Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Union Soldier Benjamin Church Letter Group, Together with Post War Images, and His GAR Medal. Twenty-one letters by Union officer Benjamin S. Church, a captain of engineers in the 12th New York Infantry. All but one of the letters are written to his mother and are dated between April 22, 1861 to August, 1864; two of these letters are marked "Copy" at top, and are period copies made by a family member for the purpose of passing along - a habit commented on by Church in one of his letters. One such letter dated May 3, 1861 recounts a visit to the White House and describes the tension in the city of Washington. In part: "... Night before last all the Officers of the 12th went in a body up to the White House and shook hands with 'Uncle Abe', he was very gracious & uncouth & rather hard up for something to say, but he said it at last with a broad grin... The city was in a very position & in a very dangerous position & in a great state of alarm before our regiments from N.Y. began to come in. The citizens had packed all their valuables & were ready for flight at a moment's warning..."

    A six-page letter (5.25" x 8") written on June 6 and 12, 1861 recounts his double duty as an engineer and "skirmisher": "A company of the Washington Regt. had gone over the bridge to guard the opposite end, while we were forming, & they found the enemy's picket guard within 500 yds. of the bridge & drove them off or rather should I say they ran off... This Washington guard remained on the bridge, & we passed on; the Engineer corps about half a mile in advance... led by 'your humble servant'. I was therefore the first man that marched into the enemy's country... I had orders f attacked to fight as skirmishers until the main body came to our relief..." he continues writing on the 12th: "John Ward was good natured as to blow my trumpet in the columns of the New York Times. His account of my adventures is correct with the exception of one point viz: The party which stopped me was near Cloudes Mill on the 'Little River' turnpike instead of the blacksmith shop at Balis x-roads, I was the same party that fired upon & killed two of the Zouaves that took possession of the mill the evening following the date of my adventure..."

    A period copy letter dated July 14, 1861 describes the carnage visible on their way: "... We passed the battle ground at Falling Water, I think it is called where Genl Patterson's column met the Enemy and routed them killing eighty men, who were half buried with their arms and legs sticking out of the ground. The hogs had rooted some of the bodies up, so that the odor was perceptible for half a mile before we reached the spot..."

    Three letters written in June and July 1863 provide details about Union activity surrounding Gettysburg. In a letter dated simply June, he writes: "we are placed over two large R.R. Bridges about five or six mile above Harrisburg... We have just received a telegraphs stating that the enemy are only two miles from Harrisburgh [sic]. There may be a diversion of Cavalry up in our direction early in the morning to destroy the bridges, but the natural strong hold which we are defending I think will be sufficient to stop them. An action will undoubtedly take place..." A letter dated June 25 describes their continued preparation: "We have been in Camp Yates guarding the first R.R. Bridge above Harrisburg since Monday. I have been very busy throwing up Breastworks & Rifle pits... We have no Cavalry or Artilary [sic] & will probably be obliged to retire if they come on force..." On July 6, 1863 he writes: "... I was a little overworked the first week we were here, we were expecting an attack every hour, & as all the defences of our department had been placed under my command & direction, embracing a circuit of about fifteen miles - a valley formed by two ranges of hills which are almost mountains meeting so as to form the letter V or a triangle of which the river forms the base..." By July 11 he is in Shippensburgh "& will probably move on to guard some pass to cut off Lee's retreat..."

    Together with two post-war images of Church dressed in GAR reunion military garb: a cabinet card (4.25" x 6.5") and a second smaller image (3.25" x 5.25"). Also included is a GAR reunion medal which is stamped on verso: "Pat. May 4, 1886 / June 28, 1886." Church is wearing this very medal in both images.

    Also in the group are three war-dated letters by Laura Blagden, sending news of "Cap'n Ben".

    Condition: Overall condition is very good, with all letters exhibiting gentle toning. The smaller image is partially hand-colored, and may be trimmed. Cabinet card has soiling to surface, and some abrasions to mount. The cabinet card has a Rockwood Studio mount.

    Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
    Calculate Standard Domestic Shipping

    Sales Tax information  |  Terms and Conditions

    Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments

    Glossary of Terms

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2016
    12th Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 141

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $200,000 (minimum $19), plus 20% of any amount between $200,000 and $2,000,000, plus 12% of any amount over $2,000,000 per lot.

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

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    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
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2018 November 1 - 2 Space Exploration - 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 receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2018 May 11 Space Exploration Signature Auction - Dallas
    2018 May 11 Space Exploration Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED SO FAR $1,136,520