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    [Civil War]. Union Soldier Ralph Briggs Archive consisting of two excellent war diaries for the years 1863 and 1864, five letters, four passes, nine envelopes featuring military or patriotic themes, one Confederate States military appointment, three copies of printed orders, one $20 Confederate note, one tintype of five young, unidentified Union soldiers, and five carte de visites featuring such notables as Generals George B. McClellan and Ulysses S. Grant. The archive spans the years 1861-1865.

    Ralph B. Briggs was a young man of 18 when he enlisted in 1862. He was mustered into the 11th New York Independent Battery of Light Artillery, Army of the Potomac, also known as the Havelocks, with the rank of private and would see action at some of the major engagements of the Eastern Theater, including Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, North Anna, Cold Harbor, and the siege of Petersburg. He survived the war and was mustered out of service in June, 1865. While in the service of the Federal Army, Briggs kept two diaries in which he gives accounts of engagements such as Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, et al.

    Briggs' 1863 Diary records the actions of the 11th New York Artillery in the Battles of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville. On the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Briggs writes: "...marched for Gettysburg Took a position commanding the Baltimore turnpike Did not fire any Towards evening took a position near the front But Did not fire any Lay in this position all night...Our troops drove the Rebs some toward evening." July 3, the second day of battle, he says: "We lay...in a field near the center nearly all Day. Took a position at the front When Longstreet made his Desperate attack We fired nearly all the PM Repulsed the Enemy. Took many prisoners Four of our men wounded A gread [sic] Victory so far. Very rainy all night Got wet through Slept on the Battle field." On July 3, Longstreet was ordered to make a great assault on the Union center at Cemetery Ridge which culminated in the failed assault by Major General George Pickett. The day after the great battle, July 4, was less exciting for the men of the 11th: "Our troops advanced across the battle field I took a wounded Reb to the hospital Skirmishing all Day. We did not fire at all Our troops engaged in burying the dead."

    Two months earlier, Briggs and his battery took part in the Battle of Chancellorsville, which he marks prominently at the top of the page. Under the May 1 entry, he records: "Crossed the river...about noon. Camped about one mile from the river...Some fighting all day." The next day, he writes: "...While eating supper the 11th corps broke We took a position & opened on the Johnnis [sic] & Repulsed them fired 28 rounds. Gen. [Alfred] Pleasanton commanded us...Held our ground all night." On May 3: "...Was marched to the front took a new position Did not fire...Retreated to White house took a position & fired all the afternoon 2 men killed 1 wounded Fell back to the river in the night." On the next day, the 11th remained in camp, but Briggs records the loss of General Amiel Whipple: "Gen Whipple got wounded Was brought to a hospital near our camp..." Whipple died of his wounds three days later. The 11th NY would not play any role in the last few days of the battle. On May 6, he writes that the "...Army of Potomac falling back."

    In his Diary for the Year 1864, we find the 11th has been reduced from six guns to four. Toward the middle of the year, he reports the action of the Army of the Potomac during Grant's Wilderness Campaign, though his unit would see little action at the Battles of the Wilderness or Spotsylvania. On May 5, the opening day of the Battle of the Wilderness, he writes: "...Firing in the afternoon quite a battle not much artillery engaged." On the next day, he says: "Firing in the morning We drove the Rebs some...Towards evening the battle began The Rebs drove us some Burnsides troops engaged." At the left of the entry, he scribbled: "Hard battle today." On May 7, he writes that they have seen "...some of Burnsides negro troops..." and they have begun the march "...towards Spotsylvania..."

    Of the Battle of Spotsylvania, which began in earnest on May 8, he says: "...6th corps passed us They go to the front Firing all day not much of a battle 2500 prisoners passed us on the road Saw Grant & Meade..." May 9, Briggs begins his entry with the death of General John Sedgwick who was brought down by a Confederate sniper: "Gen Sedgwick was killed...Firing on our left in the forenoon Firing in front of us towards evening." Three days later, he states: "Heavy firing all day A big battle was fought...Our troops victorious captured prisoners & artillery."

    The battery saw some action at Cold Harbor a few weeks later. He records some skirmishing in the days leading up to the battle. On June 2, he writes: "...Heavy firing in the P.M. Quite a battle fought to day..." The next day, the 11th Artillery takes part in the fight: "A big battle fought early in the morning We were not engaged...Entrenched ourselves & commenced firing on some Reb batteries about noon Fired an occasional shot during the P.M."

    Also of interest is a Confederate States Military Appointment Signed by James A. Seddon, fourth Confederate secretary of war.


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    Auction Dates
    October, 2012
    4th-5th Thursday-Friday
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