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    Union Soldier's War-Dated Letters by Lyman U. Lee of the Massachusetts 2nd Heavy Artillery, Including a Description of an Execution. Nine letters, totaling 28 pages (generally 5" x 8" in size). Various dates (mainly 1864 and 1865) and places, with two appearing to be unsigned (but complete). Of particular note is a letter dated May 5, 1864 written from Fort Cushing on May 5, 1864. Lee adds a paragraph to the last page of his letter (writing cross-hatch) recounting the following: "We had the job of shooting a man for desertion the other day. He belonged to the 8th Conn. He was a brick and died a gunie. He marched out to the spot of execution by music & stepped exactly on time stepped upon his coffin and turned his left side. He was as cool as man going to a days work; nine of our boys fired at him, Seven balls piercing him. 5 through the heart. He died in a second's time. One ball went through the head - G W Campbell offered 20 dollars for a man to fire his gun but he was detailed and had to fire. We plague the boys about going to the shooting match and killing a man. They don't like to think of it some of them. The Execution was upon the fair ground in Norfolk. And a large crowd to witness of white & black. A caution to deserters."

    A couple of Lee's letters are unsigned, but appear complete. One such letter makes note of his habit of writing on "bits & ends enough for a dozen letters." This letter also gives an accounting of the wounded: "Sergt Sanborn has been wounded 4 times. Sergt Carruth had his jaw split by a shell. Corpl. Berry was shot three times. Corpl Shepherd has a bullet in his leg now, and several more of our company have old scars to avenge if they are ever given the chance. Lieut Emery is the only office left in his company at Port Hudson and stuck to it for days alone and was promoted for bravery... We drill mostly on the light battery now and are trying to get liberty to go as such entirely. I would be glad to get rid of these muskets and drive the brass 12 pounders with a revolver & saber."

    Several of his letters reference "Len", a relative serving in Co. H Maine 1st Heavy Artillery. His May 26, 1864 letter sends news that he has heard that the "1st Me H.A. did not go to the front... well let Len stand his own chance with the rest..." The next letter in the group dated July 28, 1864 is from the hospital at Fort Woodruff. He writes about a visit from a Mr. Lee of Portsmouth who is looking for his son Leonard W. Lee: "Mr. Lee says he does not believe Lennie is killed for he dreamed he was wounded in the legs so he could not walk and was taken prisoner... Of course we shall think of them as dead till we hear something to the contrary..." Leonard W. Lee ("Lennie") had died a few weeks earlier at Petersburg, unbeknownst to his family.

    Although Lee is a staunch Union man and wants nothing more than to see "every rebel conquered or killed, and better the latter", he is not against slavery. In a letter dated February 10, 1865, he writes: "I wish Pa had a good smart negro boy of 15. If I could buy me one and hold him in the north I would endeavor to get him one. I expect the churches would take up contributions for his immediate relief. If they had sent their gifts to Sherman's soldiers instead of the wives & children of the rebels they drove out of Savannah, it would be of more credit to them - Just as long as the north continues to feed and supply the south, so long will the south fight them..."

    Also in the group is a 3.25" x 5.25" photo postcard of Lee dressed in GAR reunion uniform, with period identification noting that the picture was taken on "Jan 18. 1911." With crease at lower right corner, and soiling on verso.

    Condition: All letters have flattened folds; all but one are written in ink. A two page letter dated May 25, 1864 has uneven toning, being darker at the folds. A February 9, 1865 letter has a tear that had been glued, with adhesive staining resulting. It remains highly legible, with staining mainly on page 2. A November 26, 1864 letter has discoloration affecting an inch and a half semi-circle on pages 3 and 4, with a bit of staining on the first 2 pages. Overall very clean and highly legible. A single transmittal letter is included; it has been torn open and the stamp has been cut away.


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    Auction Dates
    June, 2016
    12th Sunday
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