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    [Civil War]. Union Private Lewis V. Tucker comprised of over one hundred and ten letters and other documents spanning the years 1840 through 1869, the bulk of which date between 1863 and 1864. Lewis V. Tucker was thirty-three years old when he enlisted in the Union Army at Arcadia, New York, on August 26, 1862. He was mustered into Co. "A," 160th New York Infantry on November 21, 1862, and thirteen days later found himself aboard a ship headed to New Orleans as part of General Nathaniel Banks' Army of the Gulf.

    Tucker sent several letters from the journey south from places like Port Royal, South Carolina; "Dry Tortugas," off Garden Key, Florida, the location of Fort Jefferson; and Ship Island, Mississippi, the home of Fort Massachusetts. He arrived in South Louisiana at the end of December. On December 28, 1862, he wrote home to his wife, Deborah (to whom the bulk of the letters are addressed to), regarding the reception of the soldiers by the local slaves as they sailed north up the river through Carrollton (New Orleans), in part as written: "It was christmas day and the Slaves of almost every plantation were out on the Banks of the river waving their handkerchiefs . . . some of them got down on their knees . . . they seemed to rejoice to See the soldiers go By."

    Though he was a bugler in his company, Tucker spent very little time in the field with his regiment, serving instead as a nurse in the military hospitals in Brashear City (modern-day Morgan City) and New Orleans. Having at one time been a patient, he showed an aptitude for nursing the sick and wounded and the doctors kept him on in a professional capacity. Writing to his wife from the Marine Hospital near New Orleans, he discusses a man they know from home who is sick, commenting that "his fighting has been like mine the fighting of disease more apt to kill than rebel balls or Bayonets it is a fact that four soldiers die with disease to one that is killed fighting." A short time after writing this letter, he was in the field and the regiment skirmished with the rebels near the town of Thibodaux where they "took about 60 prisoners Killed a good many and have got Back again with but the loss of but one man [in a letter dated January 19, 1863]."

    In his letters, Tucker gives a fascinating first-hand account of life in a Civil War hospital. He talks about the food that is served to the sick and dying, especially the cost of such foods around the city. He describes the numbers of sick and wounded. On occasion he ventures out into the city, visiting places like Lake Pontchartrain, the cemeteries, and the battlefield where Andrew Jackson defeated the British during the War of 1812.

    Often he writes with news concerning his regiment and other Union units while in the field, as he does on March 28, 1863, when the US Gunboat Diana was taken near Pattersonville: "Two of our gun Boats went up there to reconoitre one of them had on Board one Company of our Regiment and the other had on a company from the 75 regiment this afternoon we hear heavy firing up in that directions but did not know what was going on . . . no news from them and they think have Either been Captured or Sunk."

    By April 1863, he had moved west to work at the General Hospital at Brashear City. On April 14, he describes a battle in which the 160th took part, saying, "there has been quite a Batle Just above here our Regiment was a head and charged Bayonet on a Rebel Battry and took it with out the loss of a man on our side they took about 125 priseners . . . the prospect was this morning that they would get the whole of the Rebel army som nine thousand for they had them nearly surrounded . . . our folks took the Iron Clad gun Boat Queen of the west that the Rebels took from our folks at Vicksburg a short time since and they drove them from the fort that they had Built and took their guns." He continues the letter six days later with details of further action, including the presence of eight wounded rebels, one of which is a captain from whom he takes a "five dollar Bill that I send you in this letter [also included in this lot] it is Genuine Confederate money."

    Three weeks later, the regiment was "about 150 miles up the river from here near a place called Alexandria on the Red River. Since the Expidition Started from here they have taken some 3000 prisoners 5000 horses, mules & cattle an[d] about two hundred thousand bales of cotton . . . Enough to support [Gen.] Banks whole Army for Six months or in all fifty million dollars worth of property."

    By June 22, 1863, Tucker was at the St. Louis Hotel in New Orleans, a five story building now operating as a hospital: "Since we came here we have Cleaned up the house . . . and fitted it up and got in near 400 Wounded Men that have been wounded at Port Hudson within the last two weeks . . . the Port Hudson fight is not yet through with and perhaps will not be when this reaches you." The Union Army had been laying siege to Port Hudson since late May. The siege continued until the capture of the city on July 9.

    By late July, the army abandoned Brashear City as they were "expecting to be attaced by the Gurillas Every day and in a few days after the place was attacked and captured without any attempt from our men to hold it."

    On September 4, 1863, Banks' army headed for Texas in the failed Sabine Pass Expedition. Writing from the Marine Hospital in New Orleans on September 22, 1863, Tucker relates the particulars: "they fitted out the Boats loaded them with some 15 to 20000 men and started down the gulf to the pass they had four gun Boats with them one of them Shelled the coast for a long way before they undertook to go in near Enough to land the men." After the Clifton ran aground, a second ship, the Calhoun, was sent to help, but "the Rebs opened fire on them and took them Both with out the rest of our Boats trying to help at all . . . there was two companies of the 75th N.Y. Vols on them that was taken prisoner it was a disgraceful affair." In the same letter, Tucker begins to contemplate another course of action, "excepting [accepting] of a commission as a second Lieutenant in a negro Regiment I think I can get one." He ultimately decided against it.

    The following spring, Banks' army suffered a string of defeats, first at the Battle of Mansfield [April 8], "April 14th, 1864 . . . There has been a pretty hard fight up on the Red River and Our forces lost pretty heavily, two of the 160th I heard was killed and a hundred Wounded." And the following day at the Battle of Pleasant Hill [April 9]: "April 29, 1864 . . . I must tell you what I hear about the 160th Yesterday I learned that about 70 of them were killed and wounded in the fight of Pleasant Hill . . . Our killed and wounded all fell into the rebels hands . . . There was Some of the Officers of Every company Killed or Wounded . . . Our Army was Badly whipped although we claim a victory (as usual)." Gen. Banks and his army continued their retreat to Alexandria, but disaster seemed imminent: "May 13, 1864 . . . Well the department of [the] Gulf is not accomplishing much here now Banks mad[e] an attempt to go through to texas but failed and now with 35,000 men is surrounded by the Rebs at Alaxandria and they have demanded of him a Surrender of his army . . . the prospect here is very bad." The army managed to cut their way through and made their way to Mansura.

    After nearly two full years of service in the South, Tucker finally received a furlough for mid-October 1864, but returned to the hospital in New Orleans on December 21, where he would serve out the rest of the war. News travelled slowly, but by mid-April 1865, Lee's surrender and President Lincoln's assassination reached the men in South Louisiana: "April 26, 1865 . . .We Heard of the Surrender of Lee within a week after he done so, and of the Death of the President in four days. The Rebel army at Mobile Surrendered in a few days after Lee did his."

    After the war, Lewis Tucker returned to his home and his family in New York.

    Condition: The letters and documents show the expected age toning, foxing, soiling, or staining. With a few exceptions, they are in remarkable condition.


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    Auction Dates
    November, 2015
    4th-5th Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
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