Lot 276    

T.H. Ruger's Papers Regarding Dissolving the 1868 Government of Georgia,
American History Auction / June 24, 2009
as Commander of Department of North Carolina and Georgia, 1865. 206 items, letterbook (with 33 items).

When the war ended in 1865 and Ruger entered the regular army, he embarked upon more than a decade of duty in the south, taking command in the military authority overseeing the Reconstruction of four states in which the white populace was adamantly opposed to reconstructing anything at all. On August 23, 1865, Ruger was appointed military commander in North Carolina where he earned a reputation as a stern disciplinarian. Among the few items in this lot from that early post are two items of particular note. First is a telegram from J.M. Schofield, dated at Greensboro, N.C., May 19, 1865, regarding the arrest and transport of Jefferson Davis, that reads in entirety: Cipher dispatch: Secretary of War directs that Mr. L. F. Bates Superintendant of the Southern Express Company be sent to him in Washington at once on important business. Mr. Bates is at Charlotte. Send an officer to conduct him to Washington to insure his reaching that place speedily and with certainty. I don’t understand that he is to be arrested or that there's any dangers against him but his presence in Washington quickly is important. Answer. Second, Gen. O.O. Howard writes on October 6, 1865 to complain about U.S. troops: Several citizens have made bitter complaints to me that the troops were almost in mutiny in the northern sections of North Carolina, and that the officers were drunken, and that instead of preserving order they wanted disorder.

Ruger's next posting was far more challenging, and earned him a measure of lasting fame. Although he is remembered for his military prowess during the war, he is perhaps better remembered for his role in Reconstruction-era Georgia. In January 1868, the political scene in Georgia was anything but calm. After a new state constitutional convention was ordered by George Meade, commander of the District, and fearing that Reconstruction principles would be written into the framework, the Democratic governor of the state dug in his heels. Gov. Charles Jones Jenkins, long a virulent opponent of Reconstruction, and State Treasurer John Jones, refused to release funds for the convention, prompting Meade to order them removed from office. Before their seats had grown cold, Ruger received a letter from Meade appointing him Provisional Governor of the State: It is to be hoped that your assumption of the duties, devolving on you, will not only meet with no opposition but will be facilitated by the cooperation of the present incumbents of the subordinate offices of the Executive Department at Milledgeville -- but should it prove otherwise you are directed to use such force as may be necessary to secure compliance.... Ruger served for only six months, but played a critical role in seeing the state through the convention crisis.

The letterbook (including 33 letters received, with others apparently removed) in this lot documents these dramatic events in stunning detail, providing an intimate look into the life and death struggle for power between the forces of Reconstruction and white resistance. There are at least 11 letters from Meade in the letterbook alone (plus 2 printed orders signed by him, telegrams, and copies) as he sought to wrest control over the unreconstructed, and sought a way to secure financing for the Constitutional Convention by secretly (or openly) diverting funds from other purposes. A number of other Meade letters are scattered throughout the other correspondence, most relating to Ruger's six months tenure as Governor.

For sheer drama, the most notable items in the collection include two letters from disgraced Gov. Jenkins, who despite his removal, continued to fight. In his first letter, Jan 17, 1868, Jenkins responds to Ruger's question whether he would resist leaving office: before answering the question I desired to be informed whether or not force would be employed to eject me in the event of resistance by me. You said that it would and read to me that portion of your instructions which directed you to use such force... knowing that the Commander of the District controlled and would place at your disposal the necessary force, I would make no show of fruitless resistance, but that I protested against the whole proceeding as an illegal usurpation of an office rightfully my own. I now present you that protest in writing.... The second letter from Jenkins is a copy to Ulysses S. Grant dated Jan. 29, 1868, reading: Take notice that on the seventh day of February next, or so soon thereafter as Counsel can be heard, I shall file a bill in the Supreme Court of the United States now sitting in Washington for relief, and then and there enjoin you and each of you from seizing, receiving, rising, or appropriating any money, funds, or property rightfully belonging or due the State of Georgia, and from doing certain other acts prejudicial to the said State.

Equally dramatic is the certificate of parole from former Treasurer Jones, Jan. 29, 1868, in which he promises to be forthcoming on notice to that effect for trial before such Military Commission as may be convened for my trial by the Military Authority or for appearance and trial before a Civil Court....

Other correspondence in the collection helps flesh out the crisis as it evolved and the deadly seriousness of the game -- a sort of steely eyed stare down between men not accustomed to blinking. A draft of a letter from Ruger reveals that Jenkins had said he would not resist, however [he] said to me that if he had the power he would resist by force but that under the circumstances he should resort to all means afforded by the Courts to maintain his position and the former status. The State Treasurer Mr. John Jones turned over no money.... Jenkins did, in fact, travel to Washington to make his case to the Supreme Court and a letter of his from Feb. 7, reveals what happened: I was credibly informed that there was here, in the hands of an officer of the U.S. Government a requisition from you for my arrest, if to be found in the District of Columbia & my rendition to you in Georgia. I have been patiently awaiting developments & although I have not as yet been arrested, the statement that such a requisition had been made has appeared in the public press & had not been contradicted.... The fruit of Jenkins' labors in Washington appear in the collection: a printed copy of State of Georgia v. Grant, Meade, Ruger, and Charles Rockwell in the Supreme Court, appended to which is a sealed manuscript copy of the complaint.

Other printed items are worthy of note: an order from Gov. Ruger, Feb. 25, 1868, authorizing the levy of taxes to support the Constitutional Convention; a satirical newspaper account from an anti-Reconstruction paper titled the "Proceedings of the Georgia Unconstitutional Convention," Jan. 17, 1868; a printed copy of the Constitution of the State of Georgia as Passed by the Constitutional Convention (Augusta, Ga., 1868); and a Confederate imprint: Annual Message of Governor Joseph E. Brown to the Georgia Legislature, Assembled November 3rd, 1864. Brown is one of the most interesting figures in Confederate politics, a bitter opponent of all centralized government, a passionate opponent of Jefferson Davis, a Republican politician during Reconstruction, and a Democrat after.

One or two miscellaneous items add depth to the story, most interestingly a comprehensive inventory of furniture in the Executive Mansion in Milledgeville, taken when Ruger arrived in office. Nearly 100 printed orders, ordnance returns, and other documents from both Ruger's time in North Carolina and Georgia. Also a large commission on vellum appointing Ruger Col. of the 33rd Regiment U.S. Infantry, March 1867, signed by both Andrew Johnson as President and Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War. The collection is capped off by a 21pp report from Ruger (with appendices), filed upon leaving office in July and detailing the unfinished business, reprieves from execution of three men, and his efforts relating to finances, the collection of taxes, and funding the constitutional convention.

Setting aside the convention crisis, the lot includes a fantastic 2pp letter from former Confederate General D.H. Hill soliciting Ruger's subscription to a new magazine, The Land We Love, including a printed subscription form. In addition to the many letters from George Meade, the collection include letters from Gen. Alfred Terry (2 ALsS), O.O. Howard (2 ALsS), a printed order signed by Edwin M. Stanton; Jacob Dolson Cox (LS); Winfield Scott Hancock (3 ALsS); William T. Sherman (3 ALsS, 2 Tgms, and a letter from Sherman's wife), and William F. Smith (ALS). Also included are an important exchange of letters, in copy, of Ulysses Grant and George G. Meade, Nov. 1865, respecting efforts to set up occupying forces in the southern states.

Typical of his career, Ruger was the man on the spot during a time of crisis, responding with a formidable stiff-necked resolve. The political crisis in Georgia surrounding the constitutional convention was an important signal for how fierce white resistance in the south would be and the response of Ruger and Meade suggests how resolute some federal commanders could be in return.


Provenance:  
Descended directly in the family of General Thomas H. Ruger
Sold: $8,225.00
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