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    A Union soldier discusses the possibility of raising regiments of black soldiers

    [Civil War]. William D. Elrod Archive. Comprised of over 100 letters, photographs, and documents spanning the years 1861 through 1876. The bulk of the material is war-dated, mostly from the years 1862 and 1863. William D. Elrod, a native of Ripley County, Indiana, enlisted in the Union Army on October 15, 1861, and was mustered into Co. "A," 37th Indiana Infantry as a sergeant the same day. The letters represent correspondence both to and from Elrod over the course of his three year enlistment.

    Elrod served his full three years, but only retained his sergeant rank a few months, writing to his brother that he "threw up the sergeancy some time ago and . . . I will never hold a noncommissioned office in any company again if you ever go in any company you will soon learn to hate all noncommissioned officers." In his letters home, Elrod discusses camp life and gives details on engagements and movements of the Confederate Army as in a letter to his brother dated July 31, 1862, near the town of Stevenson, Alabama: "Well there was a whole Brigade of rebels crossed the river seven miles below here a few days ago and fortified themselves yesterday. . . . they are tearing down the whole town and making a splendid fortification where the town stood."

    Of particular interest is the inclusion of a letter Elrod wrote on February 3, 1863, providing a unique perspective from a Federal soldier regarding the possibility of raising black regiments following Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, in part as written: "Another thing is the bill in Congress to arm 150,000 negroes the men here will never allow an armed Black in this Dept it places the nigger too near on an equality with us for every nigger that is armed in this Dept there will be two desertions is my opinion I for one will take the first honorable chance to get out that I can see. . . . I will tell you Lt Col Ward [of the 37th Indiana] has expressed his willingness to take charg of a Nigger Brigade and Maj Kimble says he is willing to take a Regiment of Blacks Ward says he will do any thing for the interest of his Country it is my opinion he will Stoop to anything for pay and Rank . . . I suppose you will think I am too fast but I have thought long and well on it and Ill tell you in plain words that Proclamation of Abes is making Enemys to the government among the troops here and then the Bill to arm them was the 'Cap Sheaf' to the whole thing I want to see the Gov't restored as bad as any man can and I would willingly spill my blood in its defense but to fight alongside of a big Buck nigger and own him to be my equal and nigger officers to be my Superiors is a thing I never will do Ill spill every drop of blood that courses my veins before I will ever submit to it theres too much white mans blood in me for that."

    A significant portion of this vast archive are letters Elrod received from fellow soldiers fighting in different parts of the country which offer details of some of the more well-known battles of the war. Writing ten days after the Battle of Murfreesboro, William P. Pendergast describes the aftermath: "I will not attempt to give a description of the battle which we have passed through . . . I hope I never again may see such a scene let alone being an actor unless it be necessary I hope the leaders of this rebellion may fully realize the horrible picture for no one who has not seen such things can imagine the intense suffering experienced by the helpless and often neglected wounded exposed not only to the wild panic of which the brain of the crippled, bloody and dying soldier is subject." Six months later, Elrod received a letter [June 6, 1863] from J. W. Hamilton while the latter was taking part in the Siege of Vicksburg, in part as written: "Started toward Jackson [Mississippi], but ere we reached it heard of its fall we then marched to ward Vixbg [Vicksburg] . . . expecting to have a big fight at the river but the rebes made a stand some 5 miles from the river & got so completely whipped that they never stoped any more until they got in their own holes near the burgh we was drawn up in line of battle & changed front some 4 times . . . but got no cite the Rebs was to fast for us . . . it is impossible for me to give you any correct report of killed wounded or prisoners on either side. . . we then made the attack on the burgh but have not taken it yet . . . & my opinion is we will be in possession of it ere this reaches you we made two charges upon their works one on the 19th & 22nd but with little success. . . . we are going to siege this place & not let up til we got an unconditional surrender . . . give yourself no uneasiness for the fall of Vixbg is certain."

    With two small photographs: the first, a 1" x 1.25" (sight) sepia chest-up portrait of a young, mustachioed man in coat and tie, matted to an overall size of 2" x 2.5". The second, a 1" x 1.25" (sight) oval portrait of two young boys, matted to an overall size of 1.75" x 2.5". William Elrod mustered out of the Union Army as a private on October 27, 1864, and returned home to Ripley County, Indiana.


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    Auction Dates
    April, 2014
    3rd Thursday
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