I continue to wind down my holdings.
    Michael Z.,
    Hawthorne, NY
    View More Testimonials

    HA.com receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source: Similarweb.com)

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search